Sunday, 5 February 2017

Closet Case Files Bombshell - a sewing rite of passage

Last year, I received an invite to a hen party - a spa weekend. How delightful! I signed up immediately. Three weeks before the event, I realised I needed a swimming costume but I had missed the nice summer ones in the shops due to the change of season and those that were available seemed ridiculously expensive. What to do? The only thing I could - fall back on my sewing skills, download the Bombshell pattern from Closet Case Files, take a deep breath and attempt to make it myself. 

Closet Case Files Bombshell swimming costume front

Like many, I had lusted after the Bombshell since its release but I needed an occasion to justify making it. Our summer breaks tend to be city based without the need for swimwear. I watched in envy as many versions popped up over the internet including Sophie's, Amanda's, and Kelly's. Seriously, who can resist all that flattering yet softly sexy ruching which makes this a pattern suitable for all women. I've honestly not seen an unflattering version. It's like a cheerleader on the side praising and embracing all shapes and sizes. 

Closet Case Files Bombshell swimming costume side view

I couldn't wait to get started. I feel making a swimsuit is one of those sewing rites of passage which include conquering trousers, jeans, active wear and lingerie. You know, those projects that seem to be rather intimidating until you get going. Time to tick another one off the list. I'll admit to wanting a decent level of hand holding while making this and followed Heather Lou's excellent sewalong. Each session takes you through enough steps so that you gain confidence while not overdoing it.

Closet Case Files Bombshell swimming costume

I struggled a little to find some decent fabric but eventually came across this navy spandex knit from Girl Charlee. A mid weight four way stretch knit, it has a floral design in taupe with dots scattered between the flowers. It's still currently available. I don't normally like brown and navy together, especially with big prints (the flowers are about 4cm each) but this is rather lovely. I chose to self-line the swimsuit as I couldn't be bothered to find a neutral coloured liner. It seems to have worked out ok. I picked up the elastic on eBay. 

Closet Case Files Bombshell swimming costume front view

While I had faith that the style would suit me, I knew I wanted to provide as much cover as I could. It had been a long time since I had worn something so close fitting and I was going to be with a bunch of strangers so feeling good when wearing the Bombshell was essential. This led to a bit of head scratching about which size to go for and whether to make any alterations. I went down the internet rabbit hole which confused me a little more. In the end, I cut the size as directed by the pattern without any alterations. I believe the pattern is made for the average height of 5' 6" (I'm a tad shorter) and some measurements of me and the pattern led me to believe that I didn't need to add any length. This turned out to be the right decision as the suit fits perfectly! 

Closet Case Files Bombshell swimming costume back view

The final verdict? Does this live up to expectation? Without doubt. I couldn't believe how good I felt in it when I pulled in on at the spa and slipped into the pool. I completely forgot about any body hangups that had been playing on my mind in the days leading up to the party. There is something a little magical about wearing this one piece with a cheeky, playful side. If you've thought about making this pattern but haven't found the time or confidence to do so yet, go for it. I promise you won't regret it. 

Monday, 23 January 2017

A free motion embroidery picture a day

Back in October, I found myself wanting to make all the free motion embroidery pictures. For a short period of time I made one a day - snatching time in the early morning or as soon as I got home. I had great fun exploring different shapes and fabrics followed by practicing colouring in using only thread and eventually illustration in all in black. I find the act of making a free motion picture to be incredibly satisfying - once you've eventually settled on your design and colours, the simpler ones come to life very quickly. It doesn't take long to get into the swing of moving the fabric under the needle to get a nice line and you can correct yourself on the second round if you go rather off the line. Here are some of the pictures made during that time. While you may have seen them on Instagram, I thought they were worth sharing here.

Vintage inspired:

vintage inspired free motion embroideryvintage inspired free motion sewing

The same image in two different styles. I love how different they look.

vintage inspired free motion embroidery or textile artvintage inspired raw edge applique

Fashion:

1950s dress free motion embroidery or raw edge applique   dress free motion embroidery or raw edge applique

fashion free motion embroidery or raw edge appliqueshoes free motion embroidery or raw edge applique

Time for fun:

couple walking free motion embroidery or raw edge appliquetea cups free motion embroidery or raw edge applique

VW camper van free motion embroidery or raw edge applique



Monday, 2 January 2017

A little Christmas sewing: Sewaholic's Stanley Christmas trees

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful break over the holiday season. I'm just finishing up a 12 day holiday and it has proved to be a lovely time with family and friends - exactly the tonic that I needed. Like many at this time of year, I can't help but become a little more reflective as well to think about plans for the forthcoming year. I'm approaching 2017 in a slightly different way. I'm not making resolutions or making any grand public goals. Instead, I plan to focus on wellbeing. The end of 2016 was tough for me with my mental health and I practically lost the ability to do anything other than work and collapse on the sofa in the evenings and at weekends - a lot of things went on hold. Concentrating on wellbeing in general seems to be a sensible way forward, a way for me to enjoy the year and I've noticed that some things are already starting to get to normal. I start a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy course tomorrow for a month and I'm looking forward to seeing how it might be able to help. I'm also looking forward to the return of my creative side - it's increasing and the itch to hold fabric is there more often! 

Sewaholic Stanley Christmas Tree sewing pattern

It began to return on and off in December and I managed a few projects - two Buchanan dressing gowns for gifts which I didn't get photos of, a Grasshopper dress for me (post coming soon!), began making good progress on my wedding dress and made six, yes, six Sewaholic Stanley Christmas trees! 

Sewaholic Stanley Christmas Tree sewing pattern

If you haven't made them yet, I would recommend them as a fairly quick project. I had a lot of fun making them. They are straightforward to make but if you're making many at once, you may want to break up the process a little. Clipping all of the curves for six trees at once was a little tiresome as was the hand stitching to close them after stuffing. 

Sewaholic Stanley Christmas Tree sewing pattern

The fabric comes from Darn It and Stitch and they aren't traditional Christmas prints. I particularly love the gold which is seasonal only with the doves amongst the flowers but it makes a fabulous tree! As none of the fabrics had a directional print, I managed to get two trees from a metre. They are all finished with either cream or red satin bows from Hobby Craft. 

Sewaholic Stanley Christmas Tree sewing pattern

After browsing the web for some inspiration from other fellow stitchers who had made these, I decided I wanted a fairly plump look to the trees and was surprised at how hungry they are - you will use a lot of filling for six trees! I found it easier to add a little filling to the tips of each side of the trees before filling the rest. A slim pencil was perfect to help push the filling as close to the tip as possible for a nice, even look. 

Sewaholic Stanley Christmas Tree sewing pattern

I gave three away as gifts and the others are currently in our lounge. I will definitely be making more of these for future Christmases - there are a number of family and friends who didn't receive one this year. Oops, I may just have given away some of next year's presents! 

Sunday, 30 October 2016

A piped satin Granville

I'm back from another unanticipated blogging break. The past few months have flashed by in a bit in of whirl - there are several reasons for it but the most exciting one is we have started planning our wedding for next May. I've been researching venues, florists and bands. Not to mention reviewing multiple silk, satin and lace samples and working how to construct my dress. I start the pattern this Tuesday. I will share the full process but unfortunately you're going to have to wait until Spring to see the details.

Despite the frenzy of researching and organisation, I did manage to sew quite a lot in the summer. The next few posts will be unseasonal but with the change in weather it will be nice to have some sunnier photos to look at!

Sewaholic Granville shirt in satin with piping

I took part in Hannah's OWOP activities but shamefully didn't manage to capture it. I did, however, create a new Granville shirt in honour of the week. My stash had been home to 2m of white satin since our trip to Barcelona where I got it for 8 Euros. It was always destined to be a shirt but I got cold feet about creating it. OWOP proved to be the spur I needed. 

Sewaholic Granville shirt in satin with piping

This make was all about the design and no changes were made to the pattern. To break up the white, I opted for self made black piping. The black satin was a nightmare to work with but some strategic basting and a slow pace on the machine eventually stopped it twisting. It was fun to work with the piping and to be honest, I made up the placement as I went along. I knew I wanted simple lines and the button placket, cuffs and yoke were easy. I paused on the collar - the cord in the piping proved to be too thick to sit neatly at the points so only the top line is piped. 

Sewaholic Granville shirt in satin with piping

The satin wasn't the best to work with. It frayed more than I thought it would and it's bouncy nature meant I had to work at a slower pace to get the desired result. I used a mix of seam finishes - French seams where they are visible, overlocking for all others and the cuff, inside yoke and inside collar stand were closed by hand to ensure a good finish. The shirt is finished with small Liberty covered buttons with grey and black leaves. They blend in with the white nicely while providing a little more interest. 

Sewaholic Granville shirt in satin with piping

I'm hoping this shirt will get more wear in the coming months. Sadly it is currently an wardrobe orphan as I'm in need of a new pair of black trousers for work and it feels too dressy for my other options! 

What have you all been up to? Any news to share? I'd love to know while I gradually catch up. 

Monday, 1 August 2016

How to sew an invisible zip with lining and no hand stitching

When you line a dress and put in an invisible zip, do you find yourself hand stitching the lining into place? I did for quite a while and while it produces a good result, I found myself getting frustrated at how long this took. Now I insert them fully by machine using the following technique which produces the same result but it is quicker and, in my opinion, produces a stronger seam than my hand sewing. Here is the finished result for my Tea Leaves dress. 


The first thing to remember when using this technique is that it may differ from the instructions of your pattern. Plan ahead of time so you're not caught out during the construction. You'll need to complete your shell and lining but don't stitch them together - keep the neck seam and the back seam open. You could finish these seams ahead of time. 

Insert the invisible zip to the shell as you normally would and stitch the centre back seam from the bottom of the zip. 


Open the zip and lay out the shell right side up revealing the seam allowance the zip is stitched to. Take your lining piece and lay it over the shell, right sides together, matching the raw edges. Pin in place to the point your zip ends. 


Stitch the lining to the shell using a normal zip foot. You will be able to feel the teeth of the zip as a guide (shown between my thumb and the stitching). I tend to stitch about 3-4mm away from the teeth to keep the lining secure and ensure that it doesn't get caught when the zip is used. Repeat for the other side. 


Time to clean up the neck line. Take one side and open up the shell and lining so the zip is central. Move the lining to ensure the right side of the lining and the right side of the shell are facing. To get a lovely finish in the corners, fold the seam allowance towards the lining. Pin in place then continue to line up the rest of the neck line. 


Stitch in place. Repeat for the other side.


Trim seam allowances and turn fabric to right sides out ensuring a neat corner.

Move back to the inside of your item. Pinch the lining where you want the seam to start. Hold the fabric as you turn the lining wrong side out. 


Pin the centre back seam to this point and stitch in place. Press seam open. 


Ta-dah! A lovely clean finish on the inside and no need to pick up a hand sewing needle! 


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.  

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