Monday 30 March 2015

Spring Liberty Giveaway

It looks like spring has finally sprung, so to celebrate the longer evenings and warmer days I'm running a spring giveaway, woohoo!! And what could be more suited to spring sewing than Liberty fabric? Not much, quite frankly!  Susan from Sewbox is very kindly offering one metre of any of the Liberty fabrics she stocks to one lucky winner. Here are just a few of my favourites to whet your appetite….

Danjo - Tana Lawn
Bloomsbury Collection - Dance A: Liberty Lifestyle Cotton
Bloomsbury Collection - Leonard B: Liberty Lifestyle Cotton
Stile Collection- Cranston A: Liberty Lifestyle Cotton
Queue for the Zoo - Tana Lawn 
Jack and Charlie - Rossmore Cord
Sophie Jane - Lantana Cotton/Wool Blend

To enter, just leave a comment on this post telling me which Liberty fabric from Sewbox you'd choose if you're the winner. The full range can be found here. The giveaway is open worldwide and closes at midnight GMT on Monday 6th April. The winner will be chosen at random.  Please make sure you leave your email address if it's not linked to your Blogger profile so I can contact you if you're the winner.

Good luck everybody! x

Thursday 26 March 2015

One Seam Skirt Explained

After last week's post on the 1950's one seam skirt pattern, I received several comments and emails from readers all intrigued to know how such a skirt is put together. So I've written a post about it. with photos of the pattern pieces and a few crazy reconstructions. Interested? Then read on! 

The pattern is this one - Simplicity 3983 from 1952 - which I bought immediately after seeing Kerry's first version a couple of years ago (she's made a couple more since then too!) The pattern has one main skirt piece which is cut on the fold. The other pattern pieces are a waistband and two-piece hip pockets.  The skirt has no side seams, so hip/bum shaping is given by the two darts on either side of the centre back seam.

For the purposes of this step-by-step, I've made up a teeny, tiny skirt to demonstrate how the pieces go together. I haven't scaled down the pieces perfectly, but it will give you a good idea of how the skirt is constructed. The elf-sized skirt is made up without a waistband (I couldn't be bothered to add one if you must know) but the original skirt does have one.

Main pattern pieces: skirt front/back, pocket and pocket yoke

Skirt piece opened out

First the back darts are sewn.

Darts from right side

The pockets are then stitched to the front curved edges, curves clipped and a snip made into the corner.

This is to allow the curves to turn under neatly to the inside of the skirt like this:

The pocket yoke is then sewn to the skirt and pocket.

On the original pattern, the pocket piece is longer and should be folded up and attached to the yoke like this:

Here's what the skirt now looks like from the front.

With a close up of the hip pocket.

The pucker on the pocket edge is only there because the pattern pieces aren't perfectly drafted. And because I made the entire tiny skirt in about 15 minutes…

Now we get to sew that famous one seam! Please note that in the pattern there would also be a zip attached at the top of this seam after the notch. For this post, I've just sewn the seam all the way to the top.

There's the ONE seam, on the right hand side!

In the normal course of events, you'd now add a waistband but for the purposes of this demonstration, we're done!  Here's the skirt from the back. The proportions are a bit out, so the pockets shouldn't come quite so far round the back of the skirt.

And one from the front…

And one with a spool of thread included as a size reference, just to show you how twitchy the skirt is!

I do love this pattern, it's so well constructed and easy to sew. The pockets are a bit fiddly, but for me, they were the detail that drew me to the skirt in the first place, so they're well worth the effort. I hope that's explained things a bit clearer, and please do shout if you have any other questions.

Have a great day! x

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Mortmain fest

For the past two Sundays I've been teaching a Mortmain dress class at Badger and Earl. The Mortmain pattern is a simple shape (fitted bodice, waistband and skirt), with a few interesting techniques to get your teeth into (box pleats on the skirt and an exposed zip). This was the first adult class I've taught and I have to say, it was an absolute pleasure. 

The four women who took the course (Joanne, Nicky, Jo and Julia) were all very enthusiastic about the pattern and it was great to chat about sewing with such a lovely bunch. Week one was taken up with sizing, cutting out the pattern and fabric and sewing up the bodice and skirt. Week two involved all the fiddly bits - waistbands, facings and inserting the exposed zip. 

Time ran away with us, but by the end of the day on Sunday, they'd just about managed to finish their dresses (bar hemming and a couple of rogue exposed zip seams). The best thing for me was seeing what a great fit they all achieved. I can't take any credit for this alas, as it was purely down to the fab pattern - it seemed to fit all four of them straight out of the packet! It's very well drafted and the instructions are clear and straight forward - it made my job a lot easier!

Joanne's exposed zip which worked perfectly with her fabric choice
The four fabrics they chose all had a bit of a vintage vibe going on, which worked well with the retro style of the pattern. Behold their beautiful Mortmains - they're all so pretty

And here I am trying to muscle in and steal some of their well earned glory! 

Thank you Joanne, Nicky, Jo and Julia for making it such a wonderful experience. Details of future Badger and Earl courses can be found here. x

Friday 20 March 2015

Tie by Joe

Today I have another gent-in-a-tie combo on the blog and it's not even Christmas! Let me introduce you to my friend Joe Alessi - actor, bon viveur, devoted uncle and snappy dresser. I've known him since I was 16, which will be 30 YEARS AGO this year. god that makes me feel old! Anyway, here we are in about 1987, when oversized baggy T shirts were flavour of the month…. 

…and here we are during OWOP last year outside Liberty. Thankfully we've both scrubbed up a bit in the intervening years. 

When I posted about my tie making adventures at Christmas, Joe was super keen on the idea of making a tie himself, so last week he came over for a fabulous day of sewing. And cake eating. And visiting the allotment. And looking at old maps with Jon (what is it with men and maps?!) Amidst all this high octane excitement, we did eventually find some time for tie making and let me tell you, he's a natural!  I should point out that his dad was a tailor so it's in the blood, but still, he was fab.

Pinning the pattern to the fabric - note the sophisticated pattern weights
For fabric he chose a Liberty-esque floral lawn from Classic Textiles on the Goldhawk Road. The fabric is a lovely weight, with a bit of a silky hand to it, so perfect for a tie. In fact it's much better suited than the quilting cotton I used for Jon's tie, which looked bulky by comparison. For the pattern, we used Sew Over It's Tie Making Kit, with the following small changes:

Increased the length of the back tie piece and the back lining piece by 10cms. This matched the length of a RTW tie Joe had brought along for comparison. 

Decreased the width of the back neck section by about 5mm on either side, as it overlapped his shirt collar. Well, we drew the changes onto the pattern, but were too busy chatting to actually cut along the lines. Whoops! It's a change he can implement on his next tie in any case!

First seam!

Here it is later, all pressed and gorgeous
We'd ran out of domette, which is the special tie lining that comes with the kit, so improvised and used a double layer of cotton flannel instead. Personally, I think the flannel is an improvement as it's not quite as springy as the domette. Pressing the tie into shape around the lining is the only slightly tricky part of the whole proceedings. You've got to line it up perfectly in order to get that central line down the back of the tie. Look at that furrowed brow concentrating! If he was a toddler he'd have his tongue sticking out.

By the time Joe left, all he had to do at home was invisibly catchstitch the central back seam, which he did beautifully.

Look! A 'Tie by Joe' label.  I'm not going to lie, when he sent me the final photos of his tie, all perfectly stitched and labelled, I totally blubbed (it doesn't take much!) Just look at it though - it wouldn't look out of place in Liberty or Paul Smith, I'm so bloody proud of him! He's got fabric to make more ties and when he posted these photos on Twitter his friends were lining up to place orders! I'm not surprised, I think this is the start of a wonderful tie empire. Remember, you saw it here first!  x

Mr Dapper

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Barkcloth skirt

Behold my barkcloth skirt! I wanted to make a relatively simple garment to show off the lovely retro fabric design as much as possible, so decided on a vintage pattern from the 1950's. The pattern is Simplicity 3983 which has just the one seam going up the back, so no worrying about pattern matching side seams. As you can see, I didn't make much of an effort to match the shaped pockets and front waistband either. I don't care though, it looks fine!

Having already made this skirt once before, I only made one pattern change, which was to shorten the length by an inch (I'd already taken a gigantic eight inches off the original pattern). I also made a few changes to the construction. I replaced the centred zip with an invisible one and added a faced waistband instead of a Petersham ribbon facing, which is how I finished the waistband on my first version. I also positioned the zip so that it runs through the waistband (like you find on the Delphine and Ginger skirt patterns). I know some people like a waistband starting above the zip, but I personally prefer them integrated. It's not authentically vintage but I like how it looks.

I added a white silk-cotton lining using this method, and used some scraps of cotton lawn for the pockets.

The barkcloth fabric is Ripple in Navy from The Village Haberdashery, part of the Time Warp collection by Jessica Jones. Here's what I would advise if you're thinking of working with barkcloth:

- The feel of barkcloth is quite rough against the skin, so if you're planning on using it for garment making, I'd advise underlining with a very light fabric or adding a separate lining.

- Barkcloth has quite a loose weave and is liable to stretch slightly when cut on the bias. This happened with my curved front pocket facings, but it actually turned out in my favour as they now allow a bit more room to get my hands in!  Just be careful to staystitch any curved edges and try not to over stretch when pressing.

- The fabric frays and unravels quite noticeably, so I ended up overlocking all raw edges quite early on in the proceedings.

Apart from that it didn't behave any differently from a linen or cotton. I used a regular needle in my machine and it sewed together beautifully. Even though I knew the fabric was brand spanking new, I still felt like I was working with a piece of 1950's barkcloth, it just looks vintage!

I'm delighted with the finished skirt - it's contemporary but the fabric gives it a vintage edge, which is my favourite combination! I've paired it with a jumper for these pictures because it's still cold and I'm a wuss, but I can totally see it working with this, this, this and even this!!

And because I used a vintage pattern, I'm counting this as my first contribution to this year's Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge. I only pledged to sew up one pattern, but it's not this one, so consider this a bit of a Brucie Bonus!  x

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

Thursday 12 March 2015

Silk crepe de chine madness

I briefly lost the power of rational thought at the Knitting and Stitching Show last week. Not quite to the same level as the lady next to me who had four carrier bags of wool and was mumbling, "I didn't really need any wool"… but still! I stumbled on a fabric company I'd never heard of before and fell head over heels in love with everything on their stand. The company - Til The Sun Goes Down - produce a unique collection of beautiful dressmaking fabrics in limited edition prints. Most of the fabrics I saw were silks, satins and rayon, all inspired by vintage prints from the 1920's to the 1960's and all absolutely breathtaking.

I kept leaving and looking at other stands, but my feet kept bringing me back to the stall and to one fabric in particular - this beautiful aqua posy print. I had a vintage inspired blouse made from a near identical print about twenty years ago. I loved that blouse and was devastated when I caught the front on a nail at work (god knows how) and ruined it. 

I caved in eventually and bought a metre. The fabric is a lightweight silk crepe de chine with a slight sheen to it. It's also eye-wateringly expensive (£36 a metre), which is the most I've ever spent on fabric, but it was the only thing I bought, so I'm telling myself that justifies the expense. I have big plans for it anyway - I want to recreate my nail-shredded 1930's style blouse! With fabric this special I don't want to mess about with an unfamiliar pattern, so I'm going to use vintage Simplicity 2844 which actually dates from the 1930's and which I've made twice already (here and here.) 

It has some lovely vintage features such as gathered shoulders and a back yoke and I think it's a perfect pattern for my precious fabric. The crepe de chine is very fragile - recommended garments to make from it are French knickers, camisoles and slips! - so I'm going to fully underline it with white silk cotton. This will make it a little more robust, especially for areas like buttonholes. It will also boost the colour too as it currently looks a bit grey rather than aqua next to my super pale skin.

I'm going to consult my new sewing bible - Fashion with Fabric - for recommendations on sewing with silk. I'm also wondering whether it's worth using silk thread for this blouse? If anybody has any thoughts on this or on working with crepe de chine in general, I'd love to hear them.  x

Sunday 8 March 2015

Fashion with Fabric book review

Just as the Great British Sewing Bee seems to have evolved as a TV series (more challenging tasks, contestants working with a variety of different fabrics and techniques etc), so too does the accompanying book. I reviewed the book for the first series here and was mostly positive about it, my main criticism being the lack of patterns included. I was recently asked to review the book for the current series - Fashion with Fabric - and wow, what a difference a couple of years makes!

The focus this time is on the fabrics used, which makes for a surprisingly interesting read. The book is split into four main chapters based on the most widely used and popular fabrics: cotton, wool and other animal fabrics, stretch fabrics and luxury fabrics. The reader is encouraged to use the book as a starting off point, then experiment with their own ideas, which I think is a great approach to take. Lots of projects also have 'hack' suggestions, some of which are improvements on the original pattern in my opinion! Each chapter also contains advice and tips on working with these different fabrics, which I found really useful.

Unlike other pattern books (and I include the first GBSB book here), there is a comprehensive section of the book dedicated to adjusting patterns for an accurate fit. As well as standard bust, waist and hip measurements, the reader is told to take a high bust measurement to determine whether a full or small bust adjustment is required. It then shows you how to do one. This is such an important fitting step for a lot of women, yet it's only ever skirted around in a lot of books. There's also advice on moving darts, broad or narrow back adjustments and a page of useful tips on fitting trousers and fiddling about with crotch depths and lengths. The author - Claire-Louise Hardie - has years of experience as a theatrical and costume designer and runs her own sewing school. She's also the sewing producer for the show and this working knowledge absolutely shines through in the book.

There are 30 projects in the book, including a few from the series to date (Capri trousers, Walkaway dress, men's kilt and curtain skirt), and a couple of men's and children's patterns. For those who want to get their teeth into more challenging projects, there's a corset dress (with bustier hack), a leather jacket and the afore mentioned kilt. The patterns come in a separate pack, which in my case anyway, will actually encourage me to use them. Patterns that live in the back of books tend to get easily forgotten in my world, but if they're in a separate pack, they can live with my patterns! The patterns are full sized but need tracing off as there are several on each sheet. This isn't the headache it sounds as they're all clearly marked and colour coded - nothing like a Burda magazine!  The women's patterns come in seven different sizes ranging from size 8 (32 ½" bust, 25 ½"waist, 36" hip) to size 20 (45 ½" bust, 38 ½" waist, 49 ½" hip)

Of the patterns themselves, there are several that I'll probably try out at some point...

… the sleeveless shell top ...

… the silk woven tee ...

… and the sleeveless collared blouse.

I also like the look of the Capri trousers, despite the hideous example the poor model has to wear in the book…

There are some patterns that I can admire from afar but will probably never try: the men's kilt is one - although I'm tempted to make it for the sole reason of getting Jon to model it! The drapey knit dress is another as it's so far removed from my personal style. I can admire it on others who CAN rock that style though, I'm thinking specifically of Karen's version from Did you Make That? Simply stunning.

I've been keeping one final pattern up my sleeve  - the lace pencil skirt - as it's one I've already made!

I kept coming back to it in the book and in the end just decided to give it a try with some leftover fabric from my lace top. For the underskirt I used a sea-green lining fabric previously used to line the sleeves of my boiled wool coat, so all in all, a good stash busting exercise! The skirt is a simple, elegant shape with no front darts, an invisible zip and a facing. I only ever intended it to be a practice run to test out the pattern, but I think the finished version is totally wearable. I also made it before this week's episode of the GBSB and let me tell you, I could NEVER have finished it in 3 hours or however long they were given. Hats off to the semi finalists!

Using the finished measurements as a guide, I made a size 10 with no adjustments, and the fit is spot on. The two skirt layers are made up separately, but attached around the zip as a single layer. They're then treated as two separate fabrics below the zip. It's a brilliant technique which I'll definitely use again. I also used hairline seams for the first time, where the seam is stitched, narrowly zigzagged and then trimmed. A hairline seam is a good choice for sheer fabrics and it worked well for my lace overskirt, creating a very light finish.

I'm amazed by the number of excellent tips and techniques I've picked up from reading this book - I learnt two new ones just from making a simple skirt! I'll keep you updated with anything else I make from it, but so far, it's shaping up to be one of my favourite sewing books to date.

'Fashion for Fabric' was given to me free of charge for review by Quadrille Publishing. All views my own.


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