Saturday, 18 November 2017

Busy busy busy!

My sister got married at the weekend so there has been a LOT of planning and, for me, a lot of sewing.  Of course.  I wouldn't have missed an opportunity like that!

There was the hen party - I can recommend Bratislava, it's a great mix of Austro-Hungarian empire and Communist brutalism.  I had a lot of fun making little Japanese knot bags and scrabble-tile necklaces for the hens.

The bags were all reversible - unfortunately I didn't re-arrange them in the same order so I can't actually tell you what the fabric pairs are!

Next up was an alteration to the wedding dress - the actual wedding dress.  We are a fortunate bunch with blessings in the ample frontage department! So although it is my sister's size it was a bit unbalanced in the bodice for bust reasons.  My solution was to put in a laced back - and I can wholly recommend Bridal Covered Buttons, their kit was perfect.  They're made to order and are super quality with really good instructions. I had a complete fluke on choosing the right colour match for the kit, which was a relief, and didn't bother with the modesty panel as the closure gap was close enough to not need it once it was properly done up.

It went from this:
To this:

For the daytime I made myself a circle skirt out of blue micro-fibre silk - it's not real silk but it has lovely drape though it is super-slippery to sew.  I originally planned to make Vogue V8980 which is lovely, but the practice piece I made was utterly wrong on me - the pleating made it very bunchy at the front and I've got enough going on up front thankyouverymuch. So I ditched it and decided to go for a simple circle instead.  The hem ended up a little uneven because it's so slippery, but I've added some horsehair braid to give it a bit of flip and I think it did nicely - and who was looking at me anyway?!  All attention should be on the beautiful woman in the white frock!

The wedding included an evening masked ball.  So, OF COURSE, I decided to make a ball gown.  I naturally set myself something of a challenge, and wanted to make something close to Vintage Vogue 4042.  A pattern from 1950, with a gorgeous collar.  I could do the bodice and skirt easily, but the collar - how on earth to get that beautiful shape?  Look at it, isn't it BEAUTIFUL!  I spent a lot of time googling Every. Single. Variation of collar design I could think of with absolutely no solution.  I knew I had to track down a copy of the pattern to get the shape of the collar pieces, and for a vintage pattern that is 67 years old I had limited hope of any success.

After weeks, literally, of stalking eBay I struck lucky when someone listed the pattern for £4.50 - a STEAL, considering it's on Etsy for something like $90 *shocked face*.  It wasn't my size, or anywhere near it, but at least I had it.

So, I bought 5m of a gorgeous dark gold slub silk - I think it's called dupion these days - and got busy.

The silk cuts like butter and sews like a dream, it's not at all slippery because of the slubs, and it's really easy to handle - and trust me, I've wrangled 4.5m in this so I know what I'm talking about!

Changes I made to the pattern:

  • I used my own bodice block with a v-neck rather than the wide bardo-ish style neck of the pattern.
  • Added elbow length sleeves
  • Drafted a turn-back cuff - using the method in this blog by sew2pro - slightly inspired by the cuffs on Modes Royale 959, another early 1950s pattern
  • Used shoulder princess seams rather than the armscye ones in the original

So.  That collar.  Interesting shape, no idea at first how to make it look like the one on the pattern picture. Or how to redraft it.

Most fortunately, in general the shoulder to centre-front distance seems to be the same despite me being a lot of sizes bigger than the pattern.  I made a mock-up and laid it against the neckline and it matched up very neatly.  The pieces themselves go together in a most peculiar way, I practised and got it wrong a few ties before I understood how it worked, and once I did it was a thing of absolute beauty.

The fabric, while gorgeous, has got quite a tendency to fray so I have used French seams on most of it apart from the princess seams in the bodice.  I'll probably need to keep an eye on them for fray, but it should be ok.

I'm still in shock that I've actually made a ball gown.  I suppose a dress is a dress is a dress, but perceptually a silk ball gown seems so much more advanced than a little cotton summer frock - is it?

I wore it with some AWESOME Irregular Choice shoes, a beaded waspie corset and some elbow length gloves. I'm not wearing a hat, it's my mask pushed back on my head!

Apart from all that I also made about 60m of bunting, and the wedding cake, and a bit of mini-bunting for the top of the cake!

It was a wonderful wonderful weekend, worth every stitch!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Sea Fever

There has been holiday!  Sometimes I take a machine with me, and I almost did this year, but in the end I decided to leave it at home.

While on holiday I saw a beautiful dress - the Stay Sail from Seasalt.

It's a simple jersey dress with a slightly nautical vibe that looks very easy to wear.  I LOVED it, but it's £55!  And they didn't have my size anyway.

As I looked at it and thought about it I realised that it was quite similar to the Fancy Tiger Fen dress, a pattern I already own and have made twice.   I asked on their facebook page if anyone had made the Fen in a knit - it's intended for a woven - and while they didn't know of any they give me some very helpful tips.

Saturday saw me hitting the fabric shop for some striped jersey - and I struck very lucky with the sale as it was £3.50 a metre!  So yesterday I got to drafting and sewing...

Alterations to the pattern:

  • Sized down by one size - you can do that when going from a woven to a knit to take account of the negative ease with a stretchy material
  • Changed the pocket hole from curved inset to a slanted one
  • Removed the bodice darts - I just cut them up the centre and overlapped the legs to remove them 
  • Lengthened the skirt by about 3 inches - I felt the previous two were a tiny bit too short and while the jersey is heavier and would probably have pulled down enough I fancied a bit more knee coverage!

After that it was a relatively simple sew.  I stabilised the waistband with elastic - there's clear stuff you can use but I find it maddeningly scratchy (SUCH a princess!) so I normally just use normal narrow elastic which is softer.  I cut it to the width of the bodice and then sewed it to the skirt top with a stretch stitch.  it's done a really nice soft gather that is pretty evenly balanced.

Last of all I used a bit of bought stretch binding for a tiny bit of colour detail and twin stitched the cuffs and hem with a matching red.  You can't tell, but I know it's there and that's enough for me!

I think it would even be possible to size down a little more at the waist but that's a tiny detail.

All in all I'm really pleased with it, it's a close enough approximation of the dress I saw, it's SO comfortable, loose enough but not ridiculously baggy, wearable with gym shoes or sandals, cool, simple, pretty.

So, £55 or £9?  I know which one I prefer!

I'm going to call it a Fen-Sail!

Shoes - Ancient Skecher Go Walks
Hair - bouncy
Greengages - falling off the tree

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Three months later...

Oh, hello sewing mojo - sewjo? - there you are.  I was wondering where you'd got to.

There I was, full of plans and with a wonderful new fabric stash to play with courtesy of my friend who is moving to another country and BIFF. BANG. POW.  No inlination, no spark, sewing room in darkness...WOE!

It felt like a long way back.  And all the while I still had plans actual doing.  And I had promised a garment to my mum for her birthday which was...oh yes, three months ago.  THE GUILT every time I did something else!  She's very patient, my mum.  Which is just as well really.

And she carried on being very patient without saying a word.  But finally, a couple of weeks ago, I got the fabric out and traced the pattern and put the thing together and Hoorah, Mum's birthday kimono is done!  I used Simplicity 1108, view D, lengthened a little, and made it in Liberty poplin, the floral print is called Paul, which I bought from Shaukat.  As with all things Liberty the fabric is really lovely to cut and sew, and the colours are gorgeous.  I edged it in plain blue poplin bias binding.

Have you ever made continuous bias binding?  It's quite easy and way better than cutting endless strips and piecing them together.  I had NO idea how much I needed so I cut a square and drew my lines and got snipping.  About 30 minutes later I was still snipping.  The square I cut was really quite big.  Unnecessarily so.  And I now have around THIRTY METRES of duck-egg blue poplin binding!  It goes from the back of my house all the way to the front, twice.

You can avoid that by using this handy calculator.  Which I had completely forgotten existed.  

The pattern goes together pretty simply - except for the sleeve bits, I couldn't figure those out at all for some reason so that had some unpicking and redoing but we got there in the end.  And I did french seams on all except the sleeves, and they do look very lovely and neat.

And then I forgot to photograph it before I handed it over, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

Since then it's been all go back in the sewing room.

I redid the tea-cosy I made last year as all the stuffing had slipped.  So I bought new wadding and used some of the bias to do a new bound edge.

And then I got cracking on a second attempt at the Cashmerette Springfield - a nice top of the kind that goes with jeans or crops.

My first attempt last August was a complete fail.  Luckily Jenny is a very good correspondent on social media and gave me some advice about the right size to cut, it just took me ages to get around to it.  But I'm finally there!

This isn't a very drapy or flowy fabric, it's a straight cotton, but I do love the two together - the green is a Rose & Hubble and the pink is by Belleboo.  I made a slight alteration to the arm and neck finishing - the patterns calls for a facing strip, but by the time I'd cut them they were too wide so I turned them into a bias-bound edge.  My neckline isn't totally flat but I can live with it, especially as I hand-finished them all and don't intend doing them again!  But it's a nice and quick sew, and took an afternoon to finish.  I like the split side-seam and the contrast band.

Top - Cashmerette Springfield
Crops - cut down from charity shop jeans (50p!!) and taken in at the waist
Hair - drying
Toes - really in need of some varnish

And after that I tackled my mending basket and got to grips with popped seams and unlined waistbands and things that needed a bit of tinkering to get a better fit.  I think I'm back, Back, BACK! 

Now I'm going to play with t-shirt patterns.  My most favourite, most perfect Gap one went into holes a couple of years ago and I'm going to try and recreate it...

"Phew, for a minute there I lost myself...."

Friday, 21 April 2017

A tale of two dresses. Or three. Or four...

Grab a cuppa and a snack, this post is L O N G and full of pictures!

Since I attended the bodice-drafting class at Makeplace in Norwich I have been doing a LOT of thinking and planning.  And worrying.  And buying books.  And reading blog posts.  And looking at my lovely fitted block!

And then I drafted a sort of sleeveless top for myself - a bit like a Colette Sorbetto but without the having to add a bust adjustment.  Well, that was a disaster!  Armholes down to the waist, hello bra straps, neckline wider than Gaping Gill...all mostly because I have NO IDEA how to add design ease! Let's just chuck the fabric into the scrap bag and call it a learning experience!  It scared me off for a while.

Then I started thinking about what a waste of a class it would be to not do anything else so I looked at the Winifred Aldrich book Metric Pattern Cutting For Women again and started to understand how to actually use it with my block.

I decided to make a button front dress with a swishy skirt.  I cut a half circle for the skirt using the calculator on Patti Brower's website - which is absolutely the best calculator there is!

Then it was time for pattern drafting.  First of all I rotated the dart to the armscye and added a button stand/placket to the centre front.  Those are two things I've never done before - but then I've never really designed something from scratch before anyway so...

I made a toile and the front was really nice - plenty of space, but the waist and bust dart points were ascloseasthis, so I decided to turn them into a princess seam. Oh yes, I know NOW that I need to shorten the dart points for actual wear!

Now, I've never even sewn a princess seam, let alone drafted one of my own, but I like a challenge.  Brave or foolhardy, you decide...

Well, I made a princess seam from the armscye and it worked pretty well.  I liked the look so I dug out a piece of weird vintage fabric I bought a couple of months ago at the Maker's Month thing.  I have NO idea what it is - some kind of nylon stuff - it's a pretty floral, 2.75m for £3.  Even if it went wrong it wouldn't be a massive waste of money.

Oh so slippery though.  It slid all over the table.  I managed to get it cut, but it was a challenge.  And then there wasn't enough for sleeves too, but there was enough to make some bias binding so that's what I've used to edge the arm-holes.

The button placket is quite narrow but I managed to find 10 matching buttons in my tin.  By the following day I only had 9 buttons.  I have no idea where the tenth went, I think the cat flicked it on to the floor - they were enticingly skittering all over the top of my sewing table...

Anyway, I like it, it needs a bit of taking in at the waist, but I like wearing it, weird fabric and all.

After that I decided to use a piece of Liberty-ish poplin from my stash - I've had it for ages and have already used a different colourway for a Fancy Tiger Fen, so I know it cuts and sews up really nicely.  It was from my local market and is pretty pricey at £10 a metre but it looks very like a combo of Liberty prints Pelagia and Ianthe.

Alterations this time round were to add pockets, draft the princess from the shoulder and add it to the back pieces too, face the neck, put in a back zip instead of front buttons and to scoop the neck.

What went wrong?  Oh a lot!  I put the pockets in too low - it's not a great look scrabbling around the knees!  So I took them out, opened up the seam and put them back in higher up.

I drafted a facing using this tutorial and then followed the instructions in the Gretchen Hirsch's Ultimate Dress Book for construction.  And having sewn it together I couldn't turn it through the shoulders.  So I unpicked the armholes, chopped it into just a neck facing and then made bias tape for the armholes.

The zip went in PERFECTLY!  My best zip EVAH!

But somewhere along the line the princess seam has gone a tiny bit too big - it's bagging a bit at the front.  It really was perfect on my toile.  And now it isn't.  I might unpick it and recut the lines, but I probably won't.  Or at least not now anyway.

The length after hemming is exactly where I wanted.  And the fit is smooth and has just enough ease to feel fitted but comfortable.  Pattern matching is a bit hit and miss, but in a busy pattern I don't think it's such an issue.

I think this fits the criteria for a spring/summer dress and I reckon I will be wearing it a lot!  If it's windy and you see me out you might want to avert your gaze, the half circle skirt is quite fluffy and prone to knicker-flashing in a stiff breeze!

I love the final look, and I think I shall be tinkering with this over the next couple of months, getting the seams right, maybe narrowing the skirt a little - that would make it less of a fabric-eater for sure and I have some lovely narrow vintage crepe that is just LONGING to be a pretty dress...

Note: I do have two legs in the usual run of things, one is propped on the wall.  It's a pose that doesn't really work in a dress does it!

Shoe(s) - Asda
Shoelaces - you can't see them, they have cherries on them
Necklace - pretty but weirdly scratchy
Hair - the less said the better TBH.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Making time for making things

It's taken a few weeks to get the trousers finished, I cut them out about 10 days ago and did the main seams, then earlier in the week I pinned and tacked in the zip and then I had NO time to finish them.  Until today!

Mr Wonderful took The Girl swimming so I had the house all to myself and have been able to get them finished.

I did a side zip on this pair - not sure why I opted for that but it seems to give a nice smooth line.  And I made a facing for the top instead of a waistband which is also nice and smooth.

The pattern matching is a bit shonky, but the fit...OH the fit!  They're not too loose or too tight.  They fit my bum AND my legs AND my waist!  I can sit in them comfortably and cross my legs but they don't fall down or need a belt...they really are the holy grail of trousers and I foresee a few more in my future wardrobe.

By the time I finished twin-needle stitching the hems I had this much thread left.

Fabric was from Anglian Fashion Fabrics, not the sale rail for a change!  Actual metreage, measured out!.  It is faintly itchy so must have a touch of wool in there somewhere but it's bearable.

After that I put some fisheye darts in a couple of silk tops I had made a few years ago in India.  They are gorgeous material but very boxy and shapeless so I never wore them.  Two darts later they are shaped and  wearable...I'm wearing one in these pictures, the other is a lovely amethyst colour.

And then I made some new handles for a cheapo bag I bought YEARS ago - the vinyl was rubbing off so I cut off the old straps and replaced them.

All in all a good sewing day!

Top - modified green silk from Mysore
Trousers - drafted and made by me!
Shoes - none
Hair - flyaway

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Blocks and what I did next...

It's been a few weeks.  There has been sewing, natch, because I am obsessed.

But mostly I've been learning and planning and thinking.

Learning - well, at Christmas I was given two sewing classes, one each from the husband and the mothership.  They are at Makeplace which is a lovely place - nice airy room, lots of space, lovely Juki machines, really good teachers.

I chose the ones I wanted, which were how to draft a bodice block and a trousers block.  I had to wait to go on each one - and as an impatient Mr Toad I-WANT-IT-NOW kind of person that was quite hard.  But each day finally came and I am now the proud owner of two pattern blocks that fit my exact measurements, and a whole heap of extra knowledge and information and a couple of new books.

The class is run over a day and has 4 people so you get really good 1:1 time with the tutor and plenty of time to ask questions and chat, as well as space to manipulate large sheets of card to make the block.

Each class used the steps and principles of Winifred Aldrich's Metric Pattern Cutting book,
What was interesting for me is that it really reinforced that there is no such thing as a 'normal' shape - even the slenderest of people have fitting issues!  And as I have my own ample bum to think about and fit, I had never really experienced that a flat bum is just as much of a fitting issue.  But it is!

The bodice is a close-fitted style, I should be able to go pretty much anywhere into fitted blouse or dress bodice with it, and I am planning a simple dress with a half circle skirt for summer.  But the trousers...oh my!  My trousers block, in particular, is simply amazing.

The style is for nice 'normal' trousers - the kind one might wear for work.  Not too fancy, not jeans, not skinny, but properly fitted.  I spent about 3 hours drafting the block and then the afternoon cutting fabric and sewing up a toile/muslin to tweak the fit.  Mine didn't need tweaking at all, my partner was a very good measurer!  And when I tried them on the fit is dreamy!  Perfect on the waist, perfect over the bum, perfect across the pulls, no wrinkles, no need for a belt.  And because they fit they also look nice on, they're flattering - and yes, in this context, by 'flattering' I do mean that they make me look a bit thinner.  I know, I know...

Anyway,I went straight to the fabric shop and hit the sale rail as per and bought enough for a first pair, it said dry clean but has come out of the washing machine unscathed.  And yesterday I went to the market and bought a piece of wool/poly which is definitely washable and that's drying too.

I really can't wait to get them made up...

Saturday, 7 January 2017

My husband is rather wonderful

Who lives in here?

It's my birthday in a few weeks.  Today we went out shopping and happened to visit John Lewis haberdashery, where they had a special offer on a sewing machine - one I had been looking at and longing for.  It's very beautiful.  I stroked it.  We came home.

An hour later he went out to buy it for my birthday.

OMG, it's AWESOME!  It's got masses of features and is so quiet.

Lookit all these stitches!
 I've knocked up a quick cover for it and it is so smooth and so quiet, it's just wonderful!

Lucky lucky me...