Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Completed: Sew Dolly Clackett Emery

Tell me - do you have a favourite blog or one that you always look forward to the next post? I do, several in fact, and one of them is Dolly Clackett by Roisin. I cannot wait to see what fabric she has used to make a dress. That girl can see potential in fabric that I can't. So when Sew Dolly Clackett was announced (a chance to pay tribute to Roisin's style, wish her and Nic a wonderful wedding and try playing with novelty fabrics), I knew I had to join in.

Dolly Clackett Emery

Choosing fabric and which pattern was tough. For the pattern I narrowed it down to the Anna or Emery but I decided to get the fabric and then match the pattern to it. Three weeks later I came home from shopping in Birmingham with two meters of the Viva Frida fabric by Alexander Henry - I couldn't turn down the teal. 

Those of you familiar with patterns will notice that the Emery won. I was thrilled to finally get my hands on this pattern. I had heard so many good things about it and seen so many beautiful versions I desperately wanted in on the action. One of the best features of this pattern is the fact that it seems to fit most reasonably well straight out of the packet. Mainly because I was too lazy to do an FBA, I cut a larger size and lengthen the bodice by an inch. It fits very well around my waist although I need to remove some excess from the neckline (both front and back) to make it fit really work. I skipped the pockets - not because of my dislike of pockets in dresses, but because I didn't have enough fabric to make the skirt properly. 

Dolly Clackett Emery

The skirt is the width of the fabric, just 112cm wide. You see, I don't normally wear novelty prints and I didn't want to splash out on three meters of fabric when I might not wear the dress. While I like the more fitted look, I have to admit that I wish I had bought three meters! A slip must creep to the top of my sewing list as this dress becomes a wiggle dress when wearing it with tights and I just don't have the patience for slow dainty steps! 

Dolly Clackett Emery

I lined the bodice with some navy fabric I picked up at the Fancy Silk Store. I'm not sure what the fibre content is, probably a poly, but it feels lovely against the skin. It has been a while since I lined anything and I'm pretty happy with the result but I need to work on my under stitching which would have probably got a stern look if being judged on the Sewing Bee. I don't have much to say about the construction, it has been covered well by others, but I will say it is simple and quick to make. I can completely understand why the Emery has become a favourite for many. I have the perfect fabric in my stash for a second. 

In addition to creating wonderful dresses, there are two other things you should know about Roisin that are relevant to this sewalong. First, she has the most amazing shoe collection I have seen (and I have friends who have pretty great collections). I turned to my trusty red Backlash shoes by Poetic Licence. Second, most of her photos are taken outside her front door. Sadly I don't have an attractive front door but I could replicate this photo outside the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford.

Dolly Clackett Emery

I was amazed that I didn't feel too self conscious when posing for the photos, not because people stare at you while posing for shot after shot but because I was wearing something so out of my comfort zone. Or so I thought. Turns out bright colours and interesting prints are great fun to wear. I might just be buying more of them...

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Completed: The Diamond Winifred

Thanks for your comments on my last post. It is good to know that many of us have found some sort of normality during tough times by crafting. This week has been similar to last but more importantly I have the first completed item to share with you! Let me present The Diamond Winifred. 

I fell for Winifred as soon as Abby released her. Cute front tucks that create a box pleat effect, a flowing skirt, no fastenings, an elasticated back covered by a fabric belt, kimono sleeves - what is not to love?! And she has lived up to expectations despite a couple of self-inflicted imperfections. The style is flattering, the design is simple yet full of interesting features.  


I looked in my stash for fabric and chose the final piece I picked up in Mood - a stretch cotton with white and blue diamonds. The stretch is perfect for pulling this dress on and off. Cutting out took some brain power as there was a very real danger I wouldn't have enough fabric or the front pieces would have needed to be cut slightly off grain. In the end I managed to squeeze them out, on grain, by cutting in a single layer and fully rotating the pattern piece - thankfully it didn't make any difference to the direction of the pattern. As a result I made no attempt to pattern match although I have managed to keep the lines of the pattern consistent (so wasn't a fluke!) 


I bought the pdf pattern and it was a slightly disappointing experience as the layout is wasteful. There were some pages where only a few centimetres were used and in some cases there were a 5mm discrepancy in matching the lines. I had to re-stick a number of pieces once I had roughly cut out each piece. However that frustration was forgotten as soon as I started sewing. 


The measurements on the pattern differ to what you normally see as the waist measurement is one inch smaller than the bust measurement. I chose the size based on the bust, as the excess fabric would be pulled in by the elastic at the back and whipped up a toile. It told me that I had the right size but I needed to add extra to the front as the side seams finished a inch closer to the front than they should. I also needed to raise the back shoulder seam by the same amount. I had expected to need to raise the armscye, like I did on my Mae blouse, but this one fits perfectly. 


Construction is as easy as you would expect for a pattern aimed at beginners. I did have some trouble setting the collar though. I couldn't get it sit smoothly where it joins the shoulder seams despite ripping it out several times. I'm just about satisfied with how it is sitting now after tacking it down in many more places than recommended in the instructions. I'm certain that this issue is my fault and that I missed a needed alteration on the collar when I moved the shoulder seam. Luckily the rippling is covered by the collar but I should go back to the pattern and work out what I did. I didn't want the pattern to be interrupted by the thread so I catch stitched the hem and sleeves by hand. I'm pleased with the result as it looks almost invisible - you would have to look very closely to find any sign of the thread in the blue diamonds.


Unfortunately the finished fit isn't quite as good as I had hoped it would be. I have a slight ripple around my waist at the front where the darts finish. I wonder if this is because the waistline of the pattern is a little higher than my natural waistline and I didn't pick this up in the toile. I added a popper to the belt as the fabric slips too much to stay in place. The hem is straight, despite how it looks in some of the photos. I'm not going to worry about this as I quite like the slight hi-lo look that is created by the heels. 


Despite the fitting issues I absolutely love this dress and feel great in it. The balance is very good (or would be if I got the waistline in the correct place!) and the sleeves are great. Kimono sleeves are quickly becoming my favourite as they give a lovely line as well as being easy to sew. The belt at the back is a really neat feature - I love it when designers give as much though to details at the back as well as the front. I even bought new shoes to go with it - the dress was screaming out for shiny blue heels and who was I to disobey? 

Saturday, 5 April 2014

When sewing gets you through

Boy, this week has been tough. It has been a very long and trying one. Almost every aspect of life has been stressful at some point. Normally when this is the case I turn to chocolate, biscuits or some combination of the two. However, this week has been different. Instead of reaching for a nearby sugar high, I've been reaching for anything sewing related, no matter how tenuous the link. 

Three projects

I suddenly find myself with three projects on the go. I have cut out my Robson coat and started to piece it together. I made three bodice toiles for the Emery and Winifred dresses (two for the Emery, not three each!) and then cut them out of the fashion fabric. One of them is almost completely finished. This is a lot for me - I'm normally a one or two projects kind of girl. Three actively being worked on is practically unheard of! In addition I've been reading books on fit and fabric, examining patterns more closely to work out how and why they were drafted and have re-watched many episodes of the Great British Sewing Bee and the House of Eliott. So what is going on?

Put frankly, I've needed to claw back some control and sewing has done precisely that. Being able to plan projects, ensuring fabric is on grain (tearing fabric is amazingly therapeutic!), cutting out the pattern and preparing everything ready for construction is incredibly soothing in a world full of noise, decisions and confusion. The gentle concentration needed for hand basting darts and bias binding to seams has a quietening effect on my mind. Working out how to balance three projects and sew them well but efficiently, without any interruption from others, has been a tonic. I've been taking my time, trying to enjoy every aspect of the process - even when I've realised that I've cut out half a dress and am struggling to get the rest of it from the remaining fabric and keep it on grain. 

But there has been a bigger revelation this week. When feeling under pressure or low, I also re-establish a close bond with “comfort” clothing. Do you understand what I mean when I say they feel safe? They are like a form of armour when I'm out of the house and warm hug when I'm in. This week all of my comfort clothes have been items I have made. I can honestly say this has never happened before. I haven't reached for my oversized university sweatshirt, my cosy green fleece or my pyjamas. Instead I have worn my Ceylon, Miette, purple Ginger skirt, Cami and my Lady Grey. I have been building an layer that is trying to protect me from life's stresses but this time it is a layer that I have built completely by myself. I have found additional strength and some comfort in knowing this. Does this remind you of Karen's recent post where she describes sewing as providing a coping strategy? I think she is spot on. When you need that extra nudge to help you push on, put on some of your favourite makes and take pride and strength whenever you look at them. And the best part about it? It is completely guilt free compared to comfort eating!

How about you? Do you turn to sewing or something else when you are under pressure? And does anyone remember the House of Eliott? 

Monday, 31 March 2014

Tutorial: How to make oven gloves

Teapot oven gloves

Oven gloves are probably one of the key items to have in a kitchen if you want to avoid the "it's too hot dance" every time you get a tray out of the oven. Recently I had need for a spare set and decided to make my own. You can read how I did it in my first exclusive to Spread Your Wings and Craft tutorial

exclusive SYWAC BUTTON

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Notionally Speaking: Amy from Almond Rock

This month's Notionally Speaking post comes from Amy from Almond Rock who randomly chose "finishing". How to finish your seams is a key decision when planning your project and Amy provides some useful advice when making this decision...

Notionally Speaking

What's the deal with so many pattern companies not daring to suggest seam finishes for garments? It's like the ultimate taboo sewing subject but also a vital part of making clothes that last!

How do you finish your seams?

As a beginner it always troubled me that my clothes might unravel in the wash so in the beginning I often chose to make garments with fully enclosed linings. Today I’m summarising the pros and cons of the top methods of seam finishing.

These are methods slightly more involved than zig zagging at your machine and maybe you’re thinking about trying one of them out on your next make.

French Seams

I've heard a rumour these are called English seams in France. I'm probably being totally delusional to believe that though. There's no denying these are a very handy finish!

Super robust and pleasing looking.
Perfect for sheer fabrics.
It’s nailed on that you will sew the right sides together at some point rather than the wrong sides. And probably trim the seam too. Maybe you won’t even realise until you’ve sewn a complete seam… the wrong way around.

Pinking shears

Pinking shears

I inherited my Grandmother's pinking shears a couple of years back. They're a little temperamental and heavy to boot, but I love thinking of us both using this pair decades apart.

Quick and easy. I pink around arm and neckhole curves as a quick and dirty way to notch/clip and prevent fraying. If I had a sharp lightweight new pair I might pink all my allowances! It really looks neat inside a sundress or blouse.
Don't snip a big hole in your garment!
And don't expect your seams to last forever through repeated spin cycles and constant wear.

Bias tape/Seam binding

Seam binding

Have you ever spent the time to encase the raw edge of your fabric with bias tape or seam binding for the traditional Hong Kong finish?

Using bias tape as a facing is a popular technique because it is very quick, provides a clean finish and allows you to enclose an armhole or neck opening without worry of future unravelling.
Hong Kong seams are just so lovely to see inside a garment. They can bring satisfying pops of colour to the inside of a garment that make you smile everytime you wear it!
Don't forget a facing will provide more support at a neckline that you might miss by using bias.
Plus you need to not be in any kind of rush and pretty certain your garment fits, to sit and bind all of the exposed seams.


Singer serger

In 2012 I treated myself to a baby singer overlocker. Sergei the serger if you will. Then I upgraded at the end of 2013 to a new overlocker - Sergei II. This is my go to method for finishing seams.

Super robust and professional looking.
I have two methods for incorporating the overlocker into a project.
I either use method 1 where I serge the edges of all my pieces before sewing them together, along any seam allowance that will be exposed (not any curved areas) and then sew my pieces together so seams can be pressed open. This means you can follow the pattern instructions without worry.
Or I use method 2 which a lot of ready to wear clothes use where I serge my seam allowance together which allows me to trim and enclose the two pieces of fabric at the same time. I then press towards the back.
They’re relatively expensive – basically like buying a second machine.
They can be fiddly to set up and can accidentally eat a big hole in your garment if you're not concentrating.
Method 1 does mean a bit more time needs to be spent upfront on prepping each piece.
With method 2 you have to know when to stop to serge as you often have to serge one seam before moving onto another.

So what’s your preferred method of finishing your seams?

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Sewing for small people

Within the last two weeks, two of my friends welcomed tiny daughters to the world. While I'm delighted for them both, I also loved the fact it gave me an excuse to make tiny clothes!

Peacock Sailor dress

First, I made another Seaside Sailor Dress as I absolutely adored the first one I made. The fabric for this dress came completely out of my stash. I used some of the left over peacock cotton lawn for the dress and lining and a thick white cotton for the collar with the lawn as the under layer. The dress has nine pieces in total - six for the bodice, which is amazing for how small it is! The skirt is a small rectangle that is gathered at the waistband. 

Peacock Sailor dress
Peacock Sailor dress

I used the same embroidery stitch on the collar as I did on the first. Annoyingly the machine skipped a few stitches which meant I had to fill in the gaps by hand. I chose an ivory thread for the button holes as the light blue one I had hoped to use kept breaking midway through. I think they match the buttons pretty well and compliment the colours in the feathers. 

Peacock Sailor dress

The dress is 3-6 months. I had enough fabric to go up a size but with spring and summer on the way, it seemed sensible to chose a size that the baby could wear during those months. If you're looking for a very quick pattern which offers a wide range of customisation options that I would really recommend this one. It is so quick to cut and sew. 

Polka dot dunagrees

I chose a very different pattern and look for the other baby. I loved the Little Bird Romper pattern from Puperita that Kelly made last year and as this little girl will be growing up on a farm, dungarees seemed a perfect idea! I bought some lovely, soft black and red polka dot needlecord from Darn It and Stitch (they have a wonderful range of bright colours as well) and a bright red cotton for the lining. 

Polka dot dunagrees

This pair is aged 6 months and I managed to get the full pattern comfortably out of a meter of each fabric, even taking into account the nap of the needlecord. Construction wise, this is fairly simple and the instructions are clear. The only time I got confused was when I turned the pockets through - it didn't say what to do with the gap so I slipstitched them closed before edge stitching them into place. The front features one large pocket, while the back has two smaller ones - they are quite hard to see in the pictures as I somehow managed to almost match the dots. I promise they really are there. The dungarees are fully lined and interfacing is only needed for the leg bands. 

Polka dot dunagrees

I was a little worried about sewing with the needlecord as I didn't want to crush it. It went through the machine ok and survived light pressing but didn't hold up so well when I created the buttonholes. You can't really see the marks but I know there are there! The cotton, though, caused me some alarm. When I pressed it, it turned a very dark red even at a low temperature. It lasted about 10 minutes before returning to its original colour. I used the left over heart buttons that I used on my Mathilde as they match the red dots and lining perfectly. 

Polka dot dunagrees

I love both of these outfits but I just can't stop stroking the needlecord. It really is that soft! I just hope it is hardwearing enough. They are now safely packaged up to be posted on Monday and sadly that marks the end of my dose of sewing for tiny people for a while. 

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Completed: Lace Laurel

What do you do with a pattern that you really like but your first attempt failed dramatically? I kept it at the back of my mind for nearly a year and waited until an idea came to me. It finally arrived a couple of weekends ago when I went to Goldhawk Road with Kelly, Jen and Daniela. I spotted a gorgeous piece of lace that screamed "buy me!" and wouldn't stop yelling until I had parted with my cash. I knew it was time to dig Laurel out again. 

Lace Laurel

My first attempt with Laurel didn't go well, nor did my second which is why it hasn't made it to the blog. But this time would be different, I was sure of it. I have wanted a lace top for a long time but I'm super picky when choosing which piece to buy. It is either the wrong colour or I don't like the flowers. Thank goodness there was 1.5m of this cotton crochet lace left on the bolt. I might have cried if there was less. I chose a teal fabric to go underneath the bodice. I knew it had to be a bright colour and was constantly being drawn to the different shades of teal. I'm not fully certain what fabric it is. I suspect it is a poly mix but it has a good drape and is lovely to touch. 

Lace Laurel

Key to making this top work was getting the fit right. The poor fit of my other Laurels is the primary reason why I don't wear them much, if at all. I needed to lose a lot of the ease so I used the finished measurements that best matched mine and then went up a size. The pattern in the lace isn't dart friendly so I chose to remove all of them. The teal doesn't feature them either as I underlined the bodice to keep the seam allowances out of sight. This was my first time eliminating all darts from a pattern. For the back ones, I measured the width of the dart and then removed it from the side seam, drawing a line from the armscye to the hem. For the front, I slashed the bust dart through the middle to the apex. I then cut a straight line from just below the apex to the hem before pivoting the left side of the pattern so the bottom line of the original dart matched the centre of it. I also removed the back seam and lowered the armscye a little. This is one of the biggest issues I have this pattern - the sleeves are just too high, feel restrictive and don't allow for a lot of movement. Lowering them slightly has made such a difference. I no longer feel like there is too much fabric fighting for space under my armpit. To account for the change, I added a little extra to the sleeve cap to ensure the sleeves still fitted perfectly.

Lace Laurel

The teal frayed badly, so much so I'm still finding threads throughout our flat despite a thorough clean up. To prevent any of the frays escaping, I bound all of the seams and the hem using the same fabric. The binding is cut on grain rather than the bias (not enough left over fabric) but it seems to be flexible enough to cope with the curves of the neckline and the arms. This took a while as I slip stitched one side of each seam to give me extra control in making sure nothing could escape. 

Lace Laurel

I've worn this top a couple of times. I'm very pleased with the overall fit, it doesn't feel too loose or too snug. I can pull it on and off without any problems. I love having the extra movement in the sleeves and that the scallops hit perfectly at my elbows. It is lightweight and perfect for the spring days that seem to be arriving with more frequency here. It seems Laurel has finally made up with me.