Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Another Heather Dress

It was only a matter of time before I caved in and made another Heather dress.

My navy version has been a runaway success this winter, so much so that I needed to dilute it to stop it being worn to death. This second version was made using a luxury ponte knit in aqua, sent to me to try out by The Sewcial Studio. It's not quite as weighty as the ponte I used for my first version, which made me think it would be better suited to a short sleeved spring version. I was right, it's a lovely quality jersey and the perfect weight for a spring dress. Personally I wouldn't want to use anything lighter than a ponte for this pattern as the princess seams and pockets require a bit of structure.

I sewed the same size as last time (size 10, grading to size 12 at the bust), with a couple of additional changes:
  • Shortened the neckband. It wasn't quite snug enough on my first Heather dress and it does bag a bit, which is annoying.
  • Shaved the top curve off the sleeve heads. For some reason the sleeves jut out at the shoulder on me, a bit like a low key Krystle Carrington. I didn't change them on my first version but it was far more noticeable this time round (probably because of the lighter coloured fabric), so out came the scissors.
  • Added another 1.5cms to the front side seams at the bust for a better fit.

That's it, nothing major, and like last time, it was a quick, easy sew. Everything on the inside was sewn on my overlocker and the hems were finished with a twin needle. I think I've been lucky with the fit on this pattern - it's comfortable but still figure skimming on me. I like the short sleeves for the warmer weather too. I'm wearing the dress with tights in these photos to spare you the sight of my blue/white winter pallor, but as soon as the false tan kicks in I'll be baring my legs and wearing it with clogs!  x

Fabric was given to me free of charge by The Sewcial Studio for review. All views my own.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Knitting & Stitching Show 2017

First up, I'd like to say an enormous THANK YOU to everybody who commented or sent me messages of support following my last post. I appreciated each and every one of them and they really did make me feel better. I'm not quite sewing and blogging on full steam yet, but I've been back at the sewing machine (and the computer), so it's a start. In the meantime, what better way to cheer yourself up and forget about the stresses of everyday life than to visit a stitching show?! 

A few weeks ago I hot footed it over to Olympia with sewing pal Winnie to the Spring Knitting & Stitching Show. This year, I did what I always forget to do and booked myself into a workshop - Altering Patterns for a Fuller Bust - rock and roll! Whilst I was immersed in full bust adjustments (details below), Winnie somehow managed to make a leather clutch bag in an hour! After our workshop delights, the rest of the day was spent visiting stands and stuffing our faces with cake. Sadly there were too many cheap market stalls selling tat or blatantly non-crafty items for my liking. I counted no fewer than three separate stands for the Cats Protection League??? What's that all about?! Despite this we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and still managed to walk around for hours until our feet nearly dropped off. Here's a mini round up based on the abysmal number of random photos I remembered to take....

For my workshop, tutor Clare Tyler showed us everything we needed to know about adjusting patterns for busty types. This included moving darts and adjusting patterns for a no dart bodice, side dart bodice and princess seamed bodice. I'd done most of the alterations before, but it was still really interesting and the 1.5 hours positively flew by. After demonstrating each step we were let loose with paper and sellotape.

Chatting with Lauren from Guthrie Ghani. Lauren was wearing a Tilly and the Buttons Zadie dress in the most beautiful textured jersey fabric (Winnie bought some).

Vintage lovelies from Simply Vintage Designs

Liberty fabric heaven at Sewbox. I was on the lookout for some smaller pieces for my quilt and found a perfect little pack for £5. I've already managed to squeeze out 20 patchwork squares from the pieces, bargain!

This year I bought just three pieces of fabric, all destined for simple garments. 

From the top:
Teal striped T-shirt jersey from Girl Charlee

Small striped jersey from Fabrics Galore. I'd never paid much attention to their jerseys before, but having examined them up close, I have to say the quality is amazing. This will become a short sleeved Molly Top from Sew Over It.

Lovely, bright blue denim (much brighter in real life than the photo) from Guthrie Ghani. I'll probably make some kind of seventies-style skirt with it. 

The combination of fabric purchases, meeting sewing pals (old and new) and spending the day with Winnie was the perfect tonic for my frazzled nerves - I'm glad I visited! Next up, some actual sewing... x

Monday, 20 February 2017

Blog break

This is just a short post to let you know I'll be taking a break from the blog for the next few weeks. As you may know, my younger son has special needs and is currently going through a very difficult time. I'm just about keeping my head above water at the moment and there isn't a great deal of sewing being done. I thought it would be easier to take a complete break from sewing and blogging and hopefully come back to it with renewed sparkle once things are more settled at home. 

Thanks so much for your understanding.
Jane x

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Liberty fabric suppliers

Last summer I talked about making a new quilt using some Liberty remnants I've been hoarding for the past few years. But when I went through my stash, I realised there were only three I actually wanted to use and that I'd need to buy a few more Liberty fabrics (such a hardship!) My first port of call was the Liberty shop itself as there's currently 50% off online on selected prints, but annoyingly there was nothing in the sale that was quite right. Full price Liberty fabric is pricey (£22.50 a metre for Tana lawn), so I decided to do a bit of online research to see if I could find cheaper options....  

I spent an entire afternoon overdosing on Liberty prints and could quite easily have been at it for days on end if I didn't had children to look after. I did however, manage to find quite a few cheaper alternatives, so if you love Liberty prints but don't love their usual hefty price tags, read on! I've included a mixture of bricks and mortar shops and online stores, but obviously it's nowhere near a comprehensive list. I should also point out that I've used some, but not all of these suppliers, so can't vouch for them all personally. Hopefully one of them may lead you to a bargain though!

This friendly online store offers a mix of classic and contemporary prints at reduced prices, often in unusual colourways. The majority of fabrics are Tana lawn and Lifestyle cottons, with some jersey and cord prints also stocked.

THE place to go for discounted Liberty fabrics if you're in London. They stock absolutely everything, with a far broader range than the Liberty store itself, including all the classic floral prints and lots of seasonal collections. If you're desperate to track down a discontinued or limited edition print, give them a try, they probably have it in stock. The firework print fabric I got for Christmas was found at  Shaukat after it had sold out at Liberty. 

Visit the shop in South Kensington or buy online here.  

Goldhawk Road, London W12
Classic Textiles stocks some lovely Tana lawns and silks. Last time I was there I think Tana lawn was about £17 a metre and silk amazingly was about £12 a metre. I used Liberty silk from this shop to line my boiled wool coat.

Misan West on Goldhawk Road is a relatively new fabric shop and also stocks Liberty fabrics. Definitely worth paying a visit if you're in the area.

Fabrics Galore has been around for 25 years and offers a good selection of classic and seasonal Tana lawns at very good prices (around £15.00 a metre). 

They have a shop in Battersea, you can buy online here or they regularly exhibit at sewing shows throughout the year.

As well as stocking classic Tana lawns at full price, Abakhan also has a separate clearance sections where you can snap up past collections of Tana lawn for £12.95 a metre and Lifestyle cottons for £9.95 a metre).

Clothkits are more commonly known for their ready made clothing kits, but did you know they also have a small but perfectly formed Liberty section on their website?! Check out their Tana lawn clearance section where you can find an interesting selection for £16.00 a metre. They also sell Liberty bias binding and fabric covered buttons!

I found this eBay seller via What Kate Sews a couple of years ago when she listed her favourite eBay fabric shops. In Katie's words, "A good source for Liberty Tana Lawns in largeish pre-cut lots. At roughly £30 for a 3 metre cut it's a good deal."  I''d agree with that! You can also get good deals on smaller pieces - I snapped up a metre of hard-to-find Carline print for £15 last year.

If you have a favourite place for sourcing discounting Liberty fabric, please let me know in the comments. And whilst I'm at it, what's your favourite Liberty print? My favourite is Carline, which I've just noticed seems to be in stock again at Liberty. Sadly not in the sale though. Have a good week! x

Friday, 3 February 2017

Red Coat: Tutorials and Resources

Thank you all for such generous and encouraging comments on my red coat - it was wonderful to read such positive feedback! As promised, this next post will focus on the tutorials, supplies and resources that I found so helpful whilst making the coat.

If you're thinking of trying the pattern (McCalls 7058) then I'd highly recommend you read Manju's excellent review. I picked up some really useful tips from her blog post, including the idea of adding a flannel underlining for extra warmth. To attach the underlining, I followed Manju's method of machining the flannel to the pattern pieces with a half inch seam allowance, then trimming back as far as I could down to the stitching line. I also removed the flannel from the hem allowance before hemming to reduce bulk.

Flannel underlining trimmed back to stitching line
For interfacing I used Washable Supersoft interfacing from English Couture, which is a perfect weight for the wool. I also purchased my sleeve heads from English Couture and inserted them using this method by Poppy Kettle. If you want to make your own sleeve heads, the tutorial also shows you how. I'd never used sleeve heads before and the result is subtle, but definitely worth it.

Sleeve without sleeve head

Sleeve with sleeve head
The dimpled, slightly collapsed look of the sleeves is now supported well and takes on a more rounded, tailored look.

Underlined, interfaced and with sleeve heads added. 
Once all the laborious work of underlining, interfacing, pressing etc had been done, it was time to add the lining. The instructions have you attach the lining around the facing and collar by machine, then hand sew the sleeves hems and coat hems, but I was keen to machine everything. This was partly laziness, but also because I find linings that are machined in place tend to be more robust than hand sewn ones, however neatly and carefully you sew them. If you're thinking of bagging a lining, then I'd highly recommend the following tutorials. Between the two of them they really do cover everything you can think of:

How to Bag a Jacket Lining on the Grainline blog
Bagging a Coat Lining which is part of the Clare Coat Sewalong on Closet Case Files

The basic technique on the Grainline blog is very straight forward and that's essentially what I did to bag the lining. The Clare Coat sew along post also has some excellent additional tips which I used to ensure as professional a finish as I could. For example, the traditional method of turning the coat the right way round is to pull it through a gap in one of the sleeve seams. A woollen coat, completely underlined in flannel, with interfacing and lining is thick and unwieldy and the thought of trying to turn the entire thing out through such a tiny gap filled me with horror. Heather's tip was to leave a generous gap in the lining hem instead, then catch stitch it closed at the end. This made far more sense to me and the whole process was a lot easier as a result. To help anchor the lining to the coat, I added a threadchain to the underarm seam to link them together. I used the Susan Khalje tutorial for the threadchain as recommended in the Clare Coat tutorial and it worked a treat.

I'd originally planned to use giant snaps as closures, but had a last minute disaster change of heart and had to use buttons instead. I actually spent two hours sewing all the snaps into position before deciding they didn't look right (sigh). It was annoying, but I'd invested so much time and effort into making this coat I figured an extra week's delay wasn't going to make much difference. The problem was that my interfaced and underlined coat edges wouldn't even fit underneath my buttonhole foot, so there was no way I could even contemplate sewing buttonholes unless I made them by hand. Er no, I decided to pay a visit to D M Buttons in Soho to have some professionally made instead.

I'd read about the company on a few sewing blogs, but never actually used them myself. The whole process couldn't have been easier: I left my coat with owner David and went to get my hair cut, when I returned an hour or so later, my coat had six perfect buttonholes! They looked so much more professional than anything I could have produced on my own machine. I didn't need to do much prep either, just marked the buttonhole positions on the right side of the fabric beforehand and brought along one of my buttons for reference. And the best bit? The price - just £4.00 for six! I'm never making my own buttonholes again!

One final thing I should mention is my new Tailor's Clapper, which I found invaluable during the pressing process. My wool was quite hefty and really not interested in lying flat along the seam lines. After a lengthy session at the ironing board, using the clapper and a LOT of steam, those seams were as flat as pancakes. If you're unsure about using a clapper, watch this short video from Did You Make That. Before your very eyes you'll see a springy, unruly piece of crepe being magically flattened into submission by a steam iron and a lump of wood!

I know some of you were interested to see how much this coat actually cost me to make. It wasn't cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but infinitely cheaper than a comparable RTW coat made with designer Italian wool! Thread, vintage buttons and sleeve heads were all from my stash, so I'm not including them in the cost. 

Pattern: McCall's 7058  £8.75
Main coat fabric: two metres of red Italian wool twill from Fabric Godmother:  £52.00
Lining fabric: two metres of steel blue lining fabric from Ditto Fabrics: £8.00
Interfacing: one metre of Washable Supersoft Interfacing from English Couture: £6.75
Interlining: two metres of pyjama flannel from eBay: £6.80

Finishing Touches 
Six buttonholes made by DM Buttons: £4.00
Professional press at dry cleaners: £8.00
TOTAL   £94.30

I'm delighted with the final coat (pictures of me prancing around in it can be seen here!) and pleased I took the time to finish everything properly. What I also found really heartening was the fact that so many wonderful free resources were there to help me at the click of a mouse. So I'd just like to say an enormous THANK YOU to all the generous sewing bloggers and authors mentioned in this post for sharing their knowledge. Believe me, it's very much appreciated! x

Monday, 30 January 2017

Finished: Red Coat (McCall's 7058)

Get the flags out, I've finally finished my red coat! I first blogged about making a red coat back in November, having been gathering supplies to make one for a few weeks before that. As is often the case, it wasn't the main sewing of the coat that took so long, it was the final fiddly jobs (plus a break for Christmas.) It's been a frosty week in the UK so the timing couldn't be better for a warm, winter coat!

I didn't want to spam you with tons of photos and text, so for those of you who are interested there's a more in-depth post to follow, with links to all the tutorials and resources I used. I've also kept a record of how much the various materials cost me for this project, which I'll be including too. In the meantime, here's my coat in all its finished glory!

The pattern I used is McCall's 7058: a classic, princess seamed design with several different length and style options. I sewed a combination of versions B and C. Size-wise I cut a straight size 14, but shortened all the main body pieces (including sleeves) on the Petite lines throughout. This equated to two inches in total removed from each piece: one inch at bodice height and one inch at skirt height. Adjusting the pattern to the petite size also meant the pockets were in the correct position for my T-Rex arms!

Note: The fabric appears much redder than it actually is in these indoor photos because of the dreadful winter light.

I didn't make any further adjustments and the fit was more or less spot on. It's a tiny bit snug when fully buttoned up, as I didn't really allow for extra winter layers (duh), but I'm still really pleased with the fit. It has a lovely, nipped in silhouette.

The pattern instructions were clear and easy to follow and the main body of the coat came together very quickly. I only deviated from them at a couple of points: I chose not to include the back vents and I fully bagged the lining by machine rather than hand stitching the sleeve and coat hems. I'll include details of the lining tutorials I used in my next post. The lining pieces are separate and properly drafted with pleats to the centre back and hem. This makes a big difference when it comes to getting it on and off!

The main coat fabric is an Italian wool twill from Fabric Godmother (now sold out unfortunately). It was quite expensive (£26 per metre), but as it was reasonably wide and my pattern pieces were all shortened, I was able to cut out the whole coat from just two metres, yay! The quality of the wool is absolutely beautiful and I don't regret shelling out at all - it was worth every penny. I lined the coat in a contrast dusky blue lining fabric from Ditto Fabrics, (also sold out I'm afraid). All the main coat pieces apart from the under collar and sleeves were underlined with flannel for extra warmth.

I've only worn my coat a couple of times but I can already see it becoming a staple in my winter wardrobe. Despite the frumpy looking pattern, it feels really stylish to wear, it fits well and it's lovely and warm. It's also very me - I feel like I've owned it for years! I'm so pleased I went the extra mile when I was making it, I love it! x

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The Sangria dress (and my first outing with scuba!)

Scuba is a fabric that's never really appealed to me before now - it always seemed too rubbery for my liking. I changed my mind about this shortly after discovering this wonderful bonded lace scuba from TMOS (The Man Outside Sainsbury's) in Walthamstow last year. I didn't even realise it was scuba until one of the other sewists I was with put me right, but by that point it was too late - I'd fallen for it! 

As I'd never worked with this fabric before I decided to start with a pattern specifically designed for scuba knits - the Sangria dress by Capital Chic. The pattern is beautifully simple - no darts or pleats, just a smooth sheath dress with short sleeves and a neckband. Hopefully easy to sew and a good blank canvas to show off the lace detailing of the fabric.

Sally kindly sent me a copy of the pattern when it was released, along with a link to this post by Thumblenina. Nina had also used bonded lace scuba to make her stunning Sangria dress and noted that it didn't have as much stretch as normal scuba. Based on the finished measurements and taking Nina's comments into consideration I cut a size 14, grading out to a size 16 at the hips to give me room to sit down in comfort! I also shortened the dress by 9cms to make it knee length on me. The fit is just right - clingy enough to show off your curves but not so restrictive that you can barely move. Don't forget that seam allowances are 1cm on Capital Chic patterns, so don't use 1.5cms by mistake or you'll get an even tighter fit!

The scuba was interesting to work with, not exactly troublesome, just a bit difficult to manoeuvre in places. The clingy nature of the material means it doesn't shift around whilst sewing, which was a good thing, and the main body of the dress came together quickly and easily on my overlocker. Hemming was a little challenging as the scuba didn't respond well to being pressed flat. It took lots of steam and a tailor's clapper to get those hems flattened into submission. But my main problem was the arm binding - it's attached with a very small seam allowance, then folded round and stitched in the ditch, so all raw edges are enclosed. This should give a lovely neat finish, but unfortunately mine didn't turn out that way. The bulkiness of the fabric and narrowness of the binding both conspired against me and it ended up looking like a tight, uncomfortable ridge around my arms. I eventually removed the binding and sewed a simple turned hem with a twin needle instead. It's not as neat looking on the inside, but infinitely better on the outside, and it doesn't stop the circulation in my arms!

The other area where I ended up deviating from the instructions was the back opening, otherwise known as the zip! Because of the previously mentioned bulk, I was hoping I could get away with a much shorter zip than the recommended 60cms, or even better, no zip at all! Sadly the scuba didn't have enough stretch for me to get it over my head without one, but I only needed to unpick a few inches at the top, which was good news. My compromise was to fashion a keyhole opening, fastening with a thread loop and button at the neck.

If you've never worked with scuba before then this pattern is a really good place to start. There's minimal fitting involved and the well written instructions make it an easy, stress-free sew - I highly recommend it. And I'm delighted with the finished dress - despite being a tight fit, it's still comfortable to wear and is a really smart looking 'going out dress' to add to my wardrobe.

The finished dress is very clingy, but the fact that it's knee length, with a relatively high neck keeps it classy in my opinion. I'll be proudly wearing it out for cocktails with friends this weekend anyway. And I'll be very smug about the fact that it only cost me £8.00! x

Sneaky peak of my new coat!

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


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