Sunday, 31 March 2013

I can finally wear this!

Progress on my next lot of projects has slowed a little while I wait for fabric to arrive but the postman has promised a delivery on Tuesday. So while I eagerly await the coming of Tuesday, the first signs of Spring have arrived with sunshine for three days! I had been waiting for this moment so I could leave my winter coat at home and begin to wear the an item that is my best sewing project to date and the one I am most proud of: my Lady Grey coat. 

Colette Lady Grey

Last year I decided I wanted to push my sewing skills a little further and a coat seemed the perfect item. I wanted something that was a bit like a statement coat and I fell in love with the Lady Grey at first sight. I began this in September and had real trouble finding any wool in our local fabric shops (there aren’t that many around Oxford) so I ordered some swatches from Truro Fabrics. A beautiful teal arrived and I knew that was the colour I wanted but disaster struck when I hit the checkout button and it just disappeared. Turns out the shop was updating it website and that particular fabric had sold out. I was so disappointed but luckily I had decided on a backup. Yes, it is pink and herringbone. Although it is my second choice, I do love it. 

Colette Lady Grey 2

I followed the wonderful tutorials from Gertie to construct this. I used the tailoring techniques she details. Unfortunately I don’t have many photos as thoughts about blogging were not in my mind at that point. However, I did find this one which shows part of the process of tailoring the front. The hair canvas is in place and stitched to the wool with a permanent uneven basting stitch. The rows are two inches apart. I didn’t have any stay tape so I went with some left over bias binding for the roll line. If you squint, you can just about make out the even stitches. I’m disappointed I don’t have pictures of the pad stitching I did for the lapels and the collar. Pad stitching keeps shape in the fabric and it is all done by hand. A series of lines are drawn over the section to be pad stitched and the stitches go diagonally in one direction for the first line and then the other way for the next, creating a chevron look. You also need to keep whichever line you are stitching rolled over your fingers to keep the shape - this is really important otherwise everything turns out flat. This is a simpler said than done! Once you have completed that you need to steam the roll lines A LOT and leave it rolled over a folded towel until it is dry and set in shape. I hope this makes sense but if not, pop across to here where Gertie explains it brilliantly! 

Colette Lady Grey construction

I also made bound button holes for the first time. They are reasonably tricky but they are something I want to perfect as I love them a lot. 

Colette Lady Grey bound button

Start to finish took about 8 weeks as the tailoring sections took me a while. However, the hardest part was the lining. Before I go into the difficulties, take a look at what I chose. This coat absolutely screams for an interesting lining and who was I to disobey? The pockets are made from the same material. 

Colette Lady Grey lining

I had major trouble getting this to fit in the sleeves and also hang neatly towards the hem. It was just too short. When I stitched it in the sleeves the result was a scrunched look because there was too much tension with the lining. I had to let it out and move it down an inch. It still isn’t perfect and you can see a slight scrunch when I wear it but it isn’t anywhere near as bad as it was. By the hem, it became very apparent when I stitched in the ditch along the seams that the lining was just too short. I wanted to keep the lining close to the coat so it wouldn’t get in my way when putting it on but I was left with a six inch(!) gap in places. By this point I had put too much time and effort in to be defeated so I bought a wide pale pink ribbon and stitched it about an inch from the bottom to cover up any of the hair canvas and seams that could be seen. You can see it in the photo above. 

If I was to make this again I would lengthen the sleeves. I love three quarter length sleeves but not for outdoor items. A coat needs to have full length sleeves I’ve discovered. However, I did get the gorgeous grey cashmere gloves for Christmas that work perfectly and they are so warm! I’m really proud of this item and now the weather has warmed up a little I will be wearing it more often. I wore it yesterday on a Easter Egg Hunt at Basildon Park and loved it. Don’t you think it works well with lambs ears?! 

Colette Lady Grey Easter Egg hunt

Happy Easter everyone, I’m off for a walk to show off my coat again. 

Wednesday, 27 March 2013


To assist with my many projects this year, I took a little time out to look for inspiration. Here are a few things that have struck me. Not quite a mood board but the beginning of my thinking I guess.

black lace
Pretty lace

natural colour blocking
Natural colour blocking

pale green eyelet
Ummm, eyelet

Please don't ask me what this plant is!

I adore this Batik fabric

And finally...

Who doesn't love Paddington?

What is your inspiration at the moment?

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Completed: Flowery Alma Blouse

Earlier this year my friend Iona asked me to help her make a skirt. We spent a day together in January where we took measurements, altered her pattern (due to a fabric shortage) and cut out some of the pieces. I promised to take along a project and work on it at the same time. I decided on the Alma blouse. It is a relatively simple pattern and easy to put down and pick up. Yesterday, we got together again to carry on with our adventures. 

We spent a considerable time chatting and swapping over machines. When we unpacked Iona’s machine we found the cord and pedal were missing so we shared mine instead of regularly rethreading one machine. We did a little dance around my flat between the machine and the ironing board to press.  However, we did get a lot done. You’ll have to take my word for this as I didn’t take many photos. You know what it is like when two girls get together when they haven’t seen each other for a while. Iona cut out her lining and stitched the four panels of her skirt together as well as overlocking the seam edges. I took the blouse as far as inserting the zip (darts, shoulder seams, the left side seam and preparing the sleeves and bias tape). 

Iona's fabric
Iona's fabric

Then it was time for Iona to leave and for me to run around tidying the flat while preparing dinner for 5 as well as creating a chocolate roulade. Again, no photos except this bad one of melting the chocolate. It was the perfect evening to finish the day and my guests were nice enough to praise the roulade. 

melting chocolate

Originally I had planned to sew the Alma only with Iona but as my new challenge began to sink in I asked if I was allowed to finish it before we met again. Iona agreed - we both know I will always have something on my sewing table. So this morning while Adam was watching the Grand Prix (a permanent part of our weekends during March to November) I got on with my creation. And here it is:

Flowery Alma blouse front

This is the second time I have made this. The first I dubbed as a wearable muslin because I didn’t quite manage to get the bias tape over the zipper nicely. The result is a slightly itchy feel when I wear it but wear it I do, and you might not be surprised to hear it is pink. On this version I have a much neater finish but I did have to a bit of a fix to get there. Somehow I managed to screw up inserting the bias tape and only realised this once I had trimmed the seam allowance. WIth some experimentation with folding the bias over, I managed to enclose the raw edge and I think I have got away with it - just. And anyway, it will be below my arm so no one will really be able to see!

Sip zip Alma blouse

I hand-picked the zipper using this great tutorial from Sewaholic. It took me about 30 minutes but I’m please with the result. You can be much more accurate using this method as you can move the fabric a little before committing to a stitch. This is definitely something I will try again. 

I also got the neckline slightly wrong but I couldn’t be bothered to unpick it all. Can you notice what I did? 

Flowery Alma blouse

I picked the fabric up last year on my birthday trip to Goldhawk Road. I have no idea what it is but it feels like satin with a bit of stretch. I was drawn to the pretty flowers and knew immediately what I wanted to make with it.

Making dinner
Preparing tonight's dinner 

I’m really happy with it and it makes a great addition to my wardrobe. So this is pattern two of twenty completed in the 20:20 challenge. It is blue (again!) so I need to steer away from the colour for a while before I use up my allocation. I’m off now to cut out the Laurel pattern and make a muslin. I have a few ideas for this but need to see what it is like on before deciding which way to go. What did you get up to this weekend?

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

20:20 challenge

No, this isn't a post about cricket. A couple of posts ago I alluded that I often complain that I don’t have enough tops in my wardrobe. It got me thinking about just what is in my wardrobe and how much of it do I actually wear. This evening I decided to find out. I counted all my clothes that live in my wardrobe (it doesn’t include my evening dresses that live in the spare room). Here are the stats - these are actual. You’ll see that I have a small pile of items that need to be repaired at some point. 

Wardrobe counting

It turns out that I wear 62.5% of these items. The other 37.5% rarely, if ever, see the light of day. They just hang there and every morning I look at them before passing them over for something else. There are a mixture of reasons why they aren’t used - they are too small, they are uncomfortable or they don’t go with other items. I have a lack of options for trousers for play - just my jeans. All the trousers listed I wear for work. I feel that there is some validity in my feeling that there are a lack of tops. I wear similar clothes to work as I do at the weekend. 

Moving through the items, I became intrigued by the colours that were there. I believed I had a lot of blue and purple. Was I right? Yes and no. Here are my colours (excuse the mess at the bottom):

Wardrobe contents

A friend recently gave me a gift of fabric that was pink because I always wear that colour a lot. I didn’t believe her. It turns out I have more pink and black and blue than I originally thought so my friend must be right! I also have very little purple. I adore red, yet have just one dress in that colour. I’m not a fan of orange or green but I have more items in those colours than I expected. 

“So what?” I hear you all say. Well, it isn’t great not to wear over a third of your clothes. Looking at each of the items, I can’t see any immediate opportunities to refashion so I’ll probably take a lot of them to my local charity shops. Hopefully someone will want them as they are, or can make something from them. It is obvious that I can live without these extra items but I don’t want to continue complaining about not having items. So, I have decided to replace 20 items with my own creations. I guess this is like a late sewlution. Here are my rules:

20 individual items from 20 patterns
All sewn between March and December 2013
At least half of them will not be black, blue or pink
This doesn’t stop me making duplicates but they won’t count towards the total. 

That works out at 2 items a month. Surely I can manage that?! I have given myself a little head start by including my Mathilde, mainly because the numbers fitted so nicely with the months! I have chosen 13 patterns.

2020 patterns

The 14th will be another blouse of some sort. The remaining six will be chosen over the year as I know that patterns will be released and I will want them. 

I’ll be working on the Alma blouse on Saturday. I’ll be joined by a friend who is making her first item. Wish us luck! 

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Completed: Submarine Mathilde

When I first saw Tilly’s Button-Back blouse as it was known then, I knew I wanted something similar. In, what for me is classic fashion, I got side tracked by dresses and skirts and didn't do anything about finding a top that was similar for many months. Then Tilly released the pattern to the delight of everyone. Here is my finished version.

Mathilde front

I have no doubt that I am echoing the words of many when I tell you that this pattern is absolute dream to work with. The actual pattern is easy to assemble, providing you follow advice on how to print it correctly (I didn't on the first page) and the instructions are very clear. I love the check boxes next to each step – it appeals to the list maker within me. It is a satisfying feeling when you add the next tick, I feel like I am always making progress when that happens!

Once you get past the pleats and remember how to make French seams (if using), this comes together very quickly. That reminds me. Have you seen Tilly’s detailed, and I mean detailed, step by step tutorials? They are a fantastic resource and I used the one for the pleats.  It was my first time creating them and I wanted to check that my instincts were right. Turns out they were. I’m rather pleased I went for cotton and not a slippery fabric to begin with.

Mathilde back

Am I happy with my version? Absolutely. Trying to get gatherings to look similar at the top of sleeves is always a challenge for me but I've actually managed it this time!  I normally wear more fitted tops and was a little unsure about the loose fitting but those doubts are long gone. I have spent most of yesterday just admiring the sleeves out of the corner of my eye. I do love that there is a lot of volume in them. Generally you won’t see me in prints like this often but that may change now. There is one thing I would alter though and that is the position of the top button as the top right corner does stand away from the back a little but it isn't a big deal. I also realised that I have the perfect shoes to match this top - my red Poetic LicenceBacklash shoes. The ribbon is not too far away from my fabric. I missed out on the pale blue version (*sob*) but they now have some with polka dots! Check out these! Anyway, I digress.

Mathilde full view

One other thing, I might also see what taking it in a smidge at the hips does. I have narrow hips and it feels a little big at the bottom and in the strongish winds we've had here, this is where I am feeling it. Saying that, there will definitely be more Mathilde’s in my wardrobe and I’m on the hunt for fabric to make the next one. Have you got your hands on one of these yet?

Monday, 11 March 2013

A couple of silly mistakes

Happy Monday! I managed to get a surprising amount of sewing done over the weekend between celebrating a friend's birthday. The blouse is taking shape and so far I'm very pleased it with it. I did hit a minor problem when cutting out though. You'll probably laugh but I don't have enough fabric for the sleeves! However a quick purchase from The Village Haberdashery solved that. I just hope the fabric matches. 

I also didn't realise the fabric had a pattern until I looked closely when it was drying. It has seaweed and submarines on! See, look...

These photos also shows the blue better than the last ones. And here are my buttons. I couldn't resist them poking out of the basket as I walked by. 

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

New Project!

I'm really excited about my next project. I have a lack of tops in my wardrobe that I can wear at home or at work. It seems to be something I have struggled with for years and I've had enough! I don't want to continually scratch my head in the morning searching for something to wear. So I resolved to make more tops this year. 

I've made a couple already and I'll share them soon. But in the meantime I've opted for the Mathilde blouse by Tilly

Here's my fabric

And a close up

My pattern is assembled and my fabric is being washed as I type. I cannot wait to get started although a weekend of social plans may mean I have to push the pause button on my excitement for a short while but you can be sure I will doing as much as I can. Oh, and I need to find buttons, I'm debating between red or yellow. What would you go for?

Sunday, 3 March 2013

I made a quilt!

A couple of weeks ago I was racking my brains for ideas of a present for my mum for Mother’s day. Flowers are great but I wanted to give her something a more meaningful. In case you’re wondering, I’m ok to post this as my mum wouldn’t have a clue where to find my blog! The recent cold weather made a quilt seem the perfect gift and I immediately set about working on a design. I spent a couple of hours looking online for fabric as I wanted to base it around the colours of her bedroom. Here are three I settled on:

The design was simple. Six fabrics which would form diagonal rows with a solid backing and a pretty trim. Because I was up against a deadline I took a production line approach. I cut out all of the squares (each 5 3/4 inches) and then pinned and sewed each row before adding each of them together. I have no idea if this is the best to create a top but it certainly worked. I was surprised at how satisfying it was to see the columns and thus the design come together. This took a couple of evenings. 

Yesterday I attached the batting and the backing. 

The hall seemed to be the best place to do this!

I had been struggling to decide on which pattern to sew and then came across this post by Jane of Handmade Jane and realised it was perfect - simple but effective! I should say that I had come up with the top design before coming across this - great minds. Armed with my ruler and Frixon pen I drew my stitching lines. Have you come across Frixon pens? They are made by Pilot and the ink disappears under heat. You need to be careful as not all fabrics react well, the brown linen on the top had faint white marks after I pressed them and the ink disappeared. 

Can you see the black lines?

The trim is pink cotton bought from the delightful Darn It and Stitch in Oxford and is secured by a faggot stitch - it just looked so pretty!

This one is by no means perfect but I did have fun making it. I’m not sure I will become a dedicated quilter but I can see myself making a few more for gifts or maybe one for me for next winter. If I do decide to make another I’m definitely investing in a rotary cutter! Anyway, here are a few photos of the finished article:

Ooooh, dark chocolate and white 
Pretty in pink and green


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