Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Cressida Skirt

Have you seen the Cressida Skirt, the latest pattern from Jennifer Lauren? I was lucky enough to be selected as a pattern tester. 

Cressida is a half circle skirt with two versions. View 1 is a double breasted button up. View 2 has a single button placket and button waist tabs. Both versions have in seam pockets. I knew immediately that the second version would be a perfect addition to my autumnal work wardrobe. I love the more simpler, elegant lines of this version. 

Cressida skirt 5

To test the pattern I originally used lightweight cotton as I anticipated I would need to make alterations (as I do with most patterns). The test garment came together very well - the skirt drapes well in lightweight cotton. However, for my final version I used a grey suiting fabric I got from The Man Outside Sainsbury's at Walthamstow Market for about £6m. It has a beautiful drape, is wonderfully soft (even after washing) and was a delight to handle. 

I made just two alterations. I added a little extra to the front parts of the skirt, a reasonably common alteration for me. I also moved the waistband tabs to make them a little more central as they were coming up at the sides. This is something that Jen has altered for the final version. 

Cressida skirt 3

The skirt is pretty easy to construct and Jen's instructions are clear. It is designed for all levels and anyone can tackle this as long as you're ok with, or willing to try and tackle, button holes. It is a perfect project for dipping into over a week or is easily completed over a weekend at a leisurely pace. 

As this is an autumnal item, I chose to fully line the skirt to prevent the skirt sticking to my tights when the cold weather really bites. Lining the skirt is not included in the instructions. I cut the skirt pieces only and added them when I stitched on the button plackets. Incorporating the lining here gives for a really lovely finish. If you need to length or shorten the skirt, you can do so by adding or taking away from the hem. I didn't chance the length at all. I used a 1.5cm hem on the outer fabric. 

Cressida skirt 6

Amazingly, I kept the pockets! Regular readers will know I'm not a fan of pockets in skirts and dresses. I was pleasantly surprised by these though. They had the potential to stick out slightly and give that ugly shaping at the hips. Nope, none of that. Jen really took care with the width of the skirt to ensure they lay flat. Once I saw this, I just couldn't resist them.   

Cressida skirt 4

The biggest problem I had was getting buttons to complete the skirt. I picked up these light blue and grey buttons with flowers on them at Hobbycraft but they didn't have enough to complete the project. I put out a call for help on Twitter and Vicki Kate came to the rescue. Man, I love the sewing community! 

Cressida skirt 2

In short, I absolutely love this skirt. It is flattering and feminine while being practical. It drapes very well from the waist and I don't feel like my small hips are drowning in a huge amount of fabric. I paired the skirt with an unblogged cotton Alma blouse. I really hope that this isn't my last version - I could definitely find a place for an everyday version in my wardrobe. As a bonus, this counts as my second piece for the Fall Essentials Sewing Along. How is your autumn sewing coming along? 

In the interests of transparency, I did receive a copy of the final pattern in return for testing. All views are my own - I was under no obligation to post my version. 

Monday, 13 October 2014

Nicola Dress: How to do a Full Bust Adjustment

Today I'm going to share how I did the Full Bust Adjustment needed for my Nicola wrap dress.

An FBA will produce a bust dart. Normally this isn't a problem but I didn't want to add another dart to a bodice that already had three at the waist. In addition, my fabric was slightly stiffer than the recommended fabrics and I was sure that a bust dart would change the shape of the bodice more than I would like. So the excess of the bust dart needed to be moved to the darts at the bottom. Here's how I did it using the slash method. Sorry if you prefer to pivot darts - I just can't get my head around that method! 

Take your bodice pattern piece. Mark where the apex of your bust is. Draw in your seam allowance at the arm hole, in this case 1.5cm. 

Nicola FBA 1

Draw a vertical line from the apex to the waist line (blue line). Draw a line from the apex to the middle of the armsyce (green line). Draw a horizontal line from the apex to the side seam (imagine a bust dart here, the line goes through the middle of it) (red line). Finally, starting midway up the waist dart, draw a horizontal line to the centre front (purple line).

Nicola FBA 2

Time to slash your pattern. Cut up the blue line, through the apex and continue to cut the green line until you reach the seam allowance. Stop here, don't cut through to the allowance. Snip into the seam allowance directly above but make sure you don't cut through - you want this piece to pivot. Cut along the red line but stop short of separating it completely - again you want enough paper attached that this piece can pivot. Cut the purple line completely - it should come apart from the pattern. 

Nicola FBA 3

Place a piece of paper underneath your pattern - you'll need this to fill in the gaps. You're now going to open the apex by the amount you need to increase the bust. In this case, I'm adding 2.5cm but yours may differ. In order for the pattern to lay correctly, you will see a bust dart form on the side. Tape the bodice down. 

Nicola FBA 4

The last step increased the length of the side seam. To make the centre front seam match, take the separated piece of your pattern and lower it until the centre front seam matches the side seam. Tape in place.

Nicola FBA 4a

Now it is time to remove the bust dart. Measure the dart at the side seam and make a note of it. Cut the lower line of the dart to the apex and the left hand part of the blue line. Move the pattern up so that the bust dart is closed and tape in place. 

Nicola FBA 5

Cut up the right hand line of each of the three waist darts to the red line - this will help the pattern lay flat when you move the darts. Divide the number you jotted down by three. This will be the amount you are adding to each waist dart. One by one, move the waist dart to include the amount and then tape down.

Nicola FBA 6

Now you need to redraw the three darts. The tip of the dart will be at the same height but make sure you place the point in the centre of the opening. Draw lines from the bottom to the tip. Straighten up the bottom of the bodice and the front seam. Your pattern piece is now ready for use. 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

The Nicola Dress

Here’s my first make of the Fall Essentials Sew-Along, my Nicola dress. 

Like many of the patterns I sew, I have wanted the Nicola dress by Victory Patterns in my collection for quite a while. A woven wrap dress with tulip sleeves and skirt - yes, please! There isn’t anything that screams autumn as much a wrap dress so it was the perfect pattern to get me going. 

Nicola dress

I won’t go into the issues I had with fitting the bodice as I’ve already covered them. Despite my toiles, I was still a little anxious about whether this dress would fit properly and I think these small fears are justified. It fits like a glove around my waist although it doesn’t have as much room as I am used to. It is definitely a one course only dress! The length of the skirt is straight out of the packet and feels good. I’m sure I’ll be grateful for it going beyond my knees when it starts to get colder during the days. The bodice still isn’t quite right though. I’m realistic enough to know that you won’t get rid of all pulls in a wrap bodice otherwise you won’t be able to move properly. However, the neckline feels a little too big and gaps at times. The twill tape in the neckline has stabilised it and prevented some gaps but not enough to stop you seeing more than I would like if I move in a certain way!  As I want the option of not wearing a cami underneath, I’ll be adding a little snap where the bodice wraps over to prevent any loss of modesty. 

Nicola dress

The shell fabric is a beautiful printed cotton from Ghana. Adam’s friend lives in Liberia but has a friend who sources good quality fabrics for her tailoring businesses and he very kindly got me some fabric. Jonathan - I owe you a few drinks the next time you are in the UK! This cotton is top quality - it is well made, is light-medium weight, supple and washes beautifully. It glided through the machine and wasn’t difficult to press. It has a reoccurring print which I tried to make the most of. In the end, I cut the dress on the cross grain in order to make the most of the green print that only ran down one of the selvedges (I was also short on length). I’m happy that the print is lined up across the corresponding pieces although it does repeat a little too early on the skirt. The sleeves have an extra seam in them as I had to cut the piece in half in order to get them at all. The print doesn’t match at all across them. Ah well, it certainly won’t stop me wearing it! 

Nicola dress

The dress is fully lined with lilac Bremsilk which I found in Masons. It is my first time using Bremsilk and I quite like it. It is rather slippery to cut and pin in place but the finish makes the extra effort worth it. I was surprised at how cool the dress was on a warm day. It was in the low 20s when these photos were taken and I didn’t feel too warm or get that clingy feeling you can from some linings in warm weather. 

Nicola dress

Construction is pretty simple and the instructions are clear. I made a few changes from the directions. I skipped the facings due to lack of fabric. Instead you can see a small amount of the twill tape on the inside neckline. I could only get wide tape and decided to make a little feature of it by placing it on top of the lining and under stitching the seam to it. It holds the lining down nicely. I also changed the buttons. The original design has one button in view and another hidden under the dress. I opted for two buttons to be on show and added button holes just about the waist line where the skirt pleats are. The buttons are the left over ones from my Anise jacket. 

Nicola dress

I’m really pleased with how neat the dress is on the inside. It is quite possibly my best to date. There isn’t a seam in sight with all raw edges overlocked before being encased by the lining. The arm holes are hand stitched as this is where I turned the dress through after stitching in the lining. 

Nicola dress

There is no doubt that this dress will get a lot of wear. I’ve already worn it twice in a week and half. I feel great when wearing it and I think a lot of that is due to the shape as it is very feminine. I love the nipped in at the waist look and how the dress skims over the hips. I did wonder if I would feel a little conscious about the print but I haven’t at all. It is nice to have something so different in my wardrobe. I’m looking forward to wearing this most of the year round as I suspect it will look good with tights and heels and possibly boots in the winter. This definitely won’t be my last Nicola - I already have another version stitched up! 

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Notionally Speaking: Stash

It's time again for Notionally Speaking where a blogger selects a sewing related word and writes about that word. This month's post come from Lynne of Ozzy Blackbeard. Lynne randomly selected "stash" and has some wise words on how to handle the fabric that enters your home. I wish I was this organised with my fabric! How about you - are you as organised as Lynne? 

Notionally Speaking

I was delighted when Claire asked me to take part in Notionally Speaking. I picked number 14, and my word is “stash”.

Fig 1

If we craft, we have stash, it’s that simple. Where it gets complicated is the amount. I like to think that I have a relatively small fabric stash, for the simple reason that there aren’t many fabric shops where I live, so temptation doesn’t fall in my way too often; although the internet sales are hard to resist! I can appreciate how overwhelming it must be to have bags and bags of fabric. The pressure to use it must be awful.

But is stash just fabric? I don’t think so. What about all the other stuff that sewing requires – buttons, thread, zips, interfacing, bias tape, ribbons, patterns, books etc? All stash my friends!

The secret to stash control is organisation. I know that’s really boring, and takes up valuable crafting time, but it’s worth it. Then there’s no more time wasted searching for that elusive zip that you know you have, and is just the perfect colour for the garment that you’re making.

Here’s how I do it. As soon as a piece of fabric comes into my house, it gets washed, and then put in the fabric bag. By that time I will probably have an idea of what I want to make with it (if I haven’t bought it for a specific pattern), so I pin a piece of paper to it with the fabric length and width and what I want to make.

Fig 2

I got this bag on Amazon, and try to operate a strict “one piece of fabric in, one piece of fabric out” policy. It doesn’t work, and I consider it a win if I can get the zip closed. This bag lives under a bed. There are also two bags in the roof space, but in fairness what’s in them mostly came from my Granny.

Fig 3

I also have a notebook which is my stash organising saviour. I cut a little bit of fabric from the corner, staple it into the book, and note where I bought it, the price, length and width, and ideas about what I want to make.

Fig 4

This has proved to be invaluable. I can make notes about what else I need, thread, zip etc – I sometimes even include really bad drawings! It’s so handy just to lift the book to take to the shops for colour matching thread. Also it serves as a fabric guide, as I have different types of fabric in there, so now I know what they are like if I want to buy more.

Fig 5

I keep all my other stash items in various tins and boxes. For example, my zips and bias tape are in these Marks and Spencer biscuit tins, which were far too nice to throw out once I had eaten the delicious shortbread that was in them.

Fig 6

The boxes that washing liquid capsules come in are very handy too, but sadly are not so glamorous. I have found that they are the perfect size for four overlocker cones – no more hunting around for the last cone in the colour I want!

Fig 7

I am lucky enough to have a dedicated sewing table with drawers and shelves, so most of these things can be stored there.

All my patterns are stored in a big box under a bed. The coloured plastic folders came from the pound shop. Unfortunately I haven't been able to get any of the A3 size for a while.

Fig 8

But what if you’re not just a sewist? I also knit and crochet so then there’s the yarn, needles and hooks stash. There was a time, before I started sewing, when there was so much yarn in my house. Again, in fairness, most of it came from my Granny. I used some of it, and sold the rest to fund my overlocker, but I thought I’d leave you with a photo of my Granny's yarn on the day I sorted it all out.

Fig 9

Feel free to show this to members of your household if they say your stash is out of control.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Fitting the Nicola dress

I've been steadily making progress with my Nicola dress from Victory Patterns. I say steadily as I have to make three toiles of the bodice to make sure it fit. Wrap dresses are notorious for not fitting well due to the cross over of fabric and I anticipated making some changes but not three test runs!

After reading up on the pattern I definitely knew that I would have to make some changes. The cross over of the wrap and the height of the armhols seem to be common issues. I also anticipated making changes to the front of the pattern where I generally need a little extra fabric. I started by cutting a 10 at the bust, graded up to a 12 at the waist and then back down to a 10 at the hips, which gave me this:

Nicola fitting v1 front

Nicola fitting v1 back

The good parts: 

  • The bodice and skirt length are perfect and the sleeves didn't need any alterations.
  • The armholes are a tad higher than normal but it isn't annoying and therefore I didn't bother to make any alterations here. 
Changes needed: 

  • The dress didn't fit around my waist properly. It closed about 2-2.5cm away from where it should. The dress should close where the final pleat is and it clearly isn't in the top photo - only just reaching the second.
  • The cross over is indecently low - totally revealing low! I also had drag lines on the back of the bodice meaning a full bust adjustment (FBA) was needed. I later found out that Victory draft for a B cup and I'm quite a few cups bigger. 

Second fitting

Nicola v2 front 

Nicola v2 side

Changes made:

  • A 2.5cm FBA. It took a while to figure out how to do this on a bodice that contains three pleats at the bottom and no side dart. In the end I followed the normal process for a FBA, creating the side dart. I then rotated the side dart to the bottom ensuring that it was evenly divided between the three pleats. Does that make sense? I'm happy to share how I did it if that would be helpful. 


  • Perfect fit around the waist -  the dress closed at the third pleat. 
  • The neckline isn't so revealing although still a little low.
  • Large amount of gaping in the neckline as the unintended but not expected consequence of the FBA. 

Third fitting

Apologies for the state of my hair in this photo - this is how it looks when I let it fall naturally!

Nicola bodice v3

Changes made:

  • Neckline raised by 1cm in the middle, tapering to nothing at the shoulders and waist, as I only needed the extra cover across my bust. 
  • Pinched out about 2.5-3cm from the neckline, tapering to nothing inside the bodice, to solve the gaping. It isn't perfect but adding some twill tape to stabilise the neckline should help it lay flat in my finished version. 
Now I just hope it all translates properly to my fabric which has been waiting patiently to be transformed...

Saturday, 13 September 2014

As thoughts turn to Autumn

What is your favourite season? It is a difficult decision for me but there is something about Autumn. Mainly because lower temperatures, tights, boots, and stews are early indicators for the excitement that the last few month of the year bring - our anniversary, birthdays (me and my best friend are five days apart) and, of course, Christmas. However this year, I wasn't looking as forward to as normal. 

There's only one reason - my autumnal wardrobe is dull. And I mean dull - duller than dish water. For work I have the choice of black, brown or dark blue skirts and trousers and a small number of colourful tops. Not inspiring - not at all. In fact, it needs a complete overhaul but my thoughts have been complete chaos. Enter the Fall Essentials Sew-Along hosted by Sarah and Lisette to provide a little structure. I love it when, as if by magic, other sewists come to the rescue. 

The sew-along has seven categories and you can pick and choose which ones to participate in. My first thought was I'll make everything! And then reality set in. September to December is my busiest time of year and I doubt it will be possible for me to cover all the categories. I don't want to put pressure on myself with self-imposed deadlines and over ambitious plans - that just sucks the fun out of sewing. So below is my wish-list for a few of the categories and we'll see how I get on. If I make one, then great! If it is more, bonus! 

Fashionable Foundations for Frosty Weather: "Anything that keeps your lower portion fashionably cozy fits perfectly here!" 

Just the one pattern here: the Juniper trousers. I need to replace my black work trousers and I desperately need trousers for home. Time to stop thinking about these and get on with them. 

Juniper Trousers
Chic Chemises for Cool Climates: "Blouses, tops, vests, cardigans, and sweaters! These wardrobe essentials can carry you from day to night, not to mention provide necessary layering to keep out the chill." 

Two patterns are screaming for my attention at the moment. The White Russian sweater by Capital Chic. Apart from university hoodies I don't have a sweater that I like to wear. I picked up some beautiful green fabric from the swap at the Leeds meet recently that will work perfectly. The second pattern is the Bruyere shirt from Deer and Doe. Words fail me - I honestly cannot tell you how much I love this pattern and how much it needs to be in my wardrobe now. Trouble is, I can't buy either yet. I've just signed up for a 5k and both patterns are rewards for sticking to my training schedule. Mean but effective! 

White Russian                                                                                         Bruyere
Oh, and I need some white blouses at some point. Perhaps one will be my first self drafted pattern. 

Fabulous Frocks: I don't need to explain this one, do I? I'm currently working on perfecting the fit for the Nicola dress by Victory Patterns. The bodice needs a little more tweaking and then I'm away. I'm also seriously tempted by By Hand London's Georgia but again, she's part of my fitness regime so who knows what will happen! 

Nicola                                                                                            Georgia
Those Cozy Nights: you got it, sleep wear of any type.

I don't have any particular patterns in mind here. Ideally I would complete a pair of pyjamas and a silky dressing robe to get my through until it is time for my fleecy one. Any suggestions for patterns? 

So tell me, what are you planning for autumn?

Saturday, 6 September 2014

My first adventure making bed linen

On Monday I made reference to a duvet cover I was making my mum for her birthday. Well, here it is, complete with pillow cases and a peak of my bedroom. Well, I had to check it fitted!

Bed linen

My brief was pastel colours and little flowers. I started looking for extra wide fabric as this is a king size cover. Somehow, none of the fabrics seemed quite right so I moved back to normal width cottons. I came across this beautiful floral print at Croft Mill and decided to match it with a cream cotton. You may notice from the photos that this cover isn't cream but a pale green. I had a slight accident when pre-washing them - a small, cheap blue scarf was hiding in the machine and I didn't spot it until I pulled the fabric out. It was quite a surprise but I rolled with it as luckily mum loves green! 

Bed linen

To create the panels, I cut the newly green fabric in half and keep the floral as it came. Unfortunately the green shrank by a couple of centimetres meaning I needed to make full use of the selvages and reduce the seam allowances to 5mm. All the seams are overlocked for a nice finish. A pale purple ribbon, attached with a narrow zig zag stitch, finishes the cover nicely as well as hiding the seam lines. 

Bed linen

I had planned a cream back to the cover. However, this looked odd with the green. I opted for a dark purple sheet from Dunelm Mill instead. It felt a bit weird buying a new sheet just to chop it up but I'm pleased I did. The pillow cases follow the same pattern but the under side is green. 

Bed linen

As you would expect, this was a simple project although it did take longer than I expected. I figured that long straight lines would be quick but the volume of fabric slows you down a bit. I can't say I'm a convert to sewing my own bed linen but it is nice to have options and know that I can create something if I can't find it in the shops. 

Bed linen

Have you ever sewed bed linen? 


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