Thursday 29 August 2013

More shirt dress inspiration

I appear to be more than a little bit obsessed with shirt dresses of late. No really, way too much of my spare time is spent browsing Pinterest and Etsy for shirt dress inspiration. There's just something about the simplicity of the design that is so satisfying - a shirt and a dress in one easy package - huzzah! Even the multitude of buttons and buttonholes doesn't put me off - in fact it fuels my enthusiasm and gives me an excuse to go button hunting.  I had a lot of fun trawling through (mostly vintage) shirt dress patterns last year. This year I've been bewitched by even more patterns, all modern ones, which is quite interesting. I seem to discover a new one every day, each one more wonderful than the last. 

A denim shirt dress is quite near the top of my autumn/winter sewing list. I've got all kinds of pictures in my head of a denim shirt dress, coloured tights and knee boots. So in an effort to try and make up my mind, as well as an excuse to sigh over them all again, I thought I'd do a round up for you:

The full skirted Hawthorn shirt dress is the latest release from Colette Patterns and there have been some gorgeous versions doing the rounds. My favourites being Marie's Neolithic version 

Just look at those lady swimmers creating a chevron effect!

The only question mark hanging over this pattern for me is the collar, which is why I haven't bought the pattern yet. It just seems so small and mean and a bit lost. If I made it. I'd be very tempted to increase the collar size and allow it to shine a bit more.

Next up is the Sally Dress by Serendipity Studio - this is a pattern I own but haven't yet made. 

The dress is given shaping by a series of pleats around the waist area which you can see in more detail in the left hand picture above. I actually have a shop bought shirt dress with this feature and it's surprisingly flattering. My RTW dress is made from a stretch cotton and I think this would be a good choice for this pattern. Hmm, maybe stretch denim? 

Another new pattern that caught my eye was the Edith pattern by Maria Denmark

I first saw the shirt version on Dotty Doodle's blog and was immediately taken by the kimono sleeves. After investigating further, I discovered the pattern was also for a shirt dress. Sold. I might just copy Maria Denmark's example and make a denim version with red buttons. Yes! 

I've also got the Deer and Doe Bleuet pattern which I won in a giveaway on Paunnet's blog. I naively thought my O Level French would see me through the instructions, which on my copy are only in French, but sadly this wasn't the case. An English language version is now available but I can't justify buying another copy. Maybe I just need to sit down with a stiff drink and Google Translate at the ready and plough through the instructions? 

Paunnet has made a beautiful version of the dress, but she does point out that it was time consuming to make as it's an advanced level pattern, so maybe I need to think about it. I do love all the details though, especially the darling little bow on the back!

Finally, my absolute favourite shirt dress of recent times and probably my favourite dress of the summer has to be this one made by Clare from Sew Dixie Lou. 

The pattern is McCalls 6696 and it can be made up in all kinds of different combinations.  She made the sleeveless version with a pleated skirt and I have to say, when I saw the photos on her blog I nearly passed out! Absolutely GORGEOUS! AND she gets to be in a pic with the king. Not fair! 

So that's my list. They're all contenders, any favourites amongst them? Or other shirt dress patterns I need to know about?  Happy Thursday. x

Friday 23 August 2013

Simplicity sundress

I'm really thrilled to share my newest creation with you today as it's my first project for the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network

When the UK finally started enjoying some proper sunshine this year, I realised there was a sundress-shaped gap in my wardrobe. By sundress, I mean something light with straps to keep you cool in the boiling sun. I have one dress of that description - my Colette Patterns Parfait - which is a fabulous workhorse of a dress, but I fancied a change in style. I'd pinned this lovely fifties vintage dress to Pinterest as inspiration and although I knew I didn't want the skirt on mine to be as full, I really wanted to recreate the neat, fitted bodice and contrast white bodice band. 

To do this I chose Simplicity 2176, which as sundress patterns go, is about as traditional as they come. It has a lovely, princess seamed bodice, a pleated skirt and endless strap combinations. As I outlined in this post, I'm not a natural wearer of pleats and thought long and hard about whether to include them or not. In the end I decided to just go for it and embrace the old fashioned look of the pattern.

As it's a warm weather dress, I chose a linen-look cotton in Royal Blue from Minerva Crafts. This fabric is fab: it's 100% cotton, drapes beautifully and has the look and feel of linen without all the tiresome creases. I underlined it to make it a bit more opaque using white silk cotton, and used white piqué fabric for the outer bodice band, both from my stash. I love the contrast of colours, they just look so fresh together.

There were no nasty surprises lurking in the instruction sheet and it all came together without incident - a lovely, easy make. Accustomed as I am to Simplicity patterns having way too much ease in them. I cut a size 12. Annoyingly, this pattern seems to be pretty true to its measurements and the bodice ended up a bit tight. Grrr! I reduced the side seam allowances which makes it a lot more comfortable to wear, but the bodice rides a bit higher than my natural waist because my boobs take up too much space! It's my own fault for being so lazy in the first place and not making a muslin - next time I'll definitely need to do a FBA! It's totally wearable as it is though and although I'm still getting used to the look of the pleats I do like them.  

Because of the pleats and neat bodice, this dress feels very ladylike - I should be wearing it with proper heels and gloves. In real life, I'll probably wear it with flip flops or wedges. Anyway, mission accomplished and I now have a sundress to add to my summer wardrobe.

If you fancy making your own sundress, Minerva Crafts have put together a great kit which you can purchase here. The kit comprises a copy of Simplicity 2176, two metres of Royal Blue linen-look cotton, matching thread and a 14 inch dress zip. Happy sewing! 

The kit was given to me free of charge as part of the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network. All views my own.

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Tutorial: attaching a collar and facings to a shirt dress

It's been a long time coming, but here it is at last: a tutorial for attaching the collar and facings to a shirt dress. The tutorial is specific to McCall's 4769, but the basic principles of it could probably be applied to any notched collar pattern.

There are two steps to the original instructions that are really confusing. The first time I made the dress, I muddled through, then wiped the experience from my memory (a bit like having a baby). Which is why I was back the next year, ready to make another one (again, a bit like having a baby!) It was only because A Girl in Winter had specifically asked for a tutorial on these steps that I paid so much attention. And then when I did, my brain started to hurt. Yes, it does take a while to get your head round it from the instructions alone, which is why I'm hoping that the trillions of photos in this tutorial will help make the process a little clearer.

I took photos of each step as I was making the dress, but when I came to write the tutorial, one section really wasn't clear enough for my liking (not helped by choosing a busy rose print for fabric…) So I've made a mock-up of that particular section in calico to demonstrate it a bit more clearly. Please note that the mock up hasn't got a front button band attached to the bodice, which you would have already done at this stage when making your own dress. Right, let's go. 

Preparing collar and facing pieces

First you need to prepare your collar and facing pieces as indicated on the pattern, which for the collar is as follows:

Sew a small line of reinforcing stitches through the marked triangles on the interfaced collar piece and press under ⅝" between the two triangles.

Stitch the two collar sections together along the untouched edges to dots.

Trim seam allowances right down.

Turn right side out and press well.

Now baste the raw edges together from the dot shown, to the turned under section on each side of the collar.

Right, that's the collar pieces prepared, now for the facing pieces which should be prepared as follows:
  • Sew the lower facing to the upper facing at short edges to make an extra long facing.
  • Sew reinforcing stitches through the small circles at a right angle as shown and clip to the circle. Stupidly I hadn't yet clipped my facing piece when I took the photo and only realised when it was too late!
  • Press under ⅝" at the shoulder.
  • Finish the long, untouched edges of the facing (I overlocked mine).
There should be a clip towards the middle of those reinforcing stitches

You should also have reinforced your front bodice piece where shown and clipped it up to the circle/reinforcing stitches (VERY IMPORTANT POINT)

Attaching the collar
Right, now you're ready to attach your collar pieces to your dress. Lay the dress out right side facing you. What we're aiming to do is align the circle on your collar piece (which is basically where the stitches turn a corner) with the reinforced point on your bodice front. The picture below shows the two points that need to be aligned.  

Orange circle on the collar about to be laid on top of the reinforced point on the bodice

Here's a back view of the two pieces once they're pinned (I couldn't show it from the front as they're basically on top of each other). See how the clip allows the pattern piece to almost turn a corner? 

...and a front view of it pinned
You'll find there's a large fold of fabric near that corner point behind the pins, try to hold this out of the way whilst you pin. 

Before you sew, check behind the collar to make sure you haven't inadvertently pinned some extra fabric.

Then stitch from the edge of the collar up to the turned under section, repeating the process on the other side. Make sure you sew just underneath the basting stitches so they don't show through on the right side.

Actual stitches in red, basting stitches in cream

View from the other side, notice how the stitches go just around the big fold of fabric?

And the view from underneath the collar, barely a pucker to be seen!

Attaching the facing pieces
That's the first horrible bit over with, you're nearly there! Next, you need to pin each facing piece to the dress, starting at the hem and working your way up, matching notches as you go. You now have a similar situation to when you were attaching the collar: you need to turn a corner and avoid a large fold of fabric in the process.

In the top photo I'm holding down the fold of fabric you need to avoid, which you can see in the bottom photo. Here's a closer look. 

Once again, you need to use the clipped section to allow you to turn the corner and remember to hold that fold of fabric out of the way whilst you're pinning. Then stitch right around the area you've pinned. Start at one hem edge, pivot at the corners and continue along the back neck edge, keeping the pressed under edge of the collar free. Also ensure the folds of fabric at the the top corners are kept free of your line of stitches. 

Stitched side of facing (this photo shows the opposite side from the one above, sorry)
View from the bodice side - the fold of fabric pulls away from the stitches without puckering

Clip any corners and trim seam allowances, pressing seam allowances towards the collar. Turn the facing to the inside and press.

Inside view of facing attached to collar
View from underside of collar. Don't worry if there are a few puckers, nobody will see them once the collar's turned down!

Slipstitch the facing to the shoulder seam and along the pressed under edge of the collar as shown below.

And that's it, you've done it! It was a slightly tricky process, but you got there in the end. There's just one final thing to do: go and pour yourself a large drink! Cheers! 

This tutorial is dedicated to the readers who contacted me saying they haven't been able to finish their McCall's 4769 because of the rubbish collar and facing instructions. I very much hope this tutorial helps you to finish your beautiful dresses and wear them with pride! x

Friday 9 August 2013

"I'm a star in New York, I'm a star in LA…"

…well, not quite, but the fame is definitely going to my head. What fame? Oh, just the simple matter of me being the featured blogger in Sew Magazine's "Blog of the Month" slot!!! YES!!!!! My blog is featured in a national magazine!!

Way back in February I was contacted by Sew Magazine asking if they could feature me in their regular "Blog of the Month" slot. You can't imagine how thrilled and flattered I was to be asked! The fact that they'd found my blog and liked it enough to want to feature it really meant a lot to me.

They chose a few pictures from my blog and asked me to answer a few questions. Months went by and last week they finally confirmed I would be featured in the September issue, which is out today. I'm particularly pleased to be featured in this issue as it's their Vintage issue - hoorah! 

And it's a pretty good read this month, even if I am biased! There are interviews with Pearl Lowe and Cath Kidston (I'm in the same issue as Cath Kidston!!), a free Simplicity cushion pattern (endlessly useful), tons of links to vintage-style fabrics and notions and great tips on how to sew your own retro swimwear. Tons more information can be found on their website:

It's a real privilege to have been featured - thank you Sew Magazine! I'm going to enjoy every single one of my fifteen minutes of fame! x

Sunday 4 August 2013

Gingham tie-front blouse

Behold, my second make from Butterick B5895, (my first being the stretch denim Capris). This is a fifties-style tie front blouse with kimono sleeves and some lovely details such as French darts and a cross over collar at the back. Extra shape is given to the bodice by the tie front which clinches in the waist and immediately gives you a more fitted appearance. It's also a lovely, cool style to wear in hot weather.

The one hiccup I had with this pattern was attaching the collar and facing. I won't lie, it was an absolute bugger of a job, not helped by the brevity of the instructions. The underside of the collar still doesn't sit perfectly smoothly but hey, Elvis style collars are just the best for hiding all kinds of puckered seams and other unspeakable horrors. Despite this, I still think this is a pattern I'll be returning to again - next time I'll come prepared for full on combat with the collar!

I sewed a size 12 and the only change I made to the pattern was to lengthen the section above the tie front by an inch. This was because I'd read a few reviews lamenting the fact that the blouse ended up very short. There's a strange note on the pattern saying "No provisions provided for above waist adjustment" (why?), so I had to take a stab at where to add my lengthening line on the front, back and facing pieces. I decided on below the sleeve curve, just above the last buttonhole, which meant I had to re-draw the French darts as well. It's still pretty short, but with a high waisted bottom half, this shouldn't really present a problem. And if, like me, you veer towards vintage styles in your handmade wardrobe, you'll probably find quite a lot of high waisted bottom halves lurking inside. Go and have a look, you may be pleasantly surprised! Here's what I can team it with:

Stretch denim Capris...

Beignet skirts (I have two, both in plain colours), Kelly skirt and Ginger skirts (one denim, one red).

Teaming this blouse with my red Ginger skirt was the surprise hit of the day. I don't actually wear it that much (the crepe fabric's a bit weird to the touch) but after trying it on for my mammoth blouse-matching session, I wore it all day. 

High glamour down at the allotment wearing flip flops...

...and picking cherries!

A tie front blouse and a high waist are a great pairing: all the trimness you'd expect from being tucked in, but without any of the hassle.

My only regret with this make is my choice of buttons. I'd set my heart on some in-your-face ginormous buttons, but I actually think these may be a bit too big. In order to accommodate them, the buttonholes ended up about a foot wide (I really didn't think that buttonhole foot was ever going to turn the corner!) And because they're so big, they're closer together than I would have liked. They look nice and vintage-y though and they certainly won't put me off wearing it. 

The fabric I used was some of the turquoise gingham from my gingham bounty. It's quite thin, so I had to use a good quality interfacing to give the collar and tie some structure. I just love this shade of turquoise though, so don't be surprised if you see me sporting at least two turquoise gingham dresses next summer. I'm leaning towards Simplicity 2444, mainly because of this outstanding gingham version made by Roisin. It's even called the Oh Jane! dress after me! 

Any other pattern suggestions for Jane-friendly gingham dresses would be very gratefully received. Enjoy your day. x

Thursday 1 August 2013

Minerva Blogging Network

You may have seen on a couple of other sewing blogs that the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network has just officially launched. Yippee! And I'm very excited to confirm that I'm one of the bloggers in the network! 

The way the Blogger Network works is that every month we're each given a generous budget and are allowed to choose whatever we like from the 1000's of craft products on the Minerva Crafts website. Sound good? Yes, I thought so too! We then have to create our projects each month which are shared on the Minerva Blogger Network site, on our own blogs and on the Minerva craft community website Look What I've Made.  Whatever we choose for our projects each month is also made up into little kits which are available to purchase. 

And just look at the company I'm in!! 

The other bloggers are:
Anna from Paunnet
Clare from Sew Dixie Lou
Kathryn from Yes I Made That
Rachel from House of Pinheiro
Shivani from Pins and Needles 
and last but not least... Winnie from Scruffy Badger Time!

It's such a wonderful concept, I'm really flattered and delighted to be part of this network at the start. The best bit is that we really can make whatever we like. So even though this will be a great opportunity to acquire a few patterns from my wish list and sew them up, I've also got a couple of craft projects up my sleeve, along with a tutorial for a super easy item of clothing.  Look out for my first post which goes live on Friday 23rd August where I'll be making a weather appropriate sundress!

Thank you so much Minerva Crafts for inviting me to be part of such an exciting challenge. And thank you also to Rachel from House of Pinheiro who helped mastermind the whole thing. Is there anything that woman can't do? Answer: no!

I promise my next post will involve gingham! x 


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