Operation oversized shirt dress (the Ralph Pink Sahara Shirt)

After a bit of early New Year wardrobe lethargy, I decided to go to the shops - not to buy, but to try on for sewing inspiration. We have an &otherstories and Cos in Leeds now (my fave high street shops from my long gone days of shopping) so I went for a snoop. Deciding not to be limited by styles, I tried on anything that I liked the look of, which meant giving some new-to-me styles a go. And that's when I totally fell in love with the most perfect not-usually-me oversized shirt dress.

Handmade shirt dress - the Ralph Pink Sahara Shirt
Although I never intended to buy anything - inspiration trip only - I might have 'accidentally' bought the 'perfect' shirt dress from &OtherStories (pictured below), if only it hadn't been £85 (!!!). I'm neither a usual shirt-wearer or shirt-maker, and it's a bit silly but button holes still strike fear into my heart. But you do unexpected things when in love (with a shirt dress) so I made it my mission to make my own...

The (expensive) inspiration!
First step was finding the PERFECT pattern. After racking my brains a bit, I resorted to an Instagram cry for help, and was met with masses of wonderful comments and suggestions (so many suggestions in fact, that I had to make a Pinterest board to contain them)! Among the possible pattern matches were the Named Helmi, Deer & Doe Meliot - both of which have the perfect neckline - and a couple of sack dresses with the perfect sleeve, but none of them quite 'the one'. It was Hayley and Megan whose suggestions of the Ralph Pink Sahara Shirt made my heart sing. Apart from the collar, it looked spot on from the line drawing, and I thought it would be interesting to try a new-to-me pattern company, so I bought the PDF.

Taking the opportunity to use my Maker's Workbook
The PDF pattern has a border but no line to define it, so it was a bit tricky to trim to size, but once it was prepped, I was off! I used a plain black crepe with a good drape, similar to the shop bought version. The pattern only gives the yardage needed for the largest size (2.35m for size L) so I took a punt and bought 2.2m for the size Medium - perfect, with just a little breathing room. I skipped the faux pocket and collar pieces from my pattern cutting (though as a heads up, they would've fitted within the 2.2m) to get it as close to the inspiration garment as possible.

Getting to grips with my first overlocker!
Having never made a shirt before, I was a little tentative, but needn't have been. The instructions and illustrations are good and really easy to follow. Topstitching the very long plackets in place gave me the sweats just a little, but it was all suprisingly straightforward make. I also took the plunge and used my brand new overlocker for the first time, so it was a little bit of a learning curve in that sense - managing to re-thread it was a triumph in itself! I was quite thankful to have it as there are lots of veryyyy long seams to finish.

The finished dress!
Lovely draping from the side
In an attempt to copy the shop version's neckline, I sewed the 2 collar stand pieces together in the same manner as making the collar (without the actual collar pieces sandwiched in the middle). I attached the collar stand as instructed, and voila! The perfect neckline (phew)!

Detail and a pretty professional finish :)
And now for the much disliked task of adding button holes. The pattern says 11 buttons are needed, (though one of these is for the faux pocket which I skipped). I'm not sure if this is an 'unfortunately' or not, but there are no pattern markings given for the buttons on the pattern pieces. I ended up using 10 buttons on the placket, each spaced 7cm apart. I found that I needed a smaller button for the collar stand, but luckily I had a very little one in my stash. Of course, my first 3 were a near disaster - even after 3 successful practices on a replica placket, typical - but I soon got into the swing of it, and they look pretty good! As a possible word of warning, I found that the button placket came up a little long, but this was really easy to trim just before hemming.

11 button holes down and still standing!
The pattern recommends a rolled hem finish for the curved bottom. Now I've never done one before, but my overlocker's instructions said it could do them, so I gave it a go. I'm not exactly sure if it looks how a rolled hem should, but it does the job, and it was FAST. My first finished make of the year, and quite an exciting one, which has got me all the more inspired!

Back view
...and with a bit of a breeze!
I love love love the finished garment, and just a week from shop-try-on to wearing my own version isn't half bad - only a quick distraction from my #2017makenine plans! The shape is exactly what I wanted, and I'd say the addition of the curved yoke even makes it that little bit better than the &OtherStories version. I can definitely recommend the pattern and will be making it up again with the same tweaks  - in fact I've already got some textured black drapey fabric for version two! Who'd have thought I'd ever feel so stylish/cool in a sack dress?! It's a style I'm keen to explore further, so if you have any tips for fab oversized shirt/dress patterns please let me know in a comment below :)

Dangerously flag-like on a windy day... thanks Sara for the photos!

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Out with the old and in with the new (year)!

Many people might be glad to see the back of it, but at least I can say that 2016 has been pretty successful for all things sewing. I feel like everything's gained a bit of momentum - finishing projects, my sewing abilities, blogging, and my overall involvement (*cough* immersion) in the sewing community. I also feel like I'm really finding my ground style-wise now, so here's a snapshot of my top 5 favourite makes from this year:

Clockwise from top left: Nita Wrap Skirt, Waver Jacket, Culotte jumpsuit, Turia Dungarees, Yona Coat

Nita Wrap Skirt in pleather
My 2nd Nita after the first I did as a pattern tester, and I was quite adventurous (maybe naive) in my fabric choice, having never sewn in faux leather before. It's a million miles from perfect and it was a tough sew, but I love it and it's my go to skirt to wear out for dinner/drinks! Number 3 is well overdue.

Papercut Patterns Waver Jacket
My first attempt at outerwear and the garment that really made me think 'woahhhh I can actually do this'! Made in wax cotton with a jazzy lining; I'm sure it'll get wear for years to come.

By Hand London Flora Culotte jumpsuit hack
Combining my love for the B6178 culottes with a proper fitting bodice that I spent much time toile-ing and adjusting. It's not exactly a wear-on-every-occasion number, but it made an appearance at a summer wedding.

Named Clothing Yona Coat
I feel like I may have been overly critical about the Yona in my original blog post, but my love for it grows with (much) wear. The wool is so warm and soft and I still can't believe I MADE A PROPER COAT!

Pauline Alice Turia Dungaree Dress
My second pair of Turia dungarees, made with a few adjustments, some super careful topstitching, and a lot of consideration over the finish of the garment. I've worn them all summer and through to winter, swapping light tops for Rise/Fall Turtlenecks layered underneath.

And not forgetting the ones that didn't make the list but almost did - my first Inari Tee Dress in black suedette, and my much used and loved Radiant Home Studio Retro Rucksack.


And now for a look at what's to come... here's my 2017 make nine:

L-R, top row: McCall's M7249, WATG clutch, Vogue 8956; middle row: denim trench, winter coat, denim wrap skirt; bottom row: McCall's 6991, Kielo Wrap Dress facing tutorial, Rosie Martin's No Patterns Needed

1. McCall's M7249 dress
I had big plans to make this in wine coloured velvet before Christmas, but never quite found the perfect fabric or the time to squeeze it in, so it's a roll over. One of my oldest friends is getting married in September - the first of our school gang! - so I think view D, without the contrast would make a pretty special dress for the occasion. And despite making my dress now being the norm, it still gives me the excuse to buy outrageous new shoes right?!

2. Wool and the Gang clutch
I've been admiring the WATG knitted purses for a while now, and particularly like the ones they stocked as a part of the &OtherStories collab. Luckily for me, I snapped up the 'Tender Loving Clutch Kit' in the post-Christmas sale with the Beetlejuice yarn. I bought an extra cone of the 'Jersey be Good' yarn in grey and peach for seconds and thirds too!
The sale's still on if you get in there quick!

3. Vogue 8956 skirt
I came across this pattern recently having seen a great version made up by @sweeetbitter84 on Instagram (Erica Bunker sewed up a fab one here too). It's a pretty good match for recreating this skirt I saw on Pinterest, but would make a great Vivienne Westwood knock off in check/tartan too!

Skirt by Yohji Yamamoto
4. Denim Trench Coat 
After all the fun of sewing the Waver Jacket and Yona Coat, I've been feeling the need for a new outerwear challenge, and this one really will be a challenge! I bought the Named Clothing Isla Trench Coat with their advent discount, and although I want a classic Mac, I'm desperate to make one that has just a slight edge like the denim one worn in the street-style snap above. If I can pull it off, I'll hopefully be wearing it come Spring!

5. The PERFECT winter coat (does is exist???)
I've been pinning my faves to a Coat Inspo board for a while, but I just can't seem to decide on what makes the perfect Winter Coat. I know it needs to be longer than the Yona Coat, and I'm thinking something a bit oversized (though as much as I like the one pictured above, I can't really see me in pink). Luckily I've got a coat to last for the time being, and quite a while to decide.

Coat Inspo board
6. Denim Nita Wrap Skirt
Again, an image from Pinterest. I'm not sure where my sudden interest in denim has come from (I never wear jeans) but the mid-length Sew DIY Nita would look perfect in denim blue. In fact, I'd be up for making another Talvikki Sweater in orange too to copy the whole look!

7. McCall's 6991 shirt
One of two patterns I chose as a prize for winning star make from The Fold Line. It doesn't look like too much from the cover, but when I looked at the line drawings, it was spot on for copying a couple of old blouses I bought years ago from Topshop. I'll skip the pocket on the front and make it in solid, block colour.

8. Kielo Wrap Dress with facing
I've slowed down on making the Kielo this year, but I'm keen to try sewing up a new one using the new facing tutorial. My first and long-time favourite Kielo's fabric is on it's way out, so I'll be looking for a nice crepe with a similarly good drape for the replacement.

9. More from No Patterns Needed
So much to make, so little time! I haven't had time to squeeze in more than the Deep V Tunic from Rosie Martin's book since I picked it up in late summer. I really enjoyed the process of drafting the pattern based on my measurements, so I'd love to give the book's Asymmetric Mini Skirt, Drip Drape Skirt, or Insert Skirt a try.

No Patterns Needed Drip Drape Skirt variation
And finally... venturing out and meeting sewing friends IRL across the year has probably had the most impact - sewing can be a solitary hobby, even with help of Insta/blog/other social platforms, so it's nice to immerse my real physical self in the real life world of fabric buying, chatting patterns and general loveliness! Thanks to everyone who I've met for being so friendly (and encouraging me to buy the fabric I was probably umming and ahhing about) and hope to see you all again and meet many more crafty people in 2017!

Happy New Year!

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B6244 pattern hack

I'm in print! I've been dying to share this top secret make for a while now, and I'm finally allowed... Here's my B6244 pattern hack, made up as a part of a pattern hacking feature in the new Sew Style, Stitch Your Size bookazine, which has just hit the shelves! 

My B6244 pattern hack
In Sew Style!
I wasn't really sure what to expect when I agreed to take part, but when the the package arrived I was pleasantly surprised! The fabric is a lovely checked Edinburgh tweed from Minerva Crafts (thankfully there was plenty enough to make up my fairly out-there hack come to life). I was asked to make the dress from the Lisette B6244: a fairly straight-forward garment with contrast side panels and yokes. It's not something I'd normally pick, but it's a simple enough design to jazz up with an unusual hack.


Lisette Butterick B6244
My plan was to use the checked fabric to create a Vivienne Westwood inspired number. Adding a shoulder drape seemed like a fairly easy way to do this, and dramatically change up the silhouette of the original dress whilst still showing off the fabric.

Vivienne Westwood inspiration and some sketches
I made a muslin of the bodice (it came up huge so I had to down size) and adjusted the armholes so the dress could be sleeveless. I used some spare fabric to practice draping and tucking something that might look like the shoulder drape I imagined, and borrowed the D-ring belt from my Pulmu Skirt to cinch it in at the waist. Luckily, (as I didn't have an alternative idea) it all seemed to work together!

Muslin and first draping practice
I cut all my fabric out with little consideration for pattern matching - I figured you can sort of get away with a few mismatched checks if you're making something Vivienne Westwood inspired... The fabric was lovely to work with and feels and looks high quality - I'd definitely recommend it and would buy it again.

Close up of the fabric

The bodice is lined, and though I would have rather finished it with a facing, I wasn't confident enough that I'd get it right if I attempted drafting one. There was some minor trauma with adjusting the armholes - particularly the extra adjusting I had to do at the almost finished and lined staged arghh! - and overall, I never fully cracked the perfect fit on the bodice. I'll attribute this to both time restraints and being too lazy to make a second muslin, but it's not turned out so bad (plus the shoulder drape hides all manner of sins)!

Lining stage
The finished thing might just get the prize for weirdest garment I've ever made, but I quite like it. The shoulder drape is removable, so if I'm not feeling outrageous enough for the full on thing, I can at least wear the dress on it's own. I've been mostly wearing it layered over a Rise Turtleneck, sans shoulder drape, but when the occasion calls for it, I'll be there in the full, slightly-over-the-top, thing!

All dressed up for work on a Monday
Thank you to my friend Sara for patiently taking LOADS of pictures, and helping me to pick the best ones to send in for the feature. As a bonus, on the day these photos were taken, someone paid me the ultimate compliment by telling me my dress looked 'very Vivienne Westwood' (yay!).

Drape close up!
Back view

Sew Style, Stitch Your Size is available to buy now in WH Smiths, supermarkets and online, and the B6244 pattern is in there among the 3 free patterns. I'd love to know how other people would have approached this hack - if you have an alternative idea, please let me know in a comment below :) 

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Winter colour

Although I'm happy with the majority of my recent makes, there's something slightly lacking.... and that's a bit of colour. I've always veered towards shades of blue/grey and plain old black, but upon reviewing my new-ish Kollabora profile, I found that there's been little (correction *no) variation in the palette for quite a while. In an attempt to remedy this, I tried out a few colourful, quick win sort of makes and thought I'd share them together in a post.

Colour! Fab photos thanks to my friend Kerry :)
Favourites first: I've made the Papercut Patterns Rise Turtleneck many times, but never tried out it's looser fitting, drop-shouldered, roll neck sister (the Fall Turtleneck) until now and I love it! I made it up in the perfect green-yellow jersey from Goldbrick Fabrics on Goldhawk Road. I often think good quality jersey is difficult to come by - recommendations welcome! - but this is lovely, and it washed really well too. If only I lived closer, I'd never be seen in black because I'd be buying a new colour every weekend! I sized down to a small as it's quite roomy and added an inch to the length of the sleeves and body.

Hand knit hat with Toft-topper!
Also snapped is a newly knitted ribbed hat from a vintage pattern. I have no patience with knitting, so this is as good as it gets for me. I was spurred on knowing that the angora-mix wool I used was a good match for my Yona coat, and by the promise of topping the finished thing with the Toft alpaca fur pompom I bought at the Knit and Stitch Show. My new hat and turtleneck are worn here with the Yona Coat, a previously unblogged Simplicity 2154 pencil skirt, and canny matching shoes and nails - clearly I've found a 'colour of the season'...

Inari in Ray Stitch gold viscose foil
And finally, I had to include what is possibly my liveliest make ever - the GOLDEN Inari Tee Dress. Thanks Karen of Did you Make That? for the super shiny dress inspiration, and signposting to some totally fabulous fabrics, one being this gold viscose foil from Ray Stitch. It sews up really well, and makes a pretty err... blinding statement garment! It's not the most flattering, but it brought me great joy wearing it, and the whole ambiguity around 'is it Christmas fancy dress?' or 'a serious outfit?' generated some great reactions at work hahaha (ho-ho-ho).
See Handmade Jane's actually amazing Studio 54-inspired top in the same fabric for some serious inspiration. 

Wishing you all a happy and colourful - and most importantly, golden - festive period!


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