Saturday, 30 January 2016

The Ultimate Wrap Dress

For a few years I have been without a staple in my winter wardrobe - a wrap dress. When my last RTW fell apart, I had already begun to sew my own clothes and therefore didn't replace it. I figured I would make one but that involved picking up knit fabrics. Ah, knits. Apparently easy to work with but also fear evoking for some. I wouldn't say I have ever developed a fear of using knits, more I never found the time to read up on how best to approach them. Having a lot of spare time in between houses changed that and I finally dived into The Colette Guide to Knits. Suddenly my plans for a wrap dress jumped to the top of list for new year stitching.

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My pattern of choice is Sew Over It's Ultimate Wrap Dress due to its classic design. I always note the month and the year I trace a pattern on the pieces (a quick helpful indicator in case my measurements have changed since tracing) and laying out the pattern pieces revealed I had the same plans last January but for some reason didn't get round to making the dress. The benefit of waiting a year means you can learn from other people's experience and I made a few tweaks to the pattern before getting my fabric ready. I raised the neckline a fair bit to ensure decent coverage and remove the need for a cami and lengthened the dress. 

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With my new found enthusiasm and excitement to complete this dress, I chose to live dangerously and didn't make a toile. I thought about making one to help with my lack of experience in fitting knits. The thought stopped when I realised it's only fabric (and not made from unicorn eyelashes) and I could chalk up a failed dress to experience so I chose to hope that the slight stretch in the fabric would cover any areas that might have been too small. Turns out my risk paid off and this dress fits much better than I thought it would - in fact, just like the RTW ones I used to own and my initial alterations have worked perfectly. After wearing it for a full day, there are some additional tweaks I would like to make for my next version which is already planned. These include lengthening the sleeves which are a few centimetres too short for my liking, the shoulder seams need to come in, a smidge needs to be added to the back so the side seams sit where they should and I'll reduce the length of the ties - they are seriously long! 

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I figured that this dress would get a lot of wear and I wanted to it be comfortable, cozy but smart. The fabric came from my stash is a beautiful petrol coloured interlock bought from the Village Haberdashery (other colours available here). The colour is very difficult to capture in the photographs and it has a strong green hue in real life. The quality is fantastic and is soft to the touch, wonderful to wear, and it ticks all of the boxes. There is a very strong temptation to never take it off! It is very stable with some stretch and was a perfect introduction to using knits (I like to start simple and build from there). The only issue I had with it was getting the neckline to lie flat once the facings had been added - a row of under stitching and a long press solved the problem. A very satisfying part of the project was how quick it was to make - I cut it out during an evening and stitched up in an afternoon. Who doesn't love a quick project? 

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All of this gushing means I'm now off to prewash the fabric for my next version (which may or may not be some Art Gallery jersey I treated myself too). Have a great weekend everyone - is there something on your sewing table? 

Saturday, 23 January 2016

January

Over the past few years, January and I have not been friends. It is the month that I find the most difficult and it isn't helped by the fact I normally have to a work trip to Switzerland where I can't find a quiet space for nearly a week. I had hoped for this January would be different and took steps to help by planning some new activities to help me relax and distract me and I've a rather productive month in between long hours at work. I also got a very welcome surprise when the work trip was cancelled for me and I'm delighted that I'm now writing this from my lounge in my dressing gown with a vanilla coffee rather than freezing my toes off making my way through the Swiss alps. 

The first new activity I've picked up is English Paper Piecing which I have wanted to try for a while. When you move into a new house, everyone tells you that you will go through your first winter saying you'll do things differently next year as you'll know the quirks of your house. I'm already there! As delightful as our house is, being built in the 1930s and being open plan, it is a little chilly especially during a cold snap. I've stolen Adam's fleece blanket for evenings on the sofa while he wears a thicker fleece. I feel a little guilty about this but not enough to buy another blanket right now. Instead I've used it as an excuse to make myself a quilt using English Paper Piecing. I've decided to keep it simple by using hexagons and have been slowly working my scrap box to get a variety of colours and prints. I don't have a set design in mind, just a vague notion that I'll work out over the next few months as I stitch the hexagons together. I've found the process so far to be very relaxing for the evenings - the repetition of folding over fabric and long basting stitches soothes the mind after a busy day. I'll have to find somewhere else to store these as my side of the sofa is filling up!

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Last Saturday I visited FabricHQ for a free motion embroidery class taught by Sam. This is another craft that I have been wanting to try for a while and when I realised they were only a 45 minute drive from home, I immediately booked. It was a great morning and it was lovely to finally meet Sam, who patiently took us through doodling on a scrap through to completing a picture. Moving the fabric around without the help of the feed dogs was a little strange to begin with but doodling my name and a few flowers helped me to get the feel for creating curves. I chose to make a pair of shoes and I'm happy with how they came out, especially for a first attempt. I'll be putting them up in the office next week now I've photographed them for this post. As it is so quick to make a small picture and is a great scrap buster, I will definitely be giving this a go from home. I'm just waiting for payday so I can buy a darning foot and some bondaweb.  

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My poor sewing machine has been feeling a little unloved while it has been trapped by boxes but I have had use of my overlocker. I could have moved the boxes to get to my machine but I decided against it and saw it as an opportunity to finally get to grips with sewing with knit fabrics. Last January I traced the Ultimate Wrap Dress by Sew Over It and then put it away for some reason and forgot about it. I now have a nearly finished dress to share soon. I honestly don't know why I waited so long to start with knits - strange how a delay in starting a project can become an unhelpful mental block. 

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Finally, the cancellation of my trip meant I secured the last place on the trouser drafting course run by Darn It and Stitch. Over four weeks I'll have a block to fit me and the skills required to draft some basic trousers. I'm really pleased to have got on the course as trousers are the most difficult item for me to fit or buy due to my body proportions being different to the measurements used in ready to wear. In the first class we drafted our block and I could see this difference clearly on paper. Homework for this weekend is to trace the block and toile them ready for fitting on Wednesday. I also need to decide on what style of trousers I want to draft over the coming weeks. I have few ideas as you can see in the photos below. 

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Learning new skills and trying new crafts/fabrics has been a lot of fun the past few weeks. Combined with an amazing mattress and some black out blinds for quality sleep, I honestly think they have helped my to get through the month and stay more positive than I might have been. Long may that continue! How has your January been? Have you been learning anything new?

Monday, 4 January 2016

Back to blogging and a peak at my new sewing areas

Well, hello there. It's been a while hasn't it - just over two months in fact. I hope life has treated you well, that you all had a good rest over the festive period and are looking forward to a brand new year of opportunities and stitching. 

The back end of 2015 was rather busy for me. Work exploded with a whole host of changes but more excitingly, Adam and I moved into our new home. Thankfully getting the place was relatively smooth and we got the keys in early December after living with some very kind friends for three weeks. Since then, we've been working on getting the place just the way we want it around the madness of Christmas. We're lucky as we don't have to do any decorating - the house was gutted and redecorated in the four years before we moved in and the previous owners had pretty good taste in decor. The slight downside to this is that it has taken a while to remove the feeling of this being their house but that continues to disappear as we unpack all of our possessions - the final lot will come out of boxes this weekend when the furniture for upstairs is delivered. It is pretty awesome to come home to a place that is ours - I still can't quite believe it! 

I'm slowly getting back into sewing and managed to squeeze in a final 2015 make on New Year's Eve which I'll share in another post. For now, how about a tour of my new sewing areas? We'll start upstairs in the study. This is where my overlocker will live and I'll have to come upstairs to use it as the noise drives Adam insane. I'm not sure how this will work out in practice but I'm sure I'll make it work. In addition to being a work space, it is also home to all of my sewing paraphernalia which is stored in Kallax units from IKEA. The top row contains my entire fabric stash and those pieces that are big enough to squeeze a full or partial item from. My crafting book collection (sewing, cross stitch and other) takes up the next row. It's so nice that they are accessible in full for the first time. The bottom two rows contain my thread, notions, UFOs and other craft equipment. On top of the units are my sewing patterns and button box. Jessica has found her home next to the units. 

Study

Time to move downstairs and to reveal the room that sold the house to me. We have a gorgeous open plan kitchen and dining area with quite a bit of space! The dining table is big enough for me to leave my machine at the end of the table while we use the top half for dinner (sssh! Please don't tell Adam this is my plan - we can keep this quiet right?) It is also big enough to trace and cut out. 

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In addition, the island is big enough for both activities too. I bloody love this island! I've used it so much in the time we have been here including cooking a Christmas dinner for seven. 

Island

The open space in front of the chimney breast is big enough for the ironing board. I'm looking forward to having friends round for a sewing party at some point in the near future. 

Open space

Despite not sewing for the last three months of 2015, I still had a productive year. I completed 26 items: five skirts, one coat, one pair of trousers, one jacket, four shirts, one sweatshirt, eight dresses, one Mary Poppins outfit, two night dresses for my mum, and two cross stitched penguins. I completed two of my three Vintage pledge makes although one hasn't made it to the blog. In addition, I made seven pocket squares, eight table squares and added a trim to three bridesmaid dresses for our friends wedding - all in tartan to match the groom's trousers (which I didn't make!) 

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At present, I don't have any major goals for 2016 although I'm sure it will only be a matter of time before I formulate some sort of plan. I was lucky enough to receive a number of sewing books, patterns, and machine feet for my birthday and Christmas and I have no doubt that they will feature throughout the year. In addition, I now have two gardens and some indoor plants to look after. I've never been a gardener or a vegetable grower but I strongly suspect that will change now as I give the latter a try. One of the quirks of our home is that the front garden has been converted to an allotment - it has three big vegetable boxes and the beds around the edge have a mix of plants. So far I have identified rosemary and rhubarb - who knows what else is there! The back garden won't need so much work as it has a small lawn. However, we inherited three pear trees and a green house. Both gardens are looking a little sad and unloved at the moment but I'll get out there once the weather warms up. In the meantime, wish me luck as I attempt to keep two orchids alive - thanks to everyone on Instagram who gave me advice. I have some healthy looking buds I'm hopeful about. 

How about you? I'd love to know what you have been up to and whether you have plans for 2016. 

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Green Moss Mini

So after saying there will be delays, I'm back almost on time with a new post! Thanks for all your good wishes for the potential house. All is still going smoothly and I've now turned my attention to slowly packing up the flat in an attempt to avoid that pre-move crush. Well, that's that theory anyway! I've cleared out some of my patterns and fabric and this weekend will be tackling the monstrous mound of scraps that I seemed to have accumulated. I can't quite believe how much of a hoarder I have been with the scraps! If anyone has any sensible ideas of how I can clear them out, please let me know in the comments. Textile recycling seems to a winner at the moment.  

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Anyway, enough packing talk - I have my favourite self-sewn skirt to tell you about. This skirt started with the fabric. I popped into Darn It and Stitch hoping to bag a payday treat a few months ago and they didn't disappoint. I walked out with this gorgeous green cotton twill and plans to match it with the Moss Skirt by Grainline Studio, a pattern I had been meaning to buy for ages especially after seeing those made by Carolyn

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I wanted the twill to be centre stage with this make and kept it simple. I was very tempted to continue my obsession with edge and top stitching but it seemed too much. Instead, I kept it to the back yoke, pockets, waist band and at the hem. The twill washed well and construction was plain sailing as it behaved itself perfectly. It also a delightful fabric to wear although it crumples extremely quickly as you can see from the photos. As this was intended to be a summer skirt, I didn't line it. I'm starting to regret that decision a little as I would like to keep wearing it throughout the autumn but it sticks to my tights forcing me to constantly pull it away from my thighs - not a good look! Like many of us, I wanted some interesting pockets and chose this feather cotton fat quarter from my stash which also came from Darn It and Stitch. It's a shame you can't see them but it makes me happy to know they are there. 

Moss Skirt pockets

What surprised me most about the Moss skirt is the fact that I didn't need to make any changes to the pattern. It fitted right out of the packet without any excess around my hips - a standard problem for me. The length is that of the pattern and at the beginning I thought it was a little too short but I got used to it very quickly. The second surprise was putting in the zip. I have limited experience inserting a fly but this method was so easy and clear to understand. I'll definitely come back to it for future projects. I'm very tempted to make a winter version, lengthening it slightly and definitely lined. Another project to add to the list... 

What are your seasonal sewing plans? 

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

We interrupt this service

Hi everyone! How is life treating you? Well, I hope. I'm writing today with advanced notice that it is likely that this little corner of the internet will become quieter over the next few months as I just don't have the time to keep up at the moment. The reasons are a mix of normality and potentially exciting opportunities. 

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Starting with normality, we've entered the busiest three months at work and I've got some stretching targets for this year. I'm not complaining - I've been pushing for a couple of projects and I've finally been given them. Hooray! The potentially exciting part is that Adam and I are trying to buy a house! We came home from holiday to the news that our flat was to be sold and it seemed only logical for us to attempt to get onto the property ladder. We're moving along rather quickly, according to my colleagues who have been through the process, and many of my evenings and weekends are currently taken up with paperwork and clearing out the flat. We're aiming to complete sometime between mid-November and mid-December but we'll have to see how that goes.  I know there are no guarantees until completion but the fact there's no chain is a huge advantage. I'm trying not to get too carried away in case something goes wrong but it's a pretty exciting time! Especially when I think of the dedicated sewing storage space I might get...

I really hope that it won't be too quiet here until we complete - I'm still snatching short periods of time to sew and have some makes waiting patiently to be shared. They will be up as soon as I find the space to get photos and write the posts. In the meantime, I'll have to get my sewing fix through you guys and ask that you keep everything crossed for a smooth ride as we purchase the house. 

Saturday, 12 September 2015

A Simple Nicola

Hi everyone, thanks for the great response to my Mary Poppins outfit. Fancy dress won't feature again for a long time, I suspect. Today, I have a very simple make to share with you. As I was slowly packing for our holiday, I realised that I didn't have enough dresses for the evening to take with me. I'm happy to spend most of the daytime in shorts or mini skirts with a tank top but I like to feel a little more put together for the evening. I don't have to look too smart, just a little more "normal".

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I had a spare afternoon and decided to whip up a simple dress. I had been meaning to make another Nicola dress by Victory Patterns. I absolutely love the wrap and the shape of the skirt and I'm reminded just how much when I wear my original. However, the sleeves, despite being a lovely feature, can be a little cumbersome, especially if you want to wear a cardigan or jacket over the top. This time, I skipped the sleeves and I'm so pleased I did. This version works perfectly underneath a cardigan. I finished the arms with narrow white bias binding, a technique which has now cemented itself as my favourite way to finish arm holes. You can see how this dress came together in pictures here

Simple Nicola

In addition to being short on time, I was also feeling a little burnt out from my sewcation. This really affected the way I approached this dress. I decided not to line the dress, mainly because of the high summer temperatures. The hem is a narrow hem - simply overlocked, turned under once and hand stitched in place. This still gives me the opportunity of lining the skirt should I want to in the future without it being a lot of work. The fabric is a French crepe by Robert Kaufmann purchased from Barry's during last year's Sew Brum meet up. It is a fabulous fabric and I will definitely consider buying more in a different print for future projects. 

Simple Nicola

The bit that bothers me the most about this dress is the fit of the bodice. After taking forever to fit the first version, this one feels too big around the bust. It is one more indication that my needed pattern adjustments are changing and I have to accept the fact exercise has changed my body and I need to stop being lazy with the fit. If I want to repeat patterns I made over six months ago I will need to check the fit and be prepared to start over if necessary. I think I can get away with it with this dress as it is though. What do you think?

Simple Nicola

Despite my reservations over the fit, I love this dress. It has quickly asserted itself a "must wear each week dress". The crepe is delightful to wear, needs very little pressing after washing and dries incredibly quickly. The colours work across seasons and I can see me wearing this in the autumn with a slip underneath. Yay for versatile makes! Are you sewing this weekend? If so, what's on your sewing table?

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Becoming Mary Poppins

Last weekend, I went to the Hen Party of a good friend who is getting married at the end of this month. We went camping at a beer festival in Frocester, Gloucestershire. We've been a number of times before and it is always a great weekend but this was the first time we had gone without the boys. It was also the first time that fancy dress was needed. The theme was any Disney character, except the princesses. So many options! I eventually settled on Mary Poppins. Given that I had less than two weeks between my holiday and the hen party, I originally thought about buying my costume but they were so expensive! £60 for a full Mary Poppins costume that weren't a good likeness. 

Mary Poppins

I was certain that I could make one for less. A quick mental search of my sewing patterns, a scan of the Minerva website, and within an hour I had a plan for a costume at half the price. I would pair the Bellatrix Blazer from Papercut with a the skirt of the Betty dress by Sew Over It. Minerva got this blue polyester bi stretch suiting to me in record time. I chose to pre wash it as I didn't want any potential shrinking in the rain at the festival, and also because there was a chance I would use the jacket in the future. As time was short, I left out any additional details and every seam is finished on the overlocker. Handstitching was kept to a minimum. 

Mary Poppins skirt


The skirt was incredibly simple and quick to make. I also took a number of shortcuts as I knew I wouldn't be wearing this as a normal skirt. I lengthened the Betty skirt by 15cm so it finished mid calf. Now the slightly embarrassing bit: I didn't add a waistband, opting for a bias binding finish and quickly put the zip in off centre as it turns out. Given that I would be wearing the blazer on top and no one would see it, I left it. Thankfully it all stayed in place and survived the evening. 

Mary Poppins skirt inside


I spent a lot more time on the blazer. No changes were made to the size of my first version. I forgot how much interfacing was needed for this pattern. I used a fairly tightly woven fusible one as I'm beginning to run low on interfacing. It isn't my favourite interfacing to use as it makes everything stiff and rustles as you move. However, it worked very well with the poly and was easy to work with. It gives the blazer a structured look and it feels that way when wearing it. I used some white poly from my stash to line the blazer. It was smooth to work with and gives the inside a nice finish. I added three buttons to each sleeve as Mary Poppins has but will remove them for future wears. 

Mary Poppins jacket

Finding a hat was the most stressful part as I had left it too late to get a straw hat to spray paint black and decorate. eBay came to the rescue when I found this shop which seems to specialise in Mary Poppins related items. I'm very thankful to Charlie060249 who fast tracked this made to measure felt hat so I would have it in time. It was the perfect addition for the outfit. 


Mary Poppins hat

The red bow made from some red cotton in my stash. It is two rectangles turned right sides out and fused together and held in place with a safety pin. I borrowed an umbrella and a bag the shape of a carpet bag from a friend and wore my red shoes to finish the outfit. When I tried on the outfit at home I felt so self-conscious as this outfit is so completely out of my comfort zone. I anticipated that this would fade at the beer festival as I would be part of a group that included the Queen of Hearts, Tinkerbell, Olaf and others. I was right - it was great fun to dress up for the evening. 

Have you stitched a fancy dress costume before? If so, what did you make? 

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