Monday 30 January 2017

Finished: Red Coat (McCall's 7058)

Get the flags out, I've finally finished my red coat! I first blogged about making a red coat back in November, having been gathering supplies to make one for a few weeks before that. As is often the case, it wasn't the main sewing of the coat that took so long, it was the final fiddly jobs (plus a break for Christmas.) It's been a frosty week in the UK so the timing couldn't be better for a warm, winter coat!

I didn't want to spam you with tons of photos and text, so for those of you who are interested there's a more in-depth post to follow, with links to all the tutorials and resources I used. I've also kept a record of how much the various materials cost me for this project, which I'll be including too. In the meantime, here's my coat in all its finished glory!

The pattern I used is McCall's 7058: a classic, princess seamed design with several different length and style options. I sewed a combination of versions B and C. Size-wise I cut a straight size 14, but shortened all the main body pieces (including sleeves) on the Petite lines throughout. This equated to two inches in total removed from each piece: one inch at bodice height and one inch at skirt height. Adjusting the pattern to the petite size also meant the pockets were in the correct position for my T-Rex arms!

Note: The fabric appears much redder than it actually is in these indoor photos because of the dreadful winter light.

I didn't make any further adjustments and the fit was more or less spot on. It's a tiny bit snug when fully buttoned up, as I didn't really allow for extra winter layers (duh), but I'm still really pleased with the fit. It has a lovely, nipped in silhouette.

The pattern instructions were clear and easy to follow and the main body of the coat came together very quickly. I only deviated from them at a couple of points: I chose not to include the back vents and I fully bagged the lining by machine rather than hand stitching the sleeve and coat hems. I'll include details of the lining tutorials I used in my next post. The lining pieces are separate and properly drafted with pleats to the centre back and hem. This makes a big difference when it comes to getting it on and off!

The main coat fabric is an Italian wool twill from Fabric Godmother (now sold out unfortunately). It was quite expensive (£26 per metre), but as it was reasonably wide and my pattern pieces were all shortened, I was able to cut out the whole coat from just two metres, yay! The quality of the wool is absolutely beautiful and I don't regret shelling out at all - it was worth every penny. I lined the coat in a contrast dusky blue lining fabric from Ditto Fabrics, (also sold out I'm afraid). All the main coat pieces apart from the under collar and sleeves were underlined with flannel for extra warmth.

I've only worn my coat a couple of times but I can already see it becoming a staple in my winter wardrobe. Despite the frumpy looking pattern, it feels really stylish to wear, it fits well and it's lovely and warm. It's also very me - I feel like I've owned it for years! I'm so pleased I went the extra mile when I was making it, I love it! x

Wednesday 25 January 2017

The Sangria dress (and my first outing with scuba!)

Scuba is a fabric that's never really appealed to me before now - it always seemed too rubbery for my liking. I changed my mind about this shortly after discovering this wonderful bonded lace scuba from TMOS (The Man Outside Sainsbury's) in Walthamstow last year. I didn't even realise it was scuba until one of the other sewists I was with put me right, but by that point it was too late - I'd fallen for it! 

As I'd never worked with this fabric before I decided to start with a pattern specifically designed for scuba knits - the Sangria dress by Capital Chic. The pattern is beautifully simple - no darts or pleats, just a smooth sheath dress with short sleeves and a neckband. Hopefully easy to sew and a good blank canvas to show off the lace detailing of the fabric.

Sally kindly sent me a copy of the pattern when it was released, along with a link to this post by Thumblenina. Nina had also used bonded lace scuba to make her stunning Sangria dress and noted that it didn't have as much stretch as normal scuba. Based on the finished measurements and taking Nina's comments into consideration I cut a size 14, grading out to a size 16 at the hips to give me room to sit down in comfort! I also shortened the dress by 9cms to make it knee length on me. The fit is just right - clingy enough to show off your curves but not so restrictive that you can barely move. Don't forget that seam allowances are 1cm on Capital Chic patterns, so don't use 1.5cms by mistake or you'll get an even tighter fit!

The scuba was interesting to work with, not exactly troublesome, just a bit difficult to manoeuvre in places. The clingy nature of the material means it doesn't shift around whilst sewing, which was a good thing, and the main body of the dress came together quickly and easily on my overlocker. Hemming was a little challenging as the scuba didn't respond well to being pressed flat. It took lots of steam and a tailor's clapper to get those hems flattened into submission. But my main problem was the arm binding - it's attached with a very small seam allowance, then folded round and stitched in the ditch, so all raw edges are enclosed. This should give a lovely neat finish, but unfortunately mine didn't turn out that way. The bulkiness of the fabric and narrowness of the binding both conspired against me and it ended up looking like a tight, uncomfortable ridge around my arms. I eventually removed the binding and sewed a simple turned hem with a twin needle instead. It's not as neat looking on the inside, but infinitely better on the outside, and it doesn't stop the circulation in my arms!

The other area where I ended up deviating from the instructions was the back opening, otherwise known as the zip! Because of the previously mentioned bulk, I was hoping I could get away with a much shorter zip than the recommended 60cms, or even better, no zip at all! Sadly the scuba didn't have enough stretch for me to get it over my head without one, but I only needed to unpick a few inches at the top, which was good news. My compromise was to fashion a keyhole opening, fastening with a thread loop and button at the neck.

If you've never worked with scuba before then this pattern is a really good place to start. There's minimal fitting involved and the well written instructions make it an easy, stress-free sew - I highly recommend it. And I'm delighted with the finished dress - despite being a tight fit, it's still comfortable to wear and is a really smart looking 'going out dress' to add to my wardrobe.

The finished dress is very clingy, but the fact that it's knee length, with a relatively high neck keeps it classy in my opinion. I'll be proudly wearing it out for cocktails with friends this weekend anyway. And I'll be very smug about the fact that it only cost me £8.00! x

Sneaky peak of my new coat!

The Sangria dress pattern was given to me free of charge. All views my own.

Monday 23 January 2017

A Quick and Easy Delia Top

After making my Heather dress I still had half a metre of the lovely navy Ponte jersey left over, which I wanted to put to good use. I decided to use it for the sleeves of a raglan sleeved top, teaming it with some classy checked Ponte jersey from Fabric Godmother. The checked fabric is reasonably heavy weight, making it a great choice for sweatshirts or knit dresses. The picture on the website makes it look cream coloured, but it's actually a light grey as you can see below. 

Raglan sleeved sweatshirt patterns are popular at this time of year and I've seen some gorgeous versions floating around. However, the two sweatshirt patterns I'm familiar with (the Grainline Linden and Capital Chic White Russian) tend to be a bit too loose fitting for my liking. The pattern I used was the Delia Top - this was newly released by Sew It With Love just before Christmas (PDF only) and is a semi fitted style. 

It's a good pattern for people like me who prefer their casual tops to have a closer fit - no grading in at the side seams! There's a choice of long or short sleeves, or if you're feeling especially girly there are options to add a bow or a peplum if you so desire (I don't, I'm not a fan of peplums!)

I was a tester for this pattern so I already knew the fit was good. I cut a 12 at the bust and a 10 at the waist and hips. It fits just how I like it: it still has a bit of ease but isn't too boxy. 

The only change I made was to the neck binding - this is supposed to be folded to the inside and top stitched, so isn't actually on display. I found this to be far too bulky and kept the neckband visible on the outside instead of folding under. I like the contrast against the lighter checked fabric, in fact I like it so much I haven't top stitched it as I don't want to spoil the effect! I just tacked the seam allowances together at the raglan sleeve top edges and that seems to keep it in place.

This is a well drafted pattern with clear instructions, so even if you've never sewn with knits before, you should be able to whip one up in an afternoon. It's also good for using up smaller pieces of beloved fabric too, as I've done here with the sleeves. Next up: a cocktail dress! x

The Delia Top was given to me free of charge for pattern testing, all views my own.

Sunday 15 January 2017

A Heather dress for winter

This is the Heather dress from Sew Over It, the first completed pattern from my #2017makenine list and my new favourite thing! It's a chic little number, with interesting curved seams (great for colour blocking) and fab oversized pockets. What's not to like?!

Size-wise I cut a size 10, grading out to a size 12 at the bust on the front side panels. The only other changes I made to the pattern were to shorten the hem by two inches and shorten the sleeves by an inch, both of which are standard adjustments for me. The fit is exactly what I was hoping for - it's a reasonably tight fit with just enough ease to make it comfortable to wear. The pockets are really cosy too.

There are no instructions to stabilise the shoulder seams, but I stabilised mine with twill tape to cope with the weight of the dress. All construction steps are illustrated with photos, making this a nice, straight forward sew. The only area where I puzzled for a minute was the pockets. Just remember that you're attaching the pocket bags to the front side seams, not the side seams as you normally would. Once I'd got my head round that, the dress came together very quickly - I think I sewed the whole thing in one afternoon.

Fabric recommendations are for medium weight knits with a low stretch percentage and I used a navy ponte Roma, that Alice at Clothspot very kindly sent me as a gift. They have a few other ponte knits in stock, but this particular shade of navy really called out to me. The weight and drape is perfect for the pattern - it's stable enough to cope with all the curved edges, but doesn't stretch out of shape. I loved working with it, and have already made a second garment from the remnants (coming soon!)

I've sewn with quite a few knit dress patterns over the years and this is by far my favourite. It's soooo comfortable for lounging on the sofa and can easily be dressed up for a night out. I want to wear it every day! I already have plans for a striped version with short sleeves for summer, and at least one more winter version.  What's your favourite knit dress pattern? x

Friday 6 January 2017

Exercise Update (in which I eat my words)

Two years ago I wrote this post declaring that I would never sew my own exercise gear. I also talked about the (virtually non-existent) role exercise played in my life. Well, one of those things is still true, the other is slowly changing. After trying unsuccessfully to get into running by myself over the years, I finally took the plunge and joined a local running group in October. I took their beginner's programme and by the end of eight weeks, I could run 5k continuously. Around the time I started, Kerry also blogged about running and very kindly sent me a few encouraging emails after I left a comment. Thank you Kerry, it was a massive boost!

This photo was taken in October - they're now much dirtier!
The support and encouragement of the running group (the Ealing Eagles) has been key, I just couldn't do it by myself. I'm now much better at pacing myself (I used to set off too fast and end up half dead after about ten minutes) and it's made a big difference. The update is that I now try to do a 5k run three times a week. This usually includes my local Parkrun which has been brilliant, both for meeting like minded people and making you ran that little bit faster. And there's more... next week I'm starting an Improvers programme, as part of a training plan to build up to a 10k run! Eeekkk! 

So I now need to eat my words, as I made a couple of declarations in that original post that no longer hold true.

1. 'I'm rubbish at it...I'll never be able to run further than 5k.'
Well hopefully by May I'll be running my first 10k race (she says, laughing nervously!) I'm hoping that by writing about it on my blog, it will somehow make it more of an official target!

2. 'I hate running. HATE. IT.'
That's no longer true either. I don't exactly love it, but I do really like it. I often find it quite tough to get going, but after a while I feel like Mo Farah, especially at the Parkrun where volunteers cheer you over the finish line!

I've noticed lots of benefits too: my legs have definitely changed shape, as has my waist (hoorah!) and it feels good to be doing some regular exercise. I've also personally found running to be a great stress reliever. Living with an autistic son who is currently transforming into a teenager brings a whole new set of challenges, which have been difficult to cope with at times. Running has really helped me calm down and not get so stressed about everything. Plus I find a good blast of bracing fresh air always works wonders!

I know this post isn't really anything to do with sewing, so apologies to those of you who come here for the sewing chat. I do have one small sewing related point to make though - I still have no intention of making my own exercise gear! 

If you're a runner (and I know lots of sewers are) please let me know in the comments. It would be nice to know there are more of us out there, planning sewing projects in our heads as we pound the streets (or maybe that's just me?!) Have a good weekend! x

Wednesday 4 January 2017


The word on the street at the moment seems to be #2017makenine, an Instagram initiative to make nine items during the course of the year. I can never resist jumping on a bandwagon so immediately started making lists of fabric and patterns. In my typically contrary way, I could only come up with six patterns that I really want to make in 2017 though! I don't want to include patterns just for the sake of it, so my version will have to be #2017makesix instead. My sewing strategy for the past couple of years has been to sew fewer items and focus more on wearability and fit. This seems to be working, so I'm sticking with it! I have lots of sewing plans spinning round in my head at the moment and am fully intending to sew more than six items in 2017, these are simply the six I've set my heart on.

1. Heather Dress - Sew Over It 
I've had my eye on this dress since it was first announced as a class at Sew Over It, so when it was released as a PDF pattern last year I snapped it up immediately. 

I really like the interesting side panels and pockets and I think it will be a big success in my winter wardrobe. A length of navy Ponte Roma is currently winging its way to me from Clothspot and once it arrives I'll be wasting no time sewing this up. If I can get the fit right I'd like to try a short sleeved version in a lighter knit for summer too.

2. Sangria Dress - Capital Chic
Remember the lace bonded scuba I bought from The Man Outside Sainsbury's last year? Well I think I may have found the perfect pattern to do it justice! 

The Sangia dress is a simple, elegant sheath especially designed for scuba fabric, yay! And to further inspire me, Nina has already made a beautiful bonded lace version here, which looks amazing.

3. Easy Short Sleeved Kimono Sleeved Dress - Pattern Runway on Craftsy
My simple, kimono sleeved New Look tops were a big success in 2016, so I was on the hunt for a dress version. Yes, I could probably have drafted one myself, but this pattern that I found on Craftsy seems to be absolutely perfect, so I'm saving myself the trouble! 

For my first version I'm going to use this fab, boat print rayon from Fabric Rehab (sadly they closed for business last year).

If that turns out well then I'm already dreaming of a second version in red luxury crepe.

4. Wrap Dress - New Look 6123
This pattern first came to my attention after seeing Rosa's dreamy vision of a dress here. Her dress was a mash up of two different New Look patterns, but it was the wrap style of the bodice that really caught my eye. 

Annoyingly the pattern is now out of print and I promptly fell down a rabbit hole online trying to track down a copy. Eventually I found one on eBay and am sooo excited to use it, as the pattern includes lots of different bodice and skirt variations. I find New Look patterns are a great fit on me more or less straight out of the envelope, so I have high hopes! For fabric I'll be using this firework print Liberty Tana Lawn, which was a Christmas present from my lovely husband.

5. Melilot Shirt - Deer and Doe
I love a summer shirt and this pattern has some nice details such as dropped shoulders and a rounded collar. 

I'll be using a cute sailor print viscose twill that I picked up at a Fabric Godmother open day last year (now sold out).

As an aside, I saw a gorgeous version of this shirt worn by a lady at the Handmade Fair in September. It was made from Atelier Brunette fabric, worn with a denim Arielle Skirt and she looked FAB! I chatted to her but I'm afraid I didn't get her name, so if you recognise yourself from this description, please let me know in the comments as your shirt really inspired me!

6. Maritime Shorts - Grainline Studio
I made a pair of these shorts last year and they were a roaring success on holiday so it makes sense to sew another pair. 

The stretch cotton sateen from Fabric Godmother was a good match for the pattern so I'll be using the same fabric again, probably in red. Hopefully this time round it will be a more straight forward sew, especially if I remember to use the most up to date instructions!

No doubt there'll be more than a few in-betweeny patterns, but these are the six I'm most looking forward to sewing. Have you put together a #2017makenine list? Which patterns are top of your list? x


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