Monday, 17 October 2016

No. 3 Kastrup Blouse

Ta-da, my finished No. 3 Kastrup Blouse from How to Do Fashion

This vintage-inspired pattern comes in three different versions: short sleeved, cap sleeved or short sleeved with volume to the back. I chose the straight forward short sleeved version which incorporates some lovely design features. These include Princess seams to the front... 

Double layered raglan sleeves which fit snugly across the shoulder

And a deep keyhole opening at the back, fastened with a button and thread loop.

Before I get onto a full review though, there are a couple of points worth noting about the pattern. The pattern itself is printed on good quality paper and comes in a smart, stylish folder, but no instructions are actually included with it! The instructions for each separate version of the pattern can be found on the How To Do Fashion website. It's all very comprehensive and includes additional advice on common fit problems and extra sewing tips. But I do still think that for £16 the basic instructions could have been included with the paper pattern. Also, the pattern is printed on both sides of the pattern sheet so you still have to trace off the pieces. This I found really annoying. Why pay a premium for a printed pattern if you still have to trace it? To be fair, the tracing didn't actually take that long, but it still annoyed me!

Anyway, enough grumbling, back to the pattern….the pattern comes in UK sizes 6 to 20 and I cut a straight size 10. I based this on the finished garment measurements (printed on the actual pattern sheet) and by studying the sample garments on the website, which helpfully tell you the sizes they're sewn up in. I made no changes to the pattern pieces but did make a couple of small modifications once the blouse was constructed. I shortened it by 3cms as it was quite long on me and took in the side seams from the waist down by 2cms at each side. For any future versions I'll probably go down a size at the waist and hips to avoid having to adjust the side seams. One other important point to note is that the seam allowances throughout are 1cm rather than the standard 1.5cm (or ⅝"), so don't forget or you may get a tighter fit than you were expecting!

The instructions are available in English and Danish and were pretty clear on the whole, although the names of some sewing techniques get a bit lost in translation (e.g. understitching is referred to as topstitching). There are illustrations for each step and links to online videos for trickier sections, but I think a few additional diagrams for some of these sections (such as the sleeves) would have been useful. The sleeves are double layered and sandwiched between the front and back neck facings. It took a bit of head scratching for me to work out how it was all supposed to slot together, but I got there in the end. I think this is how they should look from the inside - all very clever and neat. 

The pattern states that any type of light fabric can be used and I think the key word here is light. I used a lightweight poly chiffon and wouldn't really have wanted to sew with anything much heavier as there are lots of layers around the facings. There are no instructions to stay stitch in the pattern, but I did stay stitch the necklines and the seams around the raglan sleeves as they're cut on the bias and were liable to stretch out.  

Overall I was very impressed with the pattern and would definitely recommend it. Yes, having to trace it is a pain, but it's a pain I'm prepared to overlook because the drafting and construction is so good. I achieved a great fit with minimal effort, and now that I've used one pattern I'm quite tempted to try another. I'll certainly be making another version of this top that's for sure, I love it!

This blouse is my official entry into October's #sewdots challenge, which you can read more about it in my last blog post and on Rosie's blog here. Happy Monday! x


Wednesday, 12 October 2016

#Sewdots Challenge

This month I'm joining in the #Sewdots challenge hosted by Rosie at DIY Couture. The challenge is to sew a dotty item of clothing during October, share a picture of it on social media and make a donation to support RNIB and raise awareness of braille. As the parent of a child with sensory issues, this campaign struck a chord with me so I was more than happy to get involved. Ha!! As if I need any excuse to sew polka dots! If you've been reading my blog for a while you'll know I'm a big fan!  

Looking for inspiration was no hardship. To be honest I can envisage pretty much any pattern working with polka dots, so my "research" was focused on a particular colour combination. My fabric is a poly chiffon-y type mix that I picked up from Scruffy Badger at a fabric swap years ago. I think it was left over from this blouse and it's only an 80cm remnant, but that's fine as it's just enough for what I have in mind. The colourway of red polka dots on a white background is one you don't see very often, but a quick perusal of my Pinterest Polka Dot board soon gave me the inspiration I needed:

This image of a polka dot bow blouse worn with jeans and a fitted cardigan is one of my favourite pins ever and is also the most realistic in terms of how I plan to wear my new blouse. But there were a few others that also had me sighing over my computer.

1950's vintage dress with waistline bow detail…..

1940's flutter sleeved blouse….

And Ava Gardner looking splendid in a simple blouse with Peter Pan collar.

In the end I decided to use the No 3: Kastrup blouse from How to Do Fashion as my pattern. It doesn't require much fabric (a key consideration) and has really interesting details that I love.  I've already made good progress, so look out for another polka dot post pretty soon.

You can read more about #Sewdots on Rosie's blog here. It's a fab challenge and there are some great prizes to be won. So what are you waiting for? Choose your polka dot fabric and join in, it should be a lot of fun!  x

Saturday, 8 October 2016

How to do Fashion

How To Do Fashion is a Danish pattern company I discovered over the summer via the Dragonfly Fabrics blog. I have no links with the company, the designs just really caught my eye and I thought you might be interested too. How To Do Fashion was founded two years ago by Nanna, who has a background in tailoring and pattern construction and a passion for vintage clothing. The designs focus on vintage details and achieving a great fit and there are currently eleven patterns in the range (two are brand new).

I haven't yet sewn any of them, but one pattern - the No.3 Kastrup Blouse - is next in my sewing queue, so I'll be reporting back shortly! In the meantime, here are my favourites. 

This is the pattern I bought - the No. 3 Kastrup Blouse.

It has fitted raglan sleeves (short or capped) and princess seams and can also be made with more volume to the back. I like that it has a very different look in different fabrics. For instance this is the standard blouse made in a light drapey fabric, which gives a smart, retro look.

And here's the cap sleeved version made with two jersey fabrics, which gives a completely different casual feel.

Other designs which caught my eye were No. 8 Svaneke.

I actually like all three pieces from this pattern, even the crop top (although I'd probably lengthen any version I made!) The crop top and pleated skirt look so elegant together.

And I love this striped version of the buttoned blouse.

This is the same blouse with an additional frill placket which changes the look of it completely (there are instructions on how to make your own on the blog).

And finally, No. 6 Kobenhavn - a fifties inspired wiggle dress.

The halter neck would be great for a special occasion.

But it's actually the more sombre version made from wool that appeals to me. I love the collar and the deep V back view. 

It looks like the perfect pattern to re-create one of my favourite movie-inspired dresses from Two Faces of January.

If you like the look of them, Dragonfly Fabrics and Sewbox both currently stock eight patterns in the range. If anybody has any experience of working with their patterns, please do leave a comment, I'd love to know how you found them. I'll be back soon with a full review! x

Monday, 3 October 2016

Corduroy Rosa Dress

My recent sewing has largely consisted of quick, easy projects (namely New Look 6217) due to a lack of sewing time and brain power. I did however find time to make a shirt for the Ginghamalong a few weeks ago, and apart from one moronic mishap (sewing the collar on upside down) it all went to plan. This definitely whetted my appetite for shirt making, so when Tilly kindly gifted me a copy of the Rosa shirt pattern, I decided to dive in. 

Hmmm may have to re-position that third button...
I went down the shirt dress route - I wanted my version to be an everyday dress that I could wear with tights in autumn and winter, nothing fancy, just practical and easy. For fabric I chose a lovely grey corduroy bought from Badger and Earl just before their sad closure earlier this year. From this point on, the project was as much a lesson in working with corduroy as it was in shirt making…. 

I've worked with cord a couple of times before but only on simple skirts requiring very few pattern pieces. The Rosa dress has princess seams, front and back yokes and a two-piece collar and stand, which means lots more pattern pieces and a thousand times more mess. Take it from me, corduroy is a filthy, dirty beast of a fabric and the fluff it generates gets everywhere!  If you're thinking of working with it, I'd highly recommend you read this post beforehand, especially the super helpful reader comments. I used a denim needle and a walking foot, both of which came in very handy when navigating multiple layers of cord.

Because of the thickness of my fabric I used scraps of Liberty lawn (left over from this top) for the button band facings and collar stand - I like the contrast and the pop of red against the grey.

If I had my time again I would have cut the under collar in lawn too, as even with careful trimming there was far too much bulk to contend with. The pattern recommends fine needlecord but the cord I used was probably more of a mid-weight so therefore a bit too heavy. The princess seams and yoke are finished with mock felled seams (overlocked or zig-zagged inside, then top stitched), which did help flatten them down.

I took my time making this dress and construction was a slow but stress-free process thanks to the clear instructions. If you're new to shirt making, this pattern would be a good place to start. As the instructions include photographs of each step I decided to sew the collar according to the pattern rather than by my preferred method. I achieved a good result using Tilly's method, but I still prefer the order of construction Andrea uses - it's just one of those things! The sleeves are set in flat and went in without a fight first time, I really should get into the habit of sewing them that way every time.

To give you an idea of fit, I sewed a size 4 with no fit adjustments to the pattern. This includes the length, so do bear this in mind if you're taller than 5'2" as the hemmed length is above the knee, even on me!

The finished bust measurement for my size is 38 inches, which I hoped would give me just enough room without having to do a FBA (full bust adjustment). My gamble paid off and I'm pleased with the fit of the princess seams over the bust. I think the only fitting change to consider for next time would be a small shoulder adjustment as the shoulders seem a tad wide to me. 

I also made two style changes to the original pattern: I omitted the pockets as I find breast pockets really annoying and decided against the turned-up sleeves. I did intend for them to be turned-up but they felt too casual, as if I'd just rolled my sleeves up rather than an intentional design feature. Instead I simply tapered the width in by an inch at the wrists and hemmed them. I have the arm length of a T-Rex so happily they're just about full length on me. It also solves the problem of cold wrists in winter! 

The weight of the cord does give the finished dress a different feel to what I was expecting, it's almost like a coat dress! I'm still really pleased with it though - this particular shade of grey happens to suits me and it will co-ordinate well with lots of other colours. I've styled it here without tights as we were still clinging on to the last few days of good weather when I took the photos, but from now on I'll definitely be wearing it with tights and brogues on a regular basis. Have a good week! x

The Rosa pattern was given to me free of charge. All views my own.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

The Handmade Fair

This past weekend saw craft enthusiasts flocking to Hampton Court for one of my favourite craft fairs - the Handmade Fair. Now in its third year, the fair is set up in a series of marquees on Hampton Court Green, which I think is far more convivial than a massive exhibition hall. There's a definite creative buzz about the place and the tents and quirky food stalls give the whole thing a bit of a festival vibe (further highlighted by the fact that it didn't stop raining the entire day!) 

I visited on the Friday, but was only able to stay until early afternoon as my children beckoned. I really wish I'd been able to stay longer though, as two afternoon delights I missed were talks by Cath Kidston and GBSB hottie Patrick Grant. Doh! I always say I'll book in for a workshop or class and always end up getting distracted by the shopping tents instead. This year was no exception and I spent hours browsing the eclectic mix of wonderful craft stalls. I've been on a bit of a fabric bender recently so I was pretty stern with myself about no fabric purchases. That didn't stop me treating myself to a couple of other special things…

I spent ages at Gizelle Renee's stand which sold a wonderful selection of handmade leather gloves. I've always wanted a pair of posh gloves and this red leather and cashmere pair had my name on them.

I have teeny tiny hands, so it was good to get them properly measured (I'm a size 6.5 if anybody's interested) and finally own a pair that fit me like a glove (boom boom!) Here's Gizelle shortly after completing the sale…

My other treat to myself was a new teapot. It wasn't exactly high on my wanted list, but when I saw this Art Deco-style ceramic and chrome pot just sitting quietly on one of the vintage stalls, I knew it was coming home with me. 

I actually have a small collection of coffee pots and milk jugs in this style, but no tea pot. See how perfectly it fits in on my shelf at home, it was obviously meant to be!

Other stands that caught my eye were Ladybird Likes - brimming with vintage sewing lady and pin up girl brooches.

Hannah Bass contemporary tapestries. These amazing map cushions almost made me want to take up cross stitch.

Beautiful, printed stationery from Cambridge Imprint

I also got to catch up with sewing friends old and new. 

Clockwise from bottom left: Tilly, Elisalex, Gabby and Mark
Next year I'll make a point of booking childcare well in advance so I can complement my shopping and eating with a sewing class or two. I'll also make a note of where I left my car, to avoid wandering round a field like an idiot for half an hour looking for it!  x


Saturday, 17 September 2016

One Week, One Pattern 2016

The past week has seen me wearing different variations of New Look 6217 each day as part of OWOP (One Week, One Pattern) 2016. The challenge was run this year by Hannah at Cinderellis Sews and I had a lot of fun mixing and matching garments made from my current favourite pattern.

I cheated slightly as I've made both tops and skirts from the pattern, so it wasn't actually much of a stretch. But considering the pattern also includes trousers and a kimono jacket I think I was actually quite restrained! What I like about the top and skirt patterns is the fit: they have a fair amount of wearing ease but still skim the body to show off your curves. I already had three versions of the top and two of the skirt, but just managed to squeeze out another last minute top to give myself a bit more choice. Here's what I wore:

Day 1 - Red Swiss Dot NL6217 top and Gap jeans. I was visiting the Undressed exhibition at the V & A museum with Scruffy Badger

Day 2 - Denim NL6217 skirt and 1960's Shoulder Tie top (without shoulder ties!) I was at the allotment pretending to help, so this combo was actually really comfortable, although a white top probably wasn't the wisest choice for picking raspberries...

Day 3 - Liberty print NL6217 top and denim Arielle skirt. I hadn't tried this combo before now and was surprised how much I liked it.

Day 4 - Denim NL6217 skirt and Gingham Granville shirt. The Ginghamalong went live today so I wore my new gingham shirt with my New Look denim skirt. It's a bit of a polka dot/gingham clash but I think they look good together! This photo was taken outside my local boozer, complete with splendid old tiles.

Day 5 - Ivory Crepe NL6217 top and Liberty Carline Delphine skirt. This is a new, unblogged version of the top made from a 80cm remnant of prestige crepe from the Fabric Godmother sale. The drape is perfect for this pattern and I loved wearing it on its first outing. Being off white, it's also useful for pairing with garments that are difficult to match things to (like this skirt!) 

Day 6 - Black crepe NL6217 top and Bamboo skirt. Suitably smart attire for visiting the Buckingham Palace state rooms with my mother-in-law!

Day 7 - Black Crepe NL6217 top and Sew Over It Ultimate Trousers. Here I am meeting the lovely Mark from Girl Charlee UK at the Handmade Fair in Hampton Court (more on my visit in the next blog post).

A few reflections on the challenge:
  • I'm sooooo pleased I chose this pattern, everything I've made from it feels like such a natural part of my everyday wardrobe. 
  • The top is a simple shape and easy to make, but I think fabric choice and colour are key to wearing them often. The fact that I had three solid, neutral colours tops meant they could be paired with anything. Plus the lovely quality of the fabrics made them feel just a bit more special than a T shirt or cotton top in the same colours.
  • I love the slim silhouette of the skirt and the quirky little side split - I'll definitely be making more of them.
  • I'm still not very adventurous with accessories!

Thank you to Hannah for hosting the challenge and I'm looking forward to seeing what everybody else has been wearing for the past week! Have a great weekend. x


Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Gingham Granville Shirt

Behold a new gingham shirt - my last minute entry into the Did You Make That? Ginghamalong. It's simple, classic and very wearable and I don't need a crystal ball to predict that this will be a much loved item in my wardrobe for its entire life. I made just the one gigantic error during construction (see below for the full blood and guts horror story), which I'm hoping will fade from my memory over time... Other than that, everything went to plan!

The gingham I used was 100% yarn dyed cotton which I snapped up for the bargain price of £6.50 a metre from this eBay seller. The seller advises a cool hand wash, which I promptly ignored (the only fabric that's ever hand washed in this house is silk) and it washed beautifully in the washing machine at 30 degrees. It presses well and is lovely to work with - a really nice quality cotton.

Because of school holidays I knew I wouldn't have long to make this shirt, so I used a pattern that's already been adjusted to fit me well - the Sewaholic Granville shirt (previous versions here and here). The thought of trying to pattern match the gingham didn't exactly fill me with joy, but I did want the checks on both sides of the bodice and the button bands to line up horizontally, so that's where I concentrated my efforts. It worked! I used a combination of Tasia's tutorial and just simply lining up all the underarm seams as shown here. The gingham on the collar seems to line up with the bodice gingham too, but I can't really take any credit for that one, pure fluke!

To further save time (and also because my buttonhole foot is still playing up), I used snaps on the front button band instead of buttons. If you have a pair of Prym pliers, snaps are super quick to apply, but I still find positioning them a little nerve wracking. They're almost impossible to remove without damaging the fabric, so if you get the position wrong you've well and truly pissed on your chips. The relief when they were all in (and the right way round!) was pretty huge. I do like the look of snaps on this shirt, they give it a cool, ready-to-wear feel.

Anyway, about that gigantic error… As per last time, I used this tutorial from Four Square Walls to attach the collar and under collar as I prefer the construction order Andrea uses to the pattern instructions. All was going swimmingly until I realised there was a massive amount of ease in the collar. Now I know there should be some ease in that area to allow the collar to be turned back easily, but this was ridiculous. I eventually resorted to easing the collar in with gathering stitches like a sleeve, but I wasn't happy and was gutted that my planned classy shirt was going to make me look like Harry Hill. Luckily, I had a sewing epiphany... in my sleep! I literally woke bolt upright one night after sub consciously working out what the problem was. Yes, your friendly neighbourhood sewing moron had only gone and attached the collar to the shirt upside down. Ahem. God I felt stupid, but at least I actually worked out what was wrong before wearing it out in public! I promptly cut out another set of collars/ under collars and attached them the right way round. It took about an hour to sew the collar and this time everything matched up perfectly, making me realise just how well drafted Sewaholic patterns actually are.

After all the eleventh hour drama, I couldn't be more pleased with my new gingham shirt. Yes, I know it's a sleeveless shirt and we're heading into autumn, but I can guarantee it will get plenty of outings underneath cardigans and jackets. In fact I think I'd like to wear it forever.

Thanks to Karen for hosting such a fun sew along. Let's face it, she was never going to have do much arm twisting to get me to join in, but I'm glad I did nevertheless. My gingham Granville is officially my new favourite thing! x



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