Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Tiny little dog skirt

Sadly, the tiny little dog skirt in question is for my niece Hannah, and not for me. Hannah is soon to be seven and loves dogs (especially the family Beagle - Steve), so a cute little dog print skirt seemed like the perfect birthday present.

This was the fabric I used - one of the linen-look cottons from Plush Addict (I talk more about them here). I love the fact that the dogs are sporting a mixture of stripy, spotty, gingham and star prints - Aunty Jane definitely had a hand in choosing this fabric! It's an ideal fabric for children's clothes as it's relatively tough and hard wearing, so hopefully will survive multiple washes and fence climbing etc.

The skirt is basically a length of fabric, hemmed and seamed with elastic threaded through the top. That's all! It was so easy to make it was laughable, if I had a daughter, she'd have 100 different versions of it. I used this excellent Simple Skirt tutorial from Dana Made Itbut really all you need is a waist measurement and a rough idea of how long you want the skirt to be.

I bought both colour ways of the fabric (blue/grey and pink) as I wasn't sure which Hannah would go for. She chose blue for the skirt so I made her a cushion out of the pink….and another one from the blue fabric, just because! I did photograph the cushions, but plain cushion covers without anything inside them (they're being sent to Australia) are boring as hell, so I thought I'd spare you.

Thank you to everybody who left comments or emailed me with suggestions for girl's skirt patterns and tutorials. There are some amazing free resources out there so I thought I'd shared them with you here:

As well as the Simple Skirt tutorial I used, she also has tutorials for a Circle Skirt, Fiesta Style Skirt and Layered Skirt. Plus there are tons of other great looking tutorials for shorts, trousers and baby wear.

Lazy Day's Skirt pattern - an elastic waist skirt with pretty ribbon trim. Other free patterns include Sunny Days Shorts and Popover Sundress.

An Easy Tiered Skirt from their project design team. 

Rainbow Bias Tape Skirt - adorable! Or if you have a super girly girl, you could also try the Full Skirt with Trimmed Tulle!

I hope the links are useful and, more importantly, I hope Hannah likes her little dog skirt!
Have a great day everybody! x

Monday, 14 July 2014

Lemon dress - with a nod to Kate Spade

As soon as spring was sprung this year, I started prowling Pinterest looking for sewing inspiration. The one look that really got to me was the Kate Spade Capri collection. You can read my post about it here, but the dress I fell so hard for was this lemon print sundress. Isn't it darling?!

Kate Spade lemon dress

All I needed to recreate it was some lemon print fabric - easier said than done. A reader alerted me to this beautiful fabric on Spoonflower which I promptly set me heart on. I asked my girlfriends for contributions towards it for my birthday (the cheapest option is $17.50 a metre) and was all set to buy it. Then on my actual birthday itself, Winnie sent me a link on Twitter to some lemon print cotton lawn that had just been added to the Abakhan site. At a far more reasonable £4.99 a metre, a switch of loyalties was a no brainer and I ordered some faster than the speed of light. It sold out on Abakhan within the hour -  the power of sewing bloggers on Twitter eh?! - but I'm pleased to tell you it's back in stock!! And it's reduced!! They also stock the same fabric in a red or a blue colour way, although I'm not sure what the fruits are supposed to be…. giant blueberries?…. melons?!  The 'lemons' are quite a bit bigger in real life than I was expecting, but I've decided I like that - it gives the fabric more of a retro feel.

Handmade Jane lemon dress

The Kate Spade dress appears to have a separate waistband and full skirt, so I knew exactly which pattern I'd be using to recreate it - the Mortmain dress by Gather. The neck on the Mortmain is a bit lower than the inspiration dress, but that suited me fine as I prefer a lower neckline anyway. The girls at Gather very kindly sent me the pattern to try out a few months ago, so I'm glad I waited to find the right fabric before doing it justice! The skill level of the Mortmain is classed as Ambitious Beginners which I think is about right - it's a simple dress to put together with some interesting features (such as box pleats and an exposed zip) to stretch your skills. The packaging is beautiful and the pattern comes with a comprehensive instruction booklet and a roomy pattern envelope to keep everything in, which gets a big tick in my book.

I think they're lemons!

Fabric recommendations are for medium weight cottons, which is probably to give the pleats some structure. The cotton lawn I used is pretty lightweight so I underlined it with white silk cotton to give it some heft, but also to make it less opaque and to boost the colours a little (read more on this here).  Even underlined, the fabric is still very fine, so I used a smaller needle in my machine and extra fine Entomology Pins, which I highly recommend. No interfacing is used in the pattern, but after reading Mary from Idle Fancy's review, I added some to the waistband, which was a very smart move - thanks Mary!  I used the pattern facing for the neckline, but disregarded facings for the armholes and used plain white bias binding instead, which gives a lovely neat finish.  I also disregarded the exposed zip and used an invisible one - nothing wrong with the instructions, I just don't particularly like exposed zips.

I didn't need to make too many changes to the pattern to get it to fit the way I wanted it to. The shape of the sleeveless bodice is already really flattering, which is helped by the thoughtful placement of the armholes. The pattern piece comes with two cutting lines: one for the sleeveless version and one for sleeves. This is a tiny little detail but makes such a difference to the shape of the finished bodice. Because the bodice is quite fitted, I thought I'd have to do a FBA (full bust adjustment), but to my delight, it fitted straight out of the packet. As Roobeedoo notes in her review, the bodice is 'surprisingly busty', so bear this in mind if you're thinking of making the dress. It worked for me as my bust is slightly larger than average in proportion to the rest of me, but this won't be the case with everyone. For reference, I made a size 12. One other thing to note about the bodice is that the bust dart placement is quite high. This won't apply to everyone, but I thought it was worth noting as I never usually have to move bust darts, but did have to for this dress. 

The skirt features all round box pleats, which I pondered over for a while, trying to decide whether to include them or not. I always think I don't like pleats that much, but the two handmade garments with pleats that I own (my Kelly Skirt and Simplicity Sundress) are amongst my most worn items! In the end, I constructed the pleats exactly as instructed on the pattern, but pinned from the right side of the fabric rather than the wrong side. This resulted in a softer look which I prefer. If you need a bit of guidance, there's a great tutorial all about box pleats on the Gather website here.

The only thing I think the pattern lacks (apart from instructions to interface the waistband) is an internal waistband piece or facing. The waistband seams are pressed neatly inwards at the top and bottom edges, so they don't show through on the right side, but I do think a waistband facing would have given the inner waistband a neater, finished look.

Inside waistband close-up - could have been neater

I ran out of steam at the end of making this dress but I really would like to find the time to add this detail as I think it makes a big difference. I'll definitely include it on my next version.  Overall I really enjoyed working with this pattern and I love how similar the final dress is to the Kate Spade version.

Lemon dress joy

Now let's address the rather large elephant in the room - the colour…. Flicking back through the Handmade Wardrobe section on my blog, everything I've made this year has been a variant of red, white or blue. Every single piece blends into the next, which is totally on purpose and works well for me, but where does this dress fit in?? It's YELLOW!!! Well, there's some green and white in there, but it's mostly yellow!! I love yellow (as evidenced here), but it's not an easy colour to wear, especially with my colouring. You know what though? It doesn't matter - I saw a dress with lemons on it and fell in love with it. I wanted one for myself so I made one. That's all there is to it! This dress makes me so happy and I'm just thankful that I have the skills to turn my occasional bonkers plans into reality! Have a good week. x

I love, love, love this dress!  He's more impressed than he looks too!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

OWOP 2014 - Sign Up Now!

Thank you so much for your enthusiastic response to this year's OWOP, it's good to know I won't be doing the challenge all by myself (and believe me, that was definitely a concern!) The purpose of this here blog post is to outline all the details of OWOP and hopefully answer any questions you may have. It's also where you can SIGN UP for the challenge!! Woop whoop!

What is OWOP?
One Week, One Pattern! (or OWOP) is a group challenge where participants wear garments made from just one pattern of their choice, every day for a week.

When is it taking place?
From Saturday 6th to Friday 12th September 2014 

Do I have to use a particular pattern?
No! You can use any pattern you like, it's entirely up to you. It can be one of the 'Big Four' patterns, an Indie sewing pattern or a vintage pattern. You could also choose to work with a self drafted pattern, a pattern from a book or an online pattern or tutorial. Anything goes, as long as you've made it yourself.

How many different versions of the same pattern do I need?
Again, that's your choice. If you're particularly enamoured of a pattern and have made trillions of versions, you may be in a position to wear a different version every day. During the last OWOP, I had three versions of the same pattern and found this worked well. At a guess, I'd say between two and four versions will give you plenty of options. You may even just have one version that you'd like to style in lots of different ways. Remember, the fewer versions you have, the greater the challenge!

Do I need to sew new garments especially for OWOP?
Nope! If you're using a well loved pattern, the assumption is that you already have at least one or two versions in your wardrobe. It's perfectly acceptable to wear garments that you've already created for OWOP and that's exactly what I'll be doing. BUT..... you may have been meaning to sew another version of your favourite pattern for ages and this could be just the kick up the arse you need to do it! Perhaps you've wondered what it would look like in a different fabric or colour? With a longer or shorter hem? With pockets or added ric-rac? Well now's your chance to experiment, which is why the challenge has a reasonably long lead-time before it starts.

How do I sign up?
The format for signing up for the project will be exactly the same as last time:
Please leave a comment on this post confirming your chosen pattern in the following format:
Pattern company + pattern name + garment type
(eg. Colette Sorbetto top OR Simplicity 2444 dress OR Delphine skirt from Love at First Stitch).
EDIT: If you're still undecided on the pattern, don't worry - just sign up initially, then leave another comment naming your pattern once you've decided.

Then starting on Saturday 6th September, wear things you've made from your chosen pattern for seven consecutive days. Take a photo each day to show how you've restyled it/them (see my Ginger Skirt week from 2012 for reference)

At the end of the week I'll ask for links to your photos if you care to share so I can create a round-up post of participants. Please keep all seven photos on one web page. If you leave a link to your photos or blog, I'll assume this means you consent to me borrowing a photo or two for the round-up post - or if you'd rather I didn't, just say so when you leave a link. You may also want to share your reflections on the process.

Do I have to have a blog to join in?
No you don't! This is a great project for non-bloggers to join in with. How about uploading your photos onto Instagram, or a Pinterest board or Flickr set and sharing the link? It would be great if you could use the hashtag #OWOP14 when posting photos on Twitter or Instagram, then you can search for other OWOP participants too! If you don't like posing for photos, you don't have to be in them yourself, you can always arrange the outfits on a dress form or a hanger.  

Having said that, one reader has used OWOP as the impetus to start her own brand new blog - Lady Jane Makes - which is fabulous!

Will there be impressive graphs and pie charts like last time?!
I'm afraid you won't be seeing impressive graphs and pie charts this year. But you'll be delighted to hear that sub-standard graphs and pie charts will be making an appearance! I can never hope to out-geek Tilly's stats from last time, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who wants to know all the ins and outs of this year's pattern choices.

Is there an OWOP picture or button I can use on my blog?
As you know, I'm not the smartest cookie when it comes to anything technical (see above), but I've done my best! Here are a couple of pictures  (don't laugh) which you can use on your blog if you so wish, to show the world you're participating in OWOP.

Small OWOP

Large OWOP

You can also add this link to the picture which will direct readers back to this post:

Anything else I should know?
I have a couple of guest posts lined up from other sewing bloggers reflecting on their own personal style, which I'm really looking forward to reading. I'm also putting together an awesome giveaway package (or two!) for OWOP participants. I'll keep you posted!

If you have any other questions about OWOP, please let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them. Right, over to you now to SIGN UP! Hoorah!! x

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

One Week, One Pattern 2014!!!

Exciting announcement time!!! OWOP is BACK!!!!!  If you haven't a clue what I'm on about, OWOP, (or to give it its full title: One Week, One Pattern) is a group challenge where participants wear garments made from just one pattern of their choice, every day for a week. The original One Week One Pattern challenge happened in 2012 and was the brainchild of Tilly and the Buttons. Now you may have noticed that Tilly has been just a teeny, tiny bit busy of late, so she’s graciously handed the baton over to ME!  I loved OWOP the first time round and I’m thrilled to be running the show this year

The starting point of OWOP is the pattern. We all have special sewing patterns that just seem to work for us. It could be that they fit well, they’re flattering, they're easy to sew and wear, or in some cases ALL of these things! It’s precisely because they work so well for us that we sew them again and again. The idea behind OWOP is to celebrate these super-hero sewing patterns by dedicating a whole week to them. It’s also an opportunity to really think about your own individual look and stretch your styling skills with your handmade wardrobe. Think of the infinite mix and match possibilities on offer - how creative can you get styling multiple versions of the same garment? The number of versions of your pattern you choose to wear/sew is entirely up to you - anything goes! It will also be really interesting to discover which patterns people decide to showcase. 

I’ll be publishing a separate post shortly where you can sign up for the challenge and which will give full details and hopefully answer any questions you have. Today’s post is just to announce the date and confirm that it’s happening (yay!!). So, just to make it official, One Week One Pattern 2014 will run from SATURDAY 6th TO FRIDAY 13th SEPTEMBER 2014.  Oh yes, and there’ll be guest posts from your favourite bloggers, the odd badly drawn graph and prizes aplenty. I really hope a few of you will join me! Can’t wait! x

Friday, 27 June 2014

Bronte Top

Long ago (about 15 years), I found my perfect plain white T-shirt in the bargain bin of a posh London shop. It was, without doubt, my favourite and most flattering white T shirt ever. It was made from a pretty thin jersey though, so barely lasted more than two summers. The thing that made it different to other T-shirts was its neckline. It had an overlapping section on either side of the neck, that joined to the shoulder seams. I've since discovered that this shrug style detail is seen a lot in 1940's fashions. And babies vests of course!

Imagine my delight when Jennifer Lauren released her second pattern - the Bronte Top - featuring this very shoulder detail. Jen kindly sent me the PDF pattern to try, and my first thought was to recreate my favourite T shirt. Once I'd cut it out, it only took a couple of hours of very leisurely sewing to complete. I followed the instruction diagrams exactly and the shoulder details slotted into place first time, it really was easy to sew. I sewed about 90% of it on my overlocker and finished all the bound edges and hems with a double needle. The pattern is multi-sized from 6 to 20 - I went for a straight size 12 all over and made no adjustments. Looking at these photos I could probably have done with a bit more room across the bust, but it doesn't bother me. I personally like my T shirts to be quite tight fitting, so I'll be wearing the hell out of it.

For fabric, I used a white jersey knit from UK Fabrics Online, which is described as heavyweight, but is actually quite a light weight for a summer T-shirt. At £3.99 a metre, the quality is quite basic, so my plan was to use it for a test garment to check the fit. Once I'd finished the top and tried it on however it looked fab, a tiny bit transparent maybe, but nothing a good T-shirt bra can't handle! For a more robust jersey, take a look at the Interlock knits from The Village Haberdashery. They're reasonably thick, so probably not high summer weight, but ideal for any other time of year.

Admittedly I've made the plainest possible version of this pattern (sorry about that!) but it would also look lovely in a bright solid or patterned knit.  You can add interest by using a contrast binding (see Zoe's gorgeous version here) or sew buttons on the shoulders. And there's a long sleeved option - yippee! I can really see this pattern becoming a wardrobe basic - I need a plain cream one … and a navy one …and maybe another white one…In short I love this top, it's easy to sew and looks ace - I plan to make hundreds of them. That's all! If you like the look of it too, the pattern is available to buy here.

Have a good day! x

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Capital Chic Patterns

Exciting news today... Sally from Charity Shop Chic has launched a new range of PDF sewing patterns! I've followed Charity Shop Chic for a few years now and been constantly blown away by Sally's amazing refashioning skills; transforming ginormous men's shirts and sad looking grandma dresses into high fashion garments that look like they've just jumped off the pages of Vogue. She's finally put her impressive pattern drafting skills to good effect and created her first collection: Capital Chic Patterns. The difficulty levels of the patterns ranges from intermediate to advanced, perfect for those looking to move on from sewing beginner styles. Techniques such as using boning, French seams and machine-rolled hems are explained in detail, so they also offer a great way to improve your sewing repertoire. 

The six designs in the collection (two skirts, two dresses, one blouse and one sweatshirt) focus on work wear, cocktail wear and day-to-night looks and are inspired by the catwalk, red carpet fashion and London street style. Now I've got to be honest, my default mechanism for clothing inspiration is vintage rather than high fashion inspired. Plus, I don't require a work wardrobe, so a lot of the patterns don't really work for my personal lifestyle. BUT, the pattern designs have lovely clean lines (which I like) and excellent attention to detail (which I also like) and there's one pattern in particular that's taken my fancy - the Bellini blouse.



Bellini is a loose fitting, cap sleeved blouse with either a cutaway or scalloped collar. It features bias-bound armholes, a machine rolled hem and French seams throughout. The thought of making a classic blouse with a beautiful finish really appeals to me. If I choose my fabric carefully (lightweight wovens are recommended) then I can see this being an ideal dressmaking project for autumn. I also have a gap in my wardrobe for smart tops to wear with jeans or slim trousers in the evening and I think Bellini fits the bill perfectly. 

The patterns currently come in five sizes, from UK 10 to UK 18 - a wider size range may be available later in the year, depending on demand.  Further information and a closer look at all the patterns can be found here A great deal of time and hard work has gone into developing this new line and I really hope Sally's new venture does well. Cheers! x

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Skirt making on a slightly smaller scale

As the mother of boys, I rarely get to make children's clothes. I've made them PJ bottoms in the past, but that's about all they'll tolerate from me. If I'd been sewing when they were babies or toddlers I could have kitted them out to my heart's content, but they were just that bit too old. They're now racing towards double digits and teenage years respectively, so anything made by me is out of the question. It's a different story with girls though…

I saw some simple little girl's skirts at an event recently that were beautiful, but they looked so easy to make I just couldn't bring myself to buy one (they were about £30 each). With my niece Hannah's birthday approaching, I thought I'd have a go at making one myself. The skirts I saw were made from vintage fabric (which is probably why they were so expensive) but I think I can get a similar effect using a linen-look cotton. Linen-look cotton is fab, it's 100% cotton, with the appearance and feel of linen but without all the pesky creases. It's actually more hard wearing than quilting cotton, so  ideal for children's clothes. It looks a little like vintage barkcloth, which is what made me think of it for Hannah's skirt. I've chosen this darling dog fabric from Plush Addict:

I couldn't decide between the colour ways so bought both - maybe she'll get two skirts? Or a skirt and a cushion!

I used linen-look cotton to make myself a sundress last year and I'm pleased to say it's been getting lots of use during the recent sunny weather.  I'd definitely recommend it for summer dressmaking. If cute doggies are a step too far for you, Plush Addict also stock a good selection of classic patterns (polka dots, gingham and stripes!!) in their linen-look cotton range.

My dilemma now is which pattern to use. Hannah lives in Australia so I'll only have her measurements to rely on. She's always climbing trees and flying through the air on broomsticks (sort of) so I think a simple but practical design would be best. I'm tempted to just use my own elastic waist skirt tutorial, or I might make a casing and insert the elastic for a neater look. If anybody can suggest a skirt pattern or tutorial suitable for a seven year old, please do let me know. This is a real novelty to me - I can't wait to get started! x


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