Super Scalloped Lilou

My shiny new copy of Love at First Stitch and the bargain fabric I wrote about it my last post have been keeping me super busy this week!

Pins and scissors ready, I jumped straight into making the lovely Lilou dress so I could have it ready to take on my holiday. The stripe fabric I used is a lightweight cotton - pretty good for what is officially my first me-made summer dress!

I love scalloped edges. I seem to spot lovely scalloped-detailed garments in shops like Hobbs all the time, but then I always have the 'Ohhh can I justify spending this much..?' debate. So I was thrilled to see that one of Tilly's suggested variations for the Lilou dress was to make a scalloped neckline.

Tilly provides step-by-step instructions on how to add the scallops to your pattern. I knew that tin of Savers kidney beans would come in handy at some point! (Product placement at its best - other tins are available). I traced around the tin so mine would be bold and deep. The construction part is SO simple - I think my wardrobe will be full of scalloped edges and trims soon!

Love at First Stitch is great because it gives you the confidence to try out these tricks and techniques that you've long-admired, but not quite plucked up the guts to actually do. Sometimes - especially for the not so confident sewist - it's easy to get caught up in sticking to the pattern and following the 'rules'. The book encourages you the reader/maker to 'make it your own' throughout, and that's something I love - even more of that 'I did it myself!' feeling when you've done.

I cut a straight size 3, and like A Stitching Odyssey, I reduced my seam allowance to 1cm near the bust to avoid the dreaded FBA. In hindsight, I probably should have re-positioned the bust dart as everything's looking a bit pointy around there - but hey, maybe I wanted everyone to think that I'm wearing Madonna-style Gaultier underwear...

One thing I did do was take in the shoulder seams a little to stop a bit of gaping in the back. I'd probably take a centimetre off the shoulders on the pattern next time, just to get the right fit for me.

And it's done! I'm not sure I'd win any prizes if you inspected the finish up close, but that's my fault for making a few mistakes and being too lazy to fix them. The waist seam at the back doesn't quite match at either side of the zip - it's just a few millimetres out - and not all of my skirt pleats meet the darts on the bodice where they should. But I think you'd only notice these things if you were told (whoops, there I go giving away my secrets!) By placing the horizontal stripes on the bodice and vertical stripes on the skirt, I will hopefully confuse the onlooker's eyes so they don't see them anyway - definitely the intention.

The whole dress has cost me less than £5 to make, and I'd say that the quality is a fair bit better than a cheap dress from the high street. The lined bodice gives it a particularly nice, neat finish - hiding away all the raw edges and dodgy bits! I haven't lined a garment since I did my A Levels, so it was a really useful reminder/practice.

The Lilou dress might well become my new wardrobe staple. It's so simple, but at the same time, the results are really pretty - it proves that you don't need to put a bow of distraction on top of everything *cough cough*. You only need 2 metres of your main fabric for the dress itself, (0.5 of your lining fabric) so I definitely plan on having a snoop in the fabric shop and investing in something a bit fancier.
Some ideas:

  1. A chintzy floral Lilou, maybe with a longer length skirt and regular neckline
  2. A medium-weight quality black fabric LBL (Little Black Lilou)
  3. A bold, block-coloured Lilou -  I'm thinking green or red
Here is a quick view of the back of the dress too. Eagle-eyed readers may spot some slightly out stitching, but oh well!

So it looks like me and the Lilou pattern are going to become very well acquainted. I'm also keen to try out the Mimi blouse. But for now, I'm signing off and putting down the needle and thread. It's mere HOURS until I leave to go on holiday, and as I'm heading to a music festival, I just had to see if the Lilou has the moves...

...OH YES IT DOES. AdiĆ³s!

Fabric Pilgrimage

I went on a trip to London last weekend. I don't know if you could quite call it a fabric pilgrimage as there were alternative motives for the visit, but I did travel via Megabus, and then caught the tube to the end of the Victoria line - and it was HOT! - so it was a mission of sorts. But when my friend suggested it, I just couldn't turn down a trip to the quite unexpected fabric haven of Walthamstow. I'd heard good things, and it's also listed on Tilly and the Buttons as a London fabric hot spot. Anyway it didn't disappoint - bargainous fabric galore!

The high street is home to an unbelievable number of fabric shops and there are many more fabric/craft/haberdashery traders to be found on the stalls of the outdoor market, which runs down the same road. It's brilliantly overwhelming. 

These pictures are from just one of the many shops. I'm not entirely sure how they can even make profit on £1 and £2 a metre fabrics - but hey, I'm not complaining! For once, could it be possible that London was CHEAPER than the North?! I have to note that not all of the fabric was great quality and it does require a fair bit of rummaging. But if, like me, you're not after anything too fancy or you just want to buy a bundle of 'practice' fabric, then you can't beat it! You'll probably even spot a few familiar prints if you still frequent the bigger high street shops - there were definitely a few fabrics I recognised from a recent trip to Primark.

I went home with 4 metres of the nautical looking blue/white/yellow stripe fabric (priced at £1 per m) and a couple of metres of the lilac flowery (still only £2 per m). Me and my purse are very happy!

So now, and in other news, how am I going to put it to use?
Well I also had a very good post day. A little bit late to the party I know, but I finally caught up and bought Love at First Stitch, the first book by (as mentioned earlier) sewist, blogger, GBSB contestant and all round, super stylish Tilly Walnes.

The beautifully designed book has seven different patterns and easy to follow guides and tutorials that take you from complete novice to proud, confident sewist. The thing I really like about the patterns are Tilly's suggestions of simple changes that make different variations of the garments. Do you remember when Gok Wan was all into that capsule wardrobe of twenty pieces or something? No? Well I do... and it's like that, only so much better. There are so many options that you could probably make them all and spend a month (or a Me Made May) hardly wearing the same combo twice!

I knew which projects I wanted to make before I'd even opened the book. I'm going to use my bargain blue stripey cotton to make a nautical-chic summer Lilou dress - I'm thinking the scalloped neckline variation...

And I have just enough of the lilac flowery to make a pretty Mimi blouse, maybe with a contrast white collar. This one will be on hold for a while until I get a new sewing machine that can handle button holes - though Tasha from By Gum, By Golly has a handy tutorial on making them by hand here for anyone who is patient enough (sorry not me!)

A good week for sewing. Must get going if I want the Lilou to be finished before my holidays!

Fitting a blouse - oh the antici......pation!

I shouldn't have strayed into the craft/haberdashery department when I went to John Lewis last week. The beautiful fabric drew my in though, particularly the special edition 150th anniversary fabrics. They only have a few for sale online and I didn't take pictures unfortunately, but they were so many bright colours and amazing retro prints. And of course I saw one that I 'just had to have', though at £18 per metre, I have to admit it was a little (a lot!) out of my budget :( After a momentary sulk, I decided on a compromise between the fabric and my purse and bought a small amount, enough to make a pretty jazzy collar. 

I came home with 0.3metres of fab pink/purple wiggly line 100% cotton. After the success of my first Simplicity 2154, I thought this would be perfect for a collar on the second attempt. Then came the DILEMA: what colour do I make the blouse?! I went to B&M Fabrics based in Leeds Kirkgate Market (if you live anywhere near Leeds GO!) and ended up buying two colours: a perfect pinky/purple match, and a majorly contrasting minty green.

After some nail biting decision making, I decided to go all out and make it in the contrast green. I had a vision of it looking all lovely and retro, maybe a bit fifties, but when I started cutting and stitching the pieces together, I had a moment of 'oh no'... I was going to look like I was putting my scrubs on to go into theatre. Hello Dr Frank-N-Furter, unexpected and accidental sewing inspiration - just let me grab my pearls and a pair of pink Marigolds...

I  made a serious effort to tack everything first this time, and the overall finish was much neater. The fit is probably a bit off though, hence the doctor's scrubs comparisons. I can't believe it's took me so long to realise that a little bit of pattern can subtly disguise all manner of sewing sins and fit issues! The fabric I used for the last version was a bit thinner so the blouse sits better, especially when tucked in, and the pattern of it diverts attention from any dodgy bits. But in when made in a block colour (minus the collar), I'm really noticing the excess fabric around the waist.

Trying to get the fit spot on was actually a really good challenge, and it means that both my Simplicity 2154 blouses will have a different look to them - it's not my uniform you know!

I did the alterations the way I thought best, which involved lots of trying the blouse on inside out and pinching and pinning at the darts. It was mainly the front two that I was concerned about - they needed taking in a bit under the bust in order for the fabric to skim over the bust/waist area better. I measured and tacked both first to make sure everything was even and I'd not completely distorted the shape of the blouse.

Once I'd done that I thought why stop there with the adjustments?! The improved fit on the body actually made the shoulders look a bit out of balance, so I unpicked the arm facing (the bit that you press towards the inside for a neat finish) and restitched it an extra centimetre in - much better. They also got a top stitch after the photo below, so it sits nicely in place. I attached the collar, and taaa-daaa, I no longer look like an I'm heading to the theatre (or the lab)!

I never thought I'd get into ironing, but the sewing thing really forces you to! It's quite satisfying to press all those darts into shape and get rid of all the creases from squashing it through the sewing machine. And I did a proper hem this time - no bias binding cheats - so a blast a steam was pretty much essential to turning it up.

And it's done! I think I finally got it to fit my retro vision. I left the bow out for now as I wanted it to look a little different from my last version, and I quite like it as it is, nice and simple.

There's even a subtle nod to Dr Frank-N-Furter at the back fastening with a couple of pearly buttons - I managed to get this bit to sit spot on this time hooray!

It's already had quite a bit of wear in the sun. Now what should I make next..?

Double Denim

Well, not quite double denim - though I'm definitely not opposed to it - but I made a second skirt from the MASSIVE amount of denim that I accidentally purchased. Unfortunately I've used it all up now, so I won't be recruiting members for a B*Witched tribute act.

I decided to make a second version of the box pleat skirt from the Sewing Bee book. And I did something that I know I shouldn't have done really... I cut against the grain. Rather than matching the selvedges when folding like you're usually meant to, I had to fold the fabric the other way to make the pattern fit. In fact, there was enough to lengthen the skirt a bit, and in my defence, it was more economical - waste not want not etc. NOTE: I wouldn't normally do this, but as it as I already have a skirt made from the same denim, (which you can find here) I thought why not? If it goes wrong it goes wrong, and then I'll have learnt my lesson.

Final  fitting, pins and all
I added 3" to the length - I'm going for the demure look clearly - and after causing my sewing machine some serious stress with a few too many layers of denim, I had a finished skirt, pretty much all in an evening's work! I just had to slipstitch the inside of the waistband rather than machine sew due to the thickness of the denim. The pattern didn't have a lengthen/shorten line, which probably suggests that I wasn't supposed to go altering it, but oh well, I gave it a go anyway! I actually quite like the length, I think it makes the skirt look completely different to my first version.

In hindsight, denim really wasn't the most suitable fabric to use. I can't decide whether to say it sticks out, or just holds its shape very well...

The waistband however, is much sturdier and less likely to crease and bunch up when sitting. I'd definitely recommend using a thicker interfacing (or a couple of layers of lightweight) if making the skirt with a thinner fabric.

The box pleats hold well, but I wasn't really sure where they should stop. In the poly cotton, they fell much more naturally, so in a fairly robust denim, it was quite difficult to make them look like they naturally fade out.

It's not my biggest success, but then it's not a disaster either. It might not be holiday wear, but that's because it's quite heavy and I'm only taking hand luggage (ha!), but I imagine it will get a bit of wear over the summer.

Next up is the Simplicity 2154 blouse version 2. I can see me being the type of sewist (sewer?) who tends to stick with patterns I like once I've found them...

A bloody big bow (and the Simplicity 2154 blouse behind it)

If you walk past me in the street, you'll probably see the bow before you notice me, because I finished the Simplicity 2154 blouse. I had great fun with the pattern and love pretty much everything about the finished garment - I'd wear it every day if I could!

It was frantically finished on the morning that I wanted to wear it. I spent my train journey picking out all the tacking and basted stitches and did a bit of a rush job with the zip. I was in such a rush to get leave the house that I didn't get chance to take a picture of it. So the first picture of me in my dream blouse ended up being a badly-lit, slightly tipsy toilet selfie (sorry!). I cropped the toilets out for everyone's sake, but my elbow does seem to be resting in one, that's just my natural stance...

And sshhhhhh it's a secret, but it wasn't actually finished - I didn't have time to hem the blouse, very bad of me I know, but it was tucked in so who was going to notice?

After it's first wear, I finished the hem, did a few adjustments and took some proper photos:

THE BOW: It's big, so big it overshadows the blouse, and probably me, but I don't care because I LOVE IT! I can totally understand why both Bimble and Pimble and Handmade Jane chose not to interface their versions, but I really do love the structure it's given mine, and it also sits really nicely when worn with a cardigan. I used medium weight interfacing rather than light weight, and the bow sits a bit differently to how the pattern intends it to, but that's fine by me. I'd suggest skipping the interfacing altogether though if you wanted more of a drape on it, particularly if you're using a 100% cotton that already holds its shape quite well like this one.

There's no underestimating the amount of satisfaction you can get from a tiny button. I managed to find the perfect little retro match for the blouse. The back had a bit of a tweak after the first wear - it didn't quite sit right at first, so I got my flatmate to do a temporary safety pin fix. I ended up just moving the button over so there was a slight overlap at the top of the back opening. I was also meant to make a thread loop for the button, but I was being lazy and opted for an elastic loop instead. The thread loop is one to try in the future though - I'll be following this tutorial when I get around to making one.

And here it is worn with my denim Sewing Bee pencil skirt, and my pale and holiday-ready limbs. I made a straight size 14 with no adjustments, and although it fits perfectly on the bust, there's a bit of excess fabric around the waist. Luckily, I tuck most things in anyway, and the high waist of the pencil skirt works great. I had been a bit uncertain about having a zip in the side, but it's lapped and barely noticeable. I might consider putting one in the back instead to give a bit more flexibility with adjusting the side seams, but I should probably just pluck up the courage to take in the darts instead.

I've been planning the next version(s) already. I'm thinking of making a couple of simple collared versions without the bow, to have as throw-on wardrobe staples. When I'm a bit more confident with different fabrics (and hopefully have a better sewing machine) I'd like to try it in a thin, body-skimming fabric with a better drape too! 

But for now, goodbye from a very happy me and my bow!

'The emergency exits are located here, here and here...'

Arghhh, I've done it, I've started the DREAM BLOUSE!

I spent soooo long trying to pick a fabric that was just right. I went to the shops with red-spots-on-white in mind, a bit like an inverted version of Handmade Jane's lovely version which can be found here... but no success. So I just went all out and bought this incredibly retro 100% cotton - scroll down for a closer look. I'm probably going to end up looking all retro air hostess like the model on the cover of the pattern, but oh well, I think that's a look I can handle.

I behaved like a very studious little dressmaker and read all of the instructions before beginning. It's a good job as well, because you had to fold RIGHT sides together when cutting out the fabric - that's not something I've come across before, it might not have made too much difference anyway, but I followed it word for word.

Then came the boring, time-consuming bit - transferring all of the pattern markings. Lots and lots of dots, a fair few darts, and notches galore.

Then the sewing... which so far, has been pretty straight forward. Me/my machine struggled a bit with the more complex front and back darts. Part of this is because my machine is a mini Janome for beginners. It really struggles with taking up fabric/gripping it properly, making it much harder to sew in straight lines, hummppphhh. The other part is down to me - I pinned my darts but didn't tack them into place and now they're a bit wonky. Lesson learnt, tacking is imperative and I'd better not get too big for my boots now.

All being said with the darts, it doesn't actually look too bad at all! I've just pinned the collar into place on this picture to give an idea of what it will look like. There's a neat little opening in the centre front seam just above the bust, and one at the back, which will fasten with a button and loop. It also has a side zip, something I completely didn't realise at first (didn't read the instructions that well did I?!) so I had to make a return visit to shops to pick one up.

But now for the BOW! Ohhh the bow <3

Collar me beautiful...

I LOVE collars. From the most basic Peter Pan to the stand out quirky, weird and wonderful. And I'm thinking of the Vivetta ones when I say quirky... oh if only I could afford you hands collar with red nails!

I made this simple Peter Pan collar a while back using a pattern from the Elegant Musings blog. It's a fab stash buster and a speedy little project - I didn't even bother adding the button and loop, I just use different brooches to pin it in place. You can download the free pattern and follow the tutorial to make your own from here.

Inspired by this love of collars, I did a bit of Pinterest searching and I saw this blouse and fell in love with it instantly. I clicked straight through to view the post on Amanda's blog, Bimble and Pimble (which is fab by the way). But my mind was set before the page loaded... Simplicity 2154 was my DREAM BLOUSE and I had to make it.

I internet shopped the pattern and a few days later, voila - perfect-vintage-inspired holiday-blouse-to-be landed in my letterbox! The skirt, jacket and cardigan patterns are a bonus and I'll definitely be saving them for winter.

I'm a bit nervous about using a more complex pattern - yeah I know, it's ironic when it's called 'Simplicity', but I've got so comfortable with the super simple Sewing Bee patterns! I think it's about time to step up my sewing game with a bit of a challenge though. Watch this space...

P.S. Happy book release day to Tilly Walnes of Tilly and the Buttons! Can't wait to head out and buy Love at First Stitch and get making!

Fitting and finishing

I'm well on my way to a denim wardrobe - I did used to know someone who was partial to wearing triple denim, so I may have to take some tips!

Constructing the skirt was really simple, especially as I've made it before. It's just the fitting that takes a while. A lot of trying it on inside out and pinning to get the shape just right.

*Note - If I was making something fancier I would've probably asked for some assistance with the fitting. It's pretty awkward to fit a garment properly whilst twisting, turning and pinning!*

After I'd got the fit down - and made sure I could sit down in it this time! - it just needed a few finishing touches.

Since using bias binding for the hem of a full skirted dress, I'm a complete convert. Neat and speedy to do, and I even managed to accidentally match it to my nail polish. I chose a nice contrasting colour for any little flashes of it that you might catch through the kick pleat. 

A bit of slip stitch to secure the waist facing in place and it's all done. 

Despite being one of the simplest garments I've made, I'd say it's probably the best in fit and finish. 

Almost holiday ready now! Just need to have a go at making a blouse to go with it too - well I do have enough denim...

C'est La Vie!

I'm soon to be visiting a place with a much warmer climate, but as a light-jacket weather sort of person, I face the small problem of having NO summer clothes. So with a holiday wardrobe in mind, I have a little bit of 'the fear' and need to get sewing!

My Sewing Bee pencil skirt has had quite a few wears, so I thought I'd make another, but one more suited to the season. At the time of making, I thought it would be great in a medium-light coloured denim, and it was quite an easy one to whip up, so I thought I'd give it a go.

I went to the local market with the right amounts in mind, but somehow managed to return home with enough denim to clothe B*Witched circa 1998...

I clearly have great ambitions to join B*Witched - hope there's enough denim to make a cowboy hat too!
I'd recommend this pattern for all levels of skill. It has real minimal pattern markings/tailor tacks and that's always the bit that I get most impatient with.

Just a bit of prep with basting the darts (4 in the front and 2 on each of the back pieces) and then you're ready to get sewing. I'm making it up in the size 12 measurements this time as I had to adjust the fit quite a lot last time.

Ready to get sewing... so C'est La Vie!

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Thanks for visiting!