Saturday, 29 August 2015

Back to Pink: A Belcarra

Well, hello there. It feels a little bit like it has been long time, no speak as I took as I took a little blogging break to coincide with returning from my holiday. I’m back now and will be sharing with you the rest of the makes from my sewcation over the next few weeks with a fancy dress costume thrown in for good fun.

Long-term readers will know that I have an odd relationship with tops. For some reason, I can never find ones that I like. There is always something that puts me off buying or designing them – perhaps I’m just too picky? Anyway, an additional top, at the very minimum, was needed for my capsule holiday wardrobe and I chose to repeat Sewaholic’s Belcarra.

Pink Belcarra

The eagle eyed among you might notice that the fabric is different to the one I had planned. The main reason for this is the Liberty lawn didn’t match the rest of my makes as well as this pink. The fabric is an unknown cotton mix with embroidered flowers over two different tones of pink. I found it in one of my local charity shops for £6 when I was stocking up on old sheets to make toiles with. It had been overlocked into a tube with a rectangle of black cotton added to the top. The black cotton had faded badly and wasn’t worth saving but there was enough of the pink to make a top.

Pink Belcarra

While I was right about the amount of fabric, I had to spend quite a bit of time working out how to cut the pattern and make the most of the flowers. Because the two pinks are separated by a definite line, I needed to make sure it, and the flowers, lined up. This left small pieces for the sleeves and I just managed to squeeze them out in the lighter pink. I even managed to get a flower on each of the sleeve cuffs.

Pink Belcarra

I made a number of alterations on this version. On the paper pattern, I raised the neckline a couple of centimeters. The one thing that really annoys me about my first version is how the top falls off one of my shoulders. (Being hand wash only is also super annoying). Trying this one on after completion showed that I probably need to take the neckline up another 1.5cm in future. It also revealed that the pattern was one- two sizes too big around my waist. I hadn’t noticed this with the silk version due to the silk’s drape but it was glaringly obvious in this cotton mix. To make it fit, I kept taking in the side seams until I was happy with the fit.

Pink Belcarra

As you can see in the photos, the fabric crumples badly. The photos were taken after wearing the top for half a day, most of which was spent walking around Lucca. We visited the garden of Palazzo Pfanner which was beautiful and quiet enough to get a few snaps for this post without the risk of another tourist photo bombing. Lucca is a worth a visit if you’re in the area and I preferred it to Pisa.

Anyway, back to the top. The sheen of the fabric and the flowers means I can wear this top in a number of ways. It feels as at home with jeans and other casual trousers as it does with a smart black skirt. I still like the shape of the top, and with some customisation, I can see a few more of these coming out of my machine in the future but how quickly depends on when I can summon the energy to retrace the pattern…


Saturday, 8 August 2015

Step by step

Many of us watch the progress of an item on Instagram and it is fun to see how it takes shape. As I was making a last minute holiday make last weekend, I wondered how it would look if I documented each step. So here's a different post for you today, with a fancy collage! It isn't as detailed as it could be but I think you can see how the dress progresses. It was fun to pause and take a quick pic before moving onto the next step.

Nicola in progress

I used Victory Pattern's Nicola dress and dropped the sleeves. I'm saving the rest of the details for a future post with much better photos of the finished dress! I hope you're all having a good weekend. Are you sewing? 

Saturday, 1 August 2015

A Polka Dot Vintage Shirt Dress

Hi there. Have you had a good week? Mine has been rather tiring and trying as I strived to complete a massive pre-holiday to list at work. But that none of that matters anymore as the out of office is on and I can finally unwind and get excited about being on holiday. I'm also excited to share this make with you.

Polka dot Vintage Shirt Dress


Hot off the heels of my first Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress, is another version. I hadn't planned to make another so quickly and this was the surprise make of my sewcation. I totally blame the fabric. I had popped into Masons to get buttons for my sleeveless Granville and spotted the polka dots hiding underneath the counter. After thinking that  polka dots should never be stored out of the way, I spotted this dusty pink and white beauty. I knew immediately what it would become. I honestly don't think I have ever put fabric into pre wash as quickly as I did with this, that is how excited I was to use it! 

Thankfully through the excitement came a little voice reminding me to lower the arm holes a little. They fit much better in this version although I should have taken them a tad lower to be fully comfortable. 

Polka dot Vintage Shirt Dress


Due to the easy nature of cotton, this dress took no time to complete. The most time consuming part were the buttonholes. When buying the fabric, I decided to get the buttons too. I chose small white ones and knew that I would need more than the eight suggested by the pattern. I settled on twelve. Making the button holes reminded me of a lesson I knew but had forgotten. Sewing machines are, rightly, fussy eaters. I had the prefect matching pink thread that made the white buttons stand out from the fabric. Sadly I couldn't complete my plan as the thread is of poor quality and my machine just churned it up or snapped it with amazing ease. After the second failed attempt I switched to white thread. Lesson firmly re-learnt! 

Polka dot Vintage Shirt Dress


I lowered the hem by 1.5cm on this version and used my blind hem foot. I did manage to use the pink thread for this and it worked well although it did snap a couple of times. This should have been fair warning for the button holes as I hemmed the dress before adding them. The hem is pretty neat on the outside so no one will know that the inside isn't quite up to scratch. 

Polka dot Vintage Shirt Dress


Needless to say, I absolutely adore this dress. I seem to have settled on styling it with a white belt and pink sandals or white flats. It feels very 1950s, or Sandy before she met Danny as one of my colleagues told me. Do you agree?

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Adventure Springs Granville

Hello, everyone. I hope you've all had a good week. I'm here with a quick post for the first of my makes from my recent sewcation. After the mixed success of my first sleeveless Granville, I knew that another one would be needed. I love this pattern and wanted a wearable sleeveless version to hand while I waited to fix the side seams of the Remember Me version (I'm hoping to do this before the end of the month, but we'll see). 

Adventure Springs Granville


The fabric is Adventure Springs by Art Gallery Fabrics. I was drawn to the jewel tones and then the white arrows. I thought it would make a great top and snapped up 1.5m from misformake. For this version, I made a couple of tiny alterations - raising the arm holes by 1.5cm to help with the gaping in this area and reducing the shoulder seams by 0.5cm. The pieces were cut out at a sewing day with Vaire Gwir and Hannah. It took a little while to do this, partly because I wanted the arrows to line up as much as possible, but mainly because Vaire had her eye on the fabric and would have stolen it if I had left it unaccompanied for too long! Thankfully, making it sleeveless ensures that this beauty remains mine! 

Adventure Springs Granville
Adventure Springs Granville

I didn't have enough fabric to get the two yokes, so used some pale green cotton from my stash for the inside. The arms are finished with a pretty floral bias binding. As this is my third version, I don't have anything new to say on the construction. What I love most about shirts, are the details. For this version, I chose topstitching. And lots of it! Every flat felled seam has two rows of stitching, the width of the seam apart and I did the same with the hem. The button placket and collar have two narrows rows either side. Despite the amount of top stitching, it remains subtle as the thread is only one shade lighter than the green. 

Adventure Springs Granville

I've worn this shirt a couple of times and it feels good. It is just loose enough for warm days and fits well underneath a cardigan or jacket. The arm holes no longer bother me. It works with jeans for a casual look or with a pair of smart trousers or a black skirt for work. Overall, a useful and versatile make. I think I will be putting this pattern away for a short time - three versions seems enough (here's the first in case you haven't seen it) although I'm sure that another sleeved version will pop up during the winter. 

Saturday, 18 July 2015

2015 goals: 6 month update

Just over six months ago, I shared some goals for this year that I wanted to achieve. This post is a slightly late update on how I am getting on. Straight up, it has been difficult to keep up over the past three months as the breakdown below will show. There are, however, good and important reasons for why as a course and work have been taking up a huge amount of time. 

From the end of May to the beginning of July, I attended a mindfulness course run by Mind. I wanted to explore this as a way to develop resilience as well as trying to manage the periods when I sink into murky waters. The course was wonderful and I may share my experiences in a future post. I attended the sessions every Wednesday evening and then needed to find time for formal practices during the day. This, with a temporary dramatic increase in my workload, threw out my routine and my ability to keep everything on track. 

Running

I finally hit 50% of my target a few days ago, a couple of weeks overdue, but it felt really good to get there. This means I have covered 376km this year! May was my best month where I set personal records for calories burned on one run, longest duration (just over an hour) and the furthest distance (10.49km).

Untitled

A few observations:

  • I'm still enjoying going out but it's been harder to find the time. I have worked late for more evenings than ever before which sucks up the time I rely on during the week to put on my trainers. 
  • I am finding it easier to run up hills. Ok, they aren't very big ones but I do include at least one in each run. 
  • I love running to podcasts. Recently I have been listening to Modern Sewciety. They are guaranteed to last the length of the run and I find many of them inspiring.

Eating well

This is one area that I have been keeping up with successfully, although not necessarily using my cook books. The BBC Good Food website stepped in for two months while Jamie's 30 Minute Meals provided inspiration for the other month. I didn't keep track of the meals but the one that stands out is the Asian Style Salmon from Jamie's 30 Minute Meals. I remember this very well as it is about the only homemade meal that I took a photo of! 

Untitled


Reading

Wow, have I struggled with this one. I've even fallen behind on blog reading - my blog roll is currently at 300 or more! Obviously this means I haven't finished the books that I mentioned in my last post. However, I am slowly working my way through two different books. 

The first is the book that accompanies the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibit that I saw in May. I'm also lucky enough to be seeing it again later this afternoon as I'm currently in London with Vaire Gwir and Hannah. But I digress. I am enjoying this book and as it is a series of essays, it makes it easier to pick up and put down. It is fascinating to learn more McQueen, his collections and his process. 

Untitled


The second book is The State We're In by Adele Parks. I'm not sure when I got this book, I think it might have been one of those free books Amazon gives you on certain purchases. I'm a third of the way through and it is readable. It is a chick lit (I generally don't read these) and tells the story of Jo and Dean - they meet on a flight to Chicago and each other's opposite. That's as far as I have got. Some of the characters are intriguing but some seem to be rather irritating and I can't work out if Jo will remain as ridiculous as she has been so far. 

In a few weeks, Adam and I will be going on holiday to Tuscany and I'm looking forward to the chance to read. We will be travelling around a little by train and I often pick up a book while I'm travelling. I'm starting to think about which books to take me. Is there a good read that you would recommend? 

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Lessons from my sewcation

For the past week, I have been at home merrily stitching my way through my plans for a summer wardrobe while watching a lot of Wimbledon. The sewcation was strategically planned, allowing me enough time to go and buy items for my upcoming holiday if I didn't have time to complete these items. I did well though - seven items will be completed by the end of tomorrow evening. The Vintage Shirt Dress has already made its way here and I'll get the others all up as soon as I can but here's a photo to keep you going.


To make up for the lack of photos of a shiny new item, I thought I would share some observations, lessons learnt or reconfirmed over the past few days:

  1. Always buy more black and white thread that you think you need. You will run out of both at the most inconvenient moments.
  2. It is always the right decision to buy zips of a single colour in multiple lengths. 
  3. You may need to actively remind yourself to eat and drink. 
  4. Fray stopper will transform your button holes.
  5. Your machine will become fussy. Feed it good thread, especially for button holes.
  6. Button holes are so much easier when you grade your seam allowances properly.
  7. Use a bright coloured thread where possible to baste so you can see them. It makes it easier to remove them or reminds you to do this step. 
  8. Do as many steps as you can at once before moving. E.g., pin as much before stitching, stitch as much before pressing....
  9. Your blind hem foot works beautifully as a guide for edge stitching/ top stitching.
  10. Always buy 8 or more buttons. I never have enough, or any spare in case some come off.
  11. It is far too easy to still be in your pyjamas at 11am for a couple of days in row.
  12. If you don't tidy as you go along, your sewing space will look an absolute tip and will make visitor's eyes widen when they walk in to deliver a large bag of items for some unselfish wedding related sewing. 

I'm sure I've forgotten many more points that should be included. Are there any points you would add from your experience of sewing for a full day or more?

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Vintage Shirt Dress

Over the past year I have watched many shirt dresses pop up in my blog reader. The almost constant supply of inspiration made me want to join in but I didn't go looking for a pattern. Then the Vintage Shirt Dress from Sew Over It appeared and landed in my letterbox a few days after it had been released.

Vintage Shirt Dress 1

I hatched a plan to use this gorgeous white eyelet that has been sat in my stash for a few years. I bought it on my first visit to the Birmingham Rag Market. It was a piece that I was happy to let sit there as I knew that the perfect pattern would eventually come along. I'm sure the eyelet is polycotton as it didn't take well to a hot iron which caused a few problems getting the facings and the collar to sit properly. Underlining was essential for modesty. As the eyelet is fairly thick I chose a lightweight cotton in a bright blue from Minerva to add a fun element to the dress. The two fabrics work well together and I hope that you can see the glimpses of blue through the squares. 

Vintage Shirt Dress 3

I was surprised by the amount of ease in this pattern. It's not a bad thing, just that I like my clothes to be a little more fitted. I went down a size or two and then did a 2cm FBA, sharing the additional fabric between the pleats and the gathering at the shoulders to ensure the pleats weren't too deep and noticeable. I made no other changes to the pattern, although I'm starting to think that I should have lowered the armholes by a centimetre - they feel a little too high but are comfortable enough to wear. The hem is the suggested 4cm and it hits higher than my normal hem level which is perfect for summer. I would lengthen it for an autumnal/winter version. 

Vintage Shirt Dress 5

Stitching this was an enjoyable experience. The dress goes together very well and I didn't find any of the steps too complicated - a beginner willing to tackle buttonholes should be able to get through this as the instructions are very clear. I had to seriously grade the facings and collar seam allowances to reduce the bulk from the eyelet. The button holes took some figuring out as I needed to avoid the bulky squares as much as possible - my test samples showed the needle struggled a little. To prevent fraying I used Fray Stopper from Hemline and it is only of those products that I should have used many projects ago. The finished result is very neat. I'm also happy that the rows are continuous across the buttons. The buttons are pale blue to allow them to blend with the dress.

Vintage Shirt Dress 2

I love the little details of the pattern - the gentle gathering at the shoulders, how the shoulder seam is towards the front and the pleats. It is a simple, classic pattern and I hoped that my plan would stay true to design. I'm delighted with how this dress turned out. I was worried that the eyelet wouldn't work as well as it did and it took until hemming for me to realise that I was adding a nice and much needed dress to my limited summer wardrobe. What's on your sewing table, please? 

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