Friday 29 January 2016

Jane's Quilt

Remember me wittering on in this blog post about wanting to make a quilt for myself? Well I finally found time to make one, and this one's all mine!

I actually finished the quilt top a good few weeks ago, but then Christmas came along and scuppered all my plans. It would probably still be languishing in my sewing pile if temperatures in the UK hadn't started plummeting and galvanised me into action. All I could think about was how cosy I'd be if I had a lovely handmade quilt to wrap myself in whilst watching Silent Witness. So the past week has been quilt week! 

The colours for my quilt were chosen to complement my bedroom walls and chair and comprised various shades of grey, mustard and turquoise. The quilt design is an Easy Bricks pattern by Amy Smart. I was hoping it would be idiot-proof and I wasn't disappointed. The squares and rectangles are a manageable size (I'm far too impatient to be cutting thousands of teeny, tiny pieces), which made it really straight forward to sew up. 

The quilt back is just a simple flat sheet which I bought for £12 - my finished quilt is 63" x 84" and a double flat sheet was plenty big enough. It's also much more economical if you're on a budget - initially I had my eye on some extra-wide fabric which would have cost me £40, but I couldn't really justify the cost. The pale duck-egg colour of the flat sheet blends in perfectly with the patchwork front, so I'm happy I went for the budget option. 

My least favourite part of making a quilt is safety-pinning the layers together - it just seems to take forever. I'm lucky in that I have a very large back room with lots of floor space, so I can actually tape it to the floor to pin it, but still, crawling around on my hands and knees for hours is not my idea of fun. On the plus side it does warm you up, I was boiling by the time I'd finished! I like the sleek look of a patchwork top before it's quilted, but I still prefer the puffy, springy appearance it takes on afterwards.

Pinned and ready to be quilted - doesn't it look sleek?!
After pinning, it took me two long sessions at the sewing machine to quilt it. I brought my sewing machine downstairs and quilted it at the kitchen table, which gave me acres of space. It's only now, working on my fourth quilt, that I realise quilting downstairs is a far more comfortable and spacious option than trying to quilt at my tiny sewing table in the loft. Hindsight is a wonderful thing eh?!

I decided to make my own binding after the wonderful Maryanne (Mrs C) sent me an excellent link on how to bind your own quilt. It takes you through all the steps, from cutting your own binding through to hand stitching it into position (I skipped that bit and machined mine instead!) The colours of my quilt are quite muted so I picked one of the brighter turquoise shades (Adventure Springs from M is of Make) for the binding, which I think frames it nicely.

All the quilts I've made have been photographed on my bed, simply because my bedroom is the lightest room in the house. None of them actually belonged there though….apart from this one! I love this quilt. I love the colours, the patterns in the fabrics, the stitches and the binding. I love how heavy it is and that I can totally wrap myself up in it. This one isn't going anywhere! x

Somebody decided to road test it on the sofa!...

Wednesday 27 January 2016

Emery Class at Badger & Earl

For the past two Saturdays I've been helping two lovely ladies - Julia and Michaela - to sew the Emery Dress as part of a dressmaking class. The class was held at Badger & Earl in Chiswick (the finest sewing cafe in west London!) and it was an absolute pleasure from beginning to end. The whole class was 10 hours in total, spread over two weeks, so we spent the first week cutting out the pattern and fabric and constructing the basic shell of the dress. We were then able to dedicate the second week to trickier areas such as inserting zips, setting in sleeves and adding the bodice lining. 

Both students had some prior experience of dressmaking and just needed extra guidance with specific techniques, which made things a lot easier. As did the awesomeness of the pattern, in particular the well drafted sleeves and excellent instructions. The pockets were fab too, the method for attaching them was one I'd never used before and I'm now a convert!  Neither dress was hemmed as one had to be  shortened and the other needed trying on with proper shoes before deciding on the final length. But still, I think cutting the dresses out from scratch and sewing them up in just two sessions was pretty amazing. 

That zip is well and truly invisible!

It was such a delight to help Julia and Michaela create such beautiful dresses - needless to say I felt VERY proud!

Badger & Earl is a lovely place to learn a new skill, classes are small and friendly and the tea and cake is exemplary! They've just signed up two new sewing tutors (Margaret and Krystel) and are busy putting together ideas for additional dressmaking and fitting classes. This will hopefully include a trouser fitting class, which I think will be a popular one. If you have any suggestions for future classes, do let me know in the comments and I'll happily pass them on. 

Thanks to Julia for kindly forwarding the above photos for me to use - guess who forgot her camera?! x

Friday 22 January 2016

Karen Drape Dress

Let me introduce you to the Karen dress by Maria Denmark. The pattern is quite a grown up, slinky design and despite having very few opportunities to wear grown up, slinky designs, I felt a burning need to buy it as soon as it was released! There's a lovely pleat detail on one side that drapes artfully across the stomach - for me, this transforms a simple jersey T-shirt dress into something far more elegant.  

The pattern is sized from XS to 2XL and for reference, I cut a size M. The advice is to choose your size based on your high bust measurement. Maria shares her own measurements and size on the website and very fortuitously they happened to be the same as mine, so that bit was easy! The sleeves can either be short or ¾ length, but I chose to lengthen them to full length to keep out the cold. I also shortened the front and back pieces by about 7cms. 

Maria claims that the pattern is almost as fast to sew as a T shirt and she's not wrong. The only thing you need to spend a bit of time on is pinning the pleats correctly. The pattern includes a brilliant tip to help with this - simply mark each pair of pleats with different coloured pins - such a simple idea yet so helpful when it came to folding the pleats in place. There's a video here to show you how it's done. Once the pleats are basted into position, the rest of the dress is as quick to sew up as the pattern claims. I sewed most of it on my overlocker, apart from the neckline and hems, which are simply turned under and top stitched with a double needle. 

The pattern recommends using clear elastic to stabilise the neckline, but to be honest I've never had much luck with it and when I've used it my necklines have always ended up baggy. Because my fabric contained 10% spandex, I thought I'd try something that looked a bit sturdier to stabilise the neckline. I used Vilene Fusible Bias Tape and was delighted with the results. The tape is bias cut, so easily fits around curved necklines, but it also includes a line of chain stitching which I think gives it stability. After top stitching and a good press, that neckline was as flat as a pancake - so satisfying!

Let's talk about the fabric - it's called Tropical Silhouettes, a cotton French Terry knit from Girl Charlee. For ages I presumed French Terry was from the same gene pool as terry towelling, but this is nothing like it. It's a smooth jersey on the top side with a sort of tightly looped pile on the reverse. It's not too heavy and feels really cosy, and because it has a high spandex content (10%) it has a marvellous drape.

The fabric recommendation is for something drapey with at least 5 to 10% spandex and this does a great job. If anything, the fabric is almost too springy - when you hold the dress from the  neck and let it hang, it bounces almost to the floor and back again! The pleats probably drape a bit lower than they're supposed to because of this, but you don't really notice it because the fabric design is so busy. 

This is definitely a pattern I'll return to, probably in a solid colour next time to showcase the pleat details a bit more. In the meantime, I'm now the proud owner of a grown up, slinky dress! x

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

Monday 18 January 2016

A cable knit Mabel

Plans for jumper making had to be swiftly re-jigged this week on discovering that I only had a metre of Aran-style sweater knit to play with. What possessed me to only buy one measly metre?! It's nigh on impossible to cut out a jumper from one metre - those pesky long sleeved pattern pieces take up a lot of space. The thick, cabled fabric would have looked daft made into a short sleeved version, so there was only one thing for it….make a skirt instead. 

I used the Mabel pattern from Colette which I've used twice before (here and here), both times using a double knit. Although my fabric is chunky and cable-y, it's not actually as stable as a double knit, so the finished skirt is a bit roomier than my other versions. This is no bad thing though, given my current post-Christmas shape! I used scraps left over from my gingham Agnes dress for the waistband lining and they blended in perfectly. 

I sewed the whole skirt on my overlocker and it was on track to become the fastest item of clothing I'd ever sewn - until I got to the hem. I'm not sure if it was the cabling that my machine didn't like, but try as I might, I just couldn't get it to sew straight stitches on this fabric without looping. I tried every type of needle (stretch, jersey, ballpoint and double) and every combination of tension and stitch type but it wasn't having any of it. In the end I had to hand sew the hem. No great tragedy, but a bit tiresome given that it could have been hemmed in about 20 seconds with a double needle.

All's well that ends well though - my finished Mabel is all set to be a skirt version of a pair of PJ bottoms. It's so cosy and comfortable and perfect for days like yesterday when it was miserable outside and all I wanted to do was lounge on the sofa and watch TV. Happily, it's also presentable enough to wear outside the house and is a bit more interesting to look at than my previous Mabel skirts. It's not exactly what I had in mind for this fabric but it'll do fine. 

In other cold weather sewing news, my Karen dress is almost finished (now that really is a super fast sew!) and the fabrics for my White Russian sweatshirt are currently waiting to be cut out. I'll keep you updated! x

Thursday 14 January 2016

Sew Over It Pussy Bow Blouse

It's no secret that I have a bit of a thing for pussy bow blouses. I've made three from a Simplicity pattern (herehere and here) and one from a vintage pattern. I love them all and they never disappoint. They do all sport quite large, floppy bows though (with the exception of this one which was toned down for the beach), so I was keen to add one with a long, thin tie to my repertoire. 

Enter the Sew Over It Pussy Bow Blouse pattern - I can't believe this pattern has escaped my clutches for so long! It has all the features I've been looking for: long, thin ties, long sleeves and easy to wear tucked in or out, hoorah! The first thing I did was to follow the advice of Karen from Did You Make That in this post and measure the sleeve length carefully. The sleeves are designed to pool around the wrist and gather in with a buttoned cuff. The trick is not to have the sleeves too long or you run the risk of looking like a Disney Prince. Being slightly challenged in the arm length department, I obediently measured my arm against the sleeve and shortened it by two inches.

There are no closures on this pattern, so construction of the basic blouse shape was a breeze. It did take me a bit more time to get the two sides of the ties lined up perfectly at the centre front. The sleeves were also quite time consuming as they involved making cuffs and rouleau loops for the button closures.

Size wise I cut a size 10 for the blouse and size 8 sleeves to make them a little more streamlined. Apart from shortening the sleeves I made no other changes to the pattern. I like the fit - it's fitted enough to wear either loose or tucked in with slim trousers or jeans.

Of the two I think I prefer it tucked in
It also looks good with a skirt if you fancy going for a Miss Moneypenny look.

Fabric-wise, the pattern recommends a lightweight fabric with lots of drape, and the one I used - Bamba Viscose in red from Fabric Godmother - was perfectly suited to the job. The viscose (or rayon) has a nice drape without being too slippery. I found it easy to pin and cut out and it sewed up beautifully.

The nice thing about this pattern is that it's relatively easy to make, yet the finished blouse looks very accomplished. Maybe it's the bow?! There's nothing complicated about sewing bows or neck ties - they're just tubes of fabric sewn to the neck seam - but for some reason they always give the impression of being super fancy! My non-sewing friends always compliment me when I'm wearing a bow blouse. A fully lined coat barely registers on their radar, but a bow at the neck? Very impressive! So if you like impressing your friends and strutting around like Dog Toby, this could be the pattern for you! My mum's coming to visit next weekend, so I'll see if the blouse passes the Dog Toby test (explanation found in this post)…

Have a good day! x

Monday 11 January 2016

Cold weather sewing

The word on the street (as Huggy Bear would say) is that the UK weather is due to turn distinctly inclement. Phrases such as 'Arctic blast' are being bandied about by BBC weather people, which has forced me to bring a couple of knit garments straight to the top of my sewing queue. 

As easy as they are to sew, I do find sewing with knits a bit boring, which is why I've decided to liven things up a bit by trying out a new pattern. It's the Maria Denmark Karen drape dress - as chic and classy as my sewing pal of the same name.

I like the fact that the dress can perform equally well as a casual dress (with boots and a cardi) or tarted up a bit with heels for the evening. The detail that reeled me in was the draped section that artfully skims over the stomach - yes! The fabric recommendation is for a knit with 5 -10% spandex so I've chosen this lovely tropical French Terry knit from Girl Charlee UK - it's soft and drapey so should work well. 

Second on my cold weather sewing list isn't quite so exciting - it's a sweatshirt. Come back, come back, it's not that boring I swear! I was originally going to use this lovely Aran sweater knit fabric from Miss Matatabi  (the fabric has since sold out unfortunately).

My plan was to make this into a fab snuggly jumper for the cold weather. But then Annie from the Village Haberdashery sent me samples of the Alison Glass Andover Jersey knits and I was torn - so many lovely colours to tempt me! The pattern I'm thinking of is the Capital Chic White Russian sweatshirt which I've made once before here. I fiddled about with that version and amended the pattern so it should be a quick, easy sew. I do think that two different colours (one for the body, one for the sleeves) works really well on this pattern, so that could be the way to go instead of the cable knit. What do you think? Cable knit effect or baseball style? Or one of each?!

I already have a wardrobe full of handmade knits, so this little batch should be enough to see me through the forthcoming Arctic blast!  Have a good week. x

Monday 4 January 2016

Anya Shoulder Bag

After a short sewing break over Christmas I decided to ease myself back into sewing by making a bag. I don't make bags very often, probably because I've made so many reversible shoppers to sell at craft fairs it's almost put me off for life! The type of bag I needed was a shoulder bag suitable for family walks or trips to the park, but with a bit more style than a basic tote or calico bag (of which I have many!)

The Anya Shoulder Bag from So, Zo... seemed to fit the bill perfectly - it has a stylish rounded shape and I particularly like the pleat detail.

So on New Year's Day I spent a pleasant couple of hours hunting through my stash looking for suitable fabrics. I wanted a solid colour for the main bag to minimise outfit clashes and decided on a classic go-with-everything denim. The fabric recommendation is for a sturdy, medium-heavy weight woven fabric with no stretch content, so I used a remnant of dark indigo denim left over from my McCalls 6696 shirt dress. The pattern advises you to interface the outer bag fabric, but I chose not to as my denim was so robust.

The good thing about denim is that it complements absolutely any fabric, so I was able to really go for it when it came to choosing a lining. I used a goy-jus mustard barkcloth that I bought from Misformake in the summer (now sold out sadly).

It's printed with little houses and the overall feel of the fabric is very mid-century - I love it! I only had half a metre, which isn't really enough for garment making, but plenty big enough for a spectacular bag lining! Because it's barkcloth, it's also a reasonable weight, making the whole bag pretty sturdy. 

This pattern was a delight to work with. The PDF is super speedy to tile together (only four A4 pages). and the instructions include colour photos and very comprehensive explanations for each step. Making this bag was such a stress-free experience: all the pieces fit together perfectly so you can't really go wrong. And I still got to flex my sewing muscles by inserting a lining, top stitching and making pleats, just on a very small, simple scale!

My version of the Anya bag doesn't include the button tab as I don't particularly like them. At some point I'll make myself sew on a large popper to keep the top closed for added security. I also shortened the straps by four inches as the bag sat too far down my body as originally drafted. I'm really happy with the finished bag and I know I'll be using it a lot this year.

The Anya bag doesn't require much fabric (just under a metre for the outer bag and about half a metre for the lining) and can easily be completed in an afternoon. I can see myself making lots more of them in the future as gifts! All in all, a very satisfying first project for the New Year! x


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