Wednesday 13 December 2017

Silver party skirt

Need something snazzy for the party season but don't have time to sew a dress? Here's the next best option: a faux leather party skirt! This skirt is ridiculously easy to make, cheap as chips and, depending on how much drink you manage to knock back, allows you instant access to your inner rock chic...

I bought my silver faux leather from Fabric Godmother (also available in black or gold) or Girl Charlee have a good range in stock, including red, navy and some lovely metallics. It's softer than I was expecting, with a decent drape and a reasonable amount of stretch. At £10 a metre it's good value too - after cutting out my skirt I still have quite a bit left over that I plan to make into purses and make-up bags for presents. 

Any pin holes, needle marks or unpicking will be clearly visible on faux leather, so my main piece of advice is to choose a pattern that fits well to avoid any unpicking mishaps. I chose the lace pencil skirt from the GBSB Fashion with Fabric book, which I've made before and is a good fit on me.  This time round I added a split to the back seam - a pencil skirt without a split is fine if you're posing for blog photos at home, not so good for getting in and out of a taxi! I also cut the skirt pieces two inches longer than my first version as I wasn't planning on hemming it.

Construction was seriously quick: two darts to the back, two side seams, invisible zip and back seam. Done! I rebelliously used pins (positioning them within the seam allowance to avoid puncture marks) and a leather needle. Faux leather doesn't fray, so my seams were pressed open and left unfinished. I used fabric glue on the back seam to secure it open and give the split a neat finish. I also used it on the top edge of the skirt, which is simply pressed under and glued into place. I secured the seam to the zip at the back opening with a few hand stitches for extra security.

I wore this skirt out for dinner with friends a few nights ago and felt fabulous in it. Being silver and faux leather, it's quite a statement in itself, so I made sure the rest of my outfit was a bit more toned down. A fitted black cardigan, high boots and a sparkly bracelet was all it took and I felt glammed up but not over dressed. Definitely £10 well spent! x

Monday 4 December 2017

Chloe Coat

At last... something finished to show you! This is the Chloe Coat from Sew Over It: a classic collarless coat with lined, patch pockets, an open ended zip, tailored shoulders and long front darts. There's nothing super fancy about the design, it's just a simple, elegant style that's totally wearable. I'm very happy with mine! The pattern is part of the Intro to Sewing Coats online course and I'll be writing a separate post reviewing the course shortly. This will include lots more detail about construction and the techniques used in the course.

I was fortunate to be able to try on a sample of the coat at the Knitting & Stitching Show this year, which was great for checking the size. The sample was a size 10, and although it was a good fit across the back and shoulders etc, when I tried to zip it up it was far too tight across the bust - imagine a sausage squeezed into a skin! I also wanted a bit of additional room for winter layers under my coat so decided to cut a straight size 12 all over. 

I made just two small adjustments to the pattern, I shortened the sleeve length by 6cms and re-positioned the pockets about 2.5cms higher to allow for my short arms. It's also worth pointing out that I didn't shorten the coat hem which is normally a standard adjustment for me. You'll note from the photos that the coat finishes well above the knee on me and I'm only 5'2", so if you're taller or prefer a longer coat you may want to lengthen the pattern. 

I love the roomier fit, it's much more comfortable when you're bundled up wearing layers of knitwear. I also far prefer the patch pockets to in-seam pockets. The last coat I made had in-seam pockets in the side princess seams and having worn it quite a lot, I do feel like they're positioned too far back. 

The main coat fabric is an acrylic/wool mix from Doughty's (no longer available I'm afraid) and I was able to cut out the whole coat comfortably from 2.5m. As I wasn't originally intending to make a coat, I wanted to save costs by using a lining from my stash. There was just enough polka dot lining fabric left over from my Abbey Coat (which, incidentally I never wear, anybody want it?!) so I used that.  

Inside: lining and facings
Luckily for me it's a perfect match with the baby blue coating and a really good quality lining fabric to boot (originally from here), so it was all a bit fortuitous. The other notions needed for the coat - an open-ended zip, tailoring interfacing and, wait for it, ice wool - I purchased from Sew Over It. 

Because of the nature of the online course I sewed the coat in small chunks, which corresponded with the video tutorials. It's a great way to take on a large project such as a coat, which can seem quite daunting, or if you're simply short of time and need to fit your sewing around short bursts. The only step I didn't incorporate is the top stitching down the front edges of the coat. This wasn't a design decision, it was simply because I couldn't fit the layers of coat front and facings under my sewing machine! If I had the choice I'd have definitely included the top stitching as the front facing does has a tendency to curl round (see last photo). 

I started wearing this coat as soon as the last bit of hand sewing was finished and it's sooo warm, even warmer than my red coat which was underlined with flannel! Given the current cold snap, I haven't had a chance to take it to the dry cleaners for a professional press, which is why it looks a bit springy in some photos. When I can bear to remove it from my back I might take a trip to get it beautifully pressed. But then again, I'm enjoying wearing it so much I probably won't! x

Thank you to my friend Joe for this lovely picture of me (and my coat) in Lambs Conduit Street last week.

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Slow sewing

Hello! Things have been a bit quiet of late on the blog, which doesn't necessarily equate to a lack of sewing. I've actually been sewing constantly for the past few weeks, but the projects have been so slow moving I don't have anything to show you. My main project has been a set of memory quilts for a family member and her sons. If you've read this post, or this one, you'll know how long these things take and there's still a fair way to go. I'm now at the quilting stage and am looking forward to several days of sewing straight lines over the Christmas period!

The second project I've been working on is a coat. I know, I don't even need another coat, but sometimes these decisions are taken out of our hands.... At the GBSB Live in September I had a spare half hour wandering around on my own before meeting up with some sewing friends. Before I knew it, I'd somehow managed to buy 2.5m of baby blue coating without meaning to. Some kind of sorcery was clearly at play as I wasn't even looking for coat fabric!

The fabric was from Doughty's and I think it's an acrylic/wool mix which annoyingly, doesn't seem to be on their website. In fact there are hardly any wool fabrics listed, maybe they sold them all at the show? Anyway, sorcery aside, the fabric just happened to be a perfect match for the Sew Over It Chloe Coat, so that was another chunk of my autumn sewing sorted in one fell swoop. 

Coat making has been going swimmingly so far - just bagging the lining and hemming to finish - so I should have a shiny new coat to blog about before too long.

My final pre-Christmas project will be to make something from this lovely silver faux leather I bought from Fabric Godmother. 

Again, I don't know what possessed me, but I have a vision in my head of a chic little pencil skirt. Worn with a plain black top and a big necklace, I think it has the makings of an effortless Christmas party outfit! I've purchased some leather needles and leather glue and will probably need some of those bulldog clip things - I'll report back. Anybody else working on a slow project? x

Friday 20 October 2017

It's Cocktail Hour!

Today I'm sharing the dress I made as part of the Vogue Patterns Cocktail Hour Sewalong.

The sewalong was launched in March by McCall's to raise money for The Eve Appeal - a charity that funds research into gynaecological cancers. 26 sewing bloggers have been taking part in the blog tour since then, sewing up their choice of 20 specially selected Vogue evening wear patterns. Money raised from the sale of each pattern will go to the Eve Appeal, so anybody who buys one will be directly supporting the charity. You can check out what everybody else has been making by using the hashtag #sipandsew on Instagram and Twitter.

When it came to choosing my pattern, I was looking for a simple design that wouldn't require much brain power to sew. Vogue 1536 seemed to fit the bill perfectly - an elegant princess-seamed cocktail dress by American designers Tom and Linda Platt.
The pattern also comes with a strange Mel and Kim-style cropped bolero jacket, which you'll be pleased to hear I disregarded. I was only ever interested in the dress.

She's spoiling for a fight...
With such a simple design I knew that fabric choice would be key and spent a looong time making my mind up. I finally decided on an Italian wool crepe from Til the Sun goes Down for the main dress and a shantung satin from ClothSpot for the lining.

The navy colourway I used is no longer in stock unfortunately, but here's the link to another blue. The lining fabric is also sold out - sorry! The crepe by itself is quite lightweight but takes on a completely different feel with the lining added. The shantung satin adds structure and weight to the dress and it feels very luxurious to wear - exactly what you want from a cocktail dress. The wool crepe is expensive (£32 a metre) but reasonably wide, and with a bit of clever pattern placement I was able to get away with using just one metre for my dress. You'll be relieved to hear that I did actually make a muslin before cutting into such posh fabric!

I'd read in a few reviews that the dress ran large, so cut a size 12 which was one size smaller than my measurements. I used the petite shortening lines at the waist only (you can also shorten for petite sizes at the hips) as the finished length is already quite short. The only other adjustment I made was a 5/8" tuck across the back piece as the V back gaped slightly on the muslin.

There wasn't anything untoward about the pattern and the construction was relatively straight forward. The only thing that leapt out at me was the lack of instruction to stay stitch the V front and back necklines. Yes, it's an obvious step, but I really think it should have been included - these areas are both cut on the bias and the last thing you want is a stretched out neckline. I also ditched the instructions when it came to adding the lining as there was far too much hand sewing for my liking. I attached the entire lining by machine, apart from the area around the back split which I hand stitched. I also hand stitched the dress hem.

For such a simple dress I did have to spend an enormous amount of time with a steam iron and a clapper pressing the curved princess seams flat. Luckily for me, the wool crepe was a dream to manipulate and I'm really happy with how well the seams pressed. I think they're worth the extra effort.

I have to say, this is a gorgeous dress: simple, classy and a great fit. It isn't super fitted, but the subtle shaping of the princess seams really shows off your curves, which I like. It's very me and I'm glad I kept it simple when it came to choosing the pattern. Cheers!

Two seconds after this photo was taken I spilt the entire cocktail down my arm...

The pattern and a fabric allowance were kindly provided by McCall's. All views my own. 

Wednesday 11 October 2017

Chambray Kalle Shirt

I've had my beady eye on the Closet Case Files Kalle pattern ever since it was released. Despite being loose fitting, the body skimming silhouette really does seem to flatter all shapes so I convinced myself to step out of my usual fitted shirt comfort zone and give it a go. Two versions I've been particularly swooning over are Sallie's tencel denim shirtdress and Lauren's cute cropped shirt version.

The pattern comes in three lengths: cropped, tunic or shirtdress, with a multitude of options for the collar, placket and back pleat. I decided on a mixture of Views A and C - the faced hem and inverted pleat of view A and the traditional collar and button placket of view C.

I also thought long and hard about which size to cut as there's a lot of ease in this pattern. I was sorely tempted to size down, but after reading a few reviews I cut the correct size for my measurements (size 8) to ensure a good fit across the shoulders. I added 2.5" length to the back piece and 5" to the front piece and button band as the original cropped length of View A is very cropped. I'll lengthen the front piece even more next time as my bust makes the shirt ride up a bit higher than I'd like.

The only other adjustment I made was to overlap the back pleat 1" along the fold line - this reduces quite a bit of fullness in the back. If you do this, and you're making View A, don't forget to also adjust your back hem facing piece as it will be too wide if you don't. Ask me how I know...

The instructions are reasonably comprehensive and there's also a Kalle sewalong on the blog which goes through all the trickier steps in greater detail. I'll admit, I did need to refer to the sewalong for the yoke (my mind went blank, even though I've sewn 'burrito' yokes loads of times!) I also needed it for the sleeve cuffs - they're not particularly complicated to sew, but I think the instructions would have benefited from a few more diagrams. I had no problem with the collar however as the pattern uses my favourite Four Square Walls method for construction. There's even a separate smaller pattern piece for the under collar so you don't need to trim it down, hoorah!

I've now made several traditional shirts/shirtdresses with collars, but for some reason I still find the process quite daunting. This time I was determined to enjoy it, so I broke the construction down into five achievable chunks: button plackets, yoke, hem facing, collar and sleeve cuffs. It worked a treat - each chunk is substantial but not too overwhelming and you can see real progress at the end of each stage. I struggled most with the facing, probably because of the accuracy needed to get a clean, sharp finish around the curved hem. It's not my best work - mine isn't as clean and sharp as I'd like and there's still a bit of rippling along the hem, but I can live with it.

I also managed to avoid a whole construction step (buttons and buttonholes) by paying a quick visit to DM Buttons in Soho and getting them to add snaps for me! With hindsight I should have added one to the hem/facing area as well as it has a tendency to gape open. Never mind.

Eight snaps for a fiver, bargain!
For fabric I blatantly copied Sallie and made my Kalle shirt in a tencel chambray. As far as I can gather from a quick Google search, tencel (or lyocell as it's sometimes known) is a sustainable fabric made from wood cellulose, very similar in drape and feel to rayon. I'd agree with this as the chambray I used was not like chambray I've sewn with in the past. The depth of colour, the drape and the soft feel of the fabric are all noticeably different (in a good way) to a standard chambray.

I found it quite difficult to source tencel in the UK and eventually tracked some down at German based I've had a long standing offer from the company to try out one of their fabrics and this seemed like the perfect time to take them up on it. The fabric arrived promptly and was even nicer than I'd envisaged. It washes and presses well and even though it has a similar drape to rayon I found it slightly easier to handle and sew as it doesn't shift around quite as much. It does, however, fray and shed fibres as soon as you look at it, so I was mightily relieved when all seams were concealed or finished. I should also point out that I had to lighten these photos (it was a dreary day when they were taken) so the blue colour of the fabric isn't as bright in real life.

Overall I like the finished Kalle shirt. The relaxed fit will take some getting used to, purely because it's so different to all the other shirts in my wardrobe. But on the flip side, it's really comfortable to wear so I think that's going to make it quite popular! x

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

Monday 2 October 2017

Tie Belt Dress

Hellooo!  I'm back and what better place to start than with a new, red dress...

I first decided to make this dress after spying a stunning red tie-belt number in a department store. Lovely as it was, the price tag was over £200 and I convinced myself I could make my own version. Coincidentally Laura from Sew Different had recently contacted me to see if I was interested in reviewing a pattern, and by great good fortune the Tie Belt Dress was very close to the shape and style I was after. Although I did struggle with some aspects of the pattern and instructions, the end result is just what I was hoping for.

Original inspiration dress
My version
The dress is a softly fitting A-line shape, with darts to the back, a waist tie belt for definition and a high/low hem. There are no finished measurements given, so I chose the size closest to my actual measurements - a UK size 12 - which fits me reasonably well. The instructions are quite basic, but that wasn't a problem for me as as the dress is a very simple shape. 

There were one or two parts that did have me scratching my head though. Firstly, the grain line arrows are shown going in two different directions. I checked this with Laura and apparently this is to indicate the weft and the warp, but I still found them confusing. Secondly the cutting layouts show the pattern pieces cut on an unfolded, single layer of fabric, even though all pieces are cut on the fold - bizarre!

Once I'd clarified what was what, I made a few style changes:

- Levelled off the hemline (I'm not a fan of dramatic high/low hems)
- Tapered in the side seams to reduce the A-line shape
- Shortened the dress by 2.5cms

I decided to sew the sleeves as drafted before making a decision on length. As it turned out, they were too long on my short arms with the trim attached. Rather than shorten them, I simply turned the trim to the inside to act as a facing and top stitched it down, easy!

Construction was very straight forward - the only thing I'd say is to keep an eye on the position of the black dots for attaching the tie belt. The dot positions are for guidance only and may need moving up or down to align with your waist (I needed to move mine up). The instructions also have you attach the tie belt quite early in the proceedings, but I'd recommend waiting until the whole dress is constructed before pinning them into place. That way you get a more accurate idea of your natural waistline.

For fabric I went against the recommendations (light denim, needlecord, heavy cotton etc) and chose a luxury crepe from Sew Over It with a nice drape. I think the original shape of the dress in a weightier fabric would have looked too sack-like on me. The drapier fabric worked well and was close to the fabric from the original inspiration dress. At £14 a metre it worked out much cheaper to make my own version too! 

I can always find room in my wardrobe for a red dress, and although this one is a little different to my usual style, it's growing on me. I just need to get used to the dropped shoulders and oversized silhouette. It's a really easy dress to wear and I can see myself wearing it with tights and boots once the weather turns fully autumnal. Have a good day! x

A copy of the Tie Belt Dress pattern was given to me free of charge for review. All opinions my own.

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Seven Years of Blogging!

Today my blog turns seven! Seven years since I tentatively published my first post featuring a lovely, but stiff-as-a-board Colette Sencha blouse.

A lot has happened during the past seven years. I've discovered a passion and love for sewing I never knew existed, made some lifelong friends, spent thousands of hours at the sewing machine and bought more than a few metres of fabric. This time last year I even had a book published! Blogs in general and sewing blogs in particular have also seen quite a change during that time. Sewing bloggers are publishing fewer posts and some have even stopped blogging altogether. There are several good reasons for this, but I still find it sad when a sewing blog ceases to be.

Instagram has definitely played its part and I'm as guilty as the next person. It's all too easy to 'like' something on Instagram rather than go through the rigmarole of leaving a comment on a blog. And let's face it, posting a single photo of a finished garment takes far less time than slaving over a hot computer to write a full pattern review. The thing is, I like reading the full reviews and the sewing details. I want to know how a fabric behaved and what fitting adjustments were needed. I love reading about sewing. As attractive as the quick fix will always be, I'd still rather read the longer, less glamorous version on a sewing blog.

The other area of sewing social media that seems to have suddenly sprung to life is sewing vlogs.  I can see that vlogs serve a slightly different purpose to sewing blogs, but try as I might, I just can't warm to them. Unlike Instagram, there's actually quite a time investment required to actually sit and watch them (the few I've viewed all seem to last around 15 minutes). I'd much rather spend that time reading blogs! Admittedly I'm always years behind when it comes to any form of new social media, but I'm absolutely certain I'll never start vlogging myself. I'd have to contend with the twin horrors of seeing myself on camera and listening to my own voice. No thanks!  

I'll still continue to write my blog, even if fewer people are reading them, simply because having a blog is hugely important to me. Admittedly I've been a bit quiet lately (a combination of summer holidays and back-to-school madness), but I do really enjoy the process of writing posts and reviewing the garments I make. Call me a Luddite, but that's the way I like it!

A massive thank you to everybody who has offered such unwavering support and friendship over the past seven years. I really do appreciate it. xx

I'll be back soon with something rarely seen on this blog (ha!) - a new red dress!

Sadly this is a pretend front cover!

Wednesday 9 August 2017

Simplicity sundress mark two

Way back in 2013 I made myself a strappy sundress using Simplicity 2176. During its short life it was a great success, it was made with lovely fabric and had a cool vintage vibe. Sadly it came a cropper in the washing machine when the blue dye from the main dress seeped into the white bodice band, leaving it an unsightly shade of dishwater grey. I know, I know, I probably could have saved it by unpicking the bodice band and adding a new one, but as we all know I'm totally lazy and that was never going to happen. The dress was donated to charity and I was left one sundress short in my summer wardrobe. This year, I finally got round to sewing a replacement.

I did a bit of tinkering with the bodice for this second version. The fit on the bust on my original dress was always quite tight, which made the waistline ride up as a consequence. This time I added a one inch full bust adjustment (FBA) and lengthened the bodice by 5/8". I also added a little extra to the side seams as I find very tight waists unbearable in hot weather. Overall I think the fit on the bodice is much better - it's not actually that noticeable but I feel the benefit!

Original on left, new version on right
The skirt is from New Look 6557, the same one I used for my Fireworks dress. I love this shape of skirt (a quarter circle) in the hot weather as it's cool and airy without being too big. The only other change I made was to substitute the lapped zip for an invisible one and attach the inside bodice band to the zip by machine for a neat finish. 

The duck egg blue fabric is a lovely lightweight floral lawn that I leapt on when Freya was de-stashing at a recent meet up. There was 2m to play with, which was just enough for this dress, thanks Freya! The colour is slightly brighter in real life, more like the photo below.

Spot the felt tip marks that still need to be washed out!
Because the fabric is very light I underlined the bodice sections and cut a separate skirt lining with white silk cotton. I probably should have added a full lining to the bodice instead of underlining it as this would have concealed the notched princess seams. I also added strips of interfacing either side of the invisible zip for extra support and stay tape across the top of the bodice to prevent it stretching.

Without really intending to I seem to have put quite a lot of effort into making this dress! The irony is that there hasn't been a truly hot day in London since I finished it, so it hasn't actually been worn yet. It does look good with a cardigan though! x

Sunday 6 August 2017

Great British Sewing Bee Live ticket winners!

Thank you so much to everybody who entered my giveaway to win tickets to The Great British Sewing Bee Live, I loved reading about everybody's first makes! The five winners who each win a pair of tickets to attend the show on either Thursday 21st or Friday 22nd September 2017 are:

Pendle Stitches
Maria Makes
Sharon Pickles
Frankie Baldwin

Congratulations ladies! Please email me your address details and I can arrange for the tickets to be sent out to you.

If you weren't one of the lucky winners, don't forget you can still claim £1.50 off advance adult ticket prices by quoting my discount code HMJ.

Looking forward to seeing some of you there! x

Tuesday 1 August 2017

The Great British Sewing Bee Live giveaway

If you're a fan of The Great British Sewing Bee then you'll no doubt be aware that The Great British Sewing Bee Live will be taking place from 21st to 24th September 2017 at Excel London. I loved the GBSB when it was on TV and am really looking forward to seeing how the concept translates to a live show format.

From the information I've had so far, it looks like there will be LOTS going on to attract dressmakers and sewing lovers of all abilities, including:

  • The GBSB Live Super Theatre featuring Patrick Grant and Esme Young and hosted by comedian, author, Grumpy Old Woman and red lipstick fan Jenny Eclair
  • Workshops and demonstrations by GBSB contestants and top sewing tutors
  • Dressmaking drop-in clinics
  • A make-at-home fashion catwalk
  • The Fashion and Textile Museum's Liberty in Fashion exhibition, specially curated for the event
  • 200+ dressmaking and sewing suppliers

If this sounds like a description of your perfect day, then you're in luck as I have five pairs of tickets to give away to UK readers. Please note that the tickets are for either Thursday 21st or Friday 22nd September only so you must be able to attend the show on those dates. 

To enter leave a comment on this post telling me what was the first thing you ever sewed. The closing date is midnight on Friday 4th August 2017 and winners will be chosen at random and announced on my blog.

If you're not one of the lucky winners then don't despair, I also have a discount code - HMJ - which gives readers £1.50 off advance adult tickets bought here.  Come along, it will be a laugh!

Friday 28 July 2017

More sleeveless shell tops

My Sleeveless Shell Top has been such a hit this summer I promptly made myself two more. Taking on board my own advice from my first version, I made a couple of tiny adjustments to the pattern: I lengthened the front curve to match the back and eliminated the centre back seam. I also used this method to attach the all-in-one facings by machine and it worked like a dream. Now that I know what I'm doing (it only took me five years to work it out...) it actually takes me less time to attach an all-in-one facing than it takes to attach bias tape and you get a lovely clean finish. I'm a complete convert!

First up is a Liberty lawn version in my all time favourite print - Carline (only available in pink at the moment). I had just one metre of fabric, which was lucky as that's all you need for this pattern! I made it during a sewing afternoon over at Tilly's and am amazed I managed to sew it without any mistakes as I was more than a little distracted by the sewing chat. It's such a lovely, colourful top and looks great with all kinds of solid coloured garments: jeans, skinny trousers, red skirts, the lot! 

The second version is made from Swiss Dot cotton*, this time in turquoise.

I used the same kind of fabric for my Malia top and it's a really nice weight for a sleeveless top - it has a lovely drape. I only had a 60cm remnant, (snapped up for £2 from Fabric Godmother last year) and it was just enough to cut out the front and back pieces. I love it when I get to use up smaller pieces from my stash like this! I cut the facing pieces from white silk cotton.

This top will probably get even more wear than the Carline one as it's a solid colour so can be paired up with virtually anything.

Three is probably my limit for this pattern this summer - I dread to think how many I'm going to make next year though! I love this pattern. x

*Every single time I type this fabric name I think of Dot Cotton from Eastenders...


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