Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Liberty quilt question

Just a quick post today to announce that I've finally finished the top for my Liberty quilt. My god it was gruelling, it seemed to take forever! 

The quilt won't actually be needed until the autumn, which gives me time to do a spot of research and brace myself for the next stage. All but one of the fabrics I used in the quilt top are Liberty Tana Lawn, which is noticeably lighter and finer than quilting cotton. My question is, do I need to add an additional layer of light cotton fabric (cotton muslin for instance) to the quilt top to provide extra strength and support? Or will it be OK once everything is quilted together? I've spent so long piecing it all together, I want to make sure the quilt has a good, long life! 

I know there are some experienced quilters who read my blog - I'm just hoping they're reading this post! If any of you have quilted with Liberty lawn (or indeed any thin cotton lawn), I'd appreciate your advice. Thank you!

Now all I have to do is quilt the bloody thing...  

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

#2017makenine update

The #2017makenine Instagram initiative (or in my case #2017makesix...) is the only sewing challenge I've signed up for this year, and it seems to have gone to plan so far.

Of the six patterns/fabrics I selected in January I've now completed four of them:

Plus a bonus second version here!

This was a substitution for the Deer & Doe Melilot shirt, using the same fabric I'd already earmarked for the project.

Of the two remaining projects on my list, the Pattern Runway Kimono Sleeved dress is still waiting patiently to be sewn, but the Grainline Maritime shorts have fallen by the wayside. This is because we're not having a beach holiday this year, and as that's when they'd get 90% of their wear, I couldn't really justify making another pair. There are a couple of other patterns that have sneaked into the queue though....

Last year, whilst wandering around the posh 'Village' area in Westfields Shopping Centre I came across this dress.

I really loved the design - a simple kimono shape with an integrated tie belt - but not the price tag. I can't remember where it was from (either Whistles or Max Mara I think) or the exact price, but it was definitely over £200. I knew I could make my own version. After a bit of online sleuthing, I soon had a copy of the Tie Belt Dress pattern by Sew Different and two metres of red luxury crepe from Sew Over It in my paws.

Yay! I have high hopes that I can replicate the 'Village' dress for a fraction of the cost.

And the final pattern to elbow its way into my sewing queue is the Closet Case Files Kalle shirt and shirtdress. After eyeing up lots of denim shirts on Pinterest recently and then spotting Sallie's gorgeous shirtdress version, I'm now desperate to add one to my summer wardrobe.

The looser fit is a departure for me, but I've been finding very fitted shirts heavy going in the warmer weather, so I think it's time for a change. I can't wait to get started!

That's it from me, how are you all getting on with your #2017makenine challenges?

Monday, 22 May 2017

New Look Fireworks Dress

I've had a picture of this dress in my head for ages, ever since seeing Rosa's beautiful floral dress last summer. I really liked the wrap front bodice and the way the dress looked so casually chic. The wrap bodice was from New Look 6123 which is now out of print, but I was lucky enough to track a copy down on eBay. I also had the perfect fabric in mind - a firework print Liberty Tana lawn.

The pattern has two different skirt options, both of which were a bit too formal for the kind of easy, summer dress I had in mind, so I substituted the skirt from another New Look pattern (6557) instead. The skirt is a half circle which I slimmed down by reducing the curve by 8cms and chopping 14cms off the midi length. The result is more of a quarter circle, not too full but still with a decent amount of swish. New Look patterns are generally a pretty good match for my body shape, but I still needed to make a few changes to get the fit I wanted.

My dress is View A with a quarter circle skirt

This particular pattern is cut quite generously at the bust (possibly because of the wrap style) but has very little ease at the waist. I ended up cutting a 12 at the bust and shoulders, grading to a 14 at the waist and lengthened the bodice by 1.5cm. I also took a 2cm triangular shaped wedge from the centre back pieces as the back neckline noticeably gaped on my muslin. Next time I'll raise the height of the front neckline as it's currently a bit plunging!

Construction wise, this was a reasonably straight forward pattern to sew up, though not necessarily a quick one. The bodice has really pretty pleats and gathers on one side, which took me a couple of goes and quite a bit of unpicking to get exactly how I wanted. The skirt waistline also ended up a little larger than the bodice waistline so I added two tiny tucks, which are barely noticeable amidst all the fireworks. The cap sleeves are self faced, the same as the sleeves on my Etta dress, in this case they're finished with an overlocker rather than bias binding. Not as neat looking on the inside, but sooo much quicker!

I contacted Rosa before starting work on the dress as I was worried about the bias cut front edges stretching out of shape. Her advice was to staystitch as per the instructions and use a strong interfacing. I used Washable Supersoft from English Couture - a medium weight interfacing with a soft finish - and it didn't do too bad a job. It doesn't sit as flat as I'd like, so I think it must still have stretched a tiny bit during construction. I also reinforced the centre back edges with strips of interfacing to prevent the fabric puckering when I inserted the invisible zip. With hindsight, I wish I'd lined the skirt section as it's a bit transparent by itself, easily sorted by wearing a slip though.

The Liberty lawn I used is very lightweight and floaty, but I still think it's a good match for this pattern. The colours in the print are a really lovely combination and I like the fact that it doesn't look like a typical Liberty design. The fireworks look like some kind of exotic flowers, reminiscent of 1930s and possibly 1970s prints. This will be such a nice dress for summer - casual enough to wear at home with flip flops and easily glammed up when required. I'm so pleased with it.

As I mentioned earlier, New Look 6123 is now out of print, but if you like the look of a wrap front dress, I've managed to find a few other patterns for wovens that look promising. These are: Sew Over It Eve dress, Vogue 9251, Vogue 8784, McCall's 6959 and Butterick 5898. Or if you have any other pattern recommendations, please share them in the comments. x

Friday, 12 May 2017

Sewing and Running

After publishing this post at the beginning of the year, it was interesting to discover that there are so many of you who sew and run. This post is a bit of an update on both. Sewing has been pretty much a constant in my life since I first learnt as an adult eight years ago (I was also taught at school, but never encouraged). The timing was perfect as it gave me the focus I needed to stop me dwelling too much on having a disabled child. Sewing is what has kept me sane and happy ever since. 

That all went out of the window a couple of months ago unfortunately, when the challenges at home just became overwhelming. I tried to take my mind off things by sewing but I couldn't concentrate. The more mistakes I made, the more stressed I felt, it was dreadful. When I did eventually have something finished to blog about, I had no energy to write about it and certainly couldn't bring myself to plaster a smile on my face and photograph it. So I made the decision to take a short break from sewing and blogging.

In the meantime I went running. Three times a week without fail I was out there, pounding the pavements and parks of Ealing, sometimes on my own, sometimes with my lovely running group. Being outdoors and doing physical exercise really helped - exercise endorphins do work wonders. I know lots of people run with headphones, but I never have, it was just me and my whirring thoughts. I found the repetition of running quite meditative - a bit like the sound of a sewing machine - I'm sure there's a parallel there somewhere! After each run I felt so much better, my head was clearer and things were more in perspective. 

My second pair of trainers, still box fresh!
Within a few weeks I was sewing and blogging again, perhaps not quite as prolific as before, but definitely back on the horse. Still sewing. And still running. Running will never replace sewing in my life, but it can certainly complement it, and I like how the two can now go hand in hand. And the good news is that all that practice improved my running - I'm now able to run 10K!!! I still find this amazing, considering I couldn't run 10 metres six months ago. My next challenge will be on 17th June - I'll be running my first 10K race to support Charlie's special needs school. It's a wonderful school and they've been so supportive to us, I'd love to raise some money to help Charlie and the other amazing children who attend. If you're feeling generous and have a pound or two to spare, you can donate here. Any sponsorship will be very gratefully received.

With some members of my fab running group 
I have to admit, I'm nervous about this race, which is daft as I know I can run the distance. The thing is, I haven't taken part in any organised sporting event since leaving school, which was over 30 years ago... so let's just say I'm a bit out of practice! My darling sister-in-law recently ran her first 10K race in Australia and said whenever she felt like giving up, she thought of Charlie and carried on. I'm going to use the same tactics. Wish me luck! x

Friday, 5 May 2017

Tilly and the Buttons Etta Dress

This is the new Etta Dress pattern from Tilly and the Buttons: a drop dead gorgeous wiggle dress, super fitted and super slinky. I was one of the pattern testers, which doesn't automatically guarantee I'm going to like a pattern, but in this case it was exactly my style and I totally fell for it!  Etta is shaped with darts to the waist, bust and shoulders, with a choice of sleeves (capped or three-quarter length) and back necklines (high or V-backed). There's also an optional collar or faux pockets. In an ideal world I'd have chosen the collared version but didn't have enough fabric, so mine is a simple V-backed style with cap sleeves.

As soon as I saw the brief I knew exactly which fabric I was going to use: a barkcloth-style cotton from Fabrics Galore that I snapped up at the Knitting & Stitching Show last year. Fiona from Diary of a Chain Stitcher also bought some and made her stunning Big Vintage Sewalong dress from it. The fabric has an unusual springy texture and a slight stretch, making it perfect for this very fitted pattern. Stitches do completely disappear into the fabric though, which is great if you want to hide a line of stitching, but not so good if you want to show off design details. The darts don't really show up on any of my photos, so you'll just have to take my word for it that they're there! If you look closely you can just about make out the back shoulder darts in the picture below. 

The cap sleeves are self lined and finished with bias binding. I must admit this was a bit of a fiddly technique, but worth it I think for the lovely neat finish on the inside. 

Luckily, my fabric wasn't a directional print so I was able to squeeze the bodice, skirt and sleeve pieces out of 1.5 metres. The facings and bias binding were made from dotted chambray left over from this top

There have been a few changes made to the pattern since the testing process so I won't go into great detail about the construction. However, to give you a rough idea of size, my dress is a size 4 at the bust and a size 3 at the waist and hips, with the skirt length shortened by two inches. The skirt is designed to hit the bottom of the knee.

This is the perfect pattern to use for a special occasion dress. It's very flattering and you'll look effortlessly elegant and chic sipping a martini. If you have a wedding to attend this summer, or just need a new cocktail dress, you're sorted! x

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

Friday, 28 April 2017

Maxi dress to Agnes top refashion

Refashion. Now there's a word you don't see very often on this blog. Sadly, I'm not one of those people who can take a voluminous grandma dress and instantly transform it into a trench coat... or a jumpsuit...or a pair of shoes... When the Great British Sewing Bee was on TV, I'd still be pondering what to make for the refashion challenge days later, whilst the poor contestants generally had about ninety minutes. Let's just say I'm not a natural.

Very occasionally though, a garment will fall into my hands that's crying out to be turned into something else. This happened recently when I was sorting out my wardrobe and came across this maxi dress. All I could think about was how much better it would look as a T shirt!

It's a perfectly nice dress, but I haven't worn a maxi since I was a child in the seventies (most people seemed to be in possession of one for parties), they're just not a style I feel comfortable wearing. My friend gave it to me a couple of years ago (I think she'd bought two by mistake on eBay) and despite good intentions, it's never been worn. The fabric is a stretchy chevron jersey with a nice drape and because it's full length, there's plenty of it, so I decided to see if I could turn it into a simple fitted T shirt that would get worn. The pattern I used was the Agnes top by Tilly and the Buttons.

First off I removed the weirdly short empire line bodice, which gave me enough uninterrupted fabric from the long skirt section to play with. There was just enough to cut out a front, back, short sleeves and neckband. I kept the original hem and made sure the downward point of the chevron was directly on the fold when I was cutting it out, so it was centred. I also spent a bit of time trying to incorporate the ruched neckline, but the effect was completely lost amongst the chevrons, so I removed it.

I wanted this version to be a tighter fit than my first version, so cut a size 4 all over, grading out to a size 5 at the bust. I think the fit is just right and I now have a go-to T shirt pattern that I can use again and again, yay!

I'm delighted with the finished top, it's exactly how I envisaged it, and so wearable too! It works really well with jeans and I can also see myself pairing it with skirts (see above!) and shorts in the summer. I could have taken the dress to the charity shop and somebody would probably have snapped it up, but I'm glad I didn't. I'd have missed out on making this cute little top if I had!  x

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Nautical print Granville shirt

My lightweight #2017makenine pledge is actually going rather well (lightweight in the sense that mine is actually #2017makesix...). I've made the Capital Chic Sangria dress and two versions of the Sew Over It Heather dress. My latest finished garment takes the tally up to three, although it's a slight deviation from the original idea. I'd planned to make a Deer and Doe Melilot Shirt using some nautical viscose twill from my stash. Well, the stash fabric got used, but I decided to use an old favourite rather than starting from scratch with a new-to-me pattern. The pattern I used was the Sewaholic Granville shirt which I've sewn three times before (here, here and here). It was already adjusted to fit, so my plan was to just cut out the fabric and start sewing. It didn't quite work out that way though...

I have no qualms with the pattern: I love using it and always get good results. No, the baddie in this particular saga happened to be the fabric - it was an absolute nightmare. The culprit was a viscose twill with a lovely drape and slight sheen from Fabric Godmother (no longer in stock). The problem was it had so much drape it was barely usable. The first sign that all was not well was when I tried to iron it after pre-washing - it wouldn't stay on the ironing board and kept sliding off. I then sprayed it to within an inch of its life with spray starch. This stiffened the fabric sufficiently for me to cut the pattern pieces out, but it was still slippery as hell. The texture was horrible to work with too, a bit like having an entire garment made from grosgrain ribbon. I put the finished shirt through a rinse cycle in the washing machine, but I'm not entirely convinced all the starch has been removed as the texture is still a bit weird. Hopefully it will settle down after another wash.

Spot the sailor boys...
The reason I'd fallen for the fabric in the first place was the design: from afar it looks like a ditsy floral, but it's actually a nautical theme. Anchors, yachts, flags and, wait for it... sailor boys! Adorable as those sailor boys are, they're not cute enough to make me want to work with this fabric ever again. I was actually quite resentful of it by the time I'd finished, which was a shame as I loved it when I first bought it and it certainly wasn't cheap (£17 a metre).

On a brighter note, having made it several times before, construction was a breeze. The only time I ventured away from the instructions was to construct the collar - I used the Four Square Walls method which I prefer. If I were to make this shirt again (highly likely), the one thing I'd change would be to increase the size of the full bust adjustment as it's a tiny bit snug across the bust.

After grappling with the fabric for what felt like months, I knew any kind of buttonhole mishap would nudge me over the edge, so I got the buttonholes made at D M Buttons in Soho. I added a couple more (well why not, if somebody else is making them?!) which was a sensible move. All my other versions have had to have secret buttons added to the inside to prevent gaping but this one seems to be fine so far. I personally don't think there are enough buttons specified in the pattern, so if you're thinking of making it I'd recommend adding a couple more. The buttons are lovely metal ones from the button shop in Berlin - I like how they pop against all the red, white and blue.

The shirt has already had its first full day's outing: a meeting with sewing pals to welcome Tasha and partner Mel to London last weekend.

Outside Sew Over It

With beautiful Roisin
Looking slightly crazed with a cocktail
It was the perfect choice for walking around visiting fabric shops and sitting in the pub, but still felt just about dressy enough for cocktails later. I almost forgave the fabric for being such a bitch to work with. Almost. Happy Sunday! x

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The perfect denim skirt (probably)

Who doesn't love a denim skirt? I've made plenty over the years (here, here, here and here) and I'm still not bored of them. When I was at the Knitting & Stitching Show recently I fell for some lovely bright blue seventies style denim from Guthrie & Ghani and immediately knew I wanted to make another one with it. The question was, what style of denim skirt to make?

My current favourite pairing: plain jumper, big necklace and clogs

If you type 'denim skirt' into Pinterest, 99% of the resulting pins are either A-line button up styles, denim minis or a combination of the two. I already own a RTW denim mini which I hardly ever wear, and it seemed a bit pointless to make another one just for the sake of it. I wanted to use my denim to make a skirt that would be worn a lot, so I scrutinised my handmade wardrobe for inspiration. The two skirts that I wear the most are my barkcloth skirt made from a vintage pattern and my chambray Simplicity 2451. Both of them have just the right amount of ease to be comfortable, but are still a great shape. Having made the one seam skirt twice already, I decided to give the Simplicity pattern another go.

Casual with a striped T-shirt
Simplicity 2451 is quite an old pattern and tragically now appears to be out of print (oh no!) - I must get into the habit of sewing patterns when they're current rather than years later. If you can get your hands on a copy though I'd highly recommend it - it's relatively simple and very satisfying to sew. As per last time, I cut a size 12 of view C, with no changes and the fit is just right. The denim has a slight stretch, which always helps. Because I was using a thicker fabric this time, I used a precious fat quarter of vintage feedsack for the inside waist facing and the pocket linings.

I love the contrast and the fact that the blue in the feedsack design is almost an exact colour match for the denim. 
Paired with a pretty vintage blouse 
I'm so glad I went with a pattern that suits my style. Yes, it's not the most hip pattern on the block but as you can see from the photos it works for me and my wardrobe! In fact, I can't think of any of my tops that this skirt wouldn't work with - I have tons of styling ideas. I may have to try that out as an experiment: one skirt, styled seven different ways!  x

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Sew Over It Molly Top

This here is the Molly Top, one of the patterns included in the My Capsule Wardrobe: City Break eBook by Sew Over It.

I've only just got round to sewing anything from it and the Molly pattern was the perfect place to start. 

There are lots of gorgeous, inspirational photos of the pattern in the eBook, which was great for styling ideas. I decided to cut my neckband on the cross grain (as seen above) to make the stripes contrast. The pattern is drafted with short kimono sleeves with additional long sleeve cuffs to add some interest. I really like this feature, especially when sewn with stripes, but with spring nodding its head at me, I decided to leave off the long sleeves for my first attempt.

I cut a straight size 10 and brought the waist in slightly for a bit more shaping. This works well with the top, but I won't make this change for the dress version as I'll need the extra room around the middle. I also shortened the pattern by an inch and could probably do with shortening it a bit more for any future versions. It's quite long on me, which is great for wearing loose with jeans, but a bit too bulky if I want to wear it tucked into anything.

Could probably go a bit shorter... 
Because of the kimono sleeves, this top was soooo easy to sew. Just attach the front and back pieces at the shoulders and side seams, add the neckband and hem and boom, you're done. It would probably take a little bit longer to add the sleeve cuffs, but not much longer as they're hardly difficult. I didn't actually follow the instructions, just skimmed them to check there wasn't anything untoward, then whipped the top up on my overlocker. And don't worry if you don't have an overlocker, the instructions are geared towards sewing it on a regular machine with a narrow zigzag stitch. 

Recommended fabrics are lightweight cotton or viscose jerseys for the top version, or heavier weight ponte knits for the dress. I used a red and white small striped jersey from Fabrics Galore which is a cotton/elastane mix and is probably weighty enough for the dress version too. Patterns with kimono sleeves are notorious fabric eaters, but because I didn't add sleeves and the fabric was wide, the 1.5 metres I'd bought was plenty. The quality of the fabric is just so lovely - it washes well and has great recovery - I'll definitely be buying more in different colourways.

The finished top has been worn a lot, it's so simple and comfortable to throw on and I love the contrast neckband. To be honest, I doubt whether I'll make any of the other four patterns included in the eBook (find them here) as they're either not to my taste, or too similar to patterns I already own. I'm delighted to have found this little gem though - look out for a dress version with sleeves later in the year!

A copy of the My Capsule Wardrobe eBook was given to me free of charge for review. All views my own.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Another Heather Dress

It was only a matter of time before I caved in and made another Heather dress.

My navy version has been a runaway success this winter, so much so that I needed to dilute it to stop it being worn to death. This second version was made using a luxury ponte knit in aqua, sent to me to try out by The Sewcial Studio. It's not quite as weighty as the ponte I used for my first version, which made me think it would be better suited to a short sleeved spring version. I was right, it's a lovely quality jersey and the perfect weight for a spring dress. Personally I wouldn't want to use anything lighter than a ponte for this pattern as the princess seams and pockets require a bit of structure.

I sewed the same size as last time (size 10, grading to size 12 at the bust), with a couple of additional changes:
  • Shortened the neckband. It wasn't quite snug enough on my first Heather dress and it does bag a bit, which is annoying.
  • Shaved the top curve off the sleeve heads. For some reason the sleeves jut out at the shoulder on me, a bit like a low key Krystle Carrington. I didn't change them on my first version but it was far more noticeable this time round (probably because of the lighter coloured fabric), so out came the scissors.
  • Added another 1.5cms to the front side seams at the bust for a better fit.

That's it, nothing major, and like last time, it was a quick, easy sew. Everything on the inside was sewn on my overlocker and the hems were finished with a twin needle. I think I've been lucky with the fit on this pattern - it's comfortable but still figure skimming on me. I like the short sleeves for the warmer weather too. I'm wearing the dress with tights in these photos to spare you the sight of my blue/white winter pallor, but as soon as the false tan kicks in I'll be baring my legs and wearing it with clogs!  x

Fabric was given to me free of charge by The Sewcial Studio for review. All views my own.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Knitting & Stitching Show 2017

First up, I'd like to say an enormous THANK YOU to everybody who commented or sent me messages of support following my last post. I appreciated each and every one of them and they really did make me feel better. I'm not quite sewing and blogging on full steam yet, but I've been back at the sewing machine (and the computer), so it's a start. In the meantime, what better way to cheer yourself up and forget about the stresses of everyday life than to visit a stitching show?! 

A few weeks ago I hot footed it over to Olympia with sewing pal Winnie to the Spring Knitting & Stitching Show. This year, I did what I always forget to do and booked myself into a workshop - Altering Patterns for a Fuller Bust - rock and roll! Whilst I was immersed in full bust adjustments (details below), Winnie somehow managed to make a leather clutch bag in an hour! After our workshop delights, the rest of the day was spent visiting stands and stuffing our faces with cake. Sadly there were too many cheap market stalls selling tat or blatantly non-crafty items for my liking. I counted no fewer than three separate stands for the Cats Protection League??? What's that all about?! Despite this we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and still managed to walk around for hours until our feet nearly dropped off. Here's a mini round up based on the abysmal number of random photos I remembered to take....

For my workshop, tutor Clare Tyler showed us everything we needed to know about adjusting patterns for busty types. This included moving darts and adjusting patterns for a no dart bodice, side dart bodice and princess seamed bodice. I'd done most of the alterations before, but it was still really interesting and the 1.5 hours positively flew by. After demonstrating each step we were let loose with paper and sellotape.

Chatting with Lauren from Guthrie Ghani. Lauren was wearing a Tilly and the Buttons Zadie dress in the most beautiful textured jersey fabric (Winnie bought some).

Vintage lovelies from Simply Vintage Designs

Liberty fabric heaven at Sewbox. I was on the lookout for some smaller pieces for my quilt and found a perfect little pack for £5. I've already managed to squeeze out 20 patchwork squares from the pieces, bargain!

This year I bought just three pieces of fabric, all destined for simple garments. 

From the top:
Teal striped T-shirt jersey from Girl Charlee

Small striped jersey from Fabrics Galore. I'd never paid much attention to their jerseys before, but having examined them up close, I have to say the quality is amazing. This will become a short sleeved Molly Top from Sew Over It.

Lovely, bright blue denim (much brighter in real life than the photo) from Guthrie Ghani. I'll probably make some kind of seventies-style skirt with it. 

The combination of fabric purchases, meeting sewing pals (old and new) and spending the day with Winnie was the perfect tonic for my frazzled nerves - I'm glad I visited! Next up, some actual sewing... x


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