Friday 30 December 2016

The Handmade Christmas Gift

This year I made just the one handmade Xmas gift, which was totally unplanned. Jon had ripped out a picture of this posh looking Drake's tie from a copy of Time Out, complete with £125 price tag. 

Drake's silk tie
Now I know he would never spend this amount of money on a tie himself (he hardly ever wears them, except to pose for pictures on this blog...) and would be equally horrified if I shelled out big bucks too. I think he just liked the look of it. It got me thinking though - if I could find a nice looking Prince of Wales check, I could whip him one up myself and surprise him on Christmas Day...

So three days before Christmas I hot footed it down to Goldhawk Road to hunt for some fabric. As the schools had broken up I had Charlie with me and I knew it would have to be a lightning quick visit (he's not keen on lingering in shops, unless they happen to sell watering cans). In the end I had to bribe him with lunch at Pizza Express, but it was well worth it because I found the perfect fabric pretty quickly. It was from a new, posh looking fabric shop called Misan West, which isn't the cheapest, but has lots of good quality suitings and silks. I bought a metre of Prince of Wales check lightweight wool suiting for £15 and the girl kindly added a bit extra in case I mucked up. I didn't muck up as it happens, and as the fabric is quite wide, I still have enough for a pencil skirt if I so wish, hoorah! For the lining I used some scraps of Venezia lining fabric left over from this skirt.

Sadly my tie making partner in crime - Joe - was busy doing a panto run (he's a fabulous Ugly Sister in Cinderella if you're interested!) and I must admit, I missed his expertise. I also realised he had all the tie patterns we'd worked on together so I had to improvise! I remembered that there was a tie in the Sew Over It Vintage book, so set about drafting one from the book myself. I made a couple of small changes: lengthened it by 10cms to match an existing tie and narrowed the bit that goes around the back of the neck so that the shirt collar would cover it. The drafting took one afternoon and I spent another afternoon actually sewing it. There are only a few bits of machine sewing involved, the lengthy parts of the process were spent at the ironing board and hand stitching the central seam. 

Apart from the obvious difference i.e the posh Drake's tie is silk and the one I made is wool, I don't think they're that different to the untrained eye. I couldn't adjust the colour properly on my photos, so you'll have to take my word for it that my tie is much lighter in real life - the colours and checks really are very similar. And Jon's face on Christmas Day when he realised I'd made it was a picture!

Drake's Tie

Jane's Tie

Tuesday 27 December 2016

Shiny Simplicity Party Top

Seasons greetings! If you follow me on Instagram, you'll have already seen me crowing about the Simplicity party top I reviewed for the current issue of Sew Now magazine - oooooh! 

Today I thought I'd share a few more details on the blog as I was limited to just 300 words, and I still have lots more to say about it. Plus it will give you something to read if you're lazing around, browsing your blog feed and eating chocolates (or is that just me?!)

Simplicity 8260 is an easy-to-sew top in two lengths, with a choice of sleeve options and an unusual cross over back. 

It's an elegant, drapey style with lots of ease, so I'd suggest choosing your size based on the finished measurements rather than your actual measurements. According to the body measurement chart I was a Medium (14-16), but I went ahead and cut a size Small (10-12) with no regrets. As I was reviewing this pattern in December, I thought the long sleeved version would be the most weather appropriate (although I really like the look of the sleeveless version), and I chose the longer length (view B). The pattern requires minimal fitting and I made no changes to the pattern. The only thing I would mention is that the full length sleeves are quite fitted. I personally prefer this, but you may want to add a bit of width if you don't like such a tight fit. 

There are only three pattern pieces (two if you go for the sleeveless option) and no darts or fastenings, so construction is very simple. One thing to note is that the back pieces are cut on the bias and liable to stretch out. I'd recommend stay stitching these edges before you begin to prevent this happening. The two back pieces are crossed over each other and basted together to form one piece and the sleeves are inserted flat, so the entire top comes together very quickly. The pattern recommends using bias tape to finish the back opening edges and hems, but I didn't actually finish mine this way. I bought some lovely metallic bias tape which I didn't use in the end, as it ended up distorting the edge of my lightweight fabric. I finished my edges with narrow double turned hems instead. 

The fabric was quite sheer and any hem rippling around the neckline would have been really apparent, so I drafted a simple facing instead, using the front and back pattern pieces. This gave a much cleaner finish to the neckline. I also used French seams throughout

The fabric itself was rather lovely and came from Clothspot, a new-to-me online fabric shop with a carefully curated selection of gorgeous dressmaking fabrics. It's called 'Mercury Falling' and is a fluid, metallic-silvered lightweight crepe. All of the fabric descriptions on the site are very detailed (which I appreciate) and they even include a video clip of this particular fabric in motion! It's supposed to be hand washed to avoid damage to the metallic in the fabric... I simply crossed my fingers and machine washed it on the hand wash cycle. A tiny bit of metallic in one corner came away, but otherwise there were no ill effects. It does require quite careful handling - don't forget to stay stitch bias edges as pointed out above, and be vigilant when pressing hems to avoid rippling. I needed a fabric with a fair amount of glitz, that also had some drape to it and I have to say, 'Mercury Falling' delivered on both counts. 

The fit of the top is a bit of a departure for me (the shoulders are dropped and there's no shaping to the front) and I quite like the elegant effect it gives. I also like the fact that it's plain and simple to the front, but turn to the back and there's a party going on. I have to admit, I haven't worn the top out yet, so can't testify to the wearability of the crossover back. The back pieces on the pattern envelope seem to cross further down than my version, which might be down to artful photography. I may end up tacking the back pieces together if I feel like I'm wearing a hospital gown - I'll report back on that!  

If you're looking for a quick, fun dressmaking project (even quicker if you omit the bias tape as I did) then this pattern is the perfect choice. As I said in the review, just add a pair of slim trousers, heels and a big necklace and you’re party ready! And if you've already had your quota of parties for the year, you can always make one to cheer yourself up during the bleak mid UK January! Have a good day. x

The pattern and fabric were given to me free of charge by Weaver Dee and Clothspot for review. All views my own.


Monday 19 December 2016

2016: The Hits And The Misses

2016 has been a good dressmaking year for me. I haven't been as prolific as in previous years, but that's because I've been a bit more considered in what I choose to sew. I've concentrated more on fit and fabric choice and this has definitely resulted in fewer failures and unworn garments! 

So without further ado, let's look at my favourite makes and a couple that didn't quite work...


New Look 6217
The pattern that has without doubt, been the biggest hit of my sewing year has been New Look 6217. It may be a plain, unprepossessing little pattern, but it always seems to magically come up with the goods for me. The top and skirt both fit me straight from the envelope and are very easy to sew. My favourite of the five tops I've sewn is still the first one, made with black satin-backed crepe. It goes with everything and always looks classy. There's a round-up of all my other versions on my OWOP post here.

My NL6217 polka dot denim skirt should also get a mention as it was such a wardrobe staple over the summer. The fabric has a great stretch to it, so it's both comfortable to wear and a flattering fit.

Big Vintage Sewalong Dress
This Vogue reproduction pattern (V8875) has only been worn once as it's very dressy, but I still want to include it as I received so many compliments when I wore it! It's made from a gorgeous luxury crepe, so it hangs beautifully and has a very polished look. I also worked really hard to perfect the fit and feel really fabulous in it!

Vintage Shoulder Tie Top
Made using a Woman's Own vintage pattern, this has been a surprise hit as it's more of a boxier fit than I'm used to. The cute shoulder ties are a lovely vintage touch and I found myself reaching for it again and again over the summer. The lush Liberty fabric doesn't hurt either!

Ginghamalong Top
This was made to replace a much loved, very similar top and is a big improvement on the original. It's made using the Sewaholic Granville pattern, which is a great fit on me, and the 100% cotton gingham is a lovely quality. In fact I'm wearing it as I type this (underneath a jumper)! 


There are only two, neither of which has been an outright disaster. 

Karen Drape Dress
Despite me falling for the draped style of this Maria Denmark pattern, it's still a bit too grown up and slinky for me, hence it's only been worn once. I do really like the side pleat detail though, so may well just shorten it into a top. Teamed with a plain skirt or jeans, I'm sure it would get worn a lot more frequently. This can be a nice easy job for the New Year!

Clara Bow Blouse
I've worn this pattern a couple of times but the fit has never been quite right. It's a nice pattern (original pattern review is here) but needs a bit of tweaking to get it to fit me properly: I'd need to do an FBA (Full Bust Adjustment) and lengthen it considerably. 

Only two minor fails then, which I consider pretty good going for a whole year of sewing!

What have been your biggest hits (and misses) of 2016? And which patterns have turned out to be unexpected gems?!

In other news, I'm working away on my red coat and may get it finished before Christmas. If I don't, it will make a good project to welcome in the New Year! Happy Monday! x

Monday 5 December 2016

Studio 54 Gold Top

After lots of enjoyable research and a very wearable practice run, my disco-style gold top finally went on its first outing this weekend. 

The event was a friend's 50th birthday party and the dress code was Studio 54/disco inferno. There was lots of metallic on display and a fair few three-piece-suits, so we blended right in. Jon even grew a moustache especially for the occasion! 

Taking inspiration from images of a disco-fabulous Farrah Fawcett dancing at Studio 54, I used the self drafted Anita Tie Top from the Sew Over It Vintage book as my starting point. I made a few changes from my practice version, but not as many as I'd envisaged. I lowered and widened the neckline slightly, lengthened the top and straightened the side seams for a more voluminous effect. I ended up keeping the bottom band that I'd planned to discard, as it does give the top a nice shape. 

The fabric is a Viscose Foil from Ray Stitch. There is a slight stickiness to it when you press it, so I was very careful with the iron. Apart from that it was surprisingly easy to sew with. The seams are unfinished (the fabric doesn't fray) and the neckline is simply turned under and top stitched. There's a tiny bit of neckline rippling going on, but I figured the gold blingy-ness would distract the eye! The fabric is reasonably wide (150cms) so I managed to make the entire top from just one metre, yay!

Me and my beau, suited and booted and ready to party….

…and a bit of a blurry one of me with the birthday boy, giving John Travolta a good run for his money. Have a good day! 

Friday 2 December 2016

Another Rusholme Skirt - with cherries on

Hot on the heels of my first version comes my second Rusholme skirt from A Beginner's Guide to Making Skirts. This time I omitted the front centre pleat, making this an even easier skirt to sew - it barely took an hour in actual sewing time.

The fabric is the cutest cherry print needlecord which Marie kindly picked up for me from Leicester market. I love it! Because needlecord has a tendency to stick to your tights I lined this version with some lovely quality Venezia lining, gifted to me by Jo Sews when we met up on Goldhawk Road last year. I used this method for adding it, simply deducting the length of the facing from the top of the skirt pieces when I cut it out.

It's such a perfect little winter skirt, I know I'll be wearing it a lot. And as the background colour to the cherries is navy, it will match everything.

Obligatory hands-on-hips book cover shot!

Next gold disco top! I'll be road testing it tomorrow and will report back on Monday. I'm hoping it will perform well on the dance floor (ahem!) Have a good weekend. x

Monday 28 November 2016

Upcycled office chair

Let's talk office chairs today shall we?! Office chairs aren't the most stylish pieces of home furniture, but for a lot of people they're a necessary evil if you work from home. We desperately needed a second chair for the loft but didn't have big bucks to throw at a stylish vintage one. So when my husband saw a boring looking but perfectly good chair ready to be thrown out at work, he nabbed it.

With its regulation bright blue nylon upholstery it wasn't the sexiest office chair on the block, but it was really comfortable and I knew that if I could spruce it up with some new fabric it would fit in perfectly. There are quite a lot of online tutorials or videos showing you how to re-cover office chairs, so it was actually a pretty straight forward project. This is how I did mine...

First of all, you'll need to separate the back rest and seat cushion from the frame of the chair. There are lots of different sorts of office chairs, but generally the two cushioned sections are simply screwed onto the frame. Remove the screws and detach the cushions. The cushions will each have a plastic backing which also need to be removed. Some plastic backings simply pop off, but ours needed prising off with a screwdriver!
Back rest with plastic backing removed

The cushion cover was held in place with elastic so all I had to do was attach my fabric around the elasticated edge. I think we struck lucky as most office chairs have the fabric attached to the cushion with staples. Now for the fun bit!

Place your cushion face down on the wrong side of your chosen fabric, add about a two inch margin all round and roughly cut around the outline. If in doubt leave a wider margin - you don't want to find your fabric is too short!

Fold the fabric firmly around the cushion and pin into position, starting at the top middle, then the bottom, leaving the corners until last.

For the corners you'll need to pleat the fabric at the back to ease it round the curves. Keep pulling the fabric taut and checking that the right side of the cushion is smooth.

Tack your fabric to the existing cushion (or you can staple at this stage, this seems to be what most tutorials advise).

Fold the raw edges of the fabric under the elasticated cushion edge and tack in place through both layers.

If, at this stage you realise that some bits of your fabric aren't quite long enough to fold round the edge (as in my case!) don't despair! The plastic backing will cover them up.

Replace the plastic backing. Now do exactly the same for the seat cushion and re-attach both cushions to the chair frame.

You now have a gorgeous new office chair! I recommend sitting on it and whizzing round the room in triumph.

The fabric I used was a lovely retro print barkcloth from Maud's Fabric Finds, which was the perfect weight for this project. I bought half a metre and there was more than enough to cover both cushion pads. I even have some scraps left over to make a few purses and make-up bags. Yay! Once the cushion backings were prised off, each cushion took me about an hour to complete. So it turned out to be a relatively cheap AND quick project. Definitely cheaper than buying a fancy new chair anyway! x

Spot the difference!

Sunday 20 November 2016

Preparing for a red coat

Over the past few weeks I've been slowly gathering supplies for a winter coat, which I'm pretty excited about. I already have a gorgeous navy winter coat from Jaeger which I saved up for - I've worn it every winter for about five years and it's still going strong, but I fancy a change. I'd like a red coat, partly because I don't own one and I'd like to remedy that, but also because I need a coat to match my new red gloves. Only joking! (or am I?…)

When I was searching for inspiration I did spot a couple of very glamorous red coats pinned to my Red board on Pinterest, but they're both quite voluminous shapes, which tend to dwarf my petite frame. 

What I was after was a classic fitted coat with a collar, a bit like a longer version of this Modcloth jacket.

I found it in McCall's 7058. This pattern has a truly hideous front cover which does an excellent job of masking the classic, well drafted pattern within. 
There are plenty of options all based around the same princess-seamed shape: a short, Chanel-style collarless jacket, two hip length jackets (one belted, one hooded), two mid length coats and a long hooded coat (phew). I've decided to go for a mash up of views B and C.

Manju made a very stylish interlined wool version here and I've taken some great tips from her excellent review. My main coat fabric will be a wool twill coating from Fabric Godmother, which now seems to be sold out unfortunately.

It's a lovely bright red and feels very warm. I know Manju also interlined/underlined her version with pyjama flannel for extra warmth and I'm still debating whether to do this on mine. What do you think?

I'll be lining it with this Dusky Steel Blue lining fabric from Ditto which I think is a nice contrast to the red. 

I've also bought some good quality interfacing from English Couture and have invested in a tailors clapper for a professional finish on all those seams. I'm all set!

I did a tissue fitting and the size 14 seems to fit well. The good thing about this pattern is that there is a petite sizing option which I've taken full advantage of. Each pattern piece is shortened by a total of two inches: an inch at bodice height and an inch at skirt/knee height, which is a perfect proportion for my build. The sleeves are also shortened at two different points without affecting the shape of the elbow dart.

Now I just need to steam shrink my wool fabric and pre-wash my lining, then I can start cutting out (eek!) There's no immediate deadline to get this coat finished, so I intend to take my time over it and enjoy the process - I'll keep you posted on my progress! x

Monday 14 November 2016

A Beginner's Guide to Making Skirts - blog tour

When I first learnt to sew in 2009, my dressmaking teacher advised me to master the art of skirt making first. Her reasoning being that women's bottom halves are generally easier to fit than their top halves. I searched in vain for a book that would teach me to do just that, but never found anything suitable that focused exclusively on skirts. How I wish A Beginner's Guide to Making Skirts by Wendy Ward had been around at that time!

The book is exactly as described: a comprehensive guide to making skirts with full size paper patterns. Wendy focuses on eight basic skirt shapes: circle, A-line, stretch pencil, wrap, bubble, tailored pencil, front opening and culottes and offers three variations for each style. That's a lot of skirts to get your teeth into!

The simplest version of each style is shown made up in denim, which I think is a nice touch as it gives you a good idea of the basic shape before you start getting adventurous! The majority of styles are ones I'd make and wear, the only exception being the bubble (or puffball) skirt which I was never a fan of, even as a teenager in the 80's!  

There are step-by-step instructions with clear diagrams for each project variation, with basic methods for inserting zips, attaching waistbands, adding linings etc, all included in the excellent Techniques section at the back of the book.

This section is massive and it really does cover everything you need to know, not just about skirt making but about sewing in general - it's almost a sewing book in its own right! The techniques required for each project are listed at the beginning of each skirt 'type' and it's definitely worth reading through them beforehand so you have an idea of what you'll be doing. You'll still have to flick between different parts of the book to look them up, especially if you're a beginner, but at least you'll be prepared. 

While we're on the subject of preparation, I'd also recommend you read the Using Paper Patterns section very carefully before you start. I dived straight in and consequently tripped up a couple of times. Firstly, the pattern piece for the skirt I made (the Rusholme) is printed in two halves (top half and bottom half) on two different pattern sheets, which flummoxed me a little. Secondly, some pattern pieces, such as waistbands and facings, are used for more than one project. I was looking in vain for ages for a facing for the Rusholme skirt before I re-read the instructions and realised I had to use the pattern pieces for the Fallowfield skirt!

Once you've located your pieces you'll need to trace them from the three large pattern sheets, as the sheets are printed on both sides and the patterns overlap. I have to admit, a Burda-style pattern road map is not my favourite way to work, but having said that, once I'd worked out a few basics (see paragraph above!), it didn't actually take long to trace them off.

The skirts in the book are printed in order of difficulty and the Rusholme A-line skirt I chose is somewhere in the middle. The skirt is shown with three variations: short with a waist facing, knee-length with waistband and centre front pleat or long with pockets and waistband.

In the spirit of the book I chose to mix and match between variations, making a short skirt with a waist facing but also including a centre front pleat. The book actually advises not to use a facing with the pleated version (and I can see why as there is more fabric in the pleat to be supported) but I decided to be a rebel and throw caution to the wind.

Sizes are based on your hip measurements and range from 34¾ inches (88cms) to 51 inches (129cms). This is the equivalent of UK sizes 8-26 or US sizes 4-22. I cut a size 38 inch hip but graded to the next size up at the waist as the finished measurement would have been too tight. I also used the length of the smallest size to save having to shorten the pattern. These were the only changes I made to the pattern and as there were just two skirt pieces and two facing pieces it didn't take long to sew at all.

The fabric I used was a fine wool suiting (Muted Grid in Denim) from Fabworks, who kindly supplied the fabrics for this blog tour. It's a reasonably lightweight fabric with a good drape and the ability to hold a sharp crease, which was exactly what I was after. It does fray quite noticeably if handled too much, but apart from that it was a pleasure to work with.

The finished skirt fits me like a glove: it has the perfect amount of ease around the waist (I'm glad I went up a size!) but still has a nice shape. I love the roominess of the inverted pleat too, it almost looks like I'm wearing a pair of culottes. As for the illegal facing/pleat combination I'm happy to report it hasn't caused any problems so far, probably because my fabric wasn't too heavyweight.

A Beginner's Guide to Making Skirts is an excellent introduction to skirt making, not just for beginners but for more experienced sewers too. As Wendy says at the start of the book, "The devil is in the detail and I'll show you how to perfect those details…I'm a stickler for doing things right and taking the time needed to get the best results" I'm definitely pleased with the results - so much so that I've already cut out a second skirt!

A Beginner's Guide to Making Skirts was given to me for review by CICO Books and the fabric was supplied by Fabworks. All views my own.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...