Thursday, 26 September 2013

In Which I Am More Proud Of The Inside

also, In Which I Go Shopping For A Bin And Leave With Fabric.

So there I was, casually strolling around Dunelm Mill, looking to get a new bin for our kitchen, when I suddenly found myself in their haberdashery - how'd that happen! I know Dunelm Mill is a good place to get thread and needles and zips and the like, and I know they do curtain fabrics, but I'd never even thought about looking for dress making fabric there.

So of course I was thrown off guard by a rack of pretty poplins, and of course, in my weakened and confused state, I ended up buying two metres of a lovely yellow floral pattern! And it's only natural that I picked up a pack of buttons to go with it. I never did get that bin though.

This was another last minute addition to my holiday sewing schedule, and since I already had the Violet pattern from Colette I decided to make another. I figured the stark difference between the poplin and the chiffon in my first Violet would make them look distinct enough from each other, and not simply the same blouse twice. Then, of course, half way through making it, I decided to leave the sleeves off this version!

What can I say - we were in the middle of a rare, and unbearable, British heatwave and my brain was melting out my ears!

I just barely got all of the pieces cut out of the fabric. I cut the sleeves too because it wasn't until later I decided to go without. This fabric seemed very narrow, but at the time, I didn't think to check just how wide it was. Usually I can get a blouse out of 2 metres with some to spare, but not this time! It was a tight fit!

The poplin was obviously easier to work with than the chiffon, and didn't need a lining, so I had a slightly easier, smoother sewing experience this time. This was also my very first time using seam binding! I know, I'm like a savage! Usually, if a seam can't be frenched, which is my go to finish, I just whip out the trusty pinking shears. I'm a lazy sewist. Or at least I was. Because with this blouse, something clicked and I realised how satisfying it is to have a beautiful finish inside garments too! I used white cotton bias binding that I had lying around to finish the inside. Look!

It's so lovely and neat! Not a stray thread or fraying seam in sight! To say I'm proud of this is an understatement. When people complement me on this top, it's all I can do to stop myself ripping open the buttons and saying 'But look at the inside!'

I used the same white binding on the arm holes. At some point in the sewing, I thought, wouldn't it be lovely to have a sleeveless button up blouse, so I simply didn't add them. I used the instructions from the Hawthorn dress pattern for binding the arm holes, as it was something I'd never done before. It isn't the most perfect job, as there are a few puckers, but for a first attempt I think it went okay.

If had planned a sleeveless version ahead, I would have made the arm holes slightly smaller, as they gape a bit at the back. That's the only adjustment I'd make, though, as the shoulder length was pretty spot on out of the envelope.

This photo got turned randomly and I can't figure out how to rotate it back :( But you can see the print better here
The buttons aren't anything overly special. They have a nice concentric circle pattern and are cream, so don't overpower the blouse at all. I think my collar is a little bit off centre, but I don't mind. The blouse got a fair amount of wear this summer, and it goes with practically all of my handmade skirts which was an unexpected bonus! Teamed with a thick cardigan for autumn, I'm still wearing it and it is one of my favourite makes.

So how much did this impromptu make cost me?

Pattern: stash
Fabric: 2m at £5.99 p/m - £11.98
Thread, binding, interfacing: stash
Buttons: £3.00

Total: £14.98

This is another make that's comparable in cost to a similar RTW item, so I'm happy with the cost. Especially since I'm getting so much wear out of it. And as for the epiphany about seam finishes this blouse brought about, well that's invaluable!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

In Which I Lose My Denim Skirt Virginity

That's right. I have never ever owned a denim skirt. I think it's because the high street offers such limited choices. I've never had the legs to pull off the box shaped mini skirt, and too often longer length skirts are either in unflattering shades of denim, or burdened with ill-advised patches, lace or flowers. Maybe I'm just fussy, but I know what I like, and I haven't found it yet.

I didn't think I would ever sew a denim skirt - it wasn't really on my list of must have items. Until, that is, I met the Kelly skirt pattern. You all already know that I love this pattern. I mean, I've made two already! I made this denim version in between the corduroy and polka dot versions, and it has quickly become a wardrobe staple. I love it!

Excuse the crumpled hem. I'm not the most dedicated ironer in the world
There's not a great deal to say about this version now! It's all been said already. It was a dream to sew up, as always, and easy enough to add my favourite French seams to the inside. I knew I didn't want the usual metal buttons that often come on denim clothing, and instead went with these super cute blue and white stripe plastic buttons. I got them from Crafty Ribbons at a craft fair in Belfast and I love them with this skirt. (I also got grey polka dot buttons but have yet to find a home for them.) I think they make this skirt look less like a traditional denim skirt and a bit more sweet and feminine.

Although I learned my lesson about top stitching thread with my corduroy Kelly, I purposefully chose not to use it on this one either, because I wanted a softer look with less defined stitch lines. I used two metres of 7.5 oz indigo denim, and it was easy to sew with a denim needle - much easier to press and sew than the corduroy! I lined the pockets using left over teal cotton poplin I had in my stash. All in all, it was an easy, satisfying make, and a proper wardrobe staple.

So how much did it cost?

Pattern: stash
Fabric: 2m at 8.99p/m - £17.98
Buttons: £2.00
Thread, interfacing etc: stash
Total: £19.98

Not bad at all. It's definitely a price I would pay for the right RTW piece, which as I said, hasn't materialised yet, so I'm very happy with it.

For the time being I'm done with the Kelly pattern. That's not to say I won't make another in the future, especially if I find myself in need of a quick and easy casual skirt. I don't want my wardrobe to be overwhelmed by Kellys but it was definitely a pattern well worth buying and I can't recommend it enough!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

In Which I Attempt To Recreate A Vintage Pattern

(and humbly ask for your help!)

I think I've reached a point in my sewing career where I can attempt to make my own winter coat. I have gotten fed up of making do - a cosy coat with no hood, a rain coat with hood that leaves me to freeze in the frigid Scottish winter, and neither of them especially stylish or flattering. I basically want a wool coat with a hood, as with three boys to keep my hands on when I'm out and about, I don't have the luxury of faffing about with an umbrella.

I love this vintage Vogue pattern, but alas, it is out of print and very expensive.

I particularly like the white coat in the middle. It ticks all my boxes. Fortunately there is a modern Vogue pattern that's quite similar - same princess seams, same A-line skirt.

The red or white versions are pretty close, I think. I don't mind double breasted coats and I was never sold on the patch pockets of my inspiration coat above, so I'm happy to do without. The thing is, I'm not sure how to go about eliminating the collar and drafting and attaching a hood. It has been done before - I found this version of the coat on Pattern Review, and this is pretty much what I'm going for, but there are no construction notes. I already have a coat with a similar bodice and no collar that I can use to help me extend the front of the coat up, but I'm stumped on the hood.

So I'm hoping you guys can help me! Would it simply be a matter of finding a hood pattern piece from another coat and adding it to this pattern? Or is there some excellent tutorial out there that can hold my hand through the whole process?

Thursday, 19 September 2013

In Which I Am Seduced By A New Pattern

So there I was, happily sewing up all my planned summer garments. Broderie Anglaise picnic blanket skirt? Check! Origami Crane Violet? Check! Kelly Skirt - 3 times? Check, check check! When all of a sudden, browsing sewing blogs idly, a new pattern from Colette pops up, screaming 'make me!' (Obviously not their newest pattern, but this was during the summer, remember?)

That's right, the Hawthorn dress completely derailed my careful sewing schedule, and, as a result, I made one or two clumsy errors when making it :( That'll teach me to bite off more than I can chew. I'm not usually keen on shirt dresses, maybe because RTW offerings are usually a bit on the stiff side, but something about the Hawthorn seemed different. Maybe it was the way it was styled in the photos, or maybe it was the interesting and relatively delicate collar. I just knew it had to be mine!

All these photos are headless because I've just gotten over a really stubborn ear infection and it shows all over my pasty face!

I already had fabric in mind for the Hawthorn. I had added a beautiful orange cotton lawn to my eBay watch list a while back, waiting for the perfect project to warrant buying it. (I got it here, and have bought several other fabrics from this seller too, and they are all gorgeous!) But I was totally unprepared for how soft it was. It was the softest, most fluid fabric I've ever worked with, with a beautiful drape. I was excited to wear it. I was not excited to cut it. This sucker slipped and slid all over the place! I cut it out on our wooden living room floor and used every tin and jar we had in the house to weigh down the layers. And yet ...

The cutting was where I went wrong, I think. Without tooting my own horn too much, I did a pretty fine job on the construction of this dress. The cutting, not so much. So, the back panels of the skirt were shorter than the front, by about 3/4 inch. The button stand from the waist down ended up being too narrow on one side - I think because the skirt piece at the front was cut slightly too narrow. And the collar was too short and didn't meet up to the points on the bodice (I've heard this was a problem several sewists had, so I'm not sure if it was a case of misinterpreting the pattern?)

You can see here how the collar is about 1/2 inch too short on each side.
That being said, I was able to pull together a wearable dress from the midst of my mistakes, probably thanks to my careful construction of the rest of it. I wore it when I went for afternoon tea with my Nana in Belfast, on what turned out to be a surprisingly warm day, and I certainly appreciated the soft, lightweight fabric then! I decided to add the sleeves from the top version of the pattern to my dress, hoping to give it some more versatility into autumn, but I'm not entirely sure that they aren't too long. I was aiming for pretty and vintage, but I think I'm steering more towards frumpy and old-fashioned here. I may shorten them at a later date, when I haven't got so many works in progress.

The pattern instructions call for a hook and eye at the waist, and for some reason, I have never been able to install a hook and eye properly. They always outfox me. So I left it without, hoping that the belt I intended to wear would do the job (if ever a dress was screaming for a belt, this is it!) I had planned to attach belt loops, but ran out of steam and didn't bother. Well, after wearing the dress once, I realised I definitely needed some kind of closure at the waist, as it kept gaping unattractively, and my belt kept sliding up (I need to put an extra hole in it.) When I got back from Belfast, I simply added another button there. It's not the most elegant fix, but the aforementioned belt covers most of the ugliness.

I cut a 14 in the bodice, then graded from a 14 at the waist of the skirt to a 16 at the hips. This is a pretty regular adjustment for me. I also cut a 14 at the top of the sleeves and graded to an 18 at the bottom, as I like to have loose sleeves with plenty of comfortable movement. I also added in seam pockets, as I thought they would be useful, but I've since had a rethink on that. In this soft, drapey fabric, anything in the pockets causes unfortunate lumps at the hips (which, let's face it, is the last thing I need.) Also, they tend to ruin the flow of the side seams a bit. If I were to make it again in poplin, I might add pockets again, but I don't think they are a necessary as I had first thought.

What has it got in its pocketses? Nothing but handses, as it turns out!

Once again, all my seams are enclosed, even the sleeves and side seam pockets (I used this tutorial to French seam the pockets.) There are a few messy parts inside, mostly where the too narrow button stand on the skirt joins the bodice, but nothing fatal. I used delicate shell buttons, which I think were the right choice for this dress in this fabric. I'm planning on getting a white cotton slip to wear with it (I super mega loathe those awful 'anti-static' polyester monstrosities), so as I can get some use out of it during the autumn, as I really do love it. With boots and a cardi, it is definitely a summer make that turned out to be more autumnal than expected!

This make cost slightly more than my others, so let's take a look.

Pattern: £12.50
Fabric: 3m at £6.50 p/m - £19.50
Buttons: £4.20
Thread and interfacing: stash
Total: £36.20

Sheesh, that seems quite a lot!
Will I make it again? Probably. I think a sleeveless version of the dress might be in order when spring comes around again, and I'm toying with the idea of making the top. I'm not totally convinced by peplums - not only do I feel it will seriously date my wardrobe, but I don't think they're flattering on my pear shape figure. Perhaps if I mix and match the bodice pieces with the bodice of the Violet, I'd get more satisfying results.

Has anyone else made the Hawthorn? What do you think of the top version?

Friday, 13 September 2013

In Which I Do Battle With Corduroy

and also, In Which I Make My Peace With My Terrible Camera :(

I still haven't managed to document all my pre holiday sewing, and summer is well truly over and done with! To be honest, I hadn't expected the twins starting school to be quite the whirlwind of chaos it's been. Unfortunately, my dreams of two exhausted little boys, coming home subdued and pliable, all came to nought. School isn't tiring them out at all. It's quite a different matter for me though, and I've been lucky to see past ten o'clock for the past few weeks.

Photographing the clothes has been tough too, with the hubby working weird hours all over the country this month, he's rarely here and conscious in daylight and able to take photos. And, as mentioned above, my camera is just terrible. So very terrible. I'm hoping to get a replacement in the future, especially since it's not up to the job where our Etsy store is concerned. But for the time being, you'll have to make do with the shoddy photos. I try my best!

Onto the sewing! This was the first Kelly skirt I made, but the second I'm blogging about. In a blatant lack of imagination or originality, I made it in wine coloured corduroy, very much like the picture on the Megan Nielsen website.

See - terrible photo! Sorry about the dishevelled look - I had just dropped the kids at school.
In my defence, I have wanted a corduroy skirt in this colour since I was a teenager (I know, I'm just too stylish!) This was my first time working with corduroy, and I went out and got special needles for my machine for sewing with it. That being said, it was still a chore to push it through the machine at times, especially at the hem, when there were three layers of fabric. I did the topstitching in yellow, but didn't use top stitching thread, so the final effect is softened somewhat, especially when sewing vertically down the ribs in the fabric. Lesson learned, I suppose.

I had to add an inch over all the side seams as I was cutting the fabric (1/4 inch at each seam), as I am just a tiny bit outside the size range of the pattern. I did this with all three of my skirts, mainly to accommodate my ample hips without compromising on the look of the final fit. But I think, if I were to make another, I wouldn't add so much to the waistband, and perhaps deepen the pleats to make the skirt fit.

The finished skirt fits a bit loose in the waist, which is fine by me, as it doesn't gape but leaves enough room for big dinners :) It's also pretty perfect for tucking blouses into. I added 1.5 inches to the hem, because I wanted this skirt to fall just below the knee - I'm finding that's the length I'm most comfortable with these days as it allows me to wear skirts while still dealing with three active little boys and preserving my modesty. The downside of the extra length in this fabric is that the skirt feels particularly heavy, and feels frumpy to wear. I guess that's something a bit less tangible than fit problems, and perhaps only noticed by me. It doesn't mean I love it any less though!

As this was my first Kelly, I made a few slip ups here, like not pressing the pleats as well as I could have, and ignoring the fact that they had slipped a little when I basted them. As a result, the pleats aren't as tight or neat as in my later Kellys. I also made a mistake with the buttonholes, and repeated in all three skirts, because clearly, I'm a slow learner. I put the buttonholes on the placket after the waistband horizontal, rather than vertical. It's not a huge thing, but it does mean the front of the skirt doesn't sit as neatly as it could.

I decided I wanted a lot of buttons on this skirt, and then almost immediately regretted that choice after making four buttonholes. It was the point of no return though, so I just got on with it, and I love the finished look. The buttons were a bit of an afterthought - I knew I wanted metal, and something a bit different, but I didn't want to spend a fortune. I came across these celtic knot inspired buttons on eBay and figured they'd do. I actually quite like them now.

As with my other Kellys, I frenched all the seams for maximum longevity. I don't have a picture of the inside, but trust me, it's glorious! I used some printed cotton for the pocket linings - the same cotton I used to make my first Tova. I think it gives the whole thing a subtle 70's vibe!

I can honestly say I love this skirt - and this pattern! I wouldn't be in a hurry to make another in corduroy. Not only because my arm ached after making this from pushing it through my sewing machine, but also because I think it's a tad too heavy for the pattern, but I will gladly wear this one until it falls apart :)

Let's look at the sums, shall we?

Pattern: from stash
Fabric: it was a gift, so free! (for those who want to know, it was £8.99 p/m and I used 2m)
Interfacing, thread and pocket lining: stash
Buttons: £3.00
Total: £3.00!

Pretty impressive, no?!

This summer has been a watershed moment for me, sewing wise. I've finally figured out what styles suit me, and taken the time to finish garments properly. The result is lots of wearable clothes, like this skirt, that I absolutely love. Long may it continue!