A very ambitious V9186

Just when I was beginning to feel a bit deflated sewing-wise (see last post) the perfect project to pick me up landed in a nice parcel on the doorstep. When Lucy from Sew Essential got in touch last month to see if I'd like to make something using their supplies, I was on a shirt-making high post-Ralph Pink Sahara Shirt, so this heavily influenced my pattern and fabric choice. I'm feeling very much back in the game thanks to the Vogue 9186 (and Lucy!):

The finished V9186  
I sometimes struggle to see past the cover versions with the big 4 pattern companies, and although I'm not 100% on the two options here, the details of the dress intrigued me. The mandarin collar I already know I love (see again, my Sahara Shirt edit), but it's the cool silhouette that the elasticized waist provides that really sold it. I've also never felt confident enough to brave plackets, button holes and general shirty techniques in the past, so I feel like picking this pattern is a HUGE marker of just how far my sewing's come in the last few years.
Vogue 9186
The pattern lists cotton and linen among its suggested fabrics, but I erred against this and went for a beautiful John Kaldor Prestige mid-weight crepe, in gun metal grey. Drape is pretty key to most of my makes, and particularly with this dress, I wanted to achieve the cool shape but with more movement than a cotton could give. It really was the perfect choice to compliment both the pattern, and flatter my shape with an easy, flowing fit.

Drowning in fabric!
I opted for view B (with long sleeves), but stalled a bit when it came to cutting the fabric. There are some totally crazy pattern pieces, both in size and shape, and nearly all pieces require cutting out on a single layer of fabric, rather than on the fold. This is fine when you have a large sewing space or cutting table, but the pieces barely fitted across the living room floor! I waited till I had the flat to myself, and took the plunge. Beware there are lots of tailor tacks and markings to transfer too, so it's pretty time consuming - I thought I'd never see the carpet again!

It was a fairly meaty project right from the start - slashing the front pattern piece and sewing a covered button placket is the first bit of the make - and the sewing took me a whole weekend (when I say whole I mean WHOLE)! I hadn't made a regular button placket till last month, never mind a covered one, but I really enjoyed the precision required to make it come together. And from the outset, I'd been expecting the elasticized casing to be really difficult, but it was actually one of the easiest bits!

End of day 1 progress
To say I had initially been intimidated by the number of steps from start to finish, I managed to follow the instructions with ease and at a decent pace. I'd completed everything apart from the sleeves and hem at the end of day 1. Making the sleeves the next day took agessssss. Whilst some of my top stitching isn't as neat as it could be, it was a fun challenge and I'd still rate them as a decent first attempt - I'm hopeful for future sleeves!

First sleeve placket!
Finished sleeve detail, featuring AMAZING buttons from Textile Garden
My only niggle with the pattern is that the sleeves seemed way too big for the armhole, and were really difficult to ease in. In hindsight, I don't think there should have been much ease at all as they bubble up from the drop-shouldered seam, where they should lied flat. I guess it sort of looks intentional when you take into account the rest of the dress, so lets just say its a design feature...

Side detail
At that point I had to take a break - does anyone else start to dislike projects for no rational reason other than you're tired from spending so much time on them? I came back to it with fresh eyes, quite literally when it came to adding the buttons (ho ho, sorry terrible pun). The amazing eye buttons are from Textile Garden - thanks Marilla Walker for the recommendation! - and I think they're perfect for the quirky feel of the dress. I skipped the decorative button at the collar and just opted for a snap fastening instead. Finally, I finished the dress with a narrow hem on the advice of the pattern, and I really thought I'd struggle with the curved edge, but it turned out great. More narrow hemming in future!

Back view
The asymmetric side of the dress has turned out a little longer on me than how it looks on the pattern (I'm 5ft 6") but I'm really happy with it. It also has a pocket on the shorter side, which feels a bit pointless so I'd probably skip it in future. Otherwise I'd change very little if I made it again, apart from putting a bit more work into setting the sleeve in smoothly.

In short, I LOVE the finished dress! The fabric was easy to work with and I'd definitely use it again for any project that requires a good drape - luckily there are plenty of colours to choose from! The pattern requires a lot of attention to detail (there's a fair bit of topstitching), so it's maybe not for the impatient or those looking for a quick win, but it's a great sew for slowing down and investing time in practicing some more challenging techniques. I can totally see how people get hooked on shirt making now! For some other cool versions see Alex's and Eli's.

Thanks Sara for taking pictures (it was pretty windy if you couldn't already tell)!
Thank you to Sew Essential for spurring me on and picking me up out of my sewing lull with some fab supplies. I have 3 more shirt/shirt dresses in the queue, so no stopping me now! Check out the Sew Essential blog for inspiration, tips and tricks, and the website for all of your sewing needs. 

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Talvikki two meets Nita three (and it wasn't quite meant to be)

Do you ever feel completely underwhelmed by your makes? The sort that don't turn out too bad, but should have turned out amazing. The ones that had all the ingredients to be the very best versions of themselves - you've tried and tested the pattern and found amazing fabric - but the the finished results just leave you feeling a bit 'meh'? Well that's how I feel about my second attempt at the Talvikki Sweater and my third Nita Wrap Skirt...

Talvikki meets Nita: my underwhelmed face
I bought this amazing wool mix fabric from Barry's way back at Sew Brum, with the Talvikki in mind. My first Talvikki was hot off the machine at the time and I was desperate to make another in quick succession. It has the feel of a light weight boiled wool with a slight stretch. The print drew me in and I thought it would be perfect. 

The beautiful print up close
When I finally got around to the make, I sewed it in record time; even making a bit more effort with stabilising the shoulders as this one really was all about showing off the lovely fabric. I didn't have any clear elastic as the pattern suggests, so I used strips of jersey to support both the shoulder seams and turtleneck.

Stabilising the shoulders with jersey
On the whole, the finished thing leaves me feeling a bit deflated. I'm not sure that the Talvikki works in such a loud print, or maybe the print doesn't work on me - it's now I remember why I usually steer clear of most prints. (My boyfriend suggested it made me look like a wotsit not long after taking these pictures - not exactly the look I was going for)! The lack of stretch and difference in drape of the fabric means it doesn't sit quite as well as I'd hoped. I've rolled the sleeves up as they look too wide and hollow otherwise, and the dropped shoulders look less smooth and more boxy than they would in a jersey.

Back view

And then there's the Nita Wrap Skirt. I pattern tested this one using polka dot crepe and used pleather for my second version, and they're both amongst the most worn items in my wardrobe. I was really interested in a mid length denim version, and was totally convinced that it would be perfect in combination with the Talvikki based on my Pinterest inspo: 

Pinterest perfection
In reality, I think the pairing makes me look a bit bloated and frumpy. Perhaps I'm being overly critical as the skirt isn't so bad at all and definitely a wearable garment, but it's just not quite lived up to my styling expectations (see image below compared to image above)!

Not quite a Pinterest fail, but not my favourite
I left the hem raw as I thought this might add a bit of an 'edge'. I'm hoping it will distress a bit more naturally after a run through the wash (and hopefully the denim will lighten a bit too), but if I'm still not convinced, I'll chop it off and hem it properly. One thing I'm really proud of is the contrast topstitching down the front. I would've loved to topstitch along the whole waistband, but after giving it a go on the underside wrap, I found that the bulk made it too difficult to do neatly.

Although both garments definitely don't go together hand in hand, the Nita is the first tick off my #2017makenine, and the Talvikki marks the final make from my winter sewing list - which I can't quite believe I actually finished! I hate the thought of any make languishing in the back of the wardrobe, particularly ones like these that are perfectly wearable, but I just have a few niggles over. I'm sure the Nita will get the wear it deserves come spring and summer. The denim actually gives it a bit more structure and prevents it flying open when walking, unlike my first version which is flash central without tights! And while I want to love the Talvikki more, I think it might be relegated to a house-only jumper for now (particularly after the wotsits comparison...). Styling suggestions to help me get the most out of the two are very welcome!

At least it was sunny for pictures - thanks Chris!
I'm always a little tentative about posting my 'meh' makes, but I guess it's good for providing a bit of balance. Not everything works out, even the ones that should - in this case, it's probably a combination of lofty ambitions and wrong fabric choices. How do other people feel about sharing the makes that leave them feeling a bit deflated? And what do you do with yours? Do you try to salvage them, pretend they never happened or grin, bear and wear?

Some special makes for someone else...
In other news, most of my personal sewing time has been eaten up by a special project I'm working on for someone else (see above). I'm excited to share it as soon as I can, but also looking forward to getting a bit more making time back for me. I have the loveliest fabric and pattern from Sew Essential queued up, which I'm hoping will give me just the boost I need!

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