Seasonal Stitching

I've been so absorbed in the self-drafted sewing that it feels like I haven't finished anything in forever! So having come to the end of my 10 week pattern drafting course, my pattern is just about ready to make, well, at least in wearable muslin form before I commit to cutting into the good stuff - some glorious teal green crepe I picked up from the new Sew Over It shop in Islington. I thought it would be nice to have a bit of a breather before I launch into the final thing, so mull all the wine and get the tinsel out - I whizzed up a dress for December!

I used the Simple Sew skater dress pattern that came free with issue 8 of Love Sewing magazine (my mum picks me up a copy if she likes the free pattern ha, thanks mum!) I really liked the Lottie blouse pattern that came free with a past issue and made a few versions of it. , They are, by definition, simple patterns, so I thought I'd give it a go.

I bought a medium-weight (Santa) red viscose jersey from my favourite B&M Fabrics in Leeds Kirkgate Market. I've worked in lightweight fabrics with a tiny bit of stretch before, but this was my first big leap into the world of proper stretch fabric, and I loved it! It took me a bit of faffing with my sewing machine manual and some needle changes, but it was otherwise completely pain free. Plus the fabric is so easy to work with - the seams barely needed finishing *cough* lazy sewist *cough*.

Now I don't know if it's just me, but my completed dress isn't quite what I was expecting from the magazine cover image and the illustration on the pattern. I realised pretty early on - but too late to do anything about it - that the dress might be a bit on the short side of knee length, but oh, it's short. I also found that the pattern could do with a bit more length in the bodice too - at least for me. I ended up using a smaller seam allowance at the waist and doing the narrowest hem possible, just to lengthen it in any way I could.

So I was a bit disappointed as I was really looking forward to a voluminous, flowing, knee-length, jersey skirt. The felt blanket-stitched holly brooch was actually my dramatic last ditch attempt to 'salvage' what I had originally branded a 'festive fail' ha. Anyway, I wore the dress in the house and swished the skirt around for a little while and came round to it in the end. 

Despite a few gripes here, there are actually things I really like about this dress and I'll probably make it again with a few adjustments.

The fab bits:
  • I love the V-back! I've never considered ermm getting my back out, but it sort of works!
  • I think it would look fab as a day or evening dress depending on the fabric used (but I'm now a jersey convert so sticking to that)
  • It has offers plenty of room to get creative - pockets, trims, a fancy lining maybe?
Changes for next time:
  • Add at least 1 inch to the bodice and taper the pattern down from a size 12 to a 10 at the waist.
  • Add a good 4 inches (maybe more!) to the hem - I'm such a prude!
  • Finish the neckline better. My mind was in simple sew mode and I completely forgot to interface my facings, massive oops!

Here's a selfie of me, full of Christmas joy and ready to eat my advent calendar Santa.
Is #SeasonalSew already a hashtag or sewist initiative? If it is, then GREAT. If not... then lets get the ball rolling, it's nearly Christmas!

I'm hoping to use the next couple of weeks to make my self-drafted dress and catch up on a bit of knitting in between the Christmas shopping and parties - hopefully a bit of blogging in there somewhere too.

Merry festive season!

Self-drafted sewing

So this post is about something I've been working on for quite a while and I'm really excited to share... My very first self-drafted sew! I mentioned that I was going to an evening course in pattern drafting a little while back, and this is my first finished garment - a sort of wearable muslin and product of the pattern pieces I've been working on.

It's by no means perfect, and the final garment I'm working towards will probably look quite different, but it has princess seams, pleats and petal sleeves and I'm pretty proud of it (try saying that after a glass of vino ha!)

The course is very self directed. I just took along a mood board in the first week and ended up using one of the dresses as my main inspiration (the one in the middle on the right hand page, I think it might be Viven of Holloway). It has quite a vintage feel and a few features and techniques that made it interesting and just the right amount of a challenge to draft.

I had to start off with the very basics, so I made my own bodice block. A block is a basic pattern piece that you make using your measurements to perfectly fit you. It took a few muslins and tweaks to get right, but it will be really useful as a starting point to have and work from. Some of the others in the class made personal blocks, and it was really interesting to see how different they all looked! My front bodice differed massively in size to my back - no wonder I've ended up trimming down the centre back seams on a fair few of my makes! It's all starting to make sense...

By using the block, and playing with it in both paper and fabric form, I managed to work out and create all the extra features - of course I had the help and support of the wonderful tutor too! Let me show you some of the pattern details...

I removed that humongous breast-accommodating dart on the front bodice in favour of a princess seam. I usually avoid princess seams because the prospect of adjusting them to fit my bust fills me with dread, but now I have a block it's easy peasy! I took the princess seams all the way though the back bodice too so they match nicely at the shoulder seam. Then, like my inspiration image, I added this neat little pleat on the outside shoulder.

I opened up the neckline and took it into a shallow v shape, which is actually really flattering. Much to my tutor's umm... disgust.... I top-stitched the neckline. I don't think it's so bad to be honest, but in what felt like true Project Runway style, he said that the top-stitching 'absolutely killed it' (and not in a good way haha). Following this, I did get shown how to properly draft and apply a facing, and how to understitch so you never get a peek of it from the outside. Never going to attempt dodgy topstitching again!

On the plus side, the tutor did say that my concealed zip was excellently executed - hooray! Even I can't believe how well I matched all the seams!

I drafted basic sleeves from a ready-made block, and then from that, worked them into two pieces to form a petal. There's a small box pleat on top to add fullness, and a couple of small pleats in there. I love the sleeves, but they feel just a little bit tight in the back when the dress is being worn. I think I need to make them a little bigger (cut and spread technique maybe..?) and slightly gather then into the back bodice to add a bit of ease.

For this version, I added just a very basic gathered skirt which was roughly based on the Emery skirt. I'm working on drafting a wrap pencil skirt for the final version of the dress, which I'll hopefully be making up in the next few weeks. I'm imaging it in a lovely emerald green wool crepe...

So in all, I'm pretty pleased with my first self drafted dress! I've learnt a lot along the way and still have a few things to tweak for the final version, but I'll definitely be wearing this one with pride :)

Northern Soul inspired sew

I got to spend a lovely few days in Manchester and Liverpool doing fun things last week. This obviously required a new dress - a second, and again, slightly modified Megan dress from Tilly Walne's Love at First Stitch.

I bought the fabric quite a while ago with the Megan in mind. To be honest, I don't normally wear white. In fact, I avoid buying pale coloured clothes and fabric all together so I don't have to put a white wash on (ha!). I just had one of the moments in the fabric shop where you just picture an amazing version of a pattern coming to life. It's a poly cotton with a slight bit of stretch to it, and like my last Megan, that stretch and movement really helps the fit. 

I had a bit of help inspiration-wise from a cinema trip to see Northern Soul. It really captures the sounds, styles and fashions of the era, and spurred me on to finally get this dress made!

The dress took no time at all to whip up. I'd made a few tweaks last time and stuck with these. There's an extra inch added to lengthen the bodice/stop those tucks getting lost under my bust just like before. This time I also took a centimetre off the centre back too. I've been doing a pattern drafting course in the evenings at art college, and it's helped me to realise that the amount of fabric I need at the back is significantly smaller than what I need to cover my front (Light bulb moment!).

I'm really pleased with the overall fit - it's probably a bit better and more comfortable than version 1. Also, of course, there's the added collar. Last time I drafted a Peter Pan collar, but this one definitely called for the pointed contrast collar. I based this one on the wonderful Emery collar that I can't stop swooning over!

I'm so pleased with the dress that I think I'm going to have to make more pale garments to make the white wash worth it! The polka dots and collar have just the right amount of impact. I'll be wearing this one as a day dress and for going out too!

An Orange Emery

It's been a fairly slow and steady sew, but I've finally finished my first Emery dress. I've heard a lot of sewing blogger buzz around the Christine Haynes pattern, and I can definitely see why - I'm totally on board!

The buzz was only part of the reason why I snapped up the pattern though... I stopped by the lovely Ray Stitch (again) on a recent trip to London TO SEE KATE BUSH (!!!) - no big deal or anything - and there was a beautiful Emery made up and hanging in the window. Unfortunately I didn't have the pennies to buy the fabric too, but that's probably for the best, as my fabric stash (mountain) is ever growing. I didn't take a picture, but I here's their Instagram pic of it...

So suitably inspired, I set off with making my own. With the English winter setting in, I chose to make Version B. Oh and if you've read my other posts, you'll know I'm a big fan of a good collar. I chose a medium-weight, autumnal orange, poly cotton to make the dress in - nothing too fancy, I just had it lying around. I favour jumping straight in and having a go with fairly cheap fabric, rather than muslin making. This is bad I know, but most of the time I can do just a few tweaks and have a perfectly wearable garment.

I normally have very little patience for pattern marking, but I bought a nifty chalk wheel tool that makes drawing darts a breeze. I can't believe I've done without one for so long!

The making up process was quite straightforward. I cut a straight size 8 (think this equates to a UK size 12). It's probably a smidge tight at the bust - didn't do an FBA, risky business - but it's a pretty good fit overall. For my next Emery, I'll probably ease the side seam allowance to around 1cm at the bust instead of 1.5cm. A tiny bit more breathing room and then the fit will be spot on! The two small darts on the neckline of the back bodice are genius. I always seem to get gaping around the back neckline, but this is clearly the way to prevent it.

I wasn't so sure about the sleeves at first. I felt a bit like a little girl in her Sunday best. But I'm starting to come around to them, and there's always the option to shorten them for spring. I love everything else though, especially the dreamy neckline.

The dress itself has no bells, whistles or frills - I'm sure these could be added at the maker's discretion, along with the bow that the pattern provides instructions for - but it's one of those proper lovely, solid wardrobe-staples. I'll definitely be sewing up a few more - maybe I could use it for the next One Week One Pattern..? I'll be looking to the blogosphere for inspiration, especially to Roisin aka Dolly Clackett and her many Emery dresses - how does she churn them out?! Any Emery switch-ups and suggestions would be much appreciated!

In other news...
I mentioned in my last post that I was starting a dress making course, well it's in full swing! I'll save it for another time, but all I can say is that I'm working on something potentially very exciting - it'll be even more exciting if I can pull it off!

I've also been hoarding fabric like a crazy lady. I heard it down the grapevine that the Hebden Bridge WI Rag Market was the place to be, and it didn't disappoint. Here is just one of the fabric treasures I picked up...

The next Rag Market is in May 2015 and I would definitely recommend it!

Bonjour Jupe Chardon

And bonjour Autumn! On my recent trip to Ray Stitch in London, I picked up my very first Deer and Doe pattern, the Jupe Chardon - which Google reliably tells me can be translated to 'Thistle Skirt', how lovely! The design of the packaging is just as lovely as it's name, and is probably one of the reasons why I found it so appealing.  

Judging a book by it's cover, 'how shallow!' you say. Well the contents didn't disappoint either. I had a little trawl on Pinterest and saw some lovely summery chambray versions, but as the weather is rapidly turning cold in the North of England, I thought it called for something a bit more autumnal.

I chose a medium-weight brown polyester, that despite photographing terribly (excuse the bad lighting and phone camera) looks like a nice, warm wool. I was tempted by the version that has a bow at the back, but I decided to make the standard skirt with belt loops to wear with my growing collection of jazzy handmade tops. 

Here's a shot of the inverted box pleats from the wrong side. If you ignore all the loose ends and raw edges, it actually looks pretty cool from this side - at least I think so! I made the box pleated skirt from the Great British Sewing Bee book earlier in the year, and the Chardon Skirt is pretty similar, you just sew a 3" vertical seam down into the pleat for that nipped-in waist effect.

As soon as the box pleats were done, the skirt was an absolute whizz to finish off - or at least it would've been had I got the fit right! The waist is already pretty sturdy , you just have to add the interfaced facing and some little belt loops.

I mis-judged the fit (as ever) so i ended up unpicking the zip and reinserting it. To tell the truth, i actually had to do this at least three times before I got the perfect fit with minimal wonkiness - I was definitely having a sloppy day. It's pretty lucky that I'd made it too big rather than too small though. It's also good that I chose a tough fabric that could withstand all that unpicking! 

It was worth the effort though as I love the finished Chardon. It's very wearable and so easy to put together - I was just having an off day with the zip promise! One very big bonus to this pattern is that it has pockets. They were really simple to insert and make a pretty skirt practical too. Of course I had to take a picture with my hand in one of the pockets, just to demonstrate...

The only thing I might do differently with the Chardon would be to make it a little bit longer. I didn't have any bias tape to finish the skirt (as the pattern suggests) so I just did a regular turned up hem, which made it a bit shorter than it should be. I would probably use an invisible zip next time too. Other than that, I'd say it's pretty spot on. Now which Deer and Doe pattern do I try next?

In other (very exciting!) sewing news, I'm starting a pattern drafting and garment construction course next week!  It's an evening course that runs up until the end of the year, so I'll hopefully be posting some bits about my progress throughout. Fingers crossed it goes well!

I made a Mimi!

As promised, here it is: I finally made a Mimi! I actually finished it off last week but I've been quite slow on getting this posted. I was also a bit unsure as to whether I liked the finished blouse at first - it's just SO FEMININE. But then I am female, and I was the one who chose to make the very pretty Love at First Stitch blouse, in a very pretty floral fabric.

I went to the fabric shop with the Mimi in mind, and it just sort of happened. I don't really say no to a very cheap viscose with a decent drape. I gravitated towards the lovely print, and in the week between finishing the blouse and posting about it, I think I've come round to the whole girly-loveliness of it.

If you've made any of Tilly's patterns before then you'll know how great they are, and if you've read my blog before, you'll know how much I go on about them! Well the Mimi is no different. In fact, I found it more useful as a way to exercise and improve certain techniques. It had a few more pattern pieces than I was anticipating, but that's just down to yoke and a few facing pieces. All of these help to create a super neat finish to the blouse.

Speaking of practicing techniques, oooo la laa, just LOOK at my French seams!  What a lovely finish and very easy to do, I think I might try the Frenchies out more often. 

I also got to do my first button holes since secondary school - it's still quite a big deal having a sewing machine with the capability to actually do things! I'd never used a snazzy automatic button hole foot before - I'm sure everyone else has been using them for years. You secure your button in the back and it automatically adjusts to sew a button hole that is the perfect size -MIND BLOWN! I'm glad I did a few practice runs though, as it didn't always get on with my cheapy-cheap viscose. 

Anyway, it all worked out in the end, so taaa daaaa! I have a hand-made button up blouse. All I had to do was put my Dr Martens on and all my gender-related worries were balanced out. 

If I was to make the Mimi again, I'd just make some minor adjustments to the shoulders, which turned out just a bit too wide for me. I cut the size to fit my (rather large bust) without considering what effect this might have on the rest of the blouse. Not very savvy sewing/sizing there! But now I feel much more confident in approaching other patterns for blouses/shirts. I have a vintage shirt pattern and some Liberty fabric that a friend bought me for my birthday, and I think that might have just jumped up my sewing queue...

Desperately seeking...

... sewing inspiration! I had last week off work with the intention of getting a load of sewing done, but after finishing my third Simple Sew Lottie blouse, I thought I needed a bit of a creative kick up the arse.

Don't get me wrong, I love the pattern and finished blouse is so easy to wear. I did add sleeves this time to bust some scraps from this earlier version I made for a friend. They actually turned out much better than I expected! I thought I was going to have to add cuffs but the almost billowing sleeves work pretty well with the paisley - 70s vibes, and nice and breezy, think its my favourite version yet!

So in other non-Lottie related sewing news, I went to London and got to pay a visit to The Cornershop, a newsagents brimming with hand sewn goods! The whole effort has been lovingly crafted by artist Lucy Sparrow, who was also acting store manager for the duration of The Cornershop's opening in August. Here I am outside (wearing my collared Megan dress!).

I asked Lucy the question that most people probably asked: 'how long did it take you to make everything?' And she replied with SEVEN MONTHS! Now that is dedication, and she was even  making up orders at the (sewn felt) till point - that's right, you can actually buy everything in the shop! 

So here are some shots of the shelves. If you squint, or like me, don't bother wearing the glasses that you're meant to wear, then the products look like they belong in a genuine corner shop.

So feeling suitably inspired by sheer commitment to the sewing lifestyle, I left, craving a bag of cheese and onion crisps - not sure if it was the felt or potato version though. You can find out more about the project and visit the online Cornershop here.

Next up I found myself visiting Raystitch in Angel/Islington where I was absolutely IN MY ELEMENT! It's the stuff that my sewing dreams are made of - so many beautiful Japanese printed fabrics, sewing books, patterns and general sewing paraphernalia. I had a lovely chat about indie sewing patterns and sewing blogs with the assistant, and walked away with two beauties...

Some serious sewing - well muslin making - is on the cards. I've never tried a By Hand London or Dear and Doe pattern before, so I'm really excited - though I could spend all day just looking at them and the beautiful packaging!

First up though, one I've been talking about making for ages. I finally made a start on the Mimi blouse from Love at First Stitch. Will post about the finished garment hopefully very soon!   

An inbetween-projects Lottie

As a brief interlude to all the Love at First Stitch sewing I've been doing (see my latest, the Megan dress here) I've had a go at something that was familiar, but also a little bit different. I've made the Simple Sew Lottie blouse before, but this time I made it as a gift for somebody else. 

I made this Paisley version for my oldest friend's birthday - by oldest I mean I've known her for longer than any other friend, she's not that old! Its quite an easy, loose fit so I thought it would be a pretty safe option, as I've never made a garment for someone else before. I picked a colourful, drapey viscose, and I think its worked pretty well.

The matching bias binding that finishes the front of a neckline was a it of a bitch to make in the viscose. There were many expletives uttered and a few burns along the way as it just WOULD NOT PRESS, but once I got over that, it was quite quick to finish. I love the finish of the matching bias binding though, so I am considering getting a bias binding maker and trying this technique out a bit more.

This time, I changed the way that I attached the neck tie. If you follow the instructions, you end up with the raw edges that constantly try to escape from their place - tucked under the neck tie - when the top is worn. I attached the neck tie as if it was a waistband, sewing it to the blouse with right sides together and pressing the inside seam allowance under, before folding it over and carefully slip stitching in place. This worked like magic and gave a much neater and more professional finish.

I did buy enough fabric to make myself a second Lottie - of course - so I will definitely repeating this trick with the neck tie.

Anyway, here it is all wrapped up (with another present too). I hope she likes it!

Thanks for visiting!

Thanks for visiting!