Friday, 21 November 2014

Vintage red dress

After a mini splurge at EmSewCrazy recently, this vintage beauty fell into my hands. It's Butterick 8629 from 1959 - a simple sheath dress with 'figure following lines' (love that description) and kimono sleeves. I was inspired to make a red version of view B after seeing Kathryn's beautiful red Annalotte dress. The bodice section on the Butterick pattern is a little like the By Hand London Anna pattern (minus the tucks), so this seemed to be a sign for me to blatantly copy her.


The pattern is a vintage size 16, which sometimes fits me, it all depends on the year. In this case the bust was fine (36) but the waist and hips needed a lot taking off. Working on this dress was the first chance I've had to use the skills I learnt at the Pattern Drafting weekend and it was a success of sorts! I laid my block on top of the pattern and shaped it to match up with the Butterick pattern. Straight away, I could see that my main adjustments would be to shorten the bodice by an inch, and to take a whopping seven inches off the length of the skirt section! I also changed the darts to match the darts on my bodice block, which wasn't quite so successful. In fact the bust darts are still wonky - I gave up after about 20 attempts to get them right - I'll have to come back to them in a few days time! It isn't perfect and I did need to make quite a few on-the-spot fitting adjustments after the initial muslin. but I'm quite pleased with it for a first attempt.


Once I was happy with the fit, the dress was 'Quick 'N Easy' to make, just like it says on the packet! The fabric I used is a crepe-backed satin kindly supplied by Minerva Crafts as part of their Blogger Network. Now I'd read lots of great reviews about this fabric, but annoyingly in this case, I ordered the wrong one. The fabric I ordered is from their general crepe-backed satin range, which is perfectly fine, but the fabric everybody has been raving about is their Prada self-lined crepe. DOH! Despite this, the fabric I used is ideal for a party dress, although the crepe side probably has more of a sheen to it than I was expecting. It also sheds fibres faster than the speed of light, so be prepared for lots of sweeping up if you use it! The most fortuitous thing about it though is that it has a slight stretch, which means I can just about get the dress on WITHOUT A ZIP!! Talk about a result! Getting it over the chest area is a bit of a tight squeeze, but the built-in satin lining actually aids this process.




I dispensed with facings and made self-binding instead, using the sating side so the binding matched up with the inside 'lining' of the dress. I actually cut the binding strips on the straight grain rather than the bias - the slight stretch of the fabric means it's still able to curve around the neckline but it doesn't stretch out too much, which was my worry. It seemed to work anyway!

Inside view: neckline finished with satin binding
This is a beaut of a vintage pattern - simple and elegant with that unmistakable late 1950's look I love. Once I've nailed the fit on those pesky darts, I can definitely see myself making it again.

My impression of the lady on the pattern envelope...

Talking of vintage patterns, this is my third and final make for my Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge, hosted by Marie at A Stitching Odyssey. I pledged to sew three vintage patterns in 2014 and that's what I've done! The other two are my raincoat from 1973 and my white 1950's sleeveless blouse, so I now have a vintage trio for 2014 of red, white and blue. Purely unintentional I swear!

Have a good weekend! x




Friday, 14 November 2014

Bonjour Francoise….

Just in case you think you've been transported to France, you haven't, you're still here with me and my appalling O Level French.….and the new Frenchy-style pattern from Tilly and the Buttons - the Francoise dress!


Francoise is a simple fitted dress designed for woven fabrics, with raglan sleeves, French darts for shaping and an A-line skirt. It comes in two variations: long sleeved or sleeveless, with a choice of added collar or waist tabs. I tested this pattern for Tilly prior to printing, so thought I'd share my finished Francoise with you today. My first thought when I saw the initial line drawings and photos was that the dress might be a bit youthful for me, I mean me in a mini dress, really? But I did like the raglan sleeves and French darts, so decided to go for it with a few tweaks. As I was testing the pattern, I couldn't muck around with the overall design, but I did increase the length by 1½" and omitted the collar and waist tabs for a more 'mature' look. 

I swear the hem hangs properly - I just don't know how to stand up straight
This pattern isn't as short as I originally thought. I had visions of a Twiggy-style mini dress, but actually lengthening it by just a small amount takes it to just above the knee on me which I'm happy with. Size-wise, I cut a straight size 4, but ended up taking in the waist and hips significantly. So I'd say the fit of my finished version is a 4 at the bust and a 3 everywhere else. In terms of construction, it's straight forward if you pay attention to the instructions. The pattern comes with full colour photos of key steps which really help with some of the less run-of-the-mill techniques such as the raglan sleeves and French darts. Here's a tip: although there's actually an instruction that tells you to "stay stitch the neckline and raglan sleeve lines", I still only stay stitched the necklines. There's even a photo showing you the step for goodness sake, what more did I need?! In my defence, I think it was just habit, I see the words "stay stitch" and associate them with necklines (or waistlines). I did realise before it was too late and stay stitched the raglan sleeves - make sure you do too! If you've never made raglan sleeves before, don't worry - the pieces fit together perfectly so you can't go wrong.


My other piece of advice with this pattern is to choose your fabric carefully. I, of course, did not and learnt the hard way. The dress has French darts which are large, diagonal darts coming up from the waist. They take up a lot of fabric so you don't want anything too bulky or you'll get an unsightly bulge. The fabric I used for Francoise is a lovely, heavyweight crepe in a sort of sea green. I was actually fabric shopping with Tilly when I bought it, and even though she told me it might be a bit heavyweight for the darts, I totally ignored her and went ahead and bought it (I'm stubborn like that). I don't regret it as the fabric is simply goy-jus, but she was absolutely right, there was way too much fabric for a smooth line, even on the bust darts. I ended up cutting all my darts up the middle, trimming them down and pressing them open flat. This worked, but does leave the dart edges unfinished. A small price to pay for a nice, flat dart though!

My fabric was also a bit troublesome in other areas - I realised my neck facing was far too bulky (after stitching it in place) so ended up finishing the neckline with bias binding instead. It looks fine, but doesn't have the clean, stitch-free finish you'd get with a facing.


You could also cut your facing from a lighter weight fabric (Liberty Tana lawn is a perfect weight) or just choose the correct weight fabric in the first place. However, once I got past my bulky fabric woes, I had a finished dress I was really pleased with. I think it's chic, classy and grown up but still retains a vintage edge. The French darts create a surprisingly flattering shape, which is a big bonus for those of us with curves!


In summary, I like it! There are some different design techniques involved, which makes for a slightly more challenging make. I'm talking about the raglan sleeves and French darts, so not exactly rocket science, but if you're hoping to move on from a first dressmaking project and expand your skills a little, then the Francoise dress would be a good pattern to try. If you do make the Francoise dress, don't forget to enter it into the Sewing Francoise contest - you could win a £500 Janome sewing machine or one of nine £100 fabric vouchers!!! Yikes!! x






Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Fabric and Shoes

Aha, that got your attention didn't it?! Luckily for you, this post is all about fabric and shoes as I'll be waxing lyrical about my recent purchases in both camps. First I'd like to draw your attention to my new fabric, the result of a recent splurge in Miss Matatabi. I've been eyeing up the beautiful Japanese fabrics in this Etsy shop for a while without succumbing. But on my most recent visit, I couldn't resist - the fabrics were just so lovely I had to buy some before I burst.


To the casual observer, this polka dot double gauze is pleasant enough, but nothing out of the ordinary - until you see the other side!!!

This could have done with a press - sorry
YES!!! Polka dots and gingham, all on the same piece of reversible fabric, how amazing is that!! This is destined to become a fitted button-up shirt for next year and is crying out to be made with contrast button bands and collar.


Next up is a double knit, but not a double knit as we know it. No, this fabric is a knit version of double gauze i.e. two layers of fabric fused together at regular intervals to create one super-cosy layer! This is another reversible fabric, so I can have a bit of fun thinking of contrasting bits for the reverse side. I'm thinking of another Lady Skater dress for the winter, after seeing Tasha's gorgeous polka dot one. 


Last up is a metre of fabric I picked up in the sale section. It's a cotton/linen mix with a tulip design, which just happens to be my favourite flower! The fabric is reminiscent of vintage prints, whilst still retaining a Japanese feel, I love it.  I'm not sure what to make with this though - any ideas?  I'm ssooo pleased with my new Japanese fabrics. I have to also say that the customer service at Miss Matatabi was excellent - the fabrics were dispatched from Japan the same day I ordered them and arrived within a week. Well worth a visit if you're feeling flush. 

Now for the shoe bit, specifically my new red brogues. I do already own a pair of black brogues from Clarks that are super comfortable, but not that exciting. Also, they lost their appeal on day one, when Jon likened them to something Michael Flatley would wear. Sadly, he had a point, and they've been known ever since as my Riverdance shoes. What I've been looking for are a pair of brogues with a bit more oomph, that didn't look quite so much like Irish dancing shoes.


I found them at Shoe Embassy - a London-based shoe company I recently discovered. They have shops in Spitalfields, Camden, Brick Lane and Greenwich Market.  Not living near any of those places, I ordered mine online, sight unseen, which is always a risk. I take a UK size 4.5 (my feet mysteriously went up half a size after having my youngest) and in fact a Clarks size 4.5 are a perfect fit. If in doubt, I always go up a size as I have wideish feet, so I ordered size 5. Be warned, these shoes come up large - clowns feet large in fact. So if you're between sizes my advice would definitely be to go down a size. I had to exchange them for a size 4, which was a hassle and an expense, but worth it in the end.


My shoes (Quarter Oxford brogue in red) are PERFECT. In fact they're so perfect I'm in danger of tripping up when I'm out in public as I spend the entire time looking at them. They have a very slight tapered heel (about 1") and a lovely rounded toe. They look fab with jeans and skirts and everywhere I go I get asked "oooh, where did you get your shoes?". If you like a chunkier, more masculine style of brogue, then they also do a range called Brick Lane, which I have my eye on… But for now, I'll stick with my Quarter Oxfords, they're exactly what I was after and I'm really pleased to have discovered such a great new company, especially one based in the UK.

Thanks for indulging me! x




Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Hemingway Design Fabric Winner

Thank you all for entering the Hemingway Design fabric giveaway - I'm delighted that so many of you are as taken with the collection as I am! I'm afraid there can only be one winner though, and that is…. Jenna of JustSewJenna, hoorah! She clearly has excellent taste as she's chosen my favourite design - Duck Egg Grid! Congrats Jenna - please email me your address and I'll make sure your fabric is sent out to you.



Thank you once again to Tracy at Trixie Lixie for such a generous giveaway. x



Friday, 7 November 2014

Cressida Skirt - the jury's out

Let's talk about circle skirts, or half circles or three-quarter circles or however much of a circle you want your circle skirt to be. Fact: I've never made a circle skirt. I've made a couple of dresses that included circle skirts (half and full) and was pleased with the results, but I'm convinced this was because the skirt was attached to the dress, which makes a world of difference. I do like the look of circle skirts, I like pinning pictures of them on Pinterest and reading about them and there are some sewing bloggers who just seem to carry them off with aplomb (Cashmerette made a fab plaid one and Lazy Seamstress has made trillions).  I just don't think they suit me.

This is a very roundabout way of introducing you to the Cressida Skirt which I recently pattern tested for Jennifer Lauren Vintage. As you may have guessed, Cressida is a half circle skirt with button placket, waistband and in-seam pockets. There are two design variations: one with a double breasted button placket and one with cute belt loops. When Jennifer asked if I was interested in testing, I almost declined because of the shape, it was the interesting design details that piqued my interest.  So I dived in, choosing a bright green cotton twill from Goldhawk Road to make it with for good measure.


The instructions for the Cressida skirt are clear and well explained, with lots of additional information and diagrams for tricky areas. I also like the way Jen groups the pattern pieces for each version separately, so you only need to print out the pages you need.  In terms of fit, there were a few tweaks that have now been made to the waistband following tester feedback, However, the finished waistband still has very little ease (only ½"), which is great if you like a tight fit round the waist, but not so good if you need a bit of room for pie eating. I cut a size 10, which was optimistic to say the least and, as it turns out, a grave error. The result was an uncomfortably snug waist, and an hour spent unpicking the entire waistband (after it had been top stitched...) and re-drafting a new one, I should add that this was all my own fault, I should have been truthful rather than vain with the size. My advice therefore is to look at the finished measurements and be realistic when deciding which size to sew, or add a bit of width if you're not sure.

Apart from the waistband saga, the skirt sewed together easily and was a relatively straight forward make. There's a fair bit of top stitching on the skirt waistband, button placket and belt loops, which I didn't mind at all - I'm a sucker for a nice bit of top stitching and I love how it looks. I would also re-iterate what Mary emphasised in her review here, which is to stay-stitch the waist of your skirt immediately after cutting to prevent the curved waistline stretching.

Avert your eyes from that top buttonhole...
So, what do I think about the finished Cressida skirt? Well, it's not every day I have the patience to unpick a waistband AND sew on 11 buttons, which is a measure of how much I wanted this skirt to work for me. The sad truth is, I'm not sure it does. I can't quite pinpoint what it is, maybe I'm not used to having so much width around my hips or maybe it's just sheer volume of fabric? Whatever it is, I don't like how it looks on me and if you're not happy yourself with the look of a garment, then you're not going to wear it. Which is such a shame because I really do think it's a lovely skirt and I adore the bright green fabric.

I have to point out that the colour in these photos isn't anywhere near as bright as the actual fabric - it's actually a bright, pea green. In fact it's the exact same colour as a pair of culottes I had when I was about 11. I can't remember if they were my mum's culottes that she cut down, or an old skirt of hers that she converted (if you're reading this mummy, can you phone me and let me know please?!) Whatever their origin, I loved them, and was hoping I'd feel the same way about my Cressida skirt. It's not looking too hopeful so far, but never say never eh? I was very ambiguous about my Kelly skirt when I first made it and now I wear it all the time!

As with all these things, this is merely my own personal opinion. If you do like the cut of its jib and can totally rock a half circle skirt, then the Cressida PDF skirt pattern is available to purchase here.

Have a good weekend! x


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Hemingway Design fabric giveaway

After running a whole WEEK of daily giveaways for One Week, One Pattern, I vowed to take a bit of a break from giveaways for a while. All was going swimmingly until I was offered the chance to give away some Hemingway Design fabric. I fell hard for this lovely mid-century inspired collection as soon as I clapped eyes on it, so how could I deny my readers the opportunity of owning a metre? The answer was, I couldn't, so it's giveaway time!

The giveaway came about when Tracy from Trixie Lixie contacted me after reading my post on the fabrics. As well as a giveaway for my readers, she very kindly offered to let me choose fabric from the collection to make something fabulous with. Oh joy of joys! Trixie Lixie stocks the full collection, which actually makes the job of choosing one even harder.  In the end I went with one of my original favourites - Duck Egg Grid - which will be swiftly turned into a shirt dress come spring.



The full collection comprises 29 designs, some of which I hadn't even seen when I wrote my first post. Here's just a taster of some of the colours and patterns used:










I can tell you first hand that the fabric is a lovely, soft cotton, which I think will be perfect for dressmaking. The colours and patterns have a really authentic vintage feel too, they'd be great made up into a fifties inspired shirt dress or a cute blouse. Or even cushions to add a fifties flavour to your couch!

To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is look at the Hemingway Design Collection on the Trixie Lixie website and leave  a comment on this post telling me which one is your favourite. The winner will receive one metre of Hemingway Design fabric of their choice. The giveaway is open internationally and closes at midnight GMT on Monday 10th November. Please make sure you leave your email address if it's not linked to your Blogger profile so I can contact you if you're the winner. 

A big thank you to Trixie Lixie for the giveaway and good luck everybody! x









Friday, 31 October 2014

Fear Fabric Challenge: Lace

What's the scariest thing you can think of? For me it's clowns, dolls coming to life and ventriloquists dummies.... I also can't stand anything round my neck, or thinking I can't breath…. or one particular scene in The Woman in Black (the old BBC version, not the Daniel Radcliffe film). If you've seen it, you'll know exactly which bit I'm talking about - TERRIFYING.  I'm a bit of a wuss generally and news of this must have made its way across the ocean, as I was asked to be a participant in this year's Fear Fabric Challenge, hosted by Beth at 110 Creations.  WOOOOOOOOO!!


For the challenge I had to choose a scary fabric and conquer my fear of it by sewing something fabulous. Now there isn't actually a fabric that scares the bejesus out of me in the same way as a talking doll or The Woman in Black would, but there are a few I've managed to avoid like the plague. One of them is silk, which I'm still giving a wide berth, the other one is lace. Ah lace, lace, lacey, lacey, lace, so pretty, but with such a dreadful reputation, all those holes! It was only after seeing this Joseph dress worn by my lovely friend Rose that I was truly inspired to give lace a go myself.  Doesn't she look BEE-OOT-IFUL?



I thought a whole dress would be a bit much to tackle on my first attempt, but liked the idea of a smart top that could be worn with fitted trousers. A bit like the Luxurious Lace Top from Boden. For fabric I used some All Over Flower Lace in navy from White Tree Fabrics. I recently joined their blogging team as an occasional guest blogger, so the lace, satin lining fabric and bias binding for finishing was kindly sent to me free of charge - thank you White Tree Fabrics! There was an almost overwhelmingly large selection of lace to choose from, so I ordered a few samples first. I'd highly recommend doing this as the samples are generously cut and you can drape them over your arm to see what they look like as sleeves.  I didn't want to go with a very expensive lace, just in case I totally bodged it, and although the lace I used was fine, with hindsight I should have taken the risk and gone for a higher quality fabric. I think it would have given the top more of a fancy finish.


The pattern I used was the Colette Laurel. What appealed to me about the pattern was the lack of zips or buttons - the top version can just be pulled over your head. Shaping is created with bust darts and back contour darts, which I was hoping would be enough. I actually made a muslin beforehand (gasp!) and cut a size 8 with a ½" FBA (full bust adjustment). Although it fitted well across the bust, it was still a little boxy for my liking, so I added contour darts to the front, checking I could still get it over my head before sewing them! I also took in the side seams a smidgen too. The only other change to the pattern was to extend the length of the sleeves from elbow length to wrist length (about six inches).


Lace is very 'on trend' (as Gok would say), which was handy as there were plenty of examples in the shops for me to inspect at close quarters. I was initially thinking of underlining the lace, but my secret lurking revealed that the majority were made with a full lining. So a full lining it was. I used a solid navy satin lining, which was actually far more of a pain in the arse to work with than the lace. It was slippery to cut out and frayed like nobody's business as soon as you even looked in its general direction. I used the shiniest side against the skin so that the top could slide on and off easily, with the duller side against the lace to give less of a bling effect. By comparison, the lace was as good as gold: it washed and dried like a dream, didn't fray and behaved itself perfectly when I was cutting it out.  Nothing scary about this fabric at all.

Working with it is time consuming though - it's almost impossible to mark lace pattern pieces in the usual way, so I used tailors tacks to mark out all the darts and notches (thank you Louise at Thread Carefully for showing me the light on that one!) Marking up the pattern pieces took ages, but it was good discipline. As the bodice is fully lined, most seams are hidden from view, for the ones that are on view (such as the sleeve seams), I used French seams. I also used this brilliant tutorial - inserting un-lined sleeves in a lined bodice - to achieve a lovely clean finish around the sleeves and armholes.


I didn't actually refer to the instructions much as I fully lined my top, which meant a lot of them were redundant (along with the bias binding). There's a lot more you can do with this pattern though: as well as the top, there are three dress options included in the pattern itself and the option to download an E-Booklet with a further nine variations.



So what's the verdict? Well, my verdict on working with lace is a pleasant surprise. Yes, it's time consuming to work with, but the fact that it's relatively easy to prepare and sew more than makes up for this. I'm still not convinced the shape of the Laurel pattern is that flattering for my shape - I made this before taking my pattern cutting course, so if I made it again, I would tweak it accordingly. I also think my decision to fully line it has made it a bit bulkier than I'd prefer. It's perfect for wearing with jeans and heels to the pub though, and in that respect, it's a super useful addition to my wardrobe. I would like to work with lace again, but I think next time I'll choose a different colour.

If you haven't quite had your fill of scary fabrics (and let's face it, this one was pretty tame!), you can check out the rest of the Fear Fabric Challenges:

Andrea from Four Square Walls
Nakisha from Sew Crafty Chemist
Shannon from Shanni Loves
Beth from 110 Creations

What's the scariest fabric you've ever worked with? x



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