Monday 28 July 2014

The Anna 6696 dress

There's something about blue linen as a colour/fabric combination that I just can't seem to resist. This particular pairing works perfectly for summer: it's classic, it's chic and, more importantly, it's cool. I succumbed twice last year with my Anna dress in a linen/rayon mix, closely followed by my Simplicity sundress in linen look cotton…. and I've just succumbed again! 

The fabric I used this time was a linen-cotton blend (55% linen, 45% cotton) from Backstitch. It's one of their new summer dressmaking fabrics and was kindly sent to me by Alice to review. I'd originally planned to use the fabric for a different pattern, but there were too many fit issues involved, and with the school holidays fast approaching, I was rapidly running out of time to fix them. I needed a blue linen dress I could wear in the sunshine. NOW!  As is often the case with me, I saw the perfect dress on Pinterest - a lovely casual, chambray dress with pockets. 

The dress originally featured on this post on lifestyle blog A Cup of Jo and on further investigation I discovered it was the model's own and a few years old to boot. Ah well, I'd just have to make my own version!

I did this by marrying the bodice of the By Hand London Anna dress with the skirt of McCall's 6696 shirt dress. The Anna dress has tucks under the bust rather than a gathered bodice waistline, which I felt would be more flattering to my shape. The skirt and waistband of McCall's 6696 is exactly the right shape, but the pattern is for a shirt dress with buttons up the centre front, so I had to fiddle with the pattern pieces a bit. I cut the front piece on the fold and added a tiny amount of width. I then did the reverse for the back pieces (cutting two pieces instead of one) to allow for a zip. 

The Anna bodice is much more fitted than the McCall's bodice however, and this, coupled with my dreadful maths, meant things didn't quite line up the first time round. A few unorthodox gathers had to be added to the skirt section, but because they're below the waistband, they're actually quite flattering and make the dress really comfortable to wear.  

The only change I made to the bodice from last time was a back neckline adjustment, (thank you Sonja at Ginger Makes for the splendid tutorial!) I also took an identical wedge out of the front bodice. I redrafted the facings, which are cut from some scraps of amazing Liberty fabric that reader Nathalie sent me as part of a bag of offcuts. There were some great pieces in the bag (the facings from my sailor shorts were one), but the real gem was a remnant of Cranford, a fabric designed for Liberty by Grayson Perry a few years ago. 

I LOVE IT and the background just happens to be the exact shade of blue as the linen-cotton. I also used some of the Grayson Perry fabric for the insides of the pockets (but forgot to take photos - soz).

Grayson Perry facings - look at those little faces!

The linen-cotton fabric is excellent quality, but like all linens, it's a bit of a pain to work with as it sheds so many fibres. It's medium weight, which I naively thought would make it less transparent. Not so - I could probably get away with it on holiday, but need to wear a slip with it when walking around London. With hindsight, I should probably have lined or underlined the dress, it's no big tragedy though. I love the finished look of the dress and how close the colour (Moonlight if you're interested) is to the original inspiration photo.

Talking of which, I don't have a flower market nearby to replicate the original image, but I do have the next best thing - an allotment! Unfortunately, I looked hideous in most of the photos we took there, but I'll leave you with a couple of outtakes with my gorgeous Charlie. Despite my best efforts, he flatly refused to pose for a photo!  x

Glamour amongst the cannellini beans


Fabric was given to me free of charge for review. All views my own.

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?! They also stock the same fabric in a red or a blue colour way, which you can see here - 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!

The Mortmain pattern was given to me free of charge for review. All views my own.

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


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