Rainy day//Sunny sews

I've spent a lot of time inside anticipating Spring/Summer lately... so here are a couple of sunnier sews to try and lift the clouds.

I sorted my fabric stash and unearthed this lovely floral from my haul at last October's Hebden Bridge WI Rag Market, perfect for making a long, drapey, skirt.

I used the skirt pattern pieces from the Emery dress (by Christine Haynes) as a starting point, and then sort of made it up as I went along. I mixed the Emery skirt with a self drafted bodice a while back, and it worked a treat, so I thought it would look fab as a simple gathered skirt with a waistband that sits on the smallest part of the waist. As I was going for simplicity and speed, I omitted the pockets and just added a fair bit of length to the pattern pieces (I like my skirts prudishly long).

I did three rows of machine basting to get the gathers nice and even and then pinned and stitched the whole thing to an interfaced waistband. Luckily the fabric is light weight so the gathers didn't create too much bulk.

An invisible zip fastening at the centre back and it was ready to wear. The whole thing took me an afternoon to put together. I think it has a bit of a granny-dressed-in-a-duvet-cover look, but I think that's a look I can go with. I'm going to Barcelona on my hols in (*me-made*) May so I should probably throw together a few more! I might have to make a couple of plain blouses too to off-set all the pattern - probably some sheer, sleeveless Lotties.

In other exciting sewing news, I'm branching out into the world of sewing smalls. with thanks to The Secrets of Sewing Lingerie by Katherine Sheers and Laura Stanford. I'd never really considered sewing underwear before, but there seems to be quite a buzz around it - particularly bra making - in the blog world. I'm steering clear of the bras for now as I wear a silly size (small back band, large cup) but I'm all for the knicker making!

The authors have experience of designing for both M&S and Agent Provocateur, so the patterns are varied and really quite exciting - definitely the sort of things I'd want to buy if I saw them displayed in a shop! I made a pair of the Cotton Minis - the starter project in the book - to get into the swing of things, using fabric from this vintage, cotton, shirt-dress that was ready for throwing out...

...and I think it's a pretty good transformation! They've had the wear-test and they were really comfortable, and I'm glad to say they survived the wash too! I think with a bit more practice, I'll get neater at sewing some of the tiny seams, and getting the elastic just right.

The Cotton Mini pattern is available for free in the latest Love Sewing Magazine for anyone who would like to try it out, but I would really recommend buying the book. It offers great advice on sewing with lingerie-appropriate fabrics, places to buy some of the unusual fastenings and trimmings, and instructions that are easy to follow. I'm particularly looking forward to making the Head over Heels waisted brief.

If I can't afford the luxury of Agent Provocateur underwear, then what better way than to make my own using patterns designed by the designers!

Slinging Sixties

I received the lovely gift of a new sewing book for Christmas - Famous Frocks: The Little Black Dress by Dolin Bliss O'Shea. It has the patterns and instructions to make 20 garments (including variations),  all based on LBDs worn by fashion icons over the years, including Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn, and Mary Quant. I couldn't help but go with the Mary variation for my first sew from the book, hence the 'Sixties' part of this post title... and excuse the terrible pun, but the 'Slinging' part refers to a little accident I had...

I suffered a rather dramatic collision with the pavement in the icy conditions last week. Thankfully I didn't break anything, but what better way to accessorize my new dress in the meantime than with a coordinating silk-scarf sling?! Back to the dress anyway...

I used a lovely black wool with 2% stretch as my main fabric. I always find it a struggle to get plain black fabric that looks really good in quality, but this was a decent find from Leeds Kirkgate Market. The contrast bands were cut on the bias from some remnants of John Lewis sale fabric. I love the simplicity of the dress, and I think using slightly more expensive/better quality fabrics than usual really adds to the finish of the garment.

I didn't escape a few fit issues. Because the patterns span such a wide range of sizes, there are quite big jumps from one size to the next (the introductory section does advise that your measurements might fall between sizes). As the Mary shift is designed to be fairly loose, I went for the size that would fit my bust - and it really did, I'm so pleased! This meant that I did have to take in the side seams a little at the waist and hips to get a better fit for me. Obviously I could have just graded the pattern when cutting, but I always like to cut that little extra, just in case.

The bit I stumbled on a little was the fit at the back, and I'd say this is mainly due to my inexperience of working with bias-cut fabric. I interfaced the front contrast band, but for some reason, I decided not to do the back pieces. This meant that the shape of the back pieces got a bit distorted when I was working with them, and particularly when the zip was inserted - it went all wiggly at the centre back, nooooo! Not exactly how you're meant to do it, but in a salvage attempt, I interfaced the back contrast pieces AFTER construction, just so they would keep some sort of shape and have the same weight/stiffness as the front. This was a vast improvement, but you can see a bit of gaping at the arms and a bump in the centre back on the picture above.

Despite the issues in the back, I really like the dress, and plan to wear it lots (most likely with a cardigan in the office). I thoroughly recommend Famous Frocks too. The garments all have a vintage feel to them, whilst still being incredibly wearable. The introductory part of the book, dedicated to sewing techniques and tutorials, is fab. It's a bit less visual than some, but the explanations are more than enough - I did my first all in one facing with ease by following the instructions offered.

There are a few really good opportunities to work with stretch fabric in the book too, and I need a bit of practice, so I have my eye on the Liza Minnelli inspired wrap dress next!

Has anyone else sewn anything from Famous Frocks?

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