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


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