Monday 28 December 2015

My sewing in 2015

Helloo! I hope you've all had a wonderful few days and that Father Christmas aced it with the presents this year. I'm still in recovery from the annual turkey overdose, so decided to take the opportunity to look back at the past year on the blog before the next onslaught of pies….

On the dressmaking front, my boiled wool coat was probably my most successful garment of 2015. 

There are a few things I'd do differently if I was given my time again, but overall it's been a huge success and has had a LOT of wears. Other garments that have been worn to death this year include my Barkcloth Skirt

Walkley Top (a surprise hit). 

In fact everything I've made this year has been worn, proving that I'm finally getting better at diagnosing which wardrobe gaps actually need to be filled!

I had the pleasure of seeing two of my favourite gents guest starring on my blog this year. My pal Joe and his beautiful Liberty print ties proved to be a big hit (here and here). 

He's still optimistic about sewing his own seven-fold-tie, so look out for a re-appearance next year. My son Louis also popped up, proving he's a chip off the old block by sewing his own waistcoat. He's a genius I tell you!

On the blog front, I was very, VERY proud and delighted that my blog was nominated for Best Sewing Blog in the Sew Magazine British Sewing Awards 2015. I still can't quite believe that one, thank you again to everybody who took the time to vote for me! I also wrote two new tutorials which were published in Love Sewing Magazine - one for a Chequerboard Baby Blanket 

and one for a Tooth Fairy Cushion

The project that took the longest time and energy this year was without doubt making a memory quilt for my Aunty. I was a bit wrung out after it was finished to be honest, but I'm so glad I did it as I know it brings her a lot of comfort.

2015 was also the year I joined the 21st century and opened an Instagram account - I'm @janemarland if you're interested! I surprised myself by how quickly I got used to it (much quicker than Twitter, which I still struggle with to be honest). 

Apparently these were my nine most popular Instagram pictures this year
Instagram won't replace blogging for me because I still love reading sewing blogs and writing my own, but it's a satisfying quick fix in the meantime. I've also discovered lots of new sewing bloggers to follow which can only be a good thing.

All in all it's been a fab year, probably my best dressmaking year to date. So thank you to everybody who has followed along, commented on the blog and offered advice and feedback, it's all very much appreciated. Here's to another happy sewing year in 2016! x

Thursday 17 December 2015

Christmas Joan Dress

Four years ago I made myself a fitted red dress with a tie neck, heavily influenced by the lovely Joan from Mad Men. That dress has been a real success. It's made from double knit, so as well as being warm, it has a handy amount of stretch to accommodate festive eating marathons. Alas, it's now gone slightly bobbly and is a bit past its best so I needed to replace it. And what better pattern to use than Sew Over It's very own Joan Dress! It has just the right amount of festive dressiness and fifties glamour and was actually inspired by the beautiful Miss Holloway herself - perfect!

For fabric, I applied the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' philosophy and went for red again. I picked up some posh double crepe at a recent John Lewis fabric sale, which at £11 a metre was an absolute bargain for such lovely quality fabric. For the lining I kept it simple and used a plain red poly viscose from Goldhawk Road. The girls at Sew Over It had kindly sent me a copy of the Joan pattern when it first came out so I was ready to rock.

Having read on a couple of reviews that the finished dress was very fitted, I decided to err on the side of caution and cut a size 12. Big mistake. Once it was sewn up the dress was way too roomy - it was wearable but just didn't have the oomph that comes with a closer fit. Doh! I did actually compare the pattern pieces to my bodice block pieces beforehand and they were pretty similar, so I think it may had been something to do with the fabric which has a bit of stretch to it. Never mind, a bit of unpicking* and re-sewing of seams later and it finally fitted correctly. Not too skin tight (I need to be able to stuff my face in it and pick things up off the floor remember!) but just right. *This is a slight euphemism - it actually took an entire day. 

Apart from the cock up with sizing, the only other changes I made to the pattern were to shorten the skirt by two inches and reduce the height of the back kick pleat by another two inches. I'm a shortie (5'2") but even if I was normal height I'd still have been in grave danger of flashing my arse. That split comes up very high! I'd recommend taking a few leg measurements beforehand.

The dress is fully lined (including sleeves) so it took me a loooong time to cut everything out and mark all the pattern pieces up. I then spent a whole afternoon on the sofa when my son was ill, pinning the darts ready for sewing. Including the outer dress and lining this adds up to a LOT of darts - 20 in fact! It was worth the tedium though, I think the darts are what gives the dress its fabulous fifties shape.

The pattern instructions were easy to work from and I had no problem following them. For trickier steps such as attaching the tie collar and sewing the back kick pleat, there are additional tutorials on the Sew Over It blog. One good thing about the pattern is that all the seams are hidden inside the lining, which means you don't have to finish them if you don't want to, hoorah! It gives the dress a very neat, professional finish - in fact this is probably the most polished looking dress I've ever made. The picture below shows the dress inside out, apart from the hem being visible, it's almost wearable!

View of the lining
It's not a quick sew by any stretch of the imagination (there's quite a bit of hand sewing), but it's definitely a pattern to consider for a special occasion. The fabric, the lining, the design and the finishing details all add up to a very smart dress! I'm delighted with it and I think it will be perfect for the festive season. x

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

Saturday 5 December 2015

Badger and Earl Sewathon

This was me exactly a week ago - sewing, sewing, sewing all day long with Rachel from House of Pinheiro, Alex from Sewrendipity and Elisalex from By Hand London. Ah I love my life! We were the guests of Badger and Earl - my fave West London sewing and craft cafe - and were taking part in their first ever Sewathon! Each of us was asked to choose fabric and a pattern from the shop then given the challenge of sewing it up in a day. Challenge accepted!

Ready for the off - must remember not to stand next to Rachel in future!
What a fab day we had! We were given as much tea and cake as we wanted, then left to sew dresses and indulge in sewing talk all day, bliss! It was also a really nice change to be sewing somewhere new and to be with doing it with other stitchers. I sometimes forget that the actual art of sewing is a very solitary activity! 

I'm not very good at sewing against the clock (which is why you'll never see me on the Sewing Bee) so I chose a pattern I knew well - the Mortmain dress by Gather. I've made it twice before (here and here) and have also taught it as a class at Badger and Earl, so I knew exactly what I was doing! I just finished it by the end of the day. If I'd been on my own it would have only taken me a couple of hours, but I was in a room with some world famous chatterboxes so I didn't stand a chance!

Sewing the hem...
Almost there, just the armholes to finish
And here's the dress once I got it home and gave it a press. The neckline is finished with a facing but I finished the armholes with contrast navy bias binding (that was Rachel's idea!)

I also pleated the skirt from the right side for a softer look.

Yes, it's totally inappropriate for winter but I think it will be a perfect dress for the warmer months. I like how it looks like a separate top and skirt as well as a dress! As my flesh is currently a fetching shade of winter blue, I thought I'd spare you a shot of me wearing it. But here we are with our finished dresses, all looking mighty pleased with ourselves. 

Rachel made a Deer and Doe Bruyere Shirt, lengthened into a dress with some beautiful printed canvas. Alex made a very cool Tilly and the Buttons Bettine dress with some blue linen. She used the scraps from my polka dot skirt for her pockets and sleeve cuffs! Elisalex had to leave early, so sadly wasn't there for the final dress parade. They'll be blogging about their own particular Sewathon makes soon though, so keep an eye out.

Thank you so much to Charlotte and Sophie of Badger and Earl for hosting. And to my sewing partners in crime Rachel, Alex and Elisalex for making it such a fun day. Let's hope it's the first of many more Sewathons to come! x 

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Christmas Gift Ideas for those who sew

I don't think there's anything more pleasurable than putting together a wish list of sewing goodies. These are my own personal favourites, just in case Father Christmas is reading….

First and foremost and absolutely top of my list are these exquisite Turned Wooden Pincushions from Beyond Measure.

Aren't they just perfect?!
I only recently discovered Grace's online shop and have been blown away by her hand picked selection of 'beautiful things for folks who make'. Confession time, I was so terrified that they would sell out before my husband Father Christmas ordered them, I bought two myself. A large blue one for regular pins and a smaller, red one for fine pins.

I had to physically restrain myself from buying a couple of Leather Pumice Pincushions too.

These are made from bridle leather and hand stitched in Lancashire. You can read more about the process behind the making of them here. They're also filled with pumice powder to keep your pins and needles sharp!

After seeing Karen's video on How to Use a Clapper, I've decided I can't possibly live without one. This tulip wood clapper from English Couture Company comes highly recommended.

Oooh look scissors, in ALL the colours! Co-ordinate your scissors with your outfit with these hand crafted eight-inch dressmaking shears from Ernest Wright and Son. They even offer a re-sharpening facility, hoorah. 

Show the world your passion for stitching with some sewing themed jewellery. I've fallen hard for these vintage fabric button earrings, mounted as sterling silver studs, aren't they darling?! Happily, there's 10% discount off all jewellery purchased from Beyond Measure until 13th December, just use the code Jewel10

Or you could finish off your outfit with a cute scissor badge. Available in green or black perspex or cherry wood veneer.

I've been intrigued by the Now and Then range of vintage-inspired patterns ever since I first read about them. The Clara Bow Blouse is my personal favourite. Just saying.

And finally, a Maker's Workbook to record all your sewing projects, list your fabric stash and note down any pattern adjustments for next time. 

I'll admit, I already have a similar notebook, but I'm totally fickle and this one is easier on the eye! Plus it's A5 size and you can stick it in your bag when you go fabric shopping... It's made by the Swedish Tracing Paper Shop so you can get 10% off with the code JANE. 

I hope this has given you a few gift ideas, either for yourself or if you're buying for others who sew. Right, I'm off to email this list directly to my husband!  Happy Tuesday! x

Friday 27 November 2015

Liberty Sophia Top

This pattern was a free gift with Love Sewing magazine a couple of issues back (Issue 19 to be precise). I'm dreadful at utilising free patterns from sewing magazines, but this one caught my eye - I liked the shape and it looked like it would work as a smart top to wear with jeans.

The top is a simple design, just front and back pieces cut on the fold with cap sleeves - it looked like it would be a speedy sew. In fairness, the actual sewing of the top didn't take long at all, it was the fitting that seemed to take thousands of years. I lengthened the front and back pieces by 5" as it's more of a cropped style in its original incarnation. Size wise I cut a size 14 at the bust and a size 10 everywhere else. My first muslin (yes, there were more than one!) showed that the front and back necklines were quite baggy and there was a lot of gaping at the armholes, I removed ⅝"from the front neckline and ⅜" from the back neckline which solved the neckline issue but the gaping armholes weren't so easy to remedy.

I tried to make a dart pivot adjustment (explained very clearly here) but just couldn't get it to work. I even cut a size smaller at the bust to see if that made any difference but if anything it seemed to accentuate the problem! In the end I added two armhole darts - not my finest fitting hour, but by this point I was past caring. They blend right into the fabric anyway and you hardly notice them. I got there in the end and I now have a sweet little going-out top, but crikey, what a rigmarole.

Onto the fabric… Will from Abakhan contacted me this week asking if I'd like to make something from one of the new Liberty Lawns they've just started stocking. Liberty Tana Lawn is my absolute favourite fabric to work with, so I gladly accepted his offer. The one I eventually settled on was a bit of a surprising choice for me - A Boy Dreams in green, designed by Graham Coxon from Blur for the Liberty Rocks collection. At first glance it looks like a plain, dark green fabric, but get a bit closer...  look, little kissing faces!

It's very plain and you wouldn't really know it was Liberty fabric unless you were in the know. I do like it though, and as is always the case with me, a plain top provides a perfect backdrop for a big, mad necklace!

...and accompanying big, mad face
The Graham Coxon print seems to have already sold out, but it's still worth hot footing it over to Abakhan to take a peek at the other Tana Lawn Prints in stock. They're currently half price (usual price £22.50), which is the bargain of the century!  Better hurry though, once they're gone, they're gone! Have a great weekend. x

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

Sunday 22 November 2015

Swedish Tracing Paper - review and discount

Let's talk about Swedish Tracing Paper! I've heard lots about it but never actually worked with it, so when I was asked if I'd like to review it recently, I was keen as mustard! I know lots of sewists trace patterns as standard to preserve the original, but I'm not one of them. If I'm really not sure of the fit then yes, I'll trace it, but if I can avoid doing so, I will. Which is why I've only just got round to trying it out (it was sent to me in September…)

The company who produce it in the UK - The Swedish Tracing Paper Shop - describe it as 'a soft and translucent paper, resistant to tear but easy to see through, making it ideal for copying the detail from existing patterns.' It's also described as being suitable for making toiles as it's relatively strong and can be sewn. I needed to blend a pattern between sizes and make a toile, so thought I'd put it to the test for both uses.

The appearance of Swedish Tracing Paper is a bit like interfacing, but because it's a paper rather than a fabric its texture is stiffer. It's very easy to draw on and mark with pencil and I could see through it perfectly to trace my pattern.

Even though it comes on a roll, it still lies nice and flat. The pattern I was tracing was a relatively simple design, so I didn't even bother with pattern weights. You might need to weigh it down though if you were tracing a pattern with lots of markings or darts on it.

Later that day I traced a second version of the bodice piece and made a couple of adjustments at the neck and bust. There was a fair bit of sellotape involved and the Swedish Tracing Paper didn't tear once. Impressive!

When I came to sew the pattern pieces together to make my toile, I found its paperiness was a disadvantage. It doesn't have the drape of a fabric (or even an interfacing) so crumpled like mad during its stint at the sewing machine. Here's what it looked like after I'd sewn the front and back together.

It presses well though, I used a low setting on my iron and the creases came out immediately.

The material is strong enough to take stitches, but because it's paper there's absolutely no give. I noticed this particularly when I tried the toile on. The pattern I used wasn't an especially fitted design, but I found it impossible to get it over my head without ripping it. The lack of drape wasn't helpful in determining the fit either. I don't think it's similar enough to fabric to give a true idea of how a finished garment would look.

My toile -  after it was tried on
My conclusion is that for tracing pattern pieces Swedish Tracing Paper is excellent. It has good transparency, lies flat, is easy to draw on and easy to apply tape to - I'm a convert! As a material for making a toile with, not so impressive  - I probably won't use it for that purpose again.  I'm glad I put it to the test though!

If you fancy trying Swedish Tracing Paper out for yourself, you can claim 10% off by using the code JANE here. Happy Sunday! x

A roll of Swedish Tracing Paper was given to me free of charge for review. All views my own. 

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Faux Fur Scarf Tutorial

For instant warmth and chic, you can't go wrong with a faux fur scarf. They immediately add glamour to an outfit and they keep your neck warm at the same time! They're also super easy to make, so today I've put together a quick tutorial. 

The majority of faux fur scarves in the shops are black or brown, but I decided to go for a silvery grey, with a royal blue satin lining, just to be different. The fur is a lovely neutral shade and will go with everything. Both fabrics are from Weaver Dee, who stock a great selection of colours for each type of fabric (faux fur here and satin here). 

Before we start I should point out two things I discovered whilst working with faux fur.

1. Once you cut it, faux fur goes everywhere, so have a dustpan and brush handy to keep all that fur and fluff under control.

2. The combination of faux fur and satin is hellish in terms of shifting around. I'd highly recommend a walking foot if you have one and use lots and lots of pins! 

Faux Fur Scarf Tutorial
You will need:
½ metre faux fur
½ metre satin for lining

1. Cut two rectangles, one from the faux fur and one from the satin, each measuring 10" wide x 59" long. I based this measurement on the full width of the satin.

2.  Pin the rectangles right sides together. Don't forget to use lots of pins to stop the fabrics shifting.

3. Using a ½" seam allowance, sew all the way round each side, leaving a turning gap of about 6" along one short edge.  

4. Snip the corners diagonally and trim down the seam allowances of the fur by half to reduce bulk.  Your scarf will be looking a bit of a mess at this point, with fur everywhere, but have faith!

5. Turn the scarf the right way round through the turning gap. Poke the corners out gently using the end of a paintbrush or similar.

6. Press carefully using a low heat setting and a pressing cloth if needed. Make sure the seam allowance in the turning gap is pressed under too. 

7. Hand sew the turning gap closed.

Ta-da, you've made a gorgeous faux fur scarf!

I think these scarves would make wonderful Christmas gifts. The satin and faux fur gives them a luxurious feel and there's no tricky fitting - one size fits all!

I hope this tutorial is useful and if anything doesn't make sense, please shout! If you do make your own scarf, I'd love it if you sent me a link. Happy sewing!  x

The fabrics for this tutorial were kindly provided by Weaver Dee


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