Saturday 30 April 2016

Very Hungry Caterpillar Bag

Most of my sewing time for the past week or so has been taken up with my Big Vintage Sewalong dress. I've sewn two muslins, (which is two more than I'd normally sew…) and tried to get my head round some complicated new techniques, so I was well in need of a break from it. And what better way to refresh my poor, addled brain than to sew a Very Hungry Caterpillar bag for my nephew?!

I saw the caterpillar fabric a few weeks ago via Roisin's Instagram when she made a dress for her friend's daughter - she's since made one for herself too, here. My nephew Herrick recently dressed up as the Very Hungry Caterpillar for World Book Day at nursery (yes, he looked unbelievably cute!), so I instantly knew what I'd be making him for his first birthday! There were quite a few different fabrics to choose from: big caterpillars, small caterpillars, butterflies, fruits and even the entire list of foods he stuffs his face with. In the end I decided to go for a mash up of caterpillars, butterflies and fruits for the outside of the bag and patchwork dots for the lining.

If you've read the book, you'll recognise the dots from the beginning and end of the book - my son Charlie was always fascinated by them!

To make the bag I used my own Kid's Washbag tutorial, replacing the waterproof fabric with caterpillar fabric and simply sized the measurements up. I think the starting pieces were 18" wide x 20' long, which is the size of the drawstring bags I used to make for craft fairs. I added interfacing to the back of the main outer fabric as it has a white background and I didn't want the bright lining fabric to show through. It didn't take long to make at all and was a pleasure to sew. I hope Herrick likes it, it will look nice and bright on his peg at nursery or wherever it ends up anyway.

Soon-to-be birthday boy
It's amazing how much a simple sewing project can re-invigorate you - I'm now more than ready to take on any number of vintage patterns. Bring on those underarm gussets! Have a good weekend. x

Monday 25 April 2016

Sew Over It Doris Dress (and a giveaway)

Ahoy-hoy! Today I'll be talking about the Doris Dress, the latest pattern release from Sew Over It. The pattern has some gorgeous design details including short kimono sleeves, pleats to the front and back bodice, a panelled skirt and a low scooped neck. There are two dress lengths to choose from: a longer, below-the-knee length or a shorter version. The dress is semi-fitted and the waist can be accentuated with either a tie belt or a short, buttoned back belt. I tested the pattern for Sew Over It a few weeks ago and there's a lot to like about it!

I used one of my favourite stash fabrics to make it with - a royal blue dotted chambray from Robert Kaufman which was kindly gifted to me by Florence last year. I've been waiting for just the right pattern to pair it with and the Doris dress seemed to fit the bill perfectly. It's the same fabric I used for my second Pussy Bow Blouse but in a different colourway, so I knew it would be lovely to work with. The dots are quite subtle so you don't get the full Minnie Mouse effect and the brighter blue is a great colour for summer. 

This particular chambray is easy to cut out, presses well and has just enough drape for this dress. I say just because the Doris pattern has a seven panelled, flippy skirt that benefits from a lightweight fabric with some drape to it. Rayons, silks and light lawns would work well but I'd steer clear of quilting cottons or anything too stiff. Luckily this chambray is quite soft, so just sneaked through the drape test by the skin of its teeth. The dress also requires six buttons down the front which is a good excuse to use up any vintage beauties you've been saving up. And, the centre front opening isn't functional so you don't even need to make buttonholes if you don't want to. I'm extremely lazy so this was a no brainer - I simply sewed my buttons directly through the bodice front, oh what joy! 

Size-wise I made a size 10 of version 2 - the shorter version with the fixed back belt. It's worth noting that the short version really is quite short - I ending up lengthening the skirt by 1.5 inches and I'm titchy (5'2"). If I was intending to only wear this dress to the beach I wouldn't have bothered, but I have lots of other plans for it so needed a bit more coverage! 

The only other fitting adjustment I made was a one inch FBA (Full Bust Adjustment). The overall fit is good - it isn't as roomy at the waist as I was expecting, which is probably down to my not-quite-size-10 waistline, so I didn't bother adding the back belt. The belt on version 2 isn't actually sewn in place until the end of the construction process, so you can wait to see how it fits before deciding.

Back view without fixed back belt
The dress closes with an invisible side zip, which is the only thing about the dress I dislike. Uurrgh don't get me started on side zips, I bloody hate the things. I had to put one in this version as I was testing the pattern, but I'd be very tempted to replace it with a centre back one next time. They're not actually any more difficult to install than a centred zip, I just personally find the process awkward. Yes, you get a lovely clean line down the back bodice, but I still don't think it's worth the sacrifice. And if you have any kind of chest they're a nightmare when it comes to actually getting the dress on and off! Luckily, the low scoop neck on this pattern makes it easier than most. This is just my own personal sewing gripe though - if side zips don't bring you out in hives, you're laughing.

EDIT: A couple of commenters have made some excellent points regarding side zips. Firstly if functional buttonholes are added to the front bodice this make it easier to get the dress on and off. Secondly, changing the zip to a centred back zip wouldn't work for version two with the fixed back belt. It would still work without a belt (like my version) or for version one, as the ties for the long belt are attached at the back pleats. Thanks !

Because there are quite a number of different techniques used in this pattern, it's classified as Intermediate which I would agree with. There's nothing too head scratchy though, so if you already have a few simple dresses under your belt and can insert a concealed zip you should be fine, I think it's a great pattern to really stretch your skills a bit further.

This dress will get a lot of wear this summer, the chambray gives it a definite casual look, but the design is elegant enough to make you feel pulled together. It's described as a day dress and that's exactly when I intend to wear it - it's a perfect dress for everyday wear!

If you like the look of the Doris Dress then you're in luck, as I have one extra copy of the pattern to give away. To be in with a chance of winning it, 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 Friday 29th April. The winner will be chosen at random and I'll announce the winner here on my blog. Have a good week! x

The Doris Dress pattern was given to me free of charge for pattern testing. All views my own. 

Thursday 14 April 2016

Clara Bow Blouse (without bow!)

This week I've been mostly working on the Clara Bow Blouse from Til The Sun Goes Down. The pattern is inspired by 1930's designs and includes some nice design details such as a topstitched yoke, double bust darts and a buttoned side fastening. It doesn't require much fabric either, so I decided to try out the sleeveless version using some green vintage chambray from my stash. 

First off, you'll notice that there isn't actually a bow on my version! The bow is simply a rectangle of fabric (or you can use a handkerchief if you prefer) tied through a buttonhole at the centre front. I quite liked the neat look of the unadorned yoke, so didn't bother adding a buttonhole. I may add a bow later if I get a sudden yearning, but for now it's bow-less.

The pattern is well drafted and the instructions on the whole are precise and easy to follow. The diagrams were particularly helpful when trying to work out a couple of trickier areas such as the yoke and the button placket. The yoke construction is clever, it's basically sewing a facing in reverse. 

This is the outside view of the front bodice
The right side of the yoke is stitched to the wrong side of the blouse, then flipped round to the right side and top stitched down - easy! Just make sure you pay careful attention to your right sides and wrong sides at this point as it can get confusing. It's also worth noting that the shoulder seams are sewn wrong sides together for a clean finish on the inside (the raw edges are enclosed by the yoke). 

The button placket at the side seam was another new-to-me technique and despite not being a fan of any kind of side opening, I quite like how it looks. 

Very awkward side view, but you get the general idea
Unfortunately my buttonhole foot was being a complete pain in the arse when I made this top and I had to abandon the idea of buttons altogether. Instead, I used snaps, which was an idea given to me by Christina at Gussets and Godets when we met up for a coffee and sewing chat recently. Yes, snaps aren't particularly vintage looking and some nice old buttons would probably have looked better, but they're so quick and easy to apply. I have one of those wrench tool things for applying them and the entire placket took about ten minutes from start to finish, I'm a convert!  

With regards to fit I should definitely have made a muslin as there are several things I'd do differently next time round. Size-wise I went by the finished garment measurements and cut a size 10, which was a tad optimistic! There's much less ease in the finished blouse than I was expecting. It's wearable, but a tight in the bust area, so next time I'll cut a size 12 with a full bust adjustment. I'll also lower the bust darts and lengthen the whole blouse as it's pretty short, even on me! 

It looks ok with jeans….

and I like how it looks underneath a cardigan….

But I'll mostly wear it with my Simplicity 2451 skirt (see picture at beginning of this post) - the two garments seem to work well together with the blouse untucked. And you get a double chambray hit! x

Friday 8 April 2016

Sewing for a changing body shape

During the past few months I've noticed a definite increase in my waist size when fitting garments. Yes, some of it is probably due to over enthusiastic pie eating, but some of it is also down to a new, middle-aged body shape that has slowly been creeping up on me (oh joy!) I've always found it relatively easy to get rid of a few pounds here and there, but it's become increasingly difficult recently and I think it may be something to do with my age (I'll be 47 in a couple of weeks).

It doesn't bother me - I make my own clothes for goodness sake, so I can adapt them to fit! - but I may have to reconsider some of the patterns I choose to sew. I just need to concentrate on patterns that skim rather than cling! Or those that offer a bit of respite, such as wrap tops. A few patterns immediately spring to mind:

Simplicity 2154 - it looks more fitted than it actually is. It's loose fitting enough to get over my head and has contour darts at the back and front for shape. Previously made here, here and here.

New Look 6217 - my latest pattern crush, previously made here and here. The pattern has no darts just a semi-fitted comfortable design.

Sew Over It Pussy Bow Blouse - previously made here. It looks good tucked in or worn loose and the neck bow and elegant sleeves really give this pattern a polished feel.

Simplicity 2451 - previously made here. This skirt has pleats at the front and sits slightly below your natural waistline, what's not to like?

I've also always found shirt dresses very easy to wear and fit.

Another obvious answer is to sew with knits, which can skilfully nip you in without a dart in sight. I do sew with knits a fair bit, especially during the winter, but stretchy and forgiving as they are, I don't want an entire wardrobe of jersey garments. I love being able to work with a diverse range of fabrics and stretching my skills with different techniques. So yes, I do want some knit garments in my wardrobe, just not all of them.  

The suggestions above are all patterns that work for me personally, but I know from reading the comments on this post that I'm not the only one having to rethink what suits me. What are your go-to patterns for a changing body shape that don't compromise on style? Any recommendations or advice? If there's enough interest in this topic then I'll compile any suggestions into a further blog post of tips. Jump in! x

Saturday 2 April 2016

Spring/summer sewing plans

Spring finally appears to have sprung - hoorah! I can walk round in a cardigan instead of a coat, sunglasses are required and socks have almost (but not quite) been discarded. Time to sew some summer clothes! So, in no particular order, here's what I'm planning:

A sundress, using this fabric... 
Vintage barkcloth
...and this pattern - New Look 6457 - although I'm undecided about the bodice shape, probably A or E.

A shirt dress, using this fabric, which is the same viscose print I used for my Pussy Bow Blouse, just in the black colourway. I bought the fabric a while ago from Fabric Godmother so it's not longer in stock, but there are lots of other gorgeous viscose prints in stock here.

I really like the idea of a shirt dress with princess seams and the new Butterick 6333 looks like a good match.

I'm also keen to use the two vintage chambrays I picked up at the Handmade Fair last year (they're under the yellow gingham in this picture). 

The green one would look good as a top (perhaps the Clara Bow blouse?) and the pink one a simple summer skirt, probably Simplicity 2451.  The yellow gingham will be turned into one of the vintage tops from this pattern. Currently I'm leaning towards the tie front top on the left, any preferences?

Realistically, this is all I'll have time to sew this summer, so I'm planning to take my time and really enjoy the process. Can't wait! What's on your summer sewing list? x 


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