Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Magic button sewing tip - it works!

I first came across this simple tip a couple of weeks ago via Emmie on My Oh So Vintage Life and it's now my favourite sewing tip EVER! It's a trick to eliminate gaping between buttons on shirt dresses, specifically at the waist. This is at its most noticeable when you sit down and invariably end up displaying the two inches of flesh you'd rather never saw the light of day again. 

Emmie's tip is sew an inward facing button in the offending area - the trick is to sew it on the inside of the button band so it's invisible from the front. Gahhh!!! Such a simple tip, but so effective! 

Secret button sewn on the inside of the button band (LHS), with buttonhole on the opposite side
I can also confirm that it works for the dreaded boob gape - as soon as I discovered this tip I put it to the test on my Granville Shirt. I absolutely love this shirt, but thanks to my own slapdash methods of button placement (trying to eyeball them rather than measuring properly), it's always gaped at the bust point. It hasn't stopped me wearing it and it's not actually that noticeable, but it is a pain to keep fiddling and pulling the front of my shirt.

Here I am, helpfully pointing to the offending area….

Here's the BEFORE picture…

And here's the AFTER picture….

Yay, no gaping!

When the shirt is buttoned up, the internal button and buttonhole are completely invisible from the front. Just to remind you, the hidden button is between the second and third button down.

 And here's what it looks like from the inside….

This solution may be blindingly obvious to lots of you, but it certainly wasn't to me, so please indulge me! Sorting out a dreaded waist or bust gape is just so satisfying! Two further shirt dresses have also been given the same treatment at the waist with great results. Thank you Emmie, for showing me the light! 

What were the sewing tips that changed your life? Please share, I'd love to know! x

Friday, 26 June 2015

Anita Tie Top

For those of you who are interested, I thought I'd give a bit more detail about the Anita Tie Top I made recently. I drafted it myself using the bodice block from Sew Over It Vintage (review here).

You can see from the diagram below that the original block is slightly shaped at the waist, (line H/I/E). For the Anita top, all you do is square the side seams off for a looser fit (line H to M). As I wanted a slightly more fitted look, I kept the original shaped waist, then joined point E to point M (M is the hip line). This gives a little bit of shaping, but leaves enough ease to create the gathers around the waist.

My version of the top still turned out looking quite a bit shorter than the example in the book. What happened was that the original bodice block finished noticeably higher than I was expecting (probably because of my bust taking up too much room). I made a mental note to lengthen the block by a couple of inches before I drafted the Anita top, but never actually wrote this down. You can probably guess the rest, the mental note flew straight out of my head, never to return, and I forgot to lengthen it, doh! I think the finished top is fine though, and on me I actually prefer it sitting on my hips instead of lower down - it gives the illusion of longer legs!

Original Anita Tie Top in Sew Over It Vintage
My (inadvertently) shorter version
The one other tiny change I made was the height of the shoulder/kimono sleeve. The pattern calls for a lightweight, drapey fabric and although Tana Lawn has a beautiful, silky hand, it isn't as drapey as a silk or rayon. Consequently, the kimono sleeves looked a bit wing-like at the shoulders. All I had to do to remedy this was to lower the outer edge of the shoulder opening by about an inch, tapering to nothing in the middle of the shoulder.

The front and back pieces are identical so it's a very simple top to sew together. 

For fabric I used a Liberty Lawn (Capel in navy). As Liberty fabric is quite wide, I managed to cut the front, back and bottom band out of the measly half metre I had in my stash. I was thinking I wouldn't bother with the ties, but once I'd made the top, I realised it needed the ties to give it that chic 1920's vibe. There was a hitch though, Capel fabric in navy is either out of print or exceedingly scarce, as I couldn't find any anywhere. In desperation, I sent a begging email to Susan at Sewbox as I knew she stocked a good range of Liberty prints. By an absolute miracle, she happened to have a remnant of  navy Capel print squirrelled away (it wasn't listed on her site). She wouldn't accept any money for it either, she was just happy to help out - sewing folk are so lovely sometimes aren't they?! Once again, THANK YOU Susan!

It's quite difficult to see the tie belt amidst all that floral, but it's essentially sandwiched into the seams at both sides of the bottom band. The tie is then wrapped around at the back and tied at one side.

Bottom band and ties
It's worth noting that the grainline of the ties runs perpendicular to the long edges, which means you need fabric that's at least 1.4m or 55 inches wide. This is especially important if you have a directional print. Liberty fabric is a fraction under 1.4m wide so I just about got away with it.

I'm so pleased that my experiment in pattern drafting resulted in such a lovely, wearable top. There's a gap in my wardrobe for semi-posh tops that can be worn with jeans and this fits the bill perfectly. My next version will be in a solid colour as I suspect this style will look great with a statement necklace.  Have a good weekend! x

Monday, 22 June 2015

Boy genius sews a waistcoat

Disclaimer: This blog post is 100% biased.

Every parent thinks their children are uncommonly wonderful and talented, but when your child does something awesome AND sewing related, then there's no choice but to splash it all over the blog!  This year, in his Textiles class, my son Louis made a waistcoat from scratch. Now, before I start waxing lyrical about his sewing super powers, let's just marvel at the fact that a boy studying textiles is a normal part of the syllabus in an ordinary London High School. When I was at school (thousands of years ago, admittedly), Textiles was known as Needlework and was exclusively for girls, it didn't cross anybody's mind to teach the boys. How refreshing that things are different these days. Anyway, back to the child genius….

A bit loose fitting, but he's a skinny lad.

Getting accurate sewing details from a 13 year old boy is a bit like getting blood from a stone, but from what I can gather, they took measurements in class and worked from a pattern that the teacher provided. The outer fabric of the waistcoat is a navy wool mix and it's fully lined with burgundy lining fabric. 

And if that's not impressive enough, it has three buttonholes and a welt pocket! A WELT POCKET at age 13!!! 

Must remind him to use matching thread on his next attempt!

The young are so fearless, apparently they had a choice of making a welt or patch pocket and he went for the welt option because it was more difficult. To this day I still haven't made a welt pocket, so he's overtaken me already in his sewing bravery!

Yes, there are a few tiny flaws…. there's a singe mark on the inside lining where he'd been let loose with an iron, and the three buttons fell off the minute I buttoned them up! Apart from that it's perfect and he's a genius.

To say I'm proud is a slight understatement - I whip out the waistcoat for unsuspecting visitors to admire at every opportunity. And to any Savile Row tailors who might be interested in my boy's sewing skills, please form an orderly queue! x

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Book Review: Sew Over It Vintage

Sew Over It Vintage is the second book by Lisa Comfort (of Sew Over It sewing classes and patterns fame), this time focusing on vintage style. I found it refreshing that Lisa doesn't promise you a head-to-toe vintage wardrobe once you've read it. What she does do is to take inspiration from vintage fashions and styles of the past and mix them up with modern elements to avoid looking too costumey. This pretty much sums up my own approach to using vintage style in my wardrobe so I knew I'd get on well with this book!

It's divided into four different sections:

- Dabble with a bit of vintage - for those who want to add a bit of vintage flair to existing items. 

Adding a Peter Pan collar to a neckline 
Adding fur cuffs and collar to a coat

- Make a vintage inspired wardrobe - this was the section I was really interested in!

- A little something to go with it - how to make your own vintage accessories

- Vintage Home

The 30 projects in the book are clearly labelled with a skill level and there are plenty of quick, easy fixes for those new to sewing, particularly in the Embellishing and Vintage Home sections. For me though, it was the second section (make your own vintage wardrobe) that was the most interesting part of the book and what I'll be focusing on in this review.

You do need to have a bit of sewing experience before tackling the dressmaking projects. The reason for this is because there are no patterns included with the book - they're all made from blocks which you draft yourself based on your own measurements. I promise you, this is not as scary as it sounds - I'm a complete thickie when it comes to anything involving maths and measuring, but even managed to draft a bodice block without incident. Yes, they take a bit of time to create, but they're not difficult. There's a well explained section on measuring yourself properly (you'll need a friend/partner to take some of the measurements) and the steps are very comprehensive and detailed.

The book includes ten garment projects, all made using either the bodice block or by drafting a skirt section. Lisa then shows you how to adapt the basic blocks to create the different garment designs. Influences for the designs range from the 1920's to the 1960's:

A chic, 1920's-inspired Anita Tie Top for pairing with jeans.

A lovely, tie-necked 1950's sailor blouse with a simplified collar. 

A Betty Draper-inspired box-pleat skirt. The example in the book is made from crepe which gives it a softer look- I'm keen to make one with a more structured feel. 

A cute, 1960's-inspired pleated dress. This project uses an existing fitted top as a starting point, then shows you how to draft the skirt to attach to it. Such a pretty result!

One thing to note is that the bodice block is not supposed to be close fitting - the projects that use it all have quite a lot of ease built in. This simplifies the process and eliminates the need for darts and closures. So if you like your top half to be fitted to within an inch of its life, then the dressmaking projects probably won't be to your taste. To be honest, I like my top half to be super fitted too, so I was surprised when my attention kept being drawn to the chic, 1920's inspired, unstructured Anita Tie Top!  Eventually I caved in and drafted one for myself. Yes, you read that correctly, I drafted one for myself!!! Despite my scepticism about the relaxed fit, it's a winner and I've already worn it out twice! I changed a couple of things about it, so I think it deserves its own separate post, but here's a sneaky peek of the finished top….

…and one of me wearing it. It's self drafted don't you know!

If you're familiar with using commercial patterns, but would like a bit of hand holding before moving onto pattern cutting in more detail then I can't recommend this book highly enough. I certainly got a lot out of it and already have plans for a self-drafted pleated skirt.  x

Sew Over It Vintage was given to me free of charge for review by Love Sewing Magazine, all views my own. You can find out what other sewing bloggers thought of the book here:

A Stitching Odyssey
Did You Make That?
House of Pinheiro
What Katie Sews

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Open House with Mark Powell

Just a quick interlude to tell you about the open house event I went to last week with my friend Clare. It was part of SohoCreate - a five day festival showcasing the creative talents who live and work in London's Soho. Open Houses are a great opportunity to meet the people behind the names, hear how their creative businesses work and generally have a good nose around!

We went to hear bespoke tailor Mark Powell talk about the world of suits. His suits are amazing - they have a classically tailored look (they wouldn't look out of place in a 1940's gangster film), yet there's something sharp and contemporary about them too. I loved them.

He explained how the same suit jacket block can give two totally different looking suits just by fiddling with the details. For example, he added a velvet collar to one jacket (sorry, no picture) and made another one up in denim. You'd never believe they were the same design! 

Double breasted denim suit

Look at the detail on that shirt collar!
One interesting snippet I found out was the cost difference between a ready to wear suit, a made to measure suit and a bespoke suit. A ready to wear suit from his shop costs around £1000, made to measure suits (based on the RTW styles but made up in your exact measurements) cost between £1400-£1800 and a bespoke suit (made from scratch exactly how you want it) starts at £3000. Seeing the beautiful fabrics and linings he uses and the immaculate tailoring up close, I know I'd be tempted to save up for one if I was a suit wearing gent. 

It was also great fun hearing him reel off his opinion of various Savile row tailors, "x is alright, y is probably the best cutter on Savile Row, z is a fucking idiot!" Mark Powell is a larger than life character and I could have listened to him talking all day. Sadly we only had an hour, but I did get to see some seriously smart suits!

Monday, 8 June 2015

Vintage Shirt Dress giveaway winner

Good afternoon! I've done a bit of randomising and counting and I'm delighted to announce that the winner of my Vintage Shirt Dress giveaway is Mary from Idle Fancy!!! Mary is queen of shirt dresses so how wonderful is that?! Please email me your address Mary and I'll make sure a copy of the Vintage Shirt Dress pattern heads across the pond to you as soon as possible.

Thank you so much to everybody else who entered the giveaway and for all your lovely comments about the pattern. Don't forget, you still have a few days to take advantage of the 20% discount offer - just input the code JANE20VSD at the checkout in the Sew Over It online shop. The discount code expires at midnight on Wednesday 10th June. x

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress

The Vintage Shirt Dress is the latest pattern release from Sew Over It, and one that I said an immediate 'yes' to when asked if I'd like to pattern test it! I was lured in by the vintage details: gathered shoulder seams, cute notched collar, tucks to the bodice and pleats to the skirt. The bodice part is reminiscent of 1930's and 1940's blouses, whilst the fuller skirt reminds me of the 1950's - a lovely combination of styles. The fabric I used is a beautiful blossom print from the Sew Over It shop. Sadly, I don't think the colour I went for (spearmint) is available any longer, but it was a good match for this pattern as it pressed well around the collar and the tucks/pleats are nice and crisp. 

I LOVE the envelope artwork!

There are two pattern variations, with or without sleeves and I chose the sleeveless route. I liked the fact that the cutting line for the sleeveless version is slightly slanted so there's a tiny bit of shoulder on display. One noticeable feature about this dress is that the bodice is designed to be shorter than a typical shirt dress bodice and sits noticeably above the waistline at the front and back. It will appear even shorter if you're large of bust, so I'd recommend measuring the bodice length beforehand to see where it finishes on you. It's also quite generous in the waist, so based on this I made up the size 10 as I wanted a more fitted look. This was a pretty good fit everywhere except for the bust, so I added a one inch FBA (Full Bust Adjustment), plus an extra inch in length to the front bodice and ¼" to the back bodice. The only other fitting change I made was to shorten the skirt by an inch.

I like the final fit a lot, in fact I'm tempted to use the bodice pattern as a starting point for my 1930's-style crepe de chine blouse, using the sleeved version.

The dress construction was straight forward and I was impressed by the clarity of the instructions. The area that often gives me grief when sewing shirt dresses is attaching the collar/facing. I've made the McCall's 4769 shirt dress twice now (here and here) and was actually moved to write a tutorial for the collar section because of the shockingly bad instructions. With this in mind, I scrutinised the instructions for the collar like a hawk and I have to say, they didn't disappoint! Apparently a lot of work went into making this section as clear and well explained as possible - and I think it shows. The only part of the collar I'm not entirely happy with is my choice of interfacing - it wasn't quite lightweight enough, so the finished collar is a bit stiff.

One final thing I did was to add an additional button just below the waistband. The instructions clearly state the importance of positioning buttons at your bust point and above the waist, which I did, but after a few wears, it was clear there was a bit of gaping that needed to be kept in check.

Mind the Gap! 
This isn't specific to this pattern, it's something I've noticed with all the shirt dresses I've made. Wearing a belt is usually a good solution, but I think in future, I'll just add an extra button underneath the waistband as standard. It's not symmetrical but that doesn't bother me, it provides a welcome bit of security when I'm stuffing my face so I'm calling it a design feature!

Shirt dresses aren't the quickest of garments to sew (once you've attached the collar you're then faced with all those buttons and buttonholes!), but I still find them satisfying to make. I like the fact that you get a complete outfit in one go, and in this case, one with such lovely vintage details. This is a great dress for summer that's already seen a lot of wear. I wore it with a cardigan and wedges to the Fashion on the Ration exhibition at the Imperial War Museum recently and felt very suitably attired!

If you like the look of the Vintage Shirt Dress then I have a copy of the pattern up for grabs. To enter, simply leave a comment on this post (don't forget to include your email address if it's not linked to your Blogger profile). The giveaway is open worldwide and closes at midnight GMT on Sunday 7th June. If you're not the lucky winner, then don't panic, Sew Over It are also offering 20% off the pattern for readers of this blog for the next week. Just input the code JANE20VSD at the checkout in their online shop. The discount code expires at midnight on Wednesday 10th June.  Have a good week! x

Fabric and pattern were given to me free of charge for pattern testing. All views my own.


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