Saturday, October 17, 2015

Fitting with Angelina di Bello

This week, I found this intriguing book in my thrift store travels:

Tome II, V.1 Dust Jacket
Beautiful binding

Adding the blurbs from the front flap,
 as they are nearly all I could find out about Angelina Di Bello!

It's pretty interesting; lots about how to make basic fitting and design alterations. Large, clear line drawings and instructions that are thorough, but do expect some sewing knowledge. Here are some of the interior pages:

Adjusting for a high bust

Adjusting for one shoulder higher than the other

On the next page, a numbered list explains all the different profiles of dress
 you will learn to make with Angelina Di Bello's courses--
and notice the television channels she also appeared on at bottom

I found out a little more about this author, teacher, and expert dressmaker via the Montreal Gazette. One of the many fascinating things about her was that she began her first studio in 1946 on Tupper St -- a tiny street that I lived on for years in Montreal! Other amazing points directly quoted from that article:
  • In 1966, she was the only North American to be authorized by the House of Dior in Paris to make use of the Dior Pleat, which had been invented by Christian Dior to eliminate unsightly slits in the back of a garment and which Dior had copyrighted.
  • Di Bello worked with Gazette fashion maven Iona Monahan to co-ordinate the fashion shows during Expo 67. She was responsible for fitting and altering the more than 800 garments that were shown during the six-month exhibition.
  • In 1976, she designed and tailored the Greek gown for the women who carried the Olympic flame as well as all the hats worn by athletes in the Parade of Nations at the Montreal Games.

She also had a tv show on public television for many years, both in French and in English -- in English, the name was "Pins & Needles"; in French, "De Fil en Aiguille". According to a conversation on a sewing forum, her son Francesco (Frankie) assisted on her show and it was quite a family affair. Her husband Luigi illustrated her books and patterns and helped with the couture business -- I had wondered why his bio was included on the back of the book I just bought!

If I could have found a clip from her tv shows, I'd have shared it, but sadly, she seems to be absent from much of an online presence. Thank goodness there is enough to know that she was a busy, creative, and very successful dressmaker throughout her working life. I know I'll enjoy learning from this book, and will be keeping my eye out for the other volumes she published as well.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sew Indie Month: Pattern Hack Zsalya/Cressida Dress


Sew Indie Month is officially over for another year, but the contests are open until the end of today. Thank goodness I had this weekend off work, because I've been working madly on finishing my own Pattern Hack to enter.


I looked at all the patterns included in Sew Indie Month -- really, all of them -- searching for inspiration. Influenced by all the folkloric prints on the runways these days, I eventually decided to use one of my favourite stalwart patterns, Kate & Rose's Zsalya top & dress, and hack it into a fit & flare style dress, using Jennifer Lauren's Cressida skirt for the bottom half. This entailed a few changes.

The skirt was the easy part; I planned to take out the button placket in the front of the Cressida, and cut both front and back on fold. I used the regular waistband and pocket, but had to do a little adjustment on the left side pocket, as I was adding in a side seam zipper. Instead of getting really complicated about it, I just "made it work" with the way the pocket already sat. So now that pocket opens a little lower than the other side (about an inch lower). I also made sure the waistband opened at that side and not the front or back!

It ended up though, with the fabric I chose -- a narrow quilting width -- I had to cut the skirt in two pieces. I added a 1/2" seam allowance to the centre seam and just stitched it up and continued on. The print hides the seam very effectively.

It was the Zsalya bodice that really slowed me down, though. I've made the Zsalya three times before, and really love it. But my idea here was to take out the fullness of it, and taper it into a waistband. I made some pretty massive flat pattern changes to the bodice below the yoke -- shortening it by a good 10 inches, narrowing both front and back at the waist, and adding in darts to take up some of the remaining fullness.

Fuzzy shot of the redrawn, redone bodice pieces, with multiple attempts to get darts etc. right!

In my first muslin, the front looked great, with some gathering left in at the yoke seam, and darts adjusting the fit otherwise. The back was horrible though -- the darts did not work at all, the back was all wonky and puffy. So I tried taking the back darts out and replacing them with equal gathering top and bottom (reminiscent of McCalls 6696). But that also puffed out and made me look like I had a kangaroo pocket on my back. So then I switched it to an inverted pleat. It looked nice flat, but had the same puffy effect when I tried it on. So then I decided to just fold out all the gathering, and then took a 1" swayback type of horizontal dart across the centre of the back. It worked beautifully. The only other bodice fix I had to do was to make sure that the bottom of the bodice was going to be the same size as the Cressida waistband, which I used pretty much straight as it was drafted.

Front bodice with gathers left in & darts though you can't see them

Back bodice, with no gathers left
I finally got to the point where I was going to cut out my pattern in "real" fabric. I considered a number of choices from my stash, but when I saw these two side by side I knew they were perfect. I think that the Zsalya yoke gives this dress a folksy feel, but adding in the effect of these two fabrics also makes me think of Japanese design.

The floral print is a vintage sheet I've only owned for a few months, and the star print cotton is another 15-yr-old stash treasure that I originally bought with the plan to make a "Space Odyssey 2001" star quilt, alongside this other starry fabric I also used for a dress recently. The star fabric is a heavier cotton with a touch of stretch in it. I wouldn't really consider it quilting fabric but it did have a narrow width so perhaps it was sold as such; I can't really remember now! This info was on the selvedge:

In any case, I put it together, adding in a side zip on the left side, as the design made that the only possibility for an opening. I inserted a regular zip, as a centred zip, since I couldn't find a navy invisible zip in my local store. I'd have preferred an invisible one but this one turned out pretty well in the end.
Forgive the impressionist closeup -- I could not get a clearer image!

Then it came time for the sleeves. I wanted to use the Zsalya sleeve but change it from full length to elbow length. I had to extend the sleeve band as my elbow is larger than my wrist ;) When I tested it I didn't like the look of all the gathers that high on the arm, it seemed like 80's style puffed sleeves.

I decided that I should remove all the gathering and change the sleeve to the width of the band -- to do so on my muslin, instead of recutting another sample sleeve, I quickly sewed in a few tucks to take the fullness out and basted the band on again to check it out. But I was so taken with the look of the irregular darts around the sleeve that I repeated the same technique on my final make (there are about 7 darts in each sleeve). I love how it leaves the fullness of the upper sleeve but tucks it smoothly into the sleeve band. With the starry fabric, I feel like there are starburst darts in the sleeve, and I love the effect.

This pattern hack took much longer than I anticipated, but I enjoyed every minute of it. It was a lot of fun to look at a familiar pattern in a new way, and to do the "adjust & test & adjust again" until I had things just right. I might shorten the front bodice by another inch if I try this again, but I'm satisfied with how this turned out. I really love the final effect of these two fabrics next to each other in these two patterns.

I hope you all enjoyed Sew Indie Month as much as I did!