Sunday, 24 July 2016

Tea Leaves Betty Dress

If you were lucky enough to receive Liberty coins to spend, what would you buy? I found myself in this fortunate position after helping out with some tartan for the wedding of some friends last year. Adam bravely came with me and after what felt like 30 minutes of dithering, I walked out clutching a couple of metres of the beautiful Tea Leaves B cotton lawn. They were destined for one pattern only - Sew Over It's Betty Dress. It seemed to be a pattern and fabric match made in heaven. 


The modern tea leaves prints are described as "a contemporary interpretation of classic blue ceramic designs using an intuitive, illustrative hand. Inky tones bring a subtle batik feel and echo the Japanese origins of the subject matter creating a story characterised by Far-Eastern influence." I was drawn to the batik look - I love how the green merges into the deep purple background like it has been painted with water colours. 


After making a number of changes to my first version, I didn't make any further ones to the pattern with the exception of the skirt. The lawn was wide enough to allow me to cut the full width of the skirt which, with the drape of fabric, makes for a lovely swishy skirt. The fit is pretty good still although the back gaps a little more than I would like - a fact I found out only after I had completed the dress. I chose to fully line this version. This is partly because I didn't want to use the fiddly facings but mainly because of the lightweight nature of the fabric. The lining is a white bemberg and while it is lovely to wear, it is awkward to use. Any slightly breeze moved it when cutting out and don't get me started on how much it shifted during the hemming stage. Still, the effort was worth it. 


This dress took weeks to make as I've found my sewing time rather limited over the past few months and you can tell this in the guts of the dress. The major benefit of this is the dress spent a great deal of time pinned to my dress form meaning the skirt dropped as much as it ever would. As my time got pressed, I opted for quicker techniques which of course meant bringing out the overlocker. Originally all of the seams were due to French seams and I had planned a narrow double turned hem for the skirt. Instead I have an overlocked centre back seam in the skirt and the hems are overlocked, turned up and stitched in place. I suspect I will change the hem at some point and lose a centimetre in length. It seems that this dress deserves better. 


One area I am pleased with is the zip. I used a pale pink concealed zip and you can only tell because of the zip pull. In addition, I managed a clean finish on the inside with the lining which I'll share next time with a demo of how I achieved it. 

I'm sure I've said this before but this may just be my favourite handmade dress... 

Monday, 11 July 2016

Retro Swirl Fifis

Hello there. It's been a while again since my last post - I continue to be distracted by work and Adam and I took a little break to go to London. It was a lovely couple of days where we had lunch at the Shard with fabulous views and watched Wimbledon next to the river near Tower Bridge.


I took with me my latest pair of Fifi pjs. I have been wearing the Summer Rose pair almost constantly and that's usually a sign that a second make is needed. The fabric is a cotton poplin called Retro Swirl in Cerise Pink and comes from Minerva. I purchased it after needing a cheap midweek pick me up and the print is rather fun. I had thought that some of the swirls were blue and bought pale blue satin bias binding to match. When the fabric arrived I discovered that the swirls are actually purple but the colours still work together.

This pair demonstrates how much a fabric can change an item. This cotton is quite stiff and doesn't have a lot of drape, even on the bias. As a result the pjs don't move so well with with the body making them less comfortable. The shorts are worse than the top and added to the fabric, I think I stretched the elastic a bit too much. I'm hoping that a couple of washes will soften the fabric. 


I stitched this pair in quite an unfocussed way for the design. While finishing the shorts, I added bias binding the hem and liked the effect. This led to unpicking the top of the cups on the top to add binding there instead of just turning the fabric over and stitching into place. If you decide to add binding to this area I would recommend you do this before you've put the top together to make life easier for yourself. While the outside looks nice and neat, the inside is a little messy for my liking. Overall I think I prefer the full bias binding finish - it looks very clean.


I'm playing around with the idea of a more luxurious pair but that will have to wait - I have other greater needs for a summer wardrobe but I'll definitely be revisiting this pattern again.  

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Free Motion Embroidery Part Two

After my posting my last post, I continued experimenting with free motion embroidery. It seemed I just couldn't get enough of it that weekend! I wanted to try something different to objectives and chose people, well specifically women and a vintage theme. I pulled out a few of my fashion reference books and some crafts books for inspiration. A few sketches later and I had three patterns to try. 

Free motion embroidery - 40s house wife

This time, I wanted to see what it would look like with treading tracing part of the picture. I chose the to focus this on the exposed body - face, hands, and legs mainly. I really like how it has come out - it allows the clothing to stand out more. I drew the lines directly on the fabric with a fine pencil. I also experimented with the fabrics used. Stable cotton fabrics work really well for this craft as they are easy to use, keep their shape and aren't too thick. Most of the fabrics are these stable cottons. However the purple boots are thick twill and the plain green is a linen-rayon mix which frays pretty badly. The linen required careful handling but I really like the result. The different texture adds a little more interest to the design. Oh, and the eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed that the 60s dress is a copy of this make but with sleeves! 

Free motion embroidery - 60s swing

I'm very pleased with how these came out. I felt much more confident guiding the fabric through the machine and I think it shows. There are some pulls lines through the fabric and I must remember to get my extension table out for the next time. I'm planning to turn a couple of them into bookmarks so they can be used rather than just sitting in a folder somewhere. I've yet to decide what to do with the 40s housewife. 

Free motion embroidery - 60s chic

I can't wait to get back to experimenting more. I've mostly been focussing on making clothing at the moment but I'll find a date soon I'm sure! 

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Creating for the sake of creating

Sometimes my mind needs downtime. The kind where it can recharge without the pressure of deadlines, other people's priorities, and, well, just life in general. The last few weeks have been pretty intense for me - full of stress, frustration about a situation I find myself in and can't yet get out of, and some pretty good highs. In times like this, I crave a creative outlet and while I have been sewing, somehow it hasn't quite hit the spot. So yesterday, I decided to regain control and pushed aside anything I "should" have been doing in favour of creating. No instructions to follow, absolutely no need for perfection, and no need to share if it all went wrong. It was blissful! 

Free motion embroidery scissors

I knew I wanted to experiment. To do something I wasn't that good at (to keep the pressure of getting it right at bay) and just to have fun. I choose free motion embroidery and a sewing theme because possible options sprang to mind more easily than others. I pulled some white twill from my stash, grabbed the interfacing, bondaweb and my scrap boxes, quickly printed out some sketches and got going. The pictures so the results - some more successful than others but hey, perfection and consistency were not the aims! 

Free motion embroidery dress form
Free motion embroidery fabric pile


I had a blast making these. The nature of the free guiding the fabric through the machine means you have to embrace imperfection and your mistakes. They become part of the piece. There is something freeing in that. My mind is full of new potential projects and this mess of ideas and inspiration has made a welcome return. I have a two items of clothing the need finishing. They are quick jobs but they can wait a little longer - I'm still not quite ready to go back to precision. 

Free motion embroidery thread spools


How have you been spending your weekend?

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Growth Pond Wrap Dress

This item began with the fabric. Browsing Fabric HQ after the free motion embroidery class in January, I found myself at the counter buying two meters of Art Gallery Fabrics knit. I knew from the first touch that this was destined to become an Ultimate Wrap dress. 

Growth Pond Sew Over It Ultimate Wrap dress 2

The fabric in question is Growth Pond from the Bound collection by April Rhodes - it is spring like and the print gives a sense of being in the peaceful outdoors overlooking a large pond full of grass. As we have come to expect with Art Gallery Fabrics, this knit is of high quality. It is wonderfully soft, lightweight, and lovely to work with. 

Growth Pond Sew Over It Ultimate Wrap dress

The only change I made to the pattern was to lengthen the sleeves as this is what I notice the most when wearing my original. The main difficulty I had centred on the facings. This fabric likes to roll and not necessarily in the same direction! I couldn't get the facings to lay flat towards the inside of the dress - stabilising the seam with clear elastic, under stitching, and hand tacking in key places didn't solve the problem. Eventually I ripped the facings out and replaced them with knit bias tape. The problem was solved instantly. The bias taped is stitched down with a purply grey thread and is barely noticeable from a distance.  

Growth Pond Sew Over It Ultimate Wrap dress 3

I'm completely in love with this dress and it will definitely be one that is worn to death. The smooth fabric feels wonderful against the skin and it's lightweight nature makes it perfect for a spring day. Although it doesn't hold up well in the wind, as shown in the photos, it is fabulous to wear - like wearing an all day hug and I'm not sure there is much more I can ask from it. 

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Self drafted work trousers

This post has been a long time coming. As long term readers will know, one of my main fitting issues with clothing are my narrow hips and trousers are the item that reveals this issue this more than any other. Finding a good pair of rtw without any stretch is almost impossible and results in huffing and puffing while browsing in the shops. I realised that the only way out of this pattern was for me to draft my own and, in January, the stars aligned when a work trip was cancelled and I got the final spot on a trouser drafting course run by Darn It and Stitch

Self drafted trousers 2

Over four weeks we created our block, tested it, made any necessary changes, learnt how to insert a fly opening, and then drafted our first pattern. It took a few tweaks to perfect my block and I'm thrilled that it fits perfectly around my hips. For my pattern I wanted a fairly classic design that would fill a massive hole in my work wardrobe. This pair feature front darts, a fly opening, side pockets, a back yoke which includes in seam pockets and a narrow waistband closed by a popper. To keep the side pockets safely in place, I chose to use a pocket stay. Getting the stays and the fly to look very neat on the inside was a little bit of challenge to work out but it all worked out in the end. 

Self drafted trousers 3

Due to the classic design, I decided to keep the details to the minimum - just some top stitching on the back yoke. I wanted the gorgeous grey wool (bought from Goldhawk Road) to stand out. It is a lovely quality wool that is smooth and itch free, and easy to work with. It is fabulous to wear - comfortable yet stylish and perfect for work. 

Self drafted trousers 4

Now a sensible pair of trousers on the outside called for a party on the inside and I chose a cracker of a fabric for the pocket lining and stays. The pink and orange are as bright in real life and this cotton had been waiting patiently for its chance to shine. I love how the colours work with the grey and it makes me happy to know the colours are there. 

Self drafted trousers 5

I've worn these quite a lot over the past three weeks and I'm generally very happy with them. They are a little big around the waist and I think I can solve this by making the darts a little bigger. I'm looking forward to making more of these and to creating new designs - I just need to find the time to get back to pattern drafting. I have an experimental pair ready to toile to see if they are a good idea or not for me and I'm dreaming of shorts. How do you find making trousers? Have you drafted your own? 

Monday, 9 May 2016

Summer Rose Fifi Pyjamas

Hello, there. I trust you all had a good weekend and made the most of the sunshine. It was lovely in Oxford and getting the suncream out for the first time was wonderful. In anticipation of the warmer weather and thinking about a summer holiday, my thoughts have wondered to my summer wardrobe and specifically night wear. I knew a lovely set of summer pyjamas were needed and when Minerva kindly got in touch to offer some fabric, I found the perfect match of pattern and fabric to create the Summer Rose Fifi pyjamas. 

Summer Rose Tilly and the Buttons Fifi Pyjamas1

The fabric is called Rose Floral and it is a cotton poplin. I was drawn to the pink roses which remind me of country garden and times gone by and this nostalgia only grow when I saw that the print had a vintage/tapestry look to it. The roses are set on a black background - not my first choice for summer but it does lift the pinks well. When I originally received the fabric I thought it would be too thick and not have enough drape to make Fifi but all my concerns were lost after prewashing and wearing these for a night. The poplin has all the properties of a good cotton - good weave, some drape, incredibly easy to cut, press and stitch. I loved working with it and love wearing it. I decided not to go with the self-binding that is included in the pattern and opted for a hot pink bias binding that was in my stash. I had originally opted for a pale pink to match the roses but my machine (for a reason I can't fathom) just ate it. The hot pink doesn't give the fully romantic feeling I was going for but brings a fun modern vibe to them. 

Summer Rose Tilly and the Buttons Fifi Pyjamas4

I took my time choosing which size to cut. While I love a lot of ease in my pyjamas, I also find a lot of them have too much around the hips for my liking. Based on the finished measurements I went for a 5-6-4 combination and it is largely spot on. I think I need slightly more room in the hips for when I'm pottering about on a lazy morning but they were fine to sleep in. 

Summer Rose Tilly and the Buttons Fifi Pyjamas3

For a such a small item, Fifi took longer to stitch than I anticipated. This is mainly because Tilly had the foresight to finish these with French seams (my favourite finish) and you need to handle the bodice more carefully than most of other makes due its bias cut. However, the extra effort for the seams and the binding is totally worth it - it gives you a make that is gorgeous on the outside as well as the inside. The suggested technique for adding the elastic to the shorts also ensures a good finish - you stitch the elastic to a raw edge, fold over twice and stitch in place encasing all the raw edges and stitches. Such a simple but effective way to achieve a smooth, polished look. 

Summer Rose Tilly and the Buttons Fifi Pyjamas2

I'm delighted with how this set turned out and this summer will see them being in high demand due to their comfort and prettiness. I may just have to make another pair to ensure these last! What's on your sewing table right now?

Note: The fabric for this make was provided by Minerva Crafts. Pattern purchased separately. 

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