Saturday, 14 June 2014

Vogue 1392 & The John Lewis Sewing Bee!

A couple of week's ago I was delighted to be invited to take part in the John Lewis Sewing Bee to celebrate their 150th year of trading. I headed along to their Oxford Street store one Saturday morning and spent an amazing day making a mess of their haberdashery department sewing up dresses alongside some new and some very familiar faces. I've got another post coming up to give you more of an insight into the day, today I wanted to take a look at my completed dress!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Vogue 1392 in John Lewis 1950s reproduction fabric

To celebrate their anniversary John Lewis have released a special edition collection of cotton prints which they've brought back from their archives. We were challenged to sew up a dress with one of these fabrics during  the day (which with the amount of gossiping and chatting to customers we did was not a successful mission FYI!). It was a seriously tough choice but in the end I settled on the purple colour way of the reproduced 1950s design which Roisin and Clare also picked in different colours and nicknamed the 'bacteria' print!

Photo from Brian Doherty Photography

The fabric definitely played a huge part in my enjoyment of the project as it was so nice to sew with. It's top quality cotton, super soft and really lovely to wear. I don't work with or wear cotton prints very often as I prefer the drape and feel of a viscose but for this design something a little crisper was perfect.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Vogue 1392 in John Lewis 1950s reproduction fabric

Lisa Comfort of Sew Over It fame was there with her talented assistant Freia to keep things running smoothly and help us out with tips and advice. She'd chosen a selection of dress patterns for us to use and (after much deliberation again!) I picked V1392 which is a Kay Unger design for Vogue as I fell in love with the unusual neckline.


I don't often sew with patterns from the big 4 as I tend to find it takes much more faffing about to get them to fit. From previous experience I knew I would need to size down as they tend to include so much ease so I cut the size 10 instead of the size 12 recommended by the envelope. I was wary of going down by more than one size in case it ended up too small but I definitely could have got away with the 8 as I nipped it in further down the side seams and some areas could still do with being a smidgen tighter. I do think that this would be a good pattern for petites as I am verging on that sizing, particularly in the body, and feel that everything sits well lengthwise out of the envelope. Even the hem length.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Vogue 1392 in John Lewis 1950s reproduction fabric

Apart from the sizing dilemmas I absolutely loved sewing this up. The instructions were excellent, really detailed and thorough. I was delighted to discover some extra construction details in there which step this dress up a level. Well maybe delighted isn't exactly the word to describe how I felt when half way through cutting out and already an hour down on our deadline I spotted there was boning involved but it certainly made for a fun project!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Vogue 1392 in John Lewis 1950s reproduction fabric

Included were instructions for fully lining the dress, making your own petticoat to add fullness and for hanging loops. Looking at the cotton print I had chosen I felt like my dress would be more of a day dress so I opted to leave out the petticoat and the skirt lining too, partly because I didn't have the fabric for either! I did chose to line the bodice in my fashion fabric as I wanted a nice clean finish plus the lining is really important for creating the garment shape in this particular case.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Vogue 1392 in John Lewis 1950s reproduction fabric

I really enjoyed following the slightly unusual construction method for the bodice of this dress. As you can see the neckline sits slightly off the shoulder. To help this stay comfortably in place elasticated straps are concealed inside the dress which 'cling' to the top of your shoulders. The elastic is concealed within tubes of your lining fabric (or in may case the fashion fabric) and then sewn into the seams of your lining which creates a clean and professional finish. The picture below explains this much better than I can with words! I really love this technique and will keeping my eye out for other opportunities to put it to good use.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Vogue 1392 in John Lewis 1950s reproduction fabric

If you are tempted to try this pattern out I will recommend that you do some fairly major grading and notching of your seam allowances around the neckline and arm holes. There are lots of intersecting curved seams in these areas which needed a lot of steaming into shape to lay nice a flat despite my aggressive clipping. As the lining was all slipstitched down and this cotton was nice and tightly woven I didn't finish any of the bodice seams but I did overlock the seams of the skirt. The zip went in beautifully first time (another treat this cotton provides) and I machine stitched my hem with the matching purple thread I was provided with.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Vogue 1392 in John Lewis 1950s reproduction fabric

On the day of the sewing bee I made a hasty decision to leave out the boning to save time. But as I've recently learnt a lot about different boning techniques on my tutu construction course when I got home I decided this would actually be a lovely element to include. Boning may seem like a daunting prospect, I know it used to be for me, but actually the way I added it to this dress is super easy! As you can see below I used some of the cotton covered sew-in type boning (admittedly it is black which is not ideal but it's hidden away inside so who can tell?!). It's basically boning secured within a channel of tape. You simply cut the boning to the lengths you need and then sew it to the wrong side of your lining by machine stitching down each edge. Done! You could also use the plastic Rigilene boning for this which can be sewn straight in or you can create your own channels from bias tape. This pattern included really clear markings for placement, one either side of the centre front and then down each side seam. I'm really pleased I added this in as it gives some structure and shape to the soft cotton but I think would have been more effective if I had gone for a closer, more formal fit.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Vogue 1392 in John Lewis 1950s reproduction fabric

O and last but not least one of my all time favourite design elements is included in this pattern too...inseam pockets! With facings!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Vogue 1392 in John Lewis 1950s reproduction fabric

Make sure to check out the dresses the other ladies made, there are some beautiful combinations of fabrics and patterns:


If you want a sneak peak behind the scenes check out this post for photos of the Bee and my thoughts about some of the equipment (including a machine from John Lewis' varied and affordable range of machines) which we got to use on the day!

51 comments:

  1. What a beautiful dress! That shoulder strap is so clever. Look forward to hearing more about the Bee.

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    1. I'm looking forward to showing you all the pictures!

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  2. The elastic on the shoulder is such a great technique! I would have never thought of that and will keep it in mind for future garments.

    Your dress is gorgeous! I love the combination of fabric and pattern, and I'm glad to hear you had such a good time at the sewing bee. :)

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    1. Isn't the elastic thing fantastic?! It's so neat when concealed in the fashion fabric too, I think it looks a bit professional inside now!

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  3. Lovely dress and beautiful construction! I really adore that vintage print! Thanks for showing the interesting shoulder elastic technique! =)

    I'm like you, I usually don't line things. And if I do, I usually use the outer fabric like you did. Sometimes I line with a solid & thin cotton but there's something about slippery linings in dresses and skirts that bugs me - I'd much rather wear a separate slip.

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    1. Yeah I get frustrated with flimsy little linings that just hang oddly inside. I prefer a lining which gives some structure and shape which is why this one which includes important elements like the boning and elastic is so great!

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  4. Gorgeous dress! Love all the little details.

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    1. Thank you! It's a really lovely pattern because of all those extra details which step the make up a notch!

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  5. Beautiful dress! It's always lovely learning new details, isn't it?

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    1. So much fun! I love learning by trying things out so I was really excited to discover these new techniques as I worked through the instructions!

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  6. This is really lovely. That fabric is gorgeous and looks amazing.

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    1. Thank you Heather! It's a print that really screams 50s don't you think? Beautiful cotton to sew with too

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  7. Looks lovely! I love this print!

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    1. Thank you! It was tough to turn down the other lovely fabric choices but this one jumped out at me straight away as I love a bit of purple and the print is perfect for a 50s style dress!

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  8. I haven't seen this pattern before...it's stunning. I love your version and think I might have to add this one to The List.

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    1. Ha! I love that you have 'The List'. I think this pattern would really work for you Evie, it's a very enjoyable project to stick your teeth into without being overly complex too

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  9. This looks awesome (way nicer than the packet), that shoulder elastic looks so clever!

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    1. O thank you! I always try to look at the line drawings rather than the photos on the envelopes so I can see it completely differently! The elastic is an excellent trick

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  10. I love the colours and the pattern of the fabric and the neckline of that dress.

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    1. The neckline is what sold the pattern for me initially, it's so unique and vintage inspired!

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    1. We were so lucky! We need to arrange some way for the spoolettes to all be able to sew together Jo!

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  12. Oh, that's so beautiful!! You did a great job :) This really makes me miss sewing pretty dresses as I have tried to sew more basics lately... I guess ONE more pretty dress never hurt anyone, right? :D

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    1. One more pretty dress NEVER hurts! It's definitely important to see wearable garments but it's also important to sew things that you enjoy the process of making, in my opinion anyway!

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  13. This is just gorgeous, Fiona! I love the shoulder line and really interesting to learn about the elasticated straps to keep it in place. That boning looks very easy too. And I think I need some of this lovely fabric for myself!

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    1. You absolutely do! It's great to be able to so easily buy vintage prints. The boning really is so much easier than I thought it might be

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  14. So beautiful! Can't get over the fit either, amaaazing. Funny because I wouldn't have glanced twice at this looking at the pattern packet but its so much more lovely made up. They should put your dress on the front of the packet instead.

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    1. Aw Sophie you're too lovely! I'm really glad I took part in the bee just for the chance to try a pattern which, like you say, I probably wouldn't have looked twice at. But it has some awesome construction details!

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  15. Hooray! So glad you got a chance to finish. This looks amazing on you - and those inseam pockets are a total win!

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    1. Pockets for the win on everything! I wasn't as speedy as you but got it done in the end! Love how yours turned out!

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  16. Wow this is stunning Fiona. Love it and very interesting read on the techniques included in the pattern. As one of my favourite gals, so glad you were at the sewing bee too xx

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    1. Aw you sweetie! I'm so glad you were there! It was so nice to have the opportunity to sew with you girls.

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  17. Woo, lovely! Such a pretty fabric. I am really interested in that covered elastic thingy. Will have to ask you about that when I see you. x

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    1. I shall come prepared with an explanation! It's pretty straightforward but you might need to add a couple of seams to the lining of other patterns to make sure the insertion is nice and clean. I was really excited to discover that the pattern included such a great little technique!

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  18. We love this dress on you, Fiona! Well done.

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    1. Thanks so much! It was such an enjoyable pattern to sew

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    1. Thanks Sonja! It feels lovely and comfortable despite the neckline potentially being a bit awkward and the boning

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  20. Really beautiful work on this dress. I was curious about this pattern when it was released, and now that I've seen some of the construction features, I'm tempted to give it a try! The should elastic is really brilliant!

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    1. I definitely recommend it! It's not a quick sew but one to take your time over and enjoy all the different construction elements. Thanks!

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  21. the cotton was such a great choice for this type of dress - i think you used pattern and fabric perfectly!

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    1. Thank you! I'm so pleased with how the print and the body of the cotton works with the shape. More of a happy accident than planning really!

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  22. What a lovely dress - such a pretty print and pattern!

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    1. Thanks Lizzy! I'm really pleased with how it turned out, it was one of those projects that you're not quite sure how it might work until it does you know?!

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  23. I just love the fabric you chose!!!! You look great in purple :)
    This dress is so cute, thank you for the detailed review on sizing, I am also a petite frame and find the Big 4 a nightmare with sizing.

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    1. Thank you Neeno! Purple is one of my favourite colours!
      I bet this pattern would really suit you, the bodice shape in particular I think is good for a petite frame. I'm hoping to make it again and take some time to refine the fit as this is no where near perfect but I didn't have time on the day.

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  24. I love this! The fabric is perfect for this dress and your sewing is impeccable!

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    1. Thank you so much! The pattern really guided me into making the finishing so lovely on this plus there's lots of notches and points to mark to help it come together really accurately!

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  25. Ooooh this looks great. You've bossed so many techniques here. Hope you find plenty of opportunity to wear your lovely new dress!!

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    1. Thanks Amy! I really love trying new techniques or refining old ones! Plus patterns with lots of pieces to come together like a jigsaw puzzle are totally my thing!

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  26. Beautiful! Your dress looks so much nicer than the one on the pattern envelope.

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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!