Sunday, 22 July 2012

Unselfish sewing part one: Emma's bird top

Way back in September (ahem), I bought my friend Emma some beautiful Liberty bird fabric for her birthday.  The other part of her birthday present was a promise from me that I'd make it into whatever she wanted.  Yes, yes, I know September was a fair few months ago, but I do keep my promises, and considering I'm pretty selfish with my sewing, the fact that I've made her anything at all is a minor miracle.

Ornithology fabric, designed by Edwyn Collins for the Liberty Rocks collection
Emma had a very clear idea of what she wanted: a camisole-style top, with spaghetti straps and a bit of flow to it.  Oh yes, and a few tucks at the front. Luckily for me, Emma already owned a camisole top that was a perfect fit, so all I had to do was copy it.  I won't go into the nitty gritty, but let's just say I think I'd really benefit from a pattern cutting course!   Having to add extra fabric to the bodice front for the pleats, combined with my rubbish maths skills meant I had to redo the paper pattern several times. I'm sure if I knew a few simple techniques, I'd have saved myself a lot of time.  I also made a muslin AND did a basted fitting on Emma to get the length of the straps right.  I wouldn't do this for just anybody - Emma is a very good friend!

The finished top 
All this extra effort (which I'd be very unlikely to put in for my own makes) was because this was a birthday gift and I wanted it to be perfect. Also, the ornithology print is now discontinued, and I did NOT want to bugger up the cutting out stage and be faced with a bodged top and not enough fabric left to remake it. Can you imagine the horror?!

As well as adding tucks/pleats to the front (I used the technique from my Sencha pattern and it worked a treat), I made matching bias binding for the shoulder straps and as a facing for the top edge of the camisole. 


All that was pretty straight forward but I had a LOT of trouble inserting an invisible zip.  I don't know why, as I've put them in countless times before without a problem, including a 22 inch one in my Peony dress (twice), so a mere seven inch stripling should have been a doddle. After I'd unpicked it twice, I started to get seriously worried about the effect all the unpicking was having on the delicate lawn fabric.  So I made a very grown up decision to abandon an invisible zip and put in a plain centred one instead.  Problem solved and it looks fine.


Yes, it was a bit of a fiddle to get the top just right, but it's the perfect top for Emma and fits her like a glove. I'm happy to report she's worn it several times since I gave it to her.

Doesn't she look gorgeous?
As she pointed out, it's the only one like it in the entire world!!  I know everything we make is unique, but to be able to make somebody a birthday present that's both unique AND made-to-measure is pretty special.  

In other news, the sun well and truly came out today and I even got to wear my Parfait dress.  If you're thinking of making a sun dress, might I suggest this one? It's just perfect for sunny weather. The highlight of the day was getting my boat-phobic son to cross the river on a little ferry boat (wahay!)  Plus, the Olympic torch is coming through Ealing on Tuesday!!!! Are any other Londoners totally over excited about the Olympics? Or is it just me?! x 

56 comments:

  1. That top is beautiful. I really love the birdy fabric. Olympics? I will be away actually for the duration of the Olympics, so I am not really fussed about it. I think if I was going to be around in time for it I would have been mega excited. My husband's nephew who had cancer was a bearer of the torch when it went through Bishop Auckland, and I was very excited to be so close to the torch lol.

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    1. Thanks Dibs! How wonderful that your nephew got to carry the torch. x

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  2. Lovely top and the fabric is beautiful. Lucky Emma! The torch has been past where I live but I didn't see it - I'm not too fussed about the Olympics and I'll be staying well away from London whilst it's on. Yep, I'm a miserable so and so :-)

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    1. I'll be staying out of the centre of London too, I'll be getting my kicks through the power of TV! x

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  3. Oh, that is a wonderful print! It's so fresh and fun!

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    1. It is isn't it? And Emma loves birds too! x

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  4. What a lucky friend! I love that print! And well done on your drafting experiment!

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    1. Thanks! It was certainly an experiment! x

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  5. You gotta go into business, Lady. Terrific work!

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  6. Oh! Where did you get those lovely "Handmade by Jane" labels? What a lovely way to finish your garments! :-)

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    1. They're just school name tapes. I get mine from www.wovenlabelsuk.com in the school labels section. They're super cheap too so you can put them on everything! x

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  7. You are so sweet. Love the top, label, and your Parfait dress -- how did I miss that beautiful dress?! I can see you making more Parfaits dresses -- they fit you like a glove.

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    1. Thank you! The parfait is one of those lucky patterns that just happens to fit perfectly, so maybe I should make another one! x

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  8. I love the fabric! Fabulous top, worth all the effort!!

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    1. Thanks Gill, I think so too! x

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  9. Its a lovely top, great use of that pretty fabric. Emma must be chuffed to know she has entered the top friendship level of 'people you sew for' - i'm very selective with that too!

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    1. Oh yes, there's probably only about two people on my list! x

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  10. You've done a wonderful job Jane, and I'm sure one of her favourite parts is the "Handmade by Jane" label!

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    1. Thanks Sherry. I think she likes that part too! x

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  11. The top is lovely. Why is it when you sew for yourself there may be wailing, cursing and teeth grinding, but that's nothing compared to sewing for someone else. I get a complete case of nerves and I'm terrified that what I sew will fall apart as soon as it's washed or worn. Mercifully, neither has ever happened...

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    1. Oh I totally agree, sewing for somebody else is WAY more nerve wracking than sewing for yourself! My big scare was that it wouldn't fit, hopefully it will stay in one piece after it's washed...! x

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  12. That top is a triumph. She's a lucky girl and you're a good friend.

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    1. Aw thanks Evie! She's worth all the effort. x

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  13. Just gorgeous - how fab that you didn't even work from a pattern! What a lucky friend x

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    1. Thanks Nancy. Actually I'd have much preferred working from a pattern but Emma really liked her camisole shape and she was calling the shots! x

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  14. Lovely top Jane, it fits Emma perfectly! I really like your parfait dress too...I have this pattern but haven't got round to making it yet...however I think it just moved up my list! I don't live in London but regularly travel to my organisations London office...this is being avoided where possible during the Olympics! However I am quite looking forward to it...we have tickets to the paralymic athletics which should be fun. Didn't manage to get tickets for anything else though - not for lack of trying!!

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    1. Thanks Kat. We didn't even bother trying to get tickets, we're just going to be glued to the TV! Our friends have tickets to the Paralympics, they can't wait! x

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  15. Oh Jane, this top fits the gorgeous Emma like a glove! You did such a great job on this, I'm so impressed! Like you, I also think I could benefit from a (good) pattern cutting course...it would save so much time to know the basics! And your Parfait is lovely...tempting me to buy the pattern for myself ;o)

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    1. Thanks Marie and you should buy the parfait, I think it would really suit you! x

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  16. Delightful top! What incredible fabric! You have done it proud :)

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    1. Why thank you MrsC, I tried my best as it really is beautiful fabric. x

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  17. Jane, the simplest way to do tucks if you don't have a tucked pattern is to do the tucks *before* you cut it out. Looks fantastic, though!

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  18. Oh gawd!!!! WHY didn't I think of that??!! I could have saved myself hours! Thank you anyway, that's a great tip to keep up my sleeve. x

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    1. NP :). I figured it out when I was experimenting with double needle pintucks in preparation to do a Christening gown for my sister's new baby. I did a lot of tucks to try out a double needle, and then was faced with what to do with it--I hate waste, so I had to find a way to use it. This is what I ended up doing with the pintucked panel; a nightgown for my then two-year-old niece, Gracie.

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  19. You are a great friend. What an amazing top! See, THIS is what sewing is all about--making something totally gorgeous and unique. Absolutely adore it. And your Parfait is to die for. Double fab. Enjoy the Olympics festivities. I'm in England in spirit.

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  20. Oh that's just beautiful Jane - you are a great chum. I love the fabric choice - I was very tempted at the time to buy it but it's so expensive! Wishing I had now...
    I have been a bit bah humbug about the olympics but since getting the go ahead to work from home throughout I've suddenly become much more supportive. Go figure!

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    1. Oh that's great news about working from home, what a relief! Yes, it was expensive, which is why I chose to buy it for my tiny friend, I knew I'd be able to get away with just a metre! x

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  21. What a gorgeous top. That fabric is so so pretty. And the top looks great on her. Lucky friend!

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  22. PS- I am a SUPER fan of the Olympics since I was a wee small fry. I love everything about it. I think it's the athletic person in me trying to find it's way out!

    We have tickets for a few events and will be cheering on from home as well. I just hope I don't get stuck in the tube. That is truly my greatest fear.

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    1. Mine too! I'll be avoiding the tube like the plague (shudder)! x

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  23. Beautiful top - I can't believe you made it without a pattern! Emma must be delighted! The Olympic torch came pretty close to where I live in London I and I must admit I couldn't really be bothered to go out and see it. However, I am feeling an uncharacteristic amount of excitement about the whole thing - the atmosphere in London is going to be great!

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    1. Thank you! We saw the torch on Tuesday and it was pretty amazing, both me and my kids were beside ourselves with excitement! You're right, the atmosphere is going to be fab! x

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  24. That's really freaking cute and pretty!! I honestly didn't know how i felt about the fabric til i saw the top, and then i went 'wow... that works!!' very nice indeed!! ^___^

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    1. Thanks Amanda! I liked the fabric but couldn't really see it made into anything - it's the sort of fabric you just keep and stroke! It was Emma's idea to turn it into a camisole top. x

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  25. How adorable Jane, it looks perfect! It seems a huge achievement on many counts:
    1. Pattern drafting
    2. Made in less than a metre of out of print awesome fabric
    3. Fabric designed by Edwin Collins no less
    4. You'll be able to admire it more being worn by Emma
    5. Emma loves it and it fits like a dream
    6. Huge feel good to sew something for a friend ( that needs repeating cos I too am ms selfish when it comes to sewing)
    7. It's sunny so she'll be wearing it lots and others will surely admire your handiwork

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    1. Winnie this is why I love you to bits! Thank you for listing 7 awesome things about Emma's top, you're a sweetheart! x

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  26. Enjoy the Olympics. I loved it when the show came to Sydney. The bird top is just devine.

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  27. Your friend is a very lucky girl, well worth the wait ;) the fabric is lovely and isn't it odd how zips can be a right b*gger sometimes and easy other times. The fabric is really very, very nice. Lucky it's no longer available or I'd be tempted to buy some and I have too much stash waiting to be sown up as it is! Bethx

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  28. Jane, I love this .. What a sweetie you are, she really does look great and that fabric and style is beautiful!
    X

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  29. I really like that bird pattern on that top. Everything is so good about it.
    Crystal Bra Straps

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