Saturday, 18 April 2015

Simplicity 2442: the determination dress

Hello, everyone! Today I have a dress to share with you. With the sun starting to shine a little more frequently I have fully turned my attention to spring sewing. Spring sewing means one thing to me - dresses! I adore summer dresses especially as they don't (always) need tights. 

This dress is Simplicity 2442 and I came very close to not sharing it as I made it in the depths of my mind fog of March when I was trying to get back some of my self confidence and needless to say it isn't one of my best but I figured the outside looks good enough to share! 

Simplicity 2442

I debated about this pattern for a while - I was sure that I could see some promise in the line drawings but couldn't quite get past the awful pale blue satin the model is wearing. The final push came when Simplicity got in touch about their blogging circle and offered me a pattern. Despite the satin, I chose to continue the pale blue theme and used the sky blue and white polka dot nylon that I picked up in Croatia a couple of years ago. I say it nylon tentatively as the burn test was inconclusive. The fabric is quite crisp, creases fairly easily and is a major static generator but it was easy to work with despite some fraying and permanent pin holes. I chose to fully line the dress (the pattern only calls for the bodice to be lined) with a white cotton silk from Goldhawk Road for the lining. 

Simplicity 2442

I didn't alter the pattern much except for grading out for the waist and taking off a whopping 7cm from the hem. My toile did reveal another alteration I should have made but I completely forgot about it when it came to make the real thing as I was absolutely set on making a finished item that I didn't really care how it turned out. I should have raised the neckline by a centimeter or two and stabilised it with twill tape. At the moment is too low and floppy and the first time I work I pinned it to my bra it ensure it didn't move! It looks ok in the photos but I'm very conscious of this area while I'm wearing the dress. 

Simplicity 2442

While there are a lot of pattern pieces and a bit of preparation, this dress comes together fairly easily and quickly. I threw this pattern together in a haphazard way (the inside backs up this statement) and I still found it ok. The hardest part is the gathering of the midriff. Getting a even gather across the three pieces is tricky. Each piece has three or four stitching lines to help bring the fabric together. The ones near the seam line are easy to work with while the ones in the middle are more difficult. I also had a little trouble with inserting the invisible zip with the bulk the gathering brings but I managed to get it to line up perfectly. 

Simplicity 2442

Despite its flaws, I quite like this dress. Overall, the fit is spot on and it definitely speaks to the arrival of spring. I'm very tempted to try this pattern again, complete with alterations and a pretty inside, in a more soft and floaty fabric. What do you think?

Disclaimer: the pattern was provided by Simplicity free of charge as part of their Sewing Blogger Circle but all opinions are my own. 

Friday, 3 April 2015

2015 goals: 3 month update

Wow, I can't believe three months have passed since I announced to the world my personal goals for this year. I promised an update - mainly to keep myself accountable and a few others expressed an interest in hearing how I was progressing. If you don't like these kind of posts, feel free to skip it!


The stats:

Running update photo
Some observations:
  • I'm slightly behind on this target but as it's only 5km I'm not too worried!
  • The cliche "You won't feel worse for going" is true, except for when you haven't rehydrated properly from a night in the pub
  • Getting out three times a week has been challenging and this gets worse when I have not been feeling myself (which has been a lot this month)
  • I'm beginning to consistently win the argument that happens in my head on every run. More and more I am proving that I am in control of my thoughts and actions while running and I am able to dig deep and complete my goal whatever that little voice says
  • Physically I feel better than I probably ever have. I've lost a bit of weight and the size of my tummy has definitely decreased (yay!). I've noticed this mainly through the changing alterations I need to make to patterns
  • Investing in a couple of decent sports bras has been my best decision to date 

Eating well

While I haven't kept a detailed record of everything I've made, I can safely state that I have used three different cookbooks to make four meals a month as I buy the supplies specifically for the chosen recipes and they aren't used for other meals. 

This one has been surprisingly easy to incorporate into everyday life. At the beginning of each month, either Adam or I select the recipes. It doesn't matter how complicated or long it takes to cook - if it sound delicious we will give it go! Those that take longer to prepare tend to happen at the weekend for obvious reasons. I've included links to the books below in case you want to check them out (I don't receive anything for it). 

My favourite meals so far:

The Slow Cook Book: this book has two Jambalaya recipes which I mashed together as I didn't have all of the ingredients for one. Definitely something I will be making again! 
Rachel Allen's Home Cooking: chicken casserole with cheesy herb dumplings and tagliatelle with smoked salmon, watercress and peas - a light and refreshing dish that can be made all year round. 
The Hairy Dieters: every one I have tried! The skinny lasagne is wonderful - you swap the pasta for leeks, homemade muesli with puffed rice really does keep you going until lunchtime, and the cassoulet feels wonderfully indulgent but is more healthy than the original. 


Two books completed, two on the go. 

I'm a lover of fiction but interestingly I've been inclined to read non-fiction recently. This is mostly because I am trying to understand me and depression more. "Reasons to Stay Alive" by Mat Haig has had a profound effect on me. The book covers stats, research and one man's story. It gave me the courage to follow my own path of treatment as well as an understanding that the illness does not define me. It is there currently, and may be again in the future, but it is always smaller than me - it operates within me, not me within it. If you have experienced depression and anxiety, or know someone who has, I highly recommend this book. You will come away with a better understanding. 

"Creative Confidence" by Tom Kelley and David Kelley is the other I have read. This stems from my increasing desire to find out what the common terms I hear at work actually mean. For those of you who don't know, I work at a business school and am constantly surrounded by terms like "lean", "design thinking", "entrepreneurs" and "responsible leadership". The time feels right to go below the basic understanding of what these mean. This book, by the founders of design company IDEO, shows you that everyone can be creative and it doesn't have to be by picking up a paintbrush or a needle. Human centered design is discussed a lot and it is backed up by inspiring stories of individuals who have successfully implemented this - whether it is revolutionising the MRI experience for children or creating the first news app when the iPad launched. 


"The Lean Startup" continues my business education while "Dragon Haven" fulfils my need for magical escapism. Robin Hobb is one of my favourite authors. I adore the Farseer trilogy but have struggled a little with the Rainwild Chronicles - the dragons irritate me a bit. I'll stick with it though - I need to know what happens to the main characters!

How about you? Are you on track for any goals you may have set? 

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Wanna see where I sew?

"My course starts soon, I need to find somewhere for me to study" Adam told me one day towards the end of last summer. "Sure, no problem. You have two choices - the lounge or we can rearrange the spare room" I responded. "The spare room sounds great, I can get a desk and it will be quieter than being in the lounge." When the desk was delivered and we had rearranged the spare room, a tiny part of me died as it dawned on me that I had given up a sewing room without realising it...

Now, I've learnt not to resent it (ok, I do a little) as I've managed to perfect my dedicated sewing space in the lounge and I thought it might be fun to share it with you. I love seeing where others sew - you can guarantee I leave those posts green with envy from the prettiness. While I have my own space, pretty it ain't!


My set up works around the fact that I don't want to waste a lot of time moving between my machine, overlocker and the ironing board. At the top of our lounge is a dining table which is situated just in front of the French doors leading onto our balcony (it sounds grander than it is!) This table is where I trace patterns and cut fabric before positioning my machines. It is reasonably sturdy but it is too low - I get back ache very quickly if I work there for too long. The overlocker sits in front of the doors and my sewing machine sits at the head of the table. Behind the chair and in the kitchen is the ironing board. Yes, they really are as close as they look in the photos. It works brilliantly because there is a maximum of five steps from the ironing board to the overlocker.


Our ironing board is massive. Not only is it very wide, it is also high and therefore doubles up as a standing desk. I love this feature as it saves hunching and therefore reduces the amount of strain on my back. My only grumble with the positioning of the board is that it lives in front of the fridge making it difficult to get to the milk for a tea break. 


While this set up works perfectly, there is a dangerous element which I haven't yet worked out. The nearest socket is in the lounge on the wall closest to the ironing board. This means I need to use an extension cable to plug in the machines as well as the ironing and that cable has to sit underneath or behind the chair I use to sew. You can just see them in the photo above/below. I'm convinced I will break my leg one day as I can't count the times I have tripped over them... 


So that's the quick tour of my tiny sewing area. Do you have your own room or do you sew in a shared space? Any tips for staying tidy or am I doomed to stay this way? 

Saturday, 21 March 2015


Thanks to everyone who voted on my last post. The Granville shirt won by a small margin when all votes from the comments, Twitter and text messages were added up. I'll be honest, a small part of me wanted the dress to win but I've been enjoying working on the shirt so far and it really will be a useful addition to my wardrobe. 

I thought I would provide a quick update for those who have not been following along on Twitter or Instagram. Each morning this week I have been posting a photo to show progress.

Granville wk 1

Day 1: sticking the PDF pattern together. The pattern came together very easily. 
Day 2: Cutting the pattern to size. As tracing is my least favourite part of making an item, I don't trace my PDF patterns. I would rather cut and stick another version if needed. 
Day 3: Cutting the pieces for the toile. I chose to cut nearly all the pieces so I could check the techniques and find any potential pitfalls - very important when you might still be a little sleepy when sewing.
Day 4: Toile taking shape. The back seams, back yoke, shoulder seams and button plackets were completed. The collar was also prepared. 

I've enjoyed getting my creative spirit flowing for 30-40 minutes each morning. I feel like I am winning before I've even left the house. It is taking some willpower not to power on when I get back from work so I'm working on another project: Simplicity 2442

Simplicity 2442

I spotted the potential in this pattern after looking at the drawings - the pale blue satin on the front of the pattern does nothing for me! I wish I could say it is coming along nicely but I've realised I need to unpick the top seam on both of the bodices and my overlocker stopped being my friend last night, as shown in the middle picture. Hopefully it will behave itself today and it won't be long before I can share the finished item.

What's on your sewing table please?

Friday, 13 March 2015

Two patterns, one time slot - you decide!

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about time. There seems to be an ever growing demand on our time and I've been wondering if I use mine wisely. The part of the day that has caught most of my attention is before I go to work the morning. Please stick with me, I'll get to sewing shortly and then I need your help. 


My weekday morning routine involves getting up early and I generally have at least 90 minutes before I'm forced to face the world. This time normally involves a small amount of housework, reading blogs and generally messing around on the internet. I'm convinced I could use this time more wisely, especially the latter part when I'm fully awake. 

So, I could go for a run. Ha! Who am I kidding? A 6am run is the last thing I want to do. Naturally, my mind flitted to sewing as the next option. How long would it take me to create an item from scratch using only the time I have before I leave for work? I have no idea but I intend to find out. 

The rules:
  • This exercise starts with tracing a pattern or piecing together an already printed PDF (I'm not getting the printer out at that early in the day) through toile(s) to the finished item in fashion fabric. 
  • Using my overlocker is not allowed. This is purely out of courtesy to Adam and my neighbours - no one wants to be jolted awake by the noise of this machine. 
  • I'll only work on this project Monday-Friday (annual leave and bank holidays are not included as I won't be up!) and only before I leave for work.  
  • Fabric will be prewashed - it's not possible to get through a full wash in the time restraints.  
Now, here's where I need your help. I can't decide which pattern to use. I have two options and you get to decide! I think both of these can be easily broken down into stages. 

The first is Sew Over It's Betty Dress in Sweet Female Attitude from By Hand London


The second is Sewaholic's Granville shirt. I would love to make this from the floral purple Thai silk in my stash but I'm not sure there is enough... Whatever I decide, it will be office appropriate. 


Let me know in the comments which pattern you think I should choose. 

Update: voting on the blog and Twitter has now closed. It was a close run with Granville winning by two votes. 

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Burda Editorial Trousers

Can you get excited about office wear, specifically basics? I generally can’t and as a result this post is long overdue. I was forced into this make by going down to one pair of trousers suitable for the office and this was problematic in terms of laundry logistics but also in maintaining interest in my outfits. 

Editorial trousers side view

I’ve delayed making trousers because I knew getting the fit right would be a hard task due to my narrow hips and larger waist. Thankfully I was saved from a long headache by attending a trouser fitting session with Kelly, Hannah and 
. We spent a few hours around the house of the lady who taught me how to pattern draft and all came out with a pattern that fitted or a block that to use in the future. It really did feel like something magical happened that day - I suddenly understood a lot more about my lower body as well as which parts of a trouser pattern I need to pay attention to. I’m now on the hunt for a couple of tried and tested patterns to fall back on. 

Editorial trousers back

This pattern is the Editorial Pants from Burda 08/2013. I chose them as they are similar in style to my remaining work pair and it is a shape that I love. The main difference is this pattern has front pockets. To get the right fit, I cut the largest size to match my waist measurements and then pinched out the excess at side seams on the front around my hips. The other alteration needed was along the crotch line. I added a small amount to the centre back seam and remove a small amount towards the end of the curve. This worked well as I can comfortably sit and stand. The result is a pair of trousers that fit perfectly in the waist but I'm not sure about the rest of the fit. 

Editorial trousers pocket

I should have made another toile to check the changes before committing to finishing this pair. The £2pm poly suiting in my stash persuaded me that a wearable toile would be acceptable - if something went wrong I would be unlikely to cry over lost fabric. The pockets and inside waistband are made from the leftover peacock cotton that Minerva sent me to create my peacock dress. Building in colour and interest somewhere was a necessity to balance all of that black! Anyway, back to the fit. The fit issues I have noticed is a ripple across the front just below the fly, some wrinkling around the back and I wonder if the legs are a little to wide. All things to work on for my next pair. I hope you can see what I'm referring to - photographing black indoors is always tricky! 

Editorial trousers back

To my surprise, I enjoyed making these. I was convinced that sewing basics, particularly in dark colours, would be dull and uninspiring. Add Burda’s reputation for unclear instructions and welt pockets and that feeling grew stronger. As expected, the instructions were not as clear as you would like them to be. I could, though, follow their instructions for the welt pockets but the text on inserting the fly and adding the waistband was confusing. To make life easier, I followed the instructions from the Thurlow pattern to insert the fly which went in perfectly first time. I added the waistband in the most logical way I could think of. After the welts behaved following an initial hiccough, the rest of the construction was relatively simple. Being a wearable toile, I took a few short cuts. The waistband closes with a large popper as I was too lazy to add a button. All pieces were overlocked or have zigzag stitches within the seam allowance as the fabrics are prone to substantial fraying. As a result the inside isn’t as nice I would normally like but no one but me will know - except of course for everyone reading this post! 

Editorial trousers side view

Even though the fit isn’t right, I’m convinced these will get a lot of wear through necessity if nothing else. I’m now on the hunt for some fabric for another version (after a couple of additional toiles no doubt!) and ideally these won’t be black or another dark colour. Strangely, I seem to be only comfortable wearing dark trousers in the office. I’d love to know if this make sense to you or do you wear brighter colours?

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Quart Coat Part Two: Completion

Have you ever worked on a project that seems to take forever to prepare that you swear it will take you weeks to finish and then all of a sudden you have a finished item? My Quart Coat is one of those projects. 

Quart Coat

As with any big project, it takes a long time to prepare the fabric, cut out the pieces, transfer your markings before you even get to your machine. Add in a large PDF pattern to assemble and I think I spent about five-six hours just preparing to sew. I chose the immediacy of the PDF pattern just in case winter planned to leave early and therefore not giving me much time to enjoy the finished item. I shouldn't have worried - winter is still definitely here! The pattern lines up beautifully when you're taping it together. It is actually perfect and that's really important when a pattern checks in at a whopping 50 pages! 

Quart Coat

Size wise, this coat fits very well. Other than my standard grading out for the waist and back in at the hips, I didn't make any alterations. There is enough ease in the sleeves to have a 40 minute phone call without your blood circulation being cut off. The collar is perhaps a little high and would sit better if I shaved off about a centimetre but that's a very minor detail. I wasn't sure about the length as my other winter coats are longer. It fine though - my legs don't get that cold and my skirts are no longer getting caught on the lining. 

Quart coat inside front
Quart coat inside back

This pattern calls for a lot detailed and precise sewing. I chose to make bound button holes which are my preferred button hole on jackets and coats. I needed some guiding through this part as I was a little rusty on the technique. I followed Karen's ebook and it is absolutely fantastic. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking to make these for the first time - I ended up with four perfect button holes. I would recommend creating the facing side of the button holes before you stitch the facing to the coat as indicated in the directions. This will save you pushing a large amount of fabric through the machine and the constant fear that the weight of the fabric might stretch it. Other areas that need precision include the zipped sleeves and the epaulettes. Marking my seam lines really helped with creating a neat finish. 

Quart coat details

Perhaps the most pleasing detail of the Quart is the side pleats. They are very easy to create and I left my hand basting in place until the coat was finished to ensure a clean finish. Creating in them in silk was harder though, for all of the reasons you would expect. A note on the amount of fabric you need for the lining - I got everything out of 3m with 80cm width. I didn't use the silk for the zipped sleeves or under the epaulettes but I would have had enough to. The colour contrast was just too strong and I used some black poly lining scraps.  

Quart Coat

Hand stitching makes several appearances. You need to stitch the lining to the zips on the sleeves and, of course, to add the buttons. Pauline provides two options for attaching the lining to the exterior. You can either bag it or hand stitch in place. I chose to hand stitch using the fell stitch as it gives you much more control. I found this part very satisfying as my stitches are almost invisible.  

Quart Coat

So the verdict after wearing it for a week? Without doubt, I love it! It is super toasty on frosty mornings and this alone justifies the price of the boiled wool. While I would rather have sunshine and bright days, I'm now okay if winter decides to stick around for longer! 


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