Friday, 12 February 2016

Liberty trim cardigan refashion

My favourite piece of knitwear is a fitted, red John Smedley cardigan. It was a birthday present from my husband about five years ago and I LOVE it.

First outing of my beloved cardigan in 2011,  pictured with my gingham twin
and long time sewing pal Scruffy Badger

Being red, it goes with almost everything in my wardrobe and being from John Smedley, the quality is excellent. After almost daily wear, the wool isn't the slightest bit bobbled, but sadly the poor old cuffs have suffered. I don't know what's happened to them, maybe somebody fancied a nibble or they caught on something in the washing machine (most likely scenario), but they're basically knackered. I've tried to repair the damage a few times but it still looks a bit ratty and I don't wear it out of the house any longer.

It's been at the back of my mind to try to rescue the cuffs in some way, but nothing really struck me until my recent visit to Liberty. On display was a selection of cashmere jumpers and cardigans with Liberty print cuffs, oooh!


When I saw them I could almost hear the lightbulb pinging on in my head! I set to work…


I'm pretty good at donating small, scraps of fabric to my children's schools, but Liberty scraps I keep, so  I had a fair few designs to choose from. A navy Glenjade print left over from my Liberty Afternoon Blouse was the perfect contrast against the red. I didn't need much fabric either, just 29cms x 10cms for each cuff. 


I looked at a few tutorials online and read various cuff instructions before coming up with my own simple method of making and attaching them. Once constructed, I sewed the cuffs to the sleeves with a zigzag stitch and finished the seams with my overlocker. I then top stitched the edge of the cuff to the seam allowance to anchor it in place.


Oooh Liberty cuffs!
Yes, my long sleeved cardigan now has three quarter length sleeves, but just look at how awesome they are!


I'm so pleased I was able to rescue my beloved cardigan with style! Obviously you could use any fabric, but Liberty fabric is so timeless and classic, I think it really adds a certain something. I'm now tempted to give a few boring jumpers the same treatment just to spruce them up a bit!

Have a great weekend. x


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Topper Talk

What is a topper? Well, apart from a gentleman's hat and a splendid comic I used to read in the seventies, a topper is a woman's loose-fitting coat. Popular in the 1950's and 1960's, toppers were usually short, made from lightweight fabrics and worn as a light cover up, a bit like a glamorous cardigan. During my topper research, I uncovered several different styles:

Some have set in sleeves, separate collars and pockets.



Some earlier versions are collarless and could be belted.


This coat pattern also comes with a topper jacket option on the right.



There were even knitted versions!


But the most popular one seems to have been a short, swing style with kimono sleeves.






I think they're a lovely, stylish alternative to a cardigan, so I've decided to make one. This decision was speeded up slightly after I was very kindly given a copy of vintage Simplicity 3451 last week by Ashley.


The pattern is from 1950 and comes in two lengths, the shorter version having a mandarin collar. I'm going to make version 2 which is fully reversible. Ashley has already made a lovely version from polar fleece here, which I was tempted to directly copy, but I've decided to try out some different fabrics. I really like the navy and white colour combination of version 2 on the envelope illustration, so I'm going to try and re-create it. The fabric's ordered and I'm in the middle of making a toile - look out for an update soon! Have you ever made a topper?! x


Sunday, 7 February 2016

Liberty Fest

Photo credit: Lazy Daisy Jones
Friday was a very happy day for me as it involved all things Liberty. First off I met up with fellow blogger Ashley from Lazy Daisy Jones to visit the Liberty in Fashion exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum. I've been wanting to pay a visit for ages and I'm so glad I made the effort. It was great to see the fabrics up close and be able to examine the beautiful, subtle design details of the garments on display. Here are a few of my favourites:

Early 1920's silk blouse
1930's dress in a bright floral print
1930's and 1940's dresses
1940's dress - love the waist detail
My favourite dress from the 1970's section
Liberty shoes!
There was also an accompanying display in a side room featuring the work of Susan Collier and Sarah Campbell, who designed for Liberty between 1961 and 1977. I loved the mood boards in this room - such an explosion of colour and print.




After the exhibition we repaired to the Liberty store on Regent Street for lunch, then hit the fabric and haberdashery section. A few things caught my eye...

Liberty print sewing machine
Knitwear with Liberty print cuffs
I have a beloved John Smedley cardigan that's badly frayed at the cuffs after almost continual wear for the past six years. A Liberty print cuff seems like a perfect solution.

We also saw this amazing Tilly and the Buttons Francoise dress made with peacock feather Tana lawn. Extra fabric peacock feathers were appliqu├ęd onto the dress.


I wasn't planning on buying anything but Ashley twisted my arm right up my back and forced me to buy a metre of this Lilac print (not really!) I love the colours and I can see this turning into a cute summer top.


All in all, a fabulous day. 

The Liberty in Fashion exhibition runs until the end of February and I'd highly recommend a visit if you find yourself in London. x

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

A colour block White Russian

Today I made a sweatshirt. Not the most exciting garment to talk about I'll admit, but this one turned out way better than I was expecting, so it gets its own blog post!


My plans for sewing a sweatshirt were hatched after I was sent some rather lovely Andover Jersey samples by the Village Haberdashery. I wanted to see what two different colours would look like used together and the idea for a colour block sweatshirt was born. The pattern I used was the White Russian from Capital Chic, which I've sewn up once before here. I made a few adjustments last time for a closer fit and made some further tweaks for this version: 

- Increased the sleeve length by 5cms. 
- Lengthened the front and back pieces by 6cms.
- Added 1.5cms to the side seams.


Looking at these photos there's one other adjustment I'll made next time round - reduce the size of the neck band. At the moment, there's a slight hint of Vicar's Dog Collar going on! Apart from that I'm pleased with the final fit - the additional bit of room means I can wear an extra layer underneath without everything becoming too tight for comfort.  


The pattern specifics sweatshirt fabric, but the 100% cotton Andover Jersey knit I used was a perfectly good substitute. It's a medium weight knit fabric with a decent amount of stretch and good recovery. There was a bit of curling up after I'd cut the pieces, but nothing a good press couldn't sort out and overall it was a lovely quality fabric to work with. It's obviously not as cosy as a sweatshirt knit, but it still has a good weight to it and feels pretty warm and toasty too! It's worth noting that the fabric is wider than average (178cms), so I only needed 75cms of each colour and still had plenty left.



The Andover collection includes some gorgeous bright colours, but me being me, I was drawn to two of the more subdued ones for my sweatshirt: Cypress for the body (it appears to be out of stock at the moment) and Celadon for the arms and neckband. Both colours are a bit greener in real life than they appear in these photos and I really like the two together, they're very serene!

I think for my next version I'll be brave and mix up prints and solids together. Here are a few gorgeous versions that have inspired me:

Rachel's super classy Geneva sweatshirt 

Winnie's cool floral Linden sweatshirt

Josie's amazing faux leather Linden sweatshirt
They make me want to sew another one immediately!

This is the last thing on my cold weather sewing list to be completed and I'm amazed I've actually made everything on it. I suppose the threat of not being warm enough is a pretty good incentive to get sewing. Now that all my practical, cold weather basics are out of the way, I might just have to start thinking about summer dresses…! x


Fabric was given to me free of charge for review. All views my own.




Friday, 29 January 2016

Jane's Quilt

Remember me wittering on in this blog post about wanting to make a quilt for myself? Well I finally found time to make one, and this one's all mine!



I actually finished the quilt top a good few weeks ago, but then Christmas came along and scuppered all my plans. It would probably still be languishing in my sewing pile if temperatures in the UK hadn't started plummeting and galvanised me into action. All I could think about was how cosy I'd be if I had a lovely handmade quilt to wrap myself in whilst watching Silent Witness. So the past week has been quilt week! 


The colours for my quilt were chosen to complement my bedroom walls and chair and comprised various shades of grey, mustard and turquoise. The quilt design is an Easy Bricks pattern by Amy Smart. I was hoping it would be idiot-proof and I wasn't disappointed. The squares and rectangles are a manageable size (I'm far too impatient to be cutting thousands of teeny, tiny pieces), which made it really straight forward to sew up. 


The quilt back is just a simple flat sheet which I bought for £12 - my finished quilt is 63" x 84" and a double flat sheet was plenty big enough. It's also much more economical if you're on a budget - initially I had my eye on some extra-wide fabric which would have cost me £40, but I couldn't really justify the cost. The pale duck-egg colour of the flat sheet blends in perfectly with the patchwork front, so I'm happy I went for the budget option. 

My least favourite part of making a quilt is safety-pinning the layers together - it just seems to take forever. I'm lucky in that I have a very large back room with lots of floor space, so I can actually tape it to the floor to pin it, but still, crawling around on my hands and knees for hours is not my idea of fun. On the plus side it does warm you up, I was boiling by the time I'd finished! I like the sleek look of a patchwork top before it's quilted, but I still prefer the puffy, springy appearance it takes on afterwards.

Pinned and ready to be quilted - doesn't it look sleek?!
After pinning, it took me two long sessions at the sewing machine to quilt it. I brought my sewing machine downstairs and quilted it at the kitchen table, which gave me acres of space. It's only now, working on my fourth quilt, that I realise quilting downstairs is a far more comfortable and spacious option than trying to quilt at my tiny sewing table in the loft. Hindsight is a wonderful thing eh?!

I decided to make my own binding after the wonderful Maryanne (Mrs C) sent me an excellent link on how to bind your own quilt. It takes you through all the steps, from cutting your own binding through to hand stitching it into position (I skipped that bit and machined mine instead!) The colours of my quilt are quite muted so I picked one of the brighter turquoise shades (Adventure Springs from M is of Make) for the binding, which I think frames it nicely.



All the quilts I've made have been photographed on my bed, simply because my bedroom is the lightest room in the house. None of them actually belonged there though….apart from this one! I love this quilt. I love the colours, the patterns in the fabrics, the stitches and the binding. I love how heavy it is and that I can totally wrap myself up in it. This one isn't going anywhere! x

Somebody decided to road test it on the sofa!...



Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Emery Class at Badger & Earl

For the past two Saturdays I've been helping two lovely ladies - Julia and Michaela - to sew the Emery Dress as part of a dressmaking class. The class was held at Badger & Earl in Chiswick (the finest sewing cafe in west London!) and it was an absolute pleasure from beginning to end. The whole class was 10 hours in total, spread over two weeks, so we spent the first week cutting out the pattern and fabric and constructing the basic shell of the dress. We were then able to dedicate the second week to trickier areas such as inserting zips, setting in sleeves and adding the bodice lining. 


Both students had some prior experience of dressmaking and just needed extra guidance with specific techniques, which made things a lot easier. As did the awesomeness of the pattern, in particular the well drafted sleeves and excellent instructions. The pockets were fab too, the method for attaching them was one I'd never used before and I'm now a convert!  Neither dress was hemmed as one had to be  shortened and the other needed trying on with proper shoes before deciding on the final length. But still, I think cutting the dresses out from scratch and sewing them up in just two sessions was pretty amazing. 

That zip is well and truly invisible!


It was such a delight to help Julia and Michaela create such beautiful dresses - needless to say I felt VERY proud!

Proud!
Badger & Earl is a lovely place to learn a new skill, classes are small and friendly and the tea and cake is exemplary! They've just signed up two new sewing tutors (Margaret and Krystel) and are busy putting together ideas for additional dressmaking and fitting classes. This will hopefully include a trouser fitting class, which I think will be a popular one. If you have any suggestions for future classes, do let me know in the comments and I'll happily pass them on. 

Thanks to Julia for kindly forwarding the above photos for me to use - guess who forgot her camera?! x

Friday, 22 January 2016

Karen Drape Dress

Let me introduce you to the Karen dress by Maria Denmark. The pattern is quite a grown up, slinky design and despite having very few opportunities to wear grown up, slinky designs, I felt a burning need to buy it as soon as it was released! There's a lovely pleat detail on one side that drapes artfully across the stomach - for me, this transforms a simple jersey T-shirt dress into something far more elegant.  


The pattern is sized from XS to 2XL and for reference, I cut a size M. The advice is to choose your size based on your high bust measurement. Maria shares her own measurements and size on the website and very fortuitously they happened to be the same as mine, so that bit was easy! The sleeves can either be short or ¾ length, but I chose to lengthen them to full length to keep out the cold. I also shortened the front and back pieces by about 7cms. 

Maria claims that the pattern is almost as fast to sew as a T shirt and she's not wrong. The only thing you need to spend a bit of time on is pinning the pleats correctly. The pattern includes a brilliant tip to help with this - simply mark each pair of pleats with different coloured pins - such a simple idea yet so helpful when it came to folding the pleats in place. There's a video here to show you how it's done. Once the pleats are basted into position, the rest of the dress is as quick to sew up as the pattern claims. I sewed most of it on my overlocker, apart from the neckline and hems, which are simply turned under and top stitched with a double needle. 


The pattern recommends using clear elastic to stabilise the neckline, but to be honest I've never had much luck with it and when I've used it my necklines have always ended up baggy. Because my fabric contained 10% spandex, I thought I'd try something that looked a bit sturdier to stabilise the neckline. I used Vilene Fusible Bias Tape and was delighted with the results. The tape is bias cut, so easily fits around curved necklines, but it also includes a line of chain stitching which I think gives it stability. After top stitching and a good press, that neckline was as flat as a pancake - so satisfying!


Let's talk about the fabric - it's called Tropical Silhouettes, a cotton French Terry knit from Girl Charlee. For ages I presumed French Terry was from the same gene pool as terry towelling, but this is nothing like it. It's a smooth jersey on the top side with a sort of tightly looped pile on the reverse. It's not too heavy and feels really cosy, and because it has a high spandex content (10%) it has a marvellous drape.

The fabric recommendation is for something drapey with at least 5 to 10% spandex and this does a great job. If anything, the fabric is almost too springy - when you hold the dress from the  neck and let it hang, it bounces almost to the floor and back again! The pleats probably drape a bit lower than they're supposed to because of this, but you don't really notice it because the fabric design is so busy. 


This is definitely a pattern I'll return to, probably in a solid colour next time to showcase the pleat details a bit more. In the meantime, I'm now the proud owner of a grown up, slinky dress! x


Fabric was given to me free of charge for review. All views my own.



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