Monday 31 January 2011

Sewalong progress and recent finds

A quick update on my sewalongs   

My Pendrell blouse is half sewn and believe it or not, I'm actually sewing along at the same pace as everybody else!  Tasia's posts are great and I'm really enjoying the whole process. I've already got fabric and ideas for version two once this one's finished.  My second Pendrell blouse will be made from this fabric...

I picked it up at a vintage fair I went to in Hammersmith a few weeks ago.  The fair itself was great, but I was shocked at how expensive vintage clothes have become.  Some of them were undeniably exquisite and probably deserving of their hefty price tags, but some were really not that special and needed mending to boot.  It made me want to weep when I remembered the 1950's sun dresses I used to pick up at jumble sales in the late 1980's for (I kid you not) 10p.  10p!!!!!  The tragedy is I don't even know where they all disappeared to. Ahh well.  Anyway, along with this nice drapey, flowery, checky fabric I came out with a vintage belt

some 1930's buttons....

and a posh lady's brooch which I may team with my swing dress (see below)

Not a bad haul.  Back to the Pendrell blouse.  I was going to add a bow to the neck of my first/current one based on Andrea's beautiful version.  Once I cut the fabric out though I realised the print is just too big and a tiny bow would probably get lost.  The tiny blue flowered print would be perfect though.

Now for progress on Casey's Swing Dress sewalong ...  I've cut out my muslin after making adjustments to the bodice length and the amount of ease in the sleeves, but I'm waiting for Casey's post on sewing gathered shoulders before I jump in.  I've decided to go for wool crepe for this dress, I found 3m in a tiny little fabric shop really close to my home that I'd barely even noticed before.  It was bizarre, the shop suddenly appeared in front of me one day, Mr Benn style.  Inside it was FULL of dressmaking fabrics!!!!  To say I was over excited is perhaps an understatement.  After playing with virtually the entire contents of the shop (and almost forgetting to collect my kids from school) I came out with this lovely red wool crepe.  

Although crepe is top of the list for fabric suggestions on the pattern, I've been procrastinating as I'm not sure about the texture.  It's very strange and looks more like something you'd use to exfoliate your face with.  The ladies in the Mr Benn shop soon convinced me otherwise though, and having draped it every which way over my dress form I now really like it, it's super drapey.  I think it will look fab as a 40's-style swing dress, and if it looks professional enough I may even wear the dress to my brother's wedding in July.

I know Marie and Lauren are both using crepe for their Swing dresses, would love to know what everybody else is using.  x

Monday 24 January 2011

I've made a pair of trousers!

I'm so, so proud of myself, I never thought in a million years I'd ever say those words but yes, I've actually made myself a pair of trousers and they fit!  

Yippee, my very own handmade trousers

Looking unbearably smug
They were made as part of my second sewalong hosted by The Cupcake Goddess.  

Now, I know the sewalong is still going on and I'm steaming ahead again (Florence, if you're reading this, I think I qualify for your Impatient Seamstress Sewalong!) but, in my defence there are several reasons I finished so early.  Firstly, I knew from the start I wouldn't be sewing the same pattern as everybody else, the pattern Sunni chose was Burda 127 which I wasn't keen on for two reasons a) it's a downloadable PDF and I'm rubbish at that type of thing b) the trousers are specifically for taller ladies (which was unintentional) but at 5' 2'' probably not the best pattern for me.  So I chose this 1940's retro pattern from Simplicity (3688).  

Other bloggers have said how straight forward it is to sew and they weren't wrong.  It was a really simple pattern to sew together but I wouldn't have had such success with it on my own.  If you're ever contemplating making trousers, then Sunni's (The Cupcake Goddess) tutorials are an absolute must.  She goes through ever imaginable fitting issue in a totally clear and refreshing manner, always accompanied by lots of photographs of each step.  

I made a muslin and realised I needed to decrease the front crotch curve (sorry, there's no other way of describing it!) as I didn't want bagging around that area and increase the back crotch curve to accommodate my backside.  Look away now if you're eating your lunch.

Not the greatest darts in the world but a perfectly fitted backside!
They were the only changes I made, it was as simple as that.  I think the classic cut of the pattern helps too: a slim fit around the waist and hips with wide legs, a very simple design.  The other nugget I picked up from Sunni was a tip on sewing the crotch curves together: she advised us to put one leg inside the other which wasn't the way the pattern instructions said, but her method was far easier.

I made my trousers from a lovely navy gabardine I picked up in John Lewis.  I've never sewn with gabardine before and it's officially my new favourite fabric.  It's a dream to sew with - not too thick but with lots of drape,  absolutely perfect for 1940's styles.  I've teamed it up with a striped top for these photos as to be honest, there's not much else I have that will go with such a high waist.  

Whoa, that's a high waist
I'm intending to sew this blouse soon though, 

using this fabric, 

which I'm hoping will be a perfect match for them.  Happy Monday everyone. x

Tuesday 18 January 2011

New friends, new sewing space...

Two exciting new things to share with you today.  My new sewing space!!!!!!! and my meet up with new sewing friends.  Friends first, I met up on Saturday with a bunch of fellow bloggers at the Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion exhibition at the Barbican.  This was kindly organised by Karen from didyoumakethat? Along with Karen, I met Nancy who doesn’t yet have a blog (but may do soon now we’ve all been nagging her) and Danielle who is an illustrator with a background in fashion design who blogs at Final Fashion.  Sadly Kate from M is for make couldn’t join us because of engineering works on the line (bloody trains).  But I had such a great time meeting the others it’s made me determined to make the effort to reschedule with her.

I’ve never met any other bloggers (sewing or otherwise) in real life so I was completely over excited.  In everyday life, I try to temper my sewing talk when I’m with my friends so I don’t bore them to death.  On Saturday though it was no holds barred so I was in my element.  It was SO lovely to meet them all and the exhibition itself was amazing.  If you get the chance do go and see it, (it runs until 6th Feb).  There were no cameras allowed so I’ll just skim over my personal highlights:

Beautiful single lengths of knit fabric draped around the body to create garments
Honeycomb skirts made from organza (polyester, not silk!)
Issey Miyake’s Pleats series
... all completely gorgeous to look at

Now for my other big news, my sewing space is officially up and running.  Hip hip hoorah. 

Until now I’ve been working on the kitchen table, which is fine, but I’ve had nowhere to put my stuff and it’s slightly annoying having to put the sewing machine away every day.  We’re lucky enough to have a converted loft room, which we’ve never done much with.  It’s a great guest room/computer area but it’s so huge up there there’s still space to make a sewing nook for me – which is exactly what I’ve done.  Or to be fair what my husband has done since he’s done all the donkey work.  There’s still room for guests and all the overflow books from downstairs (which I colour coded when I was bored one afternoon, aren’t they lovely?!)  

Spot my dummy modelling the crepe dress in the corner
There’s also still room for all Jon’s ‘man’ things:  his LP’s and turntable which he refuses to throw out and his James Bond villain chair.

We repainted the room grey (predictable, me?) and super hubby made me some bespoke shelves for all my sewing bits and pieces.

My patterns and smaller sewing books with the beloved tailor’s ham and seam roll acting as bookends.

A small but growing collection of buttons 

Smaller pieces of quilting fabric.  

I don’t quilt but I make a lot of things for craft fairs from quilting cotton and they’re so pretty to look at.

My other fabric has to be stashed under the bed to create the illusion of perfection, but at least it’s all in the same room and I’ve categorised it all now (dressmaking fabrics, heavy fabrics, linings, dots and ginghams etc).  I still have to use the kitchen table for cutting out, as there isn’t a big enough surface in my new gaff (well maybe the floor if I’m feeling lazy) but I can live with that.

It’s so lovely and light up here, I just potter away listening to the radio and it’s like I’m in another world.  I absolutely love it.  I do need a pinboard for fabric swatches, sewalong schedules(!) etc but that can wait until another day… x

Sunday 16 January 2011

Finished Crepe dress

I was trying to be a good student and wait patiently for the next Crepe sewalong post, but patience is not one of my virtues and posts seem to be a bit thin on the ground at the moment!  I appreciate there’s been a Christmas holiday break and I’m sure Gertie is super busy, but the pace is just way too slow for me (it started on 6th December and we haven’t even started sewing yet!)

So I fell off the wagon and actually started sewing the dress together and I’m glad I did.  I’ve been itching to sew for weeks, so it was good to get back into it.  And here’s the result - my lovely Crepe dress….
Behold - my lovely Crepe dress
I’m so pleased with the finished dress, it’s got a vintage-y look but it’s comfortable enough to wear as a day dress AND it’s got pockets!  

Pockets - hoorah!
It’s a very girly dress, you do feel like you should be skipping through a meadow with a basket of flowers whilst wearing it.  Or trying out for a Timotei ad.  Nice and old fashioned.

Which brings me on to the fabric, which has an old-fashioned look I really like. I’m glad I went along with Gertie’s recommendation to use a lightweight cotton with more drape in it rather than a stiffer, quilting cotton.  I used a cotton lawn I picked up on eBay, with a red contrast sash.  I also underlined the dress, which was another first for me.  I used very thin grey/blue cotton for underlining. Cotton law is a sheer fabric, and underlining gave the bodice and skirt a bit of structure and neatly solved the whole potential “backlit Lady Diana wearing sheer skirt” horror.  Gertie’s method of underlining was a tad laborious though.  It involved hand basting each piece to the underlining fabric before cutting it out.  

Basting underling to the pattern pieces - like watching paint dry
I dutifully did this for the bodice pieces but then realised there were SIX mid-length skirt pieces still to do.  I wanted to do each stage by the book, but this was way too much a labour of love – I cut the pieces out then basted them, which still took hours, but at least I wasn’t flailing about with metres of fabric trying to hand sew whilst retaining a straight grain line.   I don’t think the dress suffered either.

So, what did I make of the pattern?  Well, I’ve used Collette Patterns twice before (Sencha blouse and Beignet skirt) and they were both a dream to work from: simple, clear instructions, nice detailing and a good fit.  The Crepe instructions were as clear and explanatory as usual, perfect for a beginner, which is the level the pattern was aimed at.  The only negative thing about the pattern was the fit, which was a disaster.  Collette Patterns are made with the curvier figure in mind, which is great, as that’s what I’ve got. But the bodice was way too roomy and wide – I had a lot of fitting issues (see here for more details if you’re interested) and this was when Gertie’s detailed fitting tutorials came into their own.   I learnt how to move darts, how to shape a dart for a more flattering fit under the bust and how to do a small bust adjustment. I think I just about ended up with a fit I liked in the end. 

The front view….

... and the back view - a good fit in the end
Sewing the dress together was easy peasy, all very straight forward. I also used my new tailor’s ham for the first time and now can’t live without it.  I’d really recommend you get one, especially for pressing those pesky shaped darts and shoulders into shape.  There was only one blunder…  Gertie advised us to stay the neckline with silk organza to avoid it stretching.  I bought what I thought was silk organza and stayed the neckline (another laborious process), so far so good.  But when it came to adding the facing and understitching it to lay flat, nothing was happening.  The neckline just kept jutting out and was really bulky.  A conversation with one of my new blogging friends – Danielle - who I met yesterday IN REAL LIFE (more on that in the next post!) confirmed that what I thought was silk organza was actually polyester organza (duh).  And polyester organza’s purpose in life is to stick out. Ho di hum.  I very calmly sat down last night and carefully cut out every last piece of the polyester imposter out of my dress.  And the result?  A neckline that behaves itself (yes!).  Thank you Danielle!

am pleased with the dress, even if I don't look it in the photo!

The final touch I added, which was recommended in the pattern, was to encase the waist seams in bias binding for a neater finish. Because the fabric is so thin it does tend to look a big straggly at the edges so this was a good finishing touch.  Usually I don’t like to spend too much time looking at the inside of the clothes I make – the zig-zagged seams always look a bit scruffy for my liking.  But in this case it gave me a little rush of pleasure to look upon my dress (inside and out) and notice just how substantial and finished it looked.  One sewalong project completed, three more to go…

Sunday 9 January 2011

and the winners are.....!

Thank you so much everybody for entering my New Year giveaway, I'm amazed at how popular it was!  Hello to all my new followers and I look forward to catching up on everybody's blogs in the next few weeks.  Anyway, back to business, the winners are.

Lynn!!!  who wins the gorgeous Sew Serendipity Book. and.

Marcia W!!! who wins the Liberty fat quarters.  Congratulations ladies, if you could e-mail me with your addresses, I'll get your prizes to you tomorrow. 

And just in case you're wondering who the barefooted, dirty finger-nailed beggar is who drew the names out of the hat - it's my son, before I dragged him to the sink to get washed and dressed!

Thanks again everyone and I'll be back next week with an update on my sewalong progress. Jane x

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Wardrobe Refashion

I don’t usually make New Year’s Resolutions (absolutely rubbish at keeping them) but this year I’ve decided to go for the biggy and take a Wardrobe Refashion pledge.  

I know the Wardrobe Refashion site is sadly no more, but I still think the whole ethos and idea behind the pledge is fantastic, and fully intend to keep to it.  The rules are simple, you take a pledge of either two, four or six months (or for the extreme hard core – life) in which time you don’t buy any new clothes, instead, you either make your own or refashion clothes you own or clothes you’ve thrifted. 

Since I’ve been making my own clothes I’ve saved tons of money by not buying cheap, rubbish and making things I actually wear.  This is quite an important factor in my future dressmaking plans - the clothes I make must be ones I’ll actually wear!  It’s quite easy to get carried away by a pattern and/or fabric only to discover a) the fabric/colour doesn’t suit you and b) the garment isn’t actually what you’d wear in everyday life.  I’m thinking of my ladylike dress here which, although lovely, has never been worn for the above reasons. Plus, making your own clothes allows you to add little touches you never see in shop bought items.  I can't tell you how many years I've been looking for a navy button-front skirt with red spotty details. Which is how I came to make my Beignet skirt. My handmade wardrobe will include lots of A-line skirts, 50’s style tops, the odd carefully chosen dress and, if my sewalong is a success, maybe some trousers(!) So, my dream dressmaking list for 2011 is as follows:

Crepe dress (progress on that next week)
Sewalong trousers using this pattern (heavily influenced by Debi at My Happy Sewing Place!)

Pendrell blouse
1930’s blouse sewn from a vintage pattern
1960's gingham dress from a vintage pattern
Refashioned navy polka dot skirt
Another Socialite dress
Another Sencha blouse but this time in a more drapey fabric and perhaps with the keyhole neck so I don’t choke to death
At least two A-line skirts

I’ve also seen a picture of my perfect top which I’d love to make.  

I spotted it when I was trawling round blogs a few months ago and I think it’s a past season Banana Republic top.  I’d love to make my own version, so if anybody knows of a similar pattern with which I can recreate it, please let me know!

So, without further ado, I give you my pledge.

I, Jane, pledge that I shall abstain from the purchase of "new" manufactured items of clothing, for the period of 6 months. I pledge that I shall refashion, renovate or recycle preloved items for myself with my own hands in fabric, yarn or other medium for the term of my contract. I pledge that I will share the love and post a photo of my refashioned, renovoted, recycled, crafted or created item of clothing on my blog, so that others may share the joy that thy thriftiness brings! Signed Jane x.

PS.  If you haven't done so already, there are still a few days left to enter my New Year giveaway, check it out here


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