Sewing Francoise!


My Finished Dress!

On November 13th 2014, Tilly and the Buttons announced a sewalong competition, to coincide with the release of her Francoise dress pattern, and if you know anything about me, you'll know I can't resist one of those! Not only does it give me the opportunity and reason to try a new pattern and new techniques, and add a new garment to my wardrobe, it also makes me feel a part of something bigger... a movement, almost... Being that sewing is such a solitary pastime (as CL concurred in our interview) - any event that means working alongside other sewists, getting the chance to compare and contrast our finished pieces at the finish line, means it's a group effort - and there's an undeniable feeling of camaraderie that comes with that... 

Sew!

Now that I've set the scene, it's time for me to talk you through the pattern, my dress, and where it all began... searching for inspiration... and if you have a way of opening another window to listen a track, whilst reading this post, here's the blog post soundtrack for today...


Shopping in vintage or charity shops is one of my favourite things to do, so it felt natural to head that way for ideas. My thinking was that, instead of heading into the fabric shop, with pattern-in-hand, an open mind, stroking fabrics, comparing prices-per-metre, and finally emerging with four different pieces, none-the-wiser as to what I was going to do... this time I'd do it differently. So I let my hands wander through racks of clothing, taking anything that caught my eye into the changing room... this is a selection of dresses I found, and tried on. (or at least, tried to try on...)


I believe it's easy to get stuck in a wardrobe rut - and have no idea of what will suit us, unless we make ourselves go 'outside the box'. I realise I went a bit too far outside that box... but hey, at least the exercise prevented me from making the Francoise in peach-coloured fabric, trimmed with white accents. Eurgh!

I also compiled a list of images from magazines, and added them to my Pinterest board... if you take a look, you'll be able to see what made the biggest impression on me... :)

Back to the Francoise then, this was the first time I'd ventured into making a toile before the real thing, and although I was pleased I did, I can't say it was a perfect replica of what was to come... 


You can see from the pics above, the fit was OK, but the main rule when making a toile, is to use fabric that drapes / fits / moves just like the final fabric will drape / fit / move. Makes sense, right? What's the point of making your toile in a soft drapey chiffon, when the actual dress will be made from a stiff felt? They have nothing in common... That's a bit like making your toile from an old bed sheet, before cutting your actual dress pieces from fake fur, and pleather...


Do I regret making the Francoise in faux fur? There were definite pluses and minuses...

Pros
Cutting out the dress pieces was a DREAM. Honestly, it took me back to cutting my curtain to make the Laurel dress, just perfection. And I don't just mean the fur - the pleather (or plastic, faux leather, if you've not heard that word for it) was also incredibly easy to cut. In fact, I used my rotary cutter and cutting board for the pleather accent pieces, and felt rather guilty about missing out some of the steps printed in the instructions. (*not really) The interfacing, for example, just wasn't needed. Stiffening pleather? No. And a running stitch around the edges to keep it's shape? Again, no. Having said that...
Cons
I had to be careful not to put pins through the pleather; in other fabric the holes would disappear when you remove the pins, not so with pleather. Also, holes could make a fault line, a point where any stress could create a rip later on... 
The fur came with it's own issues - even though fraying wasn't a problem, the pins had a tendency to create a 'ladder' if not inserted properly. Weird, eh? I had read a lot online about the issues associated with sewing fake fur - mostly regarding fluff clogging up the machine under the sewing foot. I also read that seam lines could look strange, if the fur wasn't either cut away, or held in place during sewing. Neither of those problems arose - but I did find the darts a bit bulky... I tackled that by cutting through the middle of the dart (on the inside of the dress) - so far, sew good!

One thing I hadn't considered when buying the fabric was the amount stated on the pattern envelope, luckily I bought enough - but it could have ended up very differently...


If you buy fabric that has a recurring pattern, a bit like with wall paper, you'll very likely need more to account for the fact it has to match up... With this fabric, the tiger print went through 'phases', but not symmetrically (in any direction). It's hard to explain in words... but, added to the fact that the pile of the fur ran in one direction, (like velvet) that was also the direction that each large dress piece had to be cut - not as the cutting instructions suggested, with one piece laying directly over the other...

As you can imagine, this works when you've got fabric that is plain... or even polka dot... but not with a) pile or b) cartoon-like tiger print calling the cutting shots! I was pleased with my decision to transfer the dress pieces onto dressmaking tissue paper, it meant I could see the pattern through the paper, and work out what would be showing in the final garment. I chose to put the darker lines running centrally through the front of the dress; see if you think I made the right choice at the end...


I had a bit of a strange experience with the fitting across the back - in the final dress, the back gaped wildly, honestly it felt like it was three sizes too big... I wondered why, having made the toile, this had happened - but as I said before, fake fur has nothing to do with an old bed sheet, characteristics-wise. Still, I'm not sure anyone would go as far as to make a practice dress from a cheaper faux fur... or would they? Obviously this meant a little more work, at the final hurdle, on the fitting, but all-in-all this dress was a pleasure to make!

And Sew To My Finished Francoise!


You know, the thing with this dress is that it could look... well... a bit tacky. NOT the pattern, obviously, it's the fur... it is quite... full-on. It's at times like these I think about models, and the fact they can wear anything in an 'ironic' way, and not look tarty. When you add a bum and boobs, clothing can look suggestive. I've thought that for quite some time now, and keep meaning to write a post on body image (it's on My List for 2015!), but in the meantime, know that I struggled to make this dress look less 'serious' in the photos... To give you an idea of the conversations I have with friends about these things, Hannah and Alice made the comments "Maybe brown tights would work best..?" and "Have you considered wearing it with red high heels?". You can see they were taking me, and it, seriously ;) Having said all that, I think that worn in the right way, with opaque tights, under a long coat with chunky boots (for example), this dress could still see the light of day...

Final vote, given the choice, what do you think, black or burgundy tights?


Head online to check out all the glorious creations that have appeared, all calling themselves Francoise, but looking completely different... Check out Twitter, Pinterest, or Flikr, with #SewingFrancoise in the search engine, you'll see how many of us there are, entering into the spirit of the sewalong! And if you're interested in getting in on the act, here's where you can buy your own from Tilly
(*The sewalong comp has now closed, as of midnight 14/12/14)

I think I feel another Francoise coming on... possibly in khaki corduroy... does that sound awful? You know me, I'm not one for going down the cosy-cotton-route... :)


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In Other News...

  • The second half of my interview with Great British Sewing Bee Producer, Claire Louise Hardie, is yet to come... I found our chat to be very illuminating, I hope you do too!
  • You could find my next home refashioning video useful, if there's still someone you haven't got a Christmas present for... Cutting it fine, are we? (I know I am!!) That'll be posted next week...
  • I'm in talks to create a huge swishing event in West London... I'm keeping it under wraps until the details are all finalised, but it's going to be BIG! AND GLAM! Honestly, I'm so excited, it's going to be the biggest thing I set my mind to in 2015... and hopefully you'll be there too!



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