Saturday, 18 May 2013

A Special Circle-Skirted Elisalex

Diary of a Chainstitcher By Hand London Elisalex Dress Sewing Pattern with circle skirt made in Mood Fabrics teal cotton sateen

This dress is special for three reasons: 1. It was made to be worn to my boyfriend's brother's wedding last Friday, 2. It was made using fabric from Mood NYC purchased on my recent trip of a lifetime, 3. It's AWESOME!

I've been mega excited about sharing this make on the blog but had such a good time on the day I completely forgot to get any photos of me in it (and this was not top of my fella's priorities either being a best man and all!) and it's taken me a while to get my act together this week and recreate my outfit for you.

Diary of a Chainstitcher By Hand London Elisalex Dress Sewing Pattern with circle skirt made in Mood Fabrics teal cotton sateen
Shoes: M&S (years ago!) Bag: TK Maxx Earrings: V&A Museum Shop

I knew right away that I wanted to make my dress to wear on Richard and Nicola's big day, and I worked out quite quickly that I wanted it to be an Elisalex dress from By Hand London. I made up a muslin (which I haven't had chance to blog yet) in a bargain fairly heavyweight fabric from A1 on Goldhawk Road. I was fairly happy with it but wasn't loving the shape of the skirt on me and don't think using a cheapo fabric was doing it any favours. I love the idea of the skirt and think it looks fantastic on other people, just look at Dibs and Roisin's gorgeous versions. I don't think there's anything wrong with it on me, but it's really not a shape I'm used to so I wasn't feeling very comfortable in it.

Diary of a Chainstitcher By Hand London Elisalex Dress Sewing Pattern with circle skirt made in Mood Fabrics teal cotton sateen

So I decided to switch in a circle skirt, which I think has been a fairly common change for other bloggers to make when working with a lighter weight fabric that wouldn't hold the shape of the skirt so well. I was slightly apprehensive as I'd never done a circle skirt before but I followed a combination of Casey's Circle Skirt Sew-Along and the tutorial on Circle Skirts from the girls at By Hand London themselves and can't believe I've never tried it before! They are so simple to draft and put together (with the exception of the huge hem!), flattering and of course fun. Perfect for twirling at a wedding disco! I think I'll be making up some more lighter weight cotton circle skirts for summer.

Diary of a Chainstitcher By Hand London Elisalex Dress Sewing Pattern with circle skirt made in Mood Fabrics teal cotton sateen

Fabric-wise I really wanted to get something special so I decided to make this my aim for my trip to Mood in New York. There were so many gorgeous fabrics there I thought I would never decide! But with the assistance of my wonderful sister who somehow managed to help me make a decision I settled on this gorgeous turquoise cotton sateen at $14 a yard. I could not be more pleased with my purchase. I was questioning my choice right up until the moment I started sewing with it and then I just got happier and happier from there! It is very reasonably priced when I think about the quality; an dream to cut and sew with, my machine loved this stuff. I didn't want anything too satin like (I was very wary of looking too much like a bridesmaid) and the sateen has the perfect sheen which in this beautiful colour just glows. I was worried it would be too heavy for the circle skirt but actually it's fantastic as it gives it body and shape. It also works fantastically well for the bodice; it holds the structure of those lovely princess seams and also has a teeny bit of stretch which makes it super comfortable to wear.

Diary of a Chainstitcher By Hand London Elisalex Dress Sewing Pattern with circle skirt made in Mood Fabrics teal cotton sateen

Apart from how lovely and 50s and fun it looks I'm most pleased with how wearable it is. I was honestly so comfortable in this all day (with the exception of dealing with the circle skirt in some fairly major wind outside the church!). I didn't feel like I needed to tug it about to make it sit right when I stood up or down, I could almost forget I had it on and for an occasion dress I think that's quite an achievement! The fit is so nice and that's all down to the drafting skills of the By Hand London girls.

Anyway on to the construction details. This was the longest it has ever taken me to put together a garment, but I really took my time and put in the effort to make this extra special. Plus I was slightly slowed by the fact that I have just discovered Project Runway and had it on constantly in the background; I had to keep stopping so I could properly watch the runway shows!

Diary of a Chainstitcher By Hand London Elisalex Dress Sewing Pattern with circle skirt made in Mood Fabrics teal cotton sateen
Lining!

I wanted to fully line my dress, the first time I had ever attempted a lining. As I had gone for a plain fabric I really wanted to add a little bit of interest to the dress and with the help of Charlotte and Elisalex themselves at Rachel's meet up a few weeks ago I chose a hot pink! It's a lawn like silk and cotton blend from Classic Textiles on Goldhawk Road. I highly recommend it as dress lining because it's so lightweight and gorgeously soft on the skin. Plus for the quality it's a bargain at £4 a metre. I love the pop of pink that peeks out as the skirt moves and was so please with the colour combo I decided to go for hot pink accessories with the exception of the shoes which I already had and are the almost exact same colour as the sateen.

Diary of a Chainstitcher By Hand London Elisalex Dress Sewing Pattern with circle skirt made in Mood Fabrics teal cotton sateen

There were a lot of sewing firsts involved in the making of this dress for me; first lining, first circle skirt and first time sewing princess seams. Despite this it came together quite easily, I actually think it helped as I was so careful with every step! It was also my first time using horsehair braid. I added this to the hem after Casey recommended it in her sewalong and followed Gertie's tutorial to do so. I was very excited to find some 2" wide hot pink horsehair braid on eBay. It gives such a lovely neat finish and really helps with that round hem, though at 4 metres catch stitching the braid up by hand took a fair bit of time! It's well worth the effort though, I felt like a princess in that full skirt! To hem the lining I used the rolled hem foot on my machine.

Diary of a Chainstitcher Horsehair Braid Hem
Hot pink 2" horsehair braid around the hem


As I was lining the dress I just pinked most seams to finish them. This worked particularly well on the sateen, that stuff does not want to fray and when pinked had a lovely crisp finish. I used hot pink bias binding to do a hong kong finish on the centre back seam and waist seam. I loved getting a bit more of the turquoise and hot pink colour combo going on! I was tempted to bind all the seams but as the bodice is so close fitting I wanted to keep all those seams as bulk free as possible to keep a smooth finish on the outside.

Diary of a Chainstitcher By Hand London Elisalex Dress Sewing Pattern with circle skirt made in Mood Fabrics teal cotton sateen
A mid-construction shot showing the bound waistband seam, pinked seams and stay tape around the neckline

The only two parts that I found a little tricky and troublesome were the neckline and the zip. I think I was a little cocky about the zip as I've never had trouble with them before and this was the first time ever that I've had to unpick one and redo! It wasn't too bad, just the two sides of the bodice weren't lining up quite right so I unpicked one side and pinned more carefully the second time around.

Diary of a Chainstitcher By Hand London Elisalex Dress Sewing Pattern with circle skirt made in Mood Fabrics teal cotton sateen
I'm pretty proud of the finished zip result!

I initially found it difficult to get the front neckline to sit flat to he body. It took a bit of fiddling with but I managed to sort it out using a combination of techniques. I wanted to prevent the beautiful shape of the front and back neckline stretching out so I used stay tape along the seam allowances (F.Y.I. It was some amazing sticky stay tape from Pacific Trimmings). I stuck this on then under-stitched the lining to the seam allowances as I really wanted to keep the clean outside finish and not topstitch. I ended up clipping the seams right through the stay tape as the stiff stay tape was preventing the curve from turning back completely smoothly. It still wasn't sitting quite right so rather than give up and topstitch I went back and catch stitched the seam allowances to the fashion fabric to pull everything back flat. This did the trick and it's barely visible from the outside.

Diary of a Chainstitcher By Hand London Elisalex Dress Sewing Pattern with circle skirt made in Mood Fabrics teal cotton sateen
I'm also pretty proud of the setting in of that lined sleeve!

I'm sure there's more I could say, but I'm aware that this has turned into a super long post, I just love this dress so much I couldn't help myself! Overall this is the most proud I have felt of anything I have made. I felt great in it and was really pleased with the quality I achieved; it even survived a Dirty Dancing 'Time of my Life' lift related accident!! As we came out of the church a lady I didn't know came up to me and said she absolutely loved my dress and wanted to look at it up close. I got to say 'Thank you! I made it!' for the first time and the look of disbelief on her face made me feel SO good!

Diary of a Chainstitcher By Hand London Elisalex Dress Sewing Pattern with circle skirt made in Mood Fabrics teal cotton sateen


44 comments:

  1. Glorious! No wonder you're pleased with it. I love the pop of pink too.

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    1. Thanks Evie! I'm not usually much of a pink girl but just this hint of hot pink I loved!

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  2. Wow, this is just stunning and looks like so much fun to dance in!

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    1. Thank you Claire! It was, there was a lot of spinning around on the dance floor!

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  3. It's beautiful! Turquoise and pink is one of my favourite colour combos

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    1. Thank you! I think it's fast becoming one of mine!

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  4. ooh this is lovely! The turquoise really suits you and I love your pink contrasting lining! I love the Elisalex esp with a circle skirt :)

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    1. Thank you! I definitely think I'm going to be making more, the neckline is just lovely. I really want to try combining the Elisalex bodice with the Charlotte shirt next!

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  5. So, so pretty. It looks like a labour of love, well done!

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    1. Thank you very much! It was a real labour of love and I loved every second of it!

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  6. Beautiful dress! Looks so well fitted. Your construction tips are really useful too. K

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    1. Thank you Katy! I never know how much detail to go into so it's good to know that the construction info is interesting!

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  7. This dress is so stunning. Great choice of fabric and pattern

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    1. Thanks Rachel, I'm completely in love with cotton sateen!

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  8. Your dress is fabulous!! I love the colours, and the fit is fantastic.

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    1. Thank you Lynne, the fit was pretty much a fluke I must admit. Brilliant drafting! All I did was use a slightly smaller seam allowance between notches on the princess seams to give a little more room across the bust

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  9. Your dress is stunning, I have some proper dress envy. The colours are amazing and fit is beautiful.

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    1. Thank you! I normally shy away from bright colours but am so pleased I didn't this time. You can totally make one too! That's the best thing about sewing!

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  10. You did an awesome job here. I love the colour combo so much and all the detail you put into it. You look stunning!

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    1. Thank you Nicki! I can't take all the credit for the colour combo, it was a suggestion by the lovely Elisalex herself!

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  11. This is gorgeous! I love the color you've chosen, and it looks awesome with the hot pink lining! You've finished it so cleanly-- the inside is almost as lovely as the outside! I love sateen so much-- it's gorgeous, but not TOO fancy, plus it's a snap to work with and is washable!

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    1. Thank you Sonja! I am very proud of the insides, almost so much that I want to wear it inside out and point all the difficult bits to everyone! I am definitely sharing the sateen love, currently scouring my pattern stash for what else would work in it!

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  12. Stunning dress Fiona - great work :)

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    1. Thank you Claire, I want to make more in more great colour combinations now!

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  13. That dress is absolutely stunning Fiona. So beautiful, inside and out. I could literally die for that colour. hmm, I think I need to buy a fabric in that colour. I blame you!

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    1. Hehe! I will happily take that blame because I think this would be an AWESOME colour on you! Thanks so much Dibs

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  14. Fabulous! You did such a fantastic job with your dress. All the details are perfect. So glad Mood is a part of it!

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    1. Thank you Meg! I'm so excited that you like it! I really want to get my teeth into another big project which can expand my skills further now!

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  15. OMG, I love this dress! WOW!! You did a really fantastic job, and congrats on such a beautiful finished product! Hope you got tons of compliments at the wedding. : )

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    1. Thank you so much! I did get some compliments and it was so amazing to be able to say 'Thanks, I made it!' This is definitely the project I'm most proud of!

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  16. I love your dress, inside and out. Just lovely. :)) and twirly !!

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    1. Thank you Kirsty! As with most things I take time over making I'm not sure if I like the inside or outside the most!

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  17. Fantastic dress. Would it work with a tulle underskirt underneath? X

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    1. Thank you Kelly! I definitely think so! In fact, that's a brilliant idea...I might need to go and look up how to make one now!

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  18. Gorgeous dress!
    And thank you for the long and detailed post - it will surely be of help to me when I (hopefully) get around to making my Elisalex(es) :)

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    1. Thank you Elisabeth! Looking forward to seeing yours then. I'm glad the post is useful, sometimes I feel like I'm just wittering on!

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  19. I'm screaming on the inside from excitement! This dress is so fricken beautiful!!!!
    Love the colours!!!! The circle skirt!!!!! Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!
    Just perfect!

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    1. There's big smiles going on over here at your comment! So pleased you like it so much when all your dresses are so beautiful! I feel pretty great wearing this one!

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  20. This has come out so well. love all the details you have posted.

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  21. Thank you Preethi, I always enjoy seeing all the construction details of other bloggers' projects so I try to share them on here too

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  22. Hello! May I know where to get the pattern for this dress?

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    1. Hi Gracia! Yes the bodice is the Elisalex Dress from By Hand London which you can find here http://byhandlondon.com/products/elisalex-dress (I think they have a list of stockists on their site too if you'd rather buy in person) and the skirt is just a circle skirt which I drafted myself.

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  23. This is a gorgeous dress, you are quite right to be proud of yourself how it turned out! I think it is stunning. Maybe someday I'm confident enough to try something like this for myself

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    1. Thank you Claartje! I'm so sure you could try something like this for yourself! I hadn't been sewing all that long when I made this, it was an easy fabric to work with and the pattern is very straightforward to assemble with good instructions. I just took my time and really enjoyed the process!

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I love hearing from readers of my blog so please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you thought about this post/make! Any hints or tips to improve my sewing are always much appreciated too!