Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Growth Pond Wrap Dress

This item began with the fabric. Browsing Fabric HQ after the free motion embroidery class in January, I found myself at the counter buying two meters of Art Gallery Fabrics knit. I knew from the first touch that this was destined to become an Ultimate Wrap dress. 

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The fabric in question is Growth Pond from the Bound collection by April Rhodes - it is spring like and the print gives a sense of being in the peaceful outdoors overlooking a large pond full of grass. As we have come to expect with Art Gallery Fabrics, this knit is of high quality. It is wonderfully soft, lightweight, and lovely to work with. 

Growth Pond Sew Over It Ultimate Wrap dress

The only change I made to the pattern was to lengthen the sleeves as this is what I notice the most when wearing my original. The main difficulty I had centred on the facings. This fabric likes to roll and not necessarily in the same direction! I couldn't get the facings to lay flat towards the inside of the dress - stabilising the seam with clear elastic, under stitching, and hand tacking in key places didn't solve the problem. Eventually I ripped the facings out and replaced them with knit bias tape. The problem was solved instantly. The bias taped is stitched down with a purply grey thread and is barely noticeable from a distance.  

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I'm completely in love with this dress and it will definitely be one that is worn to death. The smooth fabric feels wonderful against the skin and it's lightweight nature makes it perfect for a spring day. Although it doesn't hold up well in the wind, as shown in the photos, it is fabulous to wear - like wearing an all day hug and I'm not sure there is much more I can ask from it. 

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Self drafted work trousers

This post has been a long time coming. As long term readers will know, one of my main fitting issues with clothing are my narrow hips and trousers are the item that reveals this issue this more than any other. Finding a good pair of rtw without any stretch is almost impossible and results in huffing and puffing while browsing in the shops. I realised that the only way out of this pattern was for me to draft my own and, in January, the stars aligned when a work trip was cancelled and I got the final spot on a trouser drafting course run by Darn It and Stitch

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Over four weeks we created our block, tested it, made any necessary changes, learnt how to insert a fly opening, and then drafted our first pattern. It took a few tweaks to perfect my block and I'm thrilled that it fits perfectly around my hips. For my pattern I wanted a fairly classic design that would fill a massive hole in my work wardrobe. This pair feature front darts, a fly opening, side pockets, a back yoke which includes in seam pockets and a narrow waistband closed by a popper. To keep the side pockets safely in place, I chose to use a pocket stay. Getting the stays and the fly to look very neat on the inside was a little bit of challenge to work out but it all worked out in the end. 

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Due to the classic design, I decided to keep the details to the minimum - just some top stitching on the back yoke. I wanted the gorgeous grey wool (bought from Goldhawk Road) to stand out. It is a lovely quality wool that is smooth and itch free, and easy to work with. It is fabulous to wear - comfortable yet stylish and perfect for work. 

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Now a sensible pair of trousers on the outside called for a party on the inside and I chose a cracker of a fabric for the pocket lining and stays. The pink and orange are as bright in real life and this cotton had been waiting patiently for its chance to shine. I love how the colours work with the grey and it makes me happy to know the colours are there. 

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I've worn these quite a lot over the past three weeks and I'm generally very happy with them. They are a little big around the waist and I think I can solve this by making the darts a little bigger. I'm looking forward to making more of these and to creating new designs - I just need to find the time to get back to pattern drafting. I have an experimental pair ready to toile to see if they are a good idea or not for me and I'm dreaming of shorts. How do you find making trousers? Have you drafted your own? 

Monday, 9 May 2016

Summer Rose Fifi Pyjamas

Hello, there. I trust you all had a good weekend and made the most of the sunshine. It was lovely in Oxford and getting the suncream out for the first time was wonderful. In anticipation of the warmer weather and thinking about a summer holiday, my thoughts have wondered to my summer wardrobe and specifically night wear. I knew a lovely set of summer pyjamas were needed and when Minerva kindly got in touch to offer some fabric, I found the perfect match of pattern and fabric to create the Summer Rose Fifi pyjamas. 

Summer Rose Tilly and the Buttons Fifi Pyjamas1

The fabric is called Rose Floral and it is a cotton poplin. I was drawn to the pink roses which remind me of country garden and times gone by and this nostalgia only grow when I saw that the print had a vintage/tapestry look to it. The roses are set on a black background - not my first choice for summer but it does lift the pinks well. When I originally received the fabric I thought it would be too thick and not have enough drape to make Fifi but all my concerns were lost after prewashing and wearing these for a night. The poplin has all the properties of a good cotton - good weave, some drape, incredibly easy to cut, press and stitch. I loved working with it and love wearing it. I decided not to go with the self-binding that is included in the pattern and opted for a hot pink bias binding that was in my stash. I had originally opted for a pale pink to match the roses but my machine (for a reason I can't fathom) just ate it. The hot pink doesn't give the fully romantic feeling I was going for but brings a fun modern vibe to them. 

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I took my time choosing which size to cut. While I love a lot of ease in my pyjamas, I also find a lot of them have too much around the hips for my liking. Based on the finished measurements I went for a 5-6-4 combination and it is largely spot on. I think I need slightly more room in the hips for when I'm pottering about on a lazy morning but they were fine to sleep in. 

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For a such a small item, Fifi took longer to stitch than I anticipated. This is mainly because Tilly had the foresight to finish these with French seams (my favourite finish) and you need to handle the bodice more carefully than most of other makes due its bias cut. However, the extra effort for the seams and the binding is totally worth it - it gives you a make that is gorgeous on the outside as well as the inside. The suggested technique for adding the elastic to the shorts also ensures a good finish - you stitch the elastic to a raw edge, fold over twice and stitch in place encasing all the raw edges and stitches. Such a simple but effective way to achieve a smooth, polished look. 

Summer Rose Tilly and the Buttons Fifi Pyjamas2

I'm delighted with how this set turned out and this summer will see them being in high demand due to their comfort and prettiness. I may just have to make another pair to ensure these last! What's on your sewing table right now?

Note: The fabric for this make was provided by Minerva Crafts. Pattern purchased separately. 

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Lately and pledges

Wow, how did we reach May already? Time has got away from me recently and I've been struggling to do more than work, sleep, keep up with the house, celebrate getting to the end of another week and fitting in something creative - however small. Work has been relentless over the past month but I'm hopeful it will settle down again in the next few weeks (I'm ever the optimist!) and I can get back into the rhythm of actually blogging what I've made.

EPP hexagons

This past month has been wonderfully productive for my English Paper Piecing quilt. I started this back in January and had been slowly but steady piecing the hexagons into small groups. It has been rare to see me without a needle and two hexagons in my hands when I've finally sat down for the day to watch TV. It is blissful to keep the stitches going and follow my plan - no real thought is needed! This and picking up exercise again (I got a bike and now cycle to/from work) have definitely kept me going. All of the hexagons in the photo above (and more) are now stitched permanently to at least one of their neighbours. 

Garden

I've been venturing out into the gardens. It turns out we have some very healthy fruit plants out there! The rhubarb is thriving and makes a wonderful syrup that works very well with prosecco. I was surprised to learn we have one small strawberry plant, a thriving small community of raspberry plants, that our pear trees are in good health and we have a lot of herbs in pots. I've supplemented this by adding tomatoes, peppers and chilli peppers to grow bags in the green house. 
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And finally, I've been keeping up with what some of you are doing via social media (I've been really poor at blog reading since we moved and am trying to get back into the habit). So much so, that I made a late pledge to join in Me Made May. I was in two minds whether to do this as I often wear my makes and wasn't sure what the challenge would be. I realised that I had a number of makes that I rarely worn - mainly old makes and I thought it would be a good idea to try and reintegrate them into my wardrobe. If I can't by the end of the month, a few tough decisions might have to be made. I'll be documenting the makes I'm wearing everyday on Instagram. 

“#VintagePledge

I'm also very late in declaring my Vintage Pledge. I'm thrilled to be part of the wonderful group that Marie and Kerry have put together for the activities in July. I've completed the item for this and you'll have to wait until 20th July for the details but it's deep red and rather different to the styles to which I'm normally drawn. I'm pledging to make two more vintage makes this year - this seems reasonable and I have one dress already traced waiting patiently to be toiled. 

What have you been up to recently? 

Monday, 28 March 2016

The Smoky and Red Arrows Anderson Blouses

Good evening, everyone. I've hoped you've all enjoyed a glorious long weekend. Ours has been lovely, we've spent time with family and friends and ventured outside to start clearing out the green house. It still needs more work to remove the grim and moss from the glass but I'm hopeful I can start using it next month. The long weekend also meant I could get some photos of two tops that have been part of my wardrobe for quite a while!

When the Anderson Blouse by Sew Over It was released, I was transported back to about five years ago. I owned a lovely deep blue blouse with a cross bodice made from jersey and billowing sleeves made of crinkled georgette. I wore it often and hated the moment I had to retire it due to overwear. Now was my chance to make a similar shape and different versions were created when I unpacked my stash. 

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The Smoky (white) Blouse was made first. Given the loose nature of the blouse, I went straight ahead without making a toile. The worst that could happen would be a wearable toile and this blouse is more than that. I made a few changes directly to the pattern - 1 cm to the back side seams, brought the shoulder seam in slightly, lengthened the sleeves a few centimetres based on my experience with the Ultimate Wrap Dress, and graded down a few sizes from the shoulders to the waist. 

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The finished measurements suggested there would be too much ease for my comfort level and I don't like to feel like I'm drowning in fabric around my tummy (it makes me self conscious). The grading down works well for this version. For the second version, the Red Arrows Blouse, I lengthened the bodice substantially as I struggle to keep the Smoky Blouse tucked into my jeans without the fear of revealing too much! I much prefer the security of the Red Arrows Blouse. I chose not to add any hand stitches to either blouse as I like how they flow freely and decided to wear a cami underneath.   

Anderson Blouses back

I love seeing how two fabrics can make a difference to a pattern and bring their own personalities. Both of these fabrics came from the Birmingham Rag Market and were a few quid a metre. The Red Arrows has a lovely drape, is very light and cool to wear. It also creases as soon as you look at it. The Smoky is a heavier polyester with a good drape but has more structure and is slightly warmer to wear. You can see the difference between them in the gentle gathers at the shoulders. 

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The Red Arrows Blouse feels more casual too. It works very well with jeans, not so well with my formal work skirts - that's the strength of the Smoky Blouse especially when paired with a black skirt. This top is definitely a winner for me and there will be a third version in a gorgeous Art Gallery cotton as soon as I've prewashed it! What's currently on your sewing table? 

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Attempting curtains

Hands up – who loves home decor sewing? I don’t mean cushions, think more curtains and bedding. I’m squinting, is there anyone raising their hand? I’m amazed at those of you do.

When we bought the house, I was sure that we would buy everything we needed. I knew that all bedding would be bought after making this set for my mum. While it is pretty and making your own gives you the freedom to have something different from you can buy, the process of making bedding is super tedious – easy with those straight lines but tedious. I figured curtains would be the same experience and vowed that I would only make them to save money. So guess what happened?

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Our biggest issue this winter has been keeping the house warm. It has solid walls having been built in the 1930s and the back end of the house is open plan. While I adore the space, it can be like living in a draughty barn. Keeping the heating on seems too indulgent when adding a few furnishings would help.

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When I posted a heat proof runner I had made for the kitchen island on Facebook, someone asked me if I was making curtains from the fabric and an idea was born. The fabric is Amy Leaf furnishing fabric from John Lewis and not only is the pattern gorgeous, but so is the quality. I knew they would make great curtains for the French doors. Turns out buying curtains that size is rather expensive. Having sewing skills, and the need to spend money elsewhere, I did a few calculations and realised I could save about £125 if I made them myself.

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After getting 16m of fabric home, I got cutting. In order to make curtains the right width, I needed to add a panel to one full width of fabric. Thankfully the pattern repeat is every 25cm which made that task easier than it could have been. As ever, matching one was smooth, the other took about three attempts. I don’t like to think how much thread I lost basting and re basting that 2.5m edge. Overall, the matching is pretty good and you can’t tell where the seam is without inspecting very closely. I had intended for the curtains to match in the middle when they are drawn, that didn’t quite happen after adding the lining but they start from the same place at the top and that’s good enough for me! They are finished with matt nickel Jupiter rings which were very easy to apply directly to the fabric.

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Overall, I’m delighted with them. I’m not going to say they were fun or easy to make. Lugging that amount of fabric around for a day almost broke my physically and made my legs thought they were turning into a pin cushion as they supported the endless lengths of fabric through the machine. Totally worth the effort though. We’re now on the hunt for a bright painting or print to go on the wall next to them. While we love the various shades of grey, it is starting to feel a bit much! Will there more curtain making in my future? Quite possibly. We need to add some to our bedroom to block out the light from some inconveniently placed street lamps but I’m keeping my fingers crossed we’ll be able to buy them.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

The Ultimate Wrap Dress

For a few years I have been without a staple in my winter wardrobe - a wrap dress. When my last RTW fell apart, I had already begun to sew my own clothes and therefore didn't replace it. I figured I would make one but that involved picking up knit fabrics. Ah, knits. Apparently easy to work with but also fear evoking for some. I wouldn't say I have ever developed a fear of using knits, more I never found the time to read up on how best to approach them. Having a lot of spare time in between houses changed that and I finally dived into The Colette Guide to Knits. Suddenly my plans for a wrap dress jumped to the top of list for new year stitching.

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My pattern of choice is Sew Over It's Ultimate Wrap Dress due to its classic design. I always note the month and the year I trace a pattern on the pieces (a quick helpful indicator in case my measurements have changed since tracing) and laying out the pattern pieces revealed I had the same plans last January but for some reason didn't get round to making the dress. The benefit of waiting a year means you can learn from other people's experience and I made a few tweaks to the pattern before getting my fabric ready. I raised the neckline a fair bit to ensure decent coverage and remove the need for a cami and lengthened the dress. 

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With my new found enthusiasm and excitement to complete this dress, I chose to live dangerously and didn't make a toile. I thought about making one to help with my lack of experience in fitting knits. The thought stopped when I realised it's only fabric (and not made from unicorn eyelashes) and I could chalk up a failed dress to experience so I chose to hope that the slight stretch in the fabric would cover any areas that might have been too small. Turns out my risk paid off and this dress fits much better than I thought it would - in fact, just like the RTW ones I used to own and my initial alterations have worked perfectly. After wearing it for a full day, there are some additional tweaks I would like to make for my next version which is already planned. These include lengthening the sleeves which are a few centimetres too short for my liking, the shoulder seams need to come in, a smidge needs to be added to the back so the side seams sit where they should and I'll reduce the length of the ties - they are seriously long! 

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I figured that this dress would get a lot of wear and I wanted to it be comfortable, cozy but smart. The fabric came from my stash is a beautiful petrol coloured interlock bought from the Village Haberdashery (other colours available here). The colour is very difficult to capture in the photographs and it has a strong green hue in real life. The quality is fantastic and is soft to the touch, wonderful to wear, and it ticks all of the boxes. There is a very strong temptation to never take it off! It is very stable with some stretch and was a perfect introduction to using knits (I like to start simple and build from there). The only issue I had with it was getting the neckline to lie flat once the facings had been added - a row of under stitching and a long press solved the problem. A very satisfying part of the project was how quick it was to make - I cut it out during an evening and stitched up in an afternoon. Who doesn't love a quick project? 

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All of this gushing means I'm now off to prewash the fabric for my next version (which may or may not be some Art Gallery jersey I treated myself too). Have a great weekend everyone - is there something on your sewing table? 

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