A winter Malvarosa in wool

Sometimes I become obsessed with a shape or a pattern or a fabric. The Malvarosa by Pauline Alice was this sort of dress. I kept seeing versions of it all over the internet and I went from being mildly interested in the dropped waist loveliness of it to being consumed, day and night with potential versions. Okay, so I’m exaggerating a wee bit. But I couldn’t wait until spring to make the beautiful and unique capped sleeve version.

Before I start a project I like to look for inspiration from fellow sewers and bloggers, from designer catwalks and ready-to-wear copies. For the Malvarosa dress I started with the pattern designer herself. I loved Pauline’s feminine versions of the dress. Although she has a girlier aesthetic than me, I love her chic-with-a-touch-of-retro look.

I also loved some of the more exaggerated shapes like this one worn by Victoria Beckham:

I love the hem on this one.

If Alexa Chung wears it, it’s a safe bet:

Sooooo, anyhoo… I picked up some windowpane check wool blend suiting from Ohlsson’s Tyger and decided to go for it. I chose to line the bodice instead of using facings. I figured the wool my not be pleasant against the skin and I like the look of a lined dress. My intentions were good. Execution? Err, not so much. I ended up with a tube of fabric when I tried to turn the bagged lining. Even Scott got in on the action, trying to figure out how to turn the bloody thing right side out. I ended up having to cut a centre back seam to make it work. I was following the online tutorials correctly, but I hadn’t noticed that the dresses in the demos all had a seam down the back. Another thing learned.

I did a lot of unpicking on this dress. So much that I was worried that the whole thing would just unravel and disintegrate. I must learn to read through all of the instructions before starting. Pauline’s instructions were clear and easy to follow. IF I HAD READ THEM in the first place.

It all worked out in the end and I love the dress. I decided that it deserved a special hem and having found a whole box full of vintage bias tape at the loppis (flea market,) I chose to try a red bias facing. I LOVE this finish. It was easy, although I had to serge the unravelling raw edge first. The bias tape forms itself perfectly to the curved edge of the hem and there is a flash of colour when the skirt moves.

I used the instructions in this pdf for the bias facing.

So here’s the bloody dress:

20141123_140904
20141123_140921Doesn’t the forest behind our garden look pretty? It was a bit cold…20141123_140912

This is what my winter Malvarosa cost:

Pattern $10 (I’ll use the pattern again for certain!)

Fabric  $25 (I still have almost a metre left over.)

Lining   $5

Bias tape  $1

Total: $41

Will I wear it? Yes! Money well spent.

Teaching yourself to sew

You know on Project Runway when one of the contestants says “I’m self-taught” and wears it like some kind of badge of honour, sneering at the poor suckers who spent 50k on design school? Well I totally get it. Kind of.

Of course in the internet age no one really teaches themselves to sew. Unless you are locked in a room alone with your sewing machine and some fabric. You learn by reading blogs and tutorials, by using indie sewing patterns that guide you through the process of making a garment, but most satisfyingly (and this is why I can relate to the proud self-taughters,) you learn by experimenting, figuring stuff out, finding ways to do things that make sense to you and you learn by making mistakes.

So if a make has glaring mistakes (and mostly those mistakes are glaring only to the maker,) I’m not going to get all bent out of shape. I can learn from them and do it better next time.

Take a look at my BHL Georgia dress:

2014-09-08 11.10.14

Not bad. The seams are a bit squinty in the front and the bodice lining keeps popping out. That’s because I ironed said said lining on the hightest heat setting, burning holes in it and ruining my iron. Yay! Learning experience.  I also learned that stretch fabrics are nothing to be afraid of. This is a rather heavy stretch denim I picked out from the bargain bins at Ohlsson’s Tyger on Sveavägen. It was easy to sew with although I suspect I didn’t get the grain quite right. I didn’t even need to put in a zipper. I can wiggle into it from the bottom up.

Georgia looks more difficult than she is. The bodice was surprisingly simple, although I got the centre seam and the little peak slightly misaligned. (Next time, next time.) Probably the most difficult thing about making this dress was turning the straps right side out after stitching them. Heavy stretch denim is a nightmare to turn.

Best part? This dress is comfy. I wore Georgia for drinks with Scotty on my birthday.

2014-09-01 19.16.04

Ignore the lining.

2014-09-08 11.10.29

Pattern: By Hand London Georgia

Fabric:  Stretch denim from Ohlsson’s in Stockholm

Time to Sew: A leisurely afternoon and evening

Cost: 110 SEK ($16) plus pattern

Will I wear it? Yes!

Would I make the pattern again? Yes, I’d like to make the wide strap version in a patterned fabric.