Thursday, 26 September 2013

Best laid plans and all that

I'm still working on my 20:20 challenge which runs until the end of the year but I've had to change my plans. Work has moved up a couple of gears (and it is only just the start of term!) with a couple of really big projects, meaning I am getting home rather tired. Add to this a very busy November and Christmas planning, I realised that if I wanted to carry on with two items a month I needed to revisit the patterns I planned to make.

I've also recently swapped my wardrobe round so my autumn/winter clothes are easier to get to. It revealed a startling lack of options for work. I love to have colour in autumn and winter as it is a nice contrast to the almost constant grey skies. I was amazed to find that the majority of my separates were dark. In fact, all of my skirts and trousers are black, grey, navy blue or brown. How did that happen?! I have a few tops that have colour but I could do with some more. This is somewhat fortuitous as tops tend to be easier and quicker to make.

I've decided to be more flexible with the patterns I make. I think I'm unlikely to get to the Ceylon, B5882 by Gertie and the 1960s Simplicity pattern however I do want to try and make a new dress in time for mid-November. 

New plans

I'm debating about lengthening the bodices from this Cynthia Rowley pattern and also the Sultry Sheath pattern in Gertie's book. I've just bought the Chiffon Blouse from Burda and the toile has been cut out. I'm tempted by the Mae pattern too. 

I feel much better about being able to complete this challenge now I have built in more flexibility. It seems that an emergent strategy rather than a fixed one is a better option this time round! 

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Completed: Beehive Victoria Blazer

Following on from my last post about being late to the party with social media, here is an example with sewing patterns. I've been watching the blogsphere explode with creations made from By Hand London patterns. With autumn on the door step, I noticed that I could do with another jacket and quickly rearranged my plans to sew the Victoria Blazer. The pictures below were all taken on our trip to the zoo recently. I'm sorry, I couldn't resist including animals. 

Before we get going on the details of my version, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the packaging of the pattern. I'm very impressed by it. It almost feels like a DVD case. The pattern and instruction book are placed in a small but sturdy cardboard folder and then there is a cardboard sleeve that goes over that. You really get the sense that the pattern will last for a long time while not in use and that you have spent your money wisely. 

Beehive Victoria Blazer

For those of you that don't know this pattern, it is a casual blazer with a fair amount of ease built in to give it a relaxed feel. While I am completely smitten with the cropped version, mainly because of Roisin's and Marie's creations, I figured it wouldn't be warm enough for the windy and rainy days that are characteristic of a UK autumn. So I went for full length. 

Beehive Victoria Blazer

The construction was a breeze once I had stopped staring at the odd dart at the front. I hadn't come across this before but it really is quite clever. I loved being able to sew two darts, as well as the collar, in one stitching line. If you're interested, this tutorial explains it really well and it has a cute kitten at the beginning! 

Beehive Victoria Blazer

I used the green crepe I bought in Croatia for the shell. It frayed like nobody's business but was really easy to work with once I had overlocked all of the edges. For the lining, I originally planned to use a grey cotton with Egyptian hieroglyphics from a UFO that I have but there was just no way I could get all the needed pieces from it. At a quick shopping trip to Darn It and Stitch I fell in love with the bees and thought it would make great cuffs. I was all for making it the full lining when Adam spotted the honeycomb fabric and the beehive blazer was born. Both are Robert Kaufman cottons. I'm really pleased I chose the bees as it breaks up the colour of the shell. When I put it on to check I had set the sleeves correctly I thought that I had won the Masters!

Beehive Victoria Blazer

I lengthened the sleeves to full length and made a late decision to line them as the overlocked edges of the crepe were a little scratchy. They are a little too long as I didn't check the length before stitching on the cuffs but I haven't noticed it when wearing it. Ah, the cuffs. Using a french seam to finish these are another clever part of this design. It makes for a lovely, neat enclosed finish. 

Beehive Victoria Blazer

I think there will be future versions of this blazer as there are so many options available: a more fitted look by going down a size, the cropped version, contrasting lapels, removing a couple of inches from the hem line of the full length version so it hits nearer the lower waist. Need I go on? The By Hand girls describe it as "the perfect throw-it-over-everything wardrobe staple" and I don't think I can disagree with them. It goes with so much of my wardrobe. 

All I need now is a bee lapel pin. Anyone know where I can get one from? 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Late adopter

I'm often late to the party, whether with sewing patterns, or with social media. I swear I set up my Facebook account nearly two years after all my friends did. 

I was chatting to a colleague the other day on the eve of an event about how we would use Twitter. We both realised that, despite knowing the terminology, we didn't really know much about it. "I need to get with the 21st Century" my colleagues cried, "I prefer late adopter" I responded. 

So now I am trying to live up to that name. I've actually begun to tweet. I'm dipping my toes in the water at the moment but if you would like to say hello you can find me @iwanttobeturtle Unfortunately Twitter set the character length at 15 which means I had to drop the "a" from iwanttobeaturtle. I'll eventually get used to small numbers of characters...

And I'll be sharing my late adoption of the Victoria Blazer as soon as I have photos. 

Friday, 13 September 2013

The cutest thing I have sewn

A little while ago a friend had a little girl which meant only thing - sewing for tiny people!

Seaside Sailor Dress front

I spent a long time browsing patterns and finally settled on the Seaside Sailor Dress by tie dye Diva patterns. I just couldn't resist the collar!

Seaside Sailor Dress collar

My stash provided the perfect fabric. I had some left over pink cotton with pink and white swirls made of dots. I paired it with a thick white cotton for the collar. The trim is made by using a decorative stitch on my machine. Simple white buttons are the finishing touch. 

Seaside Sailor Dress front details

Being so small it didn't take long to sew, probably 90 minutes. I started it late one night and finished it the following day. Thankfully my sewing machine did the buttonholes perfectly this time. The longest part was ensuring the gathering of the skirt was even all the way round. All of the seams are enclosed and stitched down securely. 

Seaside Sailor Dress back

I would definitely use this pattern again should any more of my friends have little girls...

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Thoughtfulness and preparation

Do you have moments where you look at your creations and realise that they are different from your previous makes? For some it could be a slight change of style or using a different fabric but I've noticed it in the construction.

My last four or five makes look different to my previous completed items and they feel different when I'm wearing them. The difference is so marked, that I've been pondering the reason for this. I don't think it is just practice that is improving them, although certainly my seam finishes are much better than when I began sewing and my gathering is much more even. So what is making the difference? 

New sleeves

Thoughtfulness and preparation. I have taken more time at the beginning of a project to think about exactly how I want to the finished article to look and then work out what techniques I will need to make it a reality. I've even found myself jotting down notes before I start (why I didn't do this before, I have no idea!). I've thought more about the inside of the piece. What type of seam finish will look visually pleasing and do the job well? Do I need a lining? Which pieces need reinforcing? 

Pretty in Peacock bound seams

All marks are transferred from the pattern including every notch. I always tried to do this but often found I had missed a few vital markings, which isn't helpful when you find out you have set a sleeve upside down! Clearly I was too slapdash about this. Not any more. I double check everything before I unpin the pattern. Which brings me nicely to cutting out.


This is where I have really noticed the difference. I always took my time carefully placing the pattern piece on the grainline but I didn't bring the same attention to cutting out. I was happy for the edges to have nicks and be a little uneven. The problem with that though, is matching the edges is not easy. I've even had items where there was about an inch difference in the length! The fixes needed when this happens are not ideal and often mean the item doesn't get finished. So I've slowed down a lot, which makes the cutting out process even longer as I'm quite slow at this part anyway! It is worth it - my edges match neatly and finishing them is much easier. Hemming no longer has the same amount of dread attached to it, which we all know is a bonus!

So what about you? Have you had moments like this? 

Friday, 6 September 2013

Completed: Pretty in Peacock dress

A short while ago the generous people at Minerva asked if I wanted some fabric. I took a look at their collection and my heart leapt when I saw this beautiful peacock cotton lawn and said yes please. I knew immediately which dress I would make and so my Fall for Cotton dress was born before the sew along was announced!

Pretty in Peacock 3

I posted about the pattern and instructions earlier this week. It was fun to work with a vintage pattern and I will definitely try it again. I had to grade up the pattern by three sizes. This was my first attempt and I was guided this fantastic tutorial from Casey. Turns out it was not as difficult as I expected. I don't think I slashed the original size in quite the right places so something to work on next time. 

Pretty in Peacock 4

I made a toile of the dress so I could check the size but also to work through the instructions in case there were any difficult parts. The construction is actually pretty simple but there are quite a few steps. I quickly realised that the key to success with this pattern is the preparation, namely transferring the markings from the pattern to the fabric. There are so many stitching lines, tuck lines, darts, pleats and button holes to mark. I must have spent an hour making dozens and dozens of tailors tacks. 

Pretty in Peacock side view

I wanted to a blue stripe for the buttonholes, like the original pattern drawing, and figured that this would be straightforward as it looks like two pattern pieces. It isn't. I solved this by chopping the pattern at the tuck line closest to the edge of the pattern and added seam allowance. You can't see the join as that seam is at the bottom of the tuck. Can you see how well the blue matches the eye of the peacock feathers? Whoever picked this out at Minerva did a fantastic job! 

Pretty in Peacock 2

With autumn approaching I wanted a dress that I could wear over the next few months and therefore decided to underline the dress using the medium weight white cotton I had left over in my stash. Together, the fabrics were wonderful to work with and pressed brilliantly. It was such a nice change after the silk chiffon. I used the blue cotton to bind the seams and think it gives a neat look on the inside. I didn't measure how much bias tape I made but it was a lot! 

Pretty in Peacock bound seams

The trickiest part of making this was the button holes. For some reason my machine made four beautifully and then threw an absolute fit for the others. After testing, and checking for lint or stray thread and still not getting anywhere, I turned them upside down. I now have as many button holes as needed but the last two aren't great, at least the buttons cover most of them. 

Of course, this dress is not complete without a bow at the top and a belt. I made sure I had enough blue cotton to make them both before I whizzed up the bias tape. There was no way I would be missing out on them. Can you guess whose tutorial I used to make the belt? Of course, it's Tilly's!

Pretty in Peacock

I absolutely love this dress although I probably spend too much time admiring the print! I'm really pleased I bought the pattern and included it as part of my challenge (number 12 now completed). It is getting its first public outing tomorrow at a work event.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Fall for Cotton: the pattern

I'm making progress on my Fall for Cotton dress. This is my first time using a vintage pattern and I thought I would share a few of the differences between this pattern and the modern ones I'm used to. 
Mail Order 4675

I was surprised by how sturdy the tissue paper is for the pieces. Although faded, there is no degradation. It has been cut by a previous owner and you can see holes where they copied the darts, tuck lines, buttonholes etc but it doesn't look like it will split anytime soon. The instructions sheet is so different though. It is very fragile and is splitting dramatically along the fold lines. The holes in the left side get bigger every time I touch the paper. I knew it wouldn't survive the creation process so I took detailed photos of the bits I need. I like to choose electronic options were possible but I have missed being able to tick off which steps I have completed, especially when I don't follow them in order. 

Mail Order 4675

This is a printed pattern but there is more information on the pieces that I normally see. I'm pleased I took the time to look at them before I cut out. The first thing I noticed is that the cutting line and the seam line are included. On every piece, the seam line is marked in full. They are mainly 5/8" but there are a few 1/4" knocking around. 

Mail Order 4675

All of the notches are numbered and referred to in the instructions. I didn't realise this when I started and have had to disregard them as I didn't mark the numbers on my fabric. I don't think it has made much difference. 

Mail Order 4675

The terminology of the pattern is also different. It took me a while to realise that "seam" meant sew or stitch, or at least I think it does. The illustrations can be a little confusing, like the one below. Joining the facings looks easy enough but working out which stitching line you were meant to be looking at in the bottom diagram is harder. 

Mail Order 4675

I've managed to get through it though and I only have a couple of steps left to go. Hopefully it won't be long before I can share the completed dress with you. 

What differences have you noticed with vintage patterns compared to modern ones? 

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Giveaway Winners

Thank you to all who left a comment on my last post, there are some really interesting points there that we can refer back to when we're stuck for posts or even for best practice. 

So onto the giveaway winners. The draw was the old fashioned way: in a hat or rather a bowl, and Adam picked out the names. First out was

Patterns giveaway winner

who gets the patterns. Second out was

Fabric giveaway winner
who gets the fabric. Well done ladies, please get in touch with your addresses. 


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