Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Quest for the ultimate sleeveless top pattern

Tank, shell, singlet, cami - there seem to be many different descriptions, but what I'm essentially talking about here is a simple, sleeveless top made from woven fabric. With such a straight forward design it's all about getting an excellent fit - and once you've nailed the fit, this kind of top really will become a wardrobe workhorse.

Easier said than done though! I can't tell you how much time I've wasted recently sewing up toile after toile in the hope of finding the perfect pattern. This week I came as close as I was ever going to get, so I'm going to formally adopt the pattern I used as my go-to sleeveless top!

Apologies for the chopped off head - I looked like a lunatic in Every. Single. Photo
The pattern in question is the Sleeveless Shell Top from the GBSB Fashion with Fabric book (reviewed here). Now I'll freely admit I'm rubbish at utilising patterns from sewing books, and would never have even considered this pattern if I hadn't seen Bea rocking a gorgeous version recently. So thank you Bea!

I made a straight size 12 and the fit is just what I wanted - comfortable but still fitted enough to be worn loose. Plus the neckline curve and shoulder width both adhere to my fusspot standards, which is an added bonus! The only adjustment I made was to sew the side and centre back seams at 1cm instead of 1.5cm. I basted the seams together mid-way through sewing and they seemed a bit tight at the bust, hence the adjustment. One additional change I'll make next time will be to even out the curve of the hem. As drafted it has a high-low hem which you can see in the picture below. This gets a bit lost on my version and just looks like it's riding up at the front. Once I've lengthened the front to match the back I'll have my perfect pattern, yay!

The neckline and armholes are finished with a lovely neat all-in-one facing and a button closure. Now usually I'm completely flummoxed when it comes to turning an all-in-one facing through, but not this time. The method is very clearly explained in the instructions and I'll definitely be using it again, it's so clever! The top actually fits over my head buttoned up, so I'll be cutting the back piece on the fold next time and eliminating the centre back seam to make it an even quicker sew.

All in one facing - back view
The fabric is a John Kaldor poly viscose from Remnant Kings, bought with a voucher I won during the #VPJuly Instagram challenge last year. It has a very nice drape and because of the high poly content, it barely needs ironing, hoorah!

Now that I've pinned down the perfect pattern I'm going to make several of these tops for the summer, probably in plain colours. They're so light and cool to wear. What's your favourite sleeveless top pattern? And more importantly, how many have you made?! x

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Liberty quilt question

Just a quick post today to announce that I've finally finished the top for my Liberty quilt. My god it was gruelling, it seemed to take forever! 

The quilt won't actually be needed until the autumn, which gives me time to do a spot of research and brace myself for the next stage. All but one of the fabrics I used in the quilt top are Liberty Tana Lawn, which is noticeably lighter and finer than quilting cotton. My question is, do I need to add an additional layer of light cotton fabric (cotton muslin for instance) to the quilt top to provide extra strength and support? Or will it be OK once everything is quilted together? I've spent so long piecing it all together, I want to make sure the quilt has a good, long life! 

I know there are some experienced quilters who read my blog - I'm just hoping they're reading this post! If any of you have quilted with Liberty lawn (or indeed any thin cotton lawn), I'd appreciate your advice. Thank you!

Now all I have to do is quilt the bloody thing...  

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

#2017makenine update

The #2017makenine Instagram initiative (or in my case #2017makesix...) is the only sewing challenge I've signed up for this year, and it seems to have gone to plan so far.

Of the six patterns/fabrics I selected in January I've now completed four of them:

Plus a bonus second version here!

This was a substitution for the Deer & Doe Melilot shirt, using the same fabric I'd already earmarked for the project.

Of the two remaining projects on my list, the Pattern Runway Kimono Sleeved dress is still waiting patiently to be sewn, but the Grainline Maritime shorts have fallen by the wayside. This is because we're not having a beach holiday this year, and as that's when they'd get 90% of their wear, I couldn't really justify making another pair. There are a couple of other patterns that have sneaked into the queue though....

Last year, whilst wandering around the posh 'Village' area in Westfields Shopping Centre I came across this dress.

I really loved the design - a simple kimono shape with an integrated tie belt - but not the price tag. I can't remember where it was from (either Whistles or Max Mara I think) or the exact price, but it was definitely over £200. I knew I could make my own version. After a bit of online sleuthing, I soon had a copy of the Tie Belt Dress pattern by Sew Different and two metres of red luxury crepe from Sew Over It in my paws.

Yay! I have high hopes that I can replicate the 'Village' dress for a fraction of the cost.

And the final pattern to elbow its way into my sewing queue is the Closet Case Files Kalle shirt and shirtdress. After eyeing up lots of denim shirts on Pinterest recently and then spotting Sallie's gorgeous shirtdress version, I'm now desperate to add one to my summer wardrobe.

The looser fit is a departure for me, but I've been finding very fitted shirts heavy going in the warmer weather, so I think it's time for a change. I can't wait to get started!

That's it from me, how are you all getting on with your #2017makenine challenges?

Monday, 22 May 2017

New Look Fireworks Dress

I've had a picture of this dress in my head for ages, ever since seeing Rosa's beautiful floral dress last summer. I really liked the wrap front bodice and the way the dress looked so casually chic. The wrap bodice was from New Look 6123 which is now out of print, but I was lucky enough to track a copy down on eBay. I also had the perfect fabric in mind - a firework print Liberty Tana lawn.

The pattern has two different skirt options, both of which were a bit too formal for the kind of easy, summer dress I had in mind, so I substituted the skirt from another New Look pattern (6557) instead. The skirt is a half circle which I slimmed down by reducing the curve by 8cms and chopping 14cms off the midi length. The result is more of a quarter circle, not too full but still with a decent amount of swish. New Look patterns are generally a pretty good match for my body shape, but I still needed to make a few changes to get the fit I wanted.

My dress is View A with a quarter circle skirt

This particular pattern is cut quite generously at the bust (possibly because of the wrap style) but has very little ease at the waist. I ended up cutting a 12 at the bust and shoulders, grading to a 14 at the waist and lengthened the bodice by 1.5cm. I also took a 2cm triangular shaped wedge from the centre back pieces as the back neckline noticeably gaped on my muslin. Next time I'll raise the height of the front neckline as it's currently a bit plunging!

Construction wise, this was a reasonably straight forward pattern to sew up, though not necessarily a quick one. The bodice has really pretty pleats and gathers on one side, which took me a couple of goes and quite a bit of unpicking to get exactly how I wanted. The skirt waistline also ended up a little larger than the bodice waistline so I added two tiny tucks, which are barely noticeable amidst all the fireworks. The cap sleeves are self faced, the same as the sleeves on my Etta dress, in this case they're finished with an overlocker rather than bias binding. Not as neat looking on the inside, but sooo much quicker!

I contacted Rosa before starting work on the dress as I was worried about the bias cut front edges stretching out of shape. Her advice was to staystitch as per the instructions and use a strong interfacing. I used Washable Supersoft from English Couture - a medium weight interfacing with a soft finish - and it didn't do too bad a job. It doesn't sit as flat as I'd like, so I think it must still have stretched a tiny bit during construction. I also reinforced the centre back edges with strips of interfacing to prevent the fabric puckering when I inserted the invisible zip. With hindsight, I wish I'd lined the skirt section as it's a bit transparent by itself, easily sorted by wearing a slip though.

The Liberty lawn I used is very lightweight and floaty, but I still think it's a good match for this pattern. The colours in the print are a really lovely combination and I like the fact that it doesn't look like a typical Liberty design. The fireworks look like some kind of exotic flowers, reminiscent of 1930s and possibly 1970s prints. This will be such a nice dress for summer - casual enough to wear at home with flip flops and easily glammed up when required. I'm so pleased with it.

As I mentioned earlier, New Look 6123 is now out of print, but if you like the look of a wrap front dress, I've managed to find a few other patterns for wovens that look promising. These are: Sew Over It Eve dress, Vogue 9251, Vogue 8784, McCall's 6959 and Butterick 5898. Or if you have any other pattern recommendations, please share them in the comments. x

Friday, 12 May 2017

Sewing and Running

After publishing this post at the beginning of the year, it was interesting to discover that there are so many of you who sew and run. This post is a bit of an update on both. Sewing has been pretty much a constant in my life since I first learnt as an adult eight years ago (I was also taught at school, but never encouraged). The timing was perfect as it gave me the focus I needed to stop me dwelling too much on having a disabled child. Sewing is what has kept me sane and happy ever since. 

That all went out of the window a couple of months ago unfortunately, when the challenges at home just became overwhelming. I tried to take my mind off things by sewing but I couldn't concentrate. The more mistakes I made, the more stressed I felt, it was dreadful. When I did eventually have something finished to blog about, I had no energy to write about it and certainly couldn't bring myself to plaster a smile on my face and photograph it. So I made the decision to take a short break from sewing and blogging.

In the meantime I went running. Three times a week without fail I was out there, pounding the pavements and parks of Ealing, sometimes on my own, sometimes with my lovely running group. Being outdoors and doing physical exercise really helped - exercise endorphins do work wonders. I know lots of people run with headphones, but I never have, it was just me and my whirring thoughts. I found the repetition of running quite meditative - a bit like the sound of a sewing machine - I'm sure there's a parallel there somewhere! After each run I felt so much better, my head was clearer and things were more in perspective. 

My second pair of trainers, still box fresh!
Within a few weeks I was sewing and blogging again, perhaps not quite as prolific as before, but definitely back on the horse. Still sewing. And still running. Running will never replace sewing in my life, but it can certainly complement it, and I like how the two can now go hand in hand. And the good news is that all that practice improved my running - I'm now able to run 10K!!! I still find this amazing, considering I couldn't run 10 metres six months ago. My next challenge will be on 17th June - I'll be running my first 10K race to support Charlie's special needs school. It's a wonderful school and they've been so supportive to us, I'd love to raise some money to help Charlie and the other amazing children who attend. If you're feeling generous and have a pound or two to spare, you can donate here. Any sponsorship will be very gratefully received.

With some members of my fab running group 
I have to admit, I'm nervous about this race, which is daft as I know I can run the distance. The thing is, I haven't taken part in any organised sporting event since leaving school, which was over 30 years ago... so let's just say I'm a bit out of practice! My darling sister-in-law recently ran her first 10K race in Australia and said whenever she felt like giving up, she thought of Charlie and carried on. I'm going to use the same tactics. Wish me luck! x

Friday, 5 May 2017

Tilly and the Buttons Etta Dress

This is the new Etta Dress pattern from Tilly and the Buttons: a drop dead gorgeous wiggle dress, super fitted and super slinky. I was one of the pattern testers, which doesn't automatically guarantee I'm going to like a pattern, but in this case it was exactly my style and I totally fell for it!  Etta is shaped with darts to the waist, bust and shoulders, with a choice of sleeves (capped or three-quarter length) and back necklines (high or V-backed). There's also an optional collar or faux pockets. In an ideal world I'd have chosen the collared version but didn't have enough fabric, so mine is a simple V-backed style with cap sleeves.

As soon as I saw the brief I knew exactly which fabric I was going to use: a barkcloth-style cotton from Fabrics Galore that I snapped up at the Knitting & Stitching Show last year. Fiona from Diary of a Chain Stitcher also bought some and made her stunning Big Vintage Sewalong dress from it. The fabric has an unusual springy texture and a slight stretch, making it perfect for this very fitted pattern. Stitches do completely disappear into the fabric though, which is great if you want to hide a line of stitching, but not so good if you want to show off design details. The darts don't really show up on any of my photos, so you'll just have to take my word for it that they're there! If you look closely you can just about make out the back shoulder darts in the picture below. 

The cap sleeves are self lined and finished with bias binding. I must admit this was a bit of a fiddly technique, but worth it I think for the lovely neat finish on the inside. 

Luckily, my fabric wasn't a directional print so I was able to squeeze the bodice, skirt and sleeve pieces out of 1.5 metres. The facings and bias binding were made from dotted chambray left over from this top

There have been a few changes made to the pattern since the testing process so I won't go into great detail about the construction. However, to give you a rough idea of size, my dress is a size 4 at the bust and a size 3 at the waist and hips, with the skirt length shortened by two inches. The skirt is designed to hit the bottom of the knee.

This is the perfect pattern to use for a special occasion dress. It's very flattering and you'll look effortlessly elegant and chic sipping a martini. If you have a wedding to attend this summer, or just need a new cocktail dress, you're sorted! x

The Etta pattern was given to me free of charge for pattern testing. All views my own. 

Friday, 28 April 2017

Maxi dress to Agnes top refashion

Refashion. Now there's a word you don't see very often on this blog. Sadly, I'm not one of those people who can take a voluminous grandma dress and instantly transform it into a trench coat... or a jumpsuit...or a pair of shoes... When the Great British Sewing Bee was on TV, I'd still be pondering what to make for the refashion challenge days later, whilst the poor contestants generally had about ninety minutes. Let's just say I'm not a natural.

Very occasionally though, a garment will fall into my hands that's crying out to be turned into something else. This happened recently when I was sorting out my wardrobe and came across this maxi dress. All I could think about was how much better it would look as a T shirt!

It's a perfectly nice dress, but I haven't worn a maxi since I was a child in the seventies (most people seemed to be in possession of one for parties), they're just not a style I feel comfortable wearing. My friend gave it to me a couple of years ago (I think she'd bought two by mistake on eBay) and despite good intentions, it's never been worn. The fabric is a stretchy chevron jersey with a nice drape and because it's full length, there's plenty of it, so I decided to see if I could turn it into a simple fitted T shirt that would get worn. The pattern I used was the Agnes top by Tilly and the Buttons.

First off I removed the weirdly short empire line bodice, which gave me enough uninterrupted fabric from the long skirt section to play with. There was just enough to cut out a front, back, short sleeves and neckband. I kept the original hem and made sure the downward point of the chevron was directly on the fold when I was cutting it out, so it was centred. I also spent a bit of time trying to incorporate the ruched neckline, but the effect was completely lost amongst the chevrons, so I removed it.

I wanted this version to be a tighter fit than my first version, so cut a size 4 all over, grading out to a size 5 at the bust. I think the fit is just right and I now have a go-to T shirt pattern that I can use again and again, yay!

I'm delighted with the finished top, it's exactly how I envisaged it, and so wearable too! It works really well with jeans and I can also see myself pairing it with skirts (see above!) and shorts in the summer. I could have taken the dress to the charity shop and somebody would probably have snapped it up, but I'm glad I didn't. I'd have missed out on making this cute little top if I had!  x


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