Saturday, 26 April 2014

Me Made May '14

Um, how did we get to May again? This can only mean one thing, many of us will be spending next month wearing our handmade clothes as part of Me Made May. 


I thought long and hard about taking part this year. I really wanted to join in and was all set for repeating last year's challenge but upping the number of days I wore handmade. Then I read Zoe's post. I wear handmade more days than not. Do I wear all of my handmade items? No. I have 38 handmade items hung in my wardrobe and another two in my alteration pile. I guess I wear about 75% of them regularly. Suddenly the challenge became clear:

"I, Claire of, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '14. I endeavour to wear each item I have made during May"

The aim is to work out whether I have been sewing the right items. Have I been choosing the right patterns, the correct fabric, styling the items to show them off well? If I don't wear an item, why not? Is there something that I can change/alter/add to make me love it more? 

There are a couple of items that I am excluding. As much as I would love to be able to wear shorts in May, I don't see it being warm enough so they are excused. I also won't include my newsboy hat - I know I love it and the weather is too warm now.  

I don't know if I will be able to get a photo each day and I really don't want the pressure of visually recording the month. However, I will record how I feel about each item after wearing it for a day and do a full round up of some sort at the end of the month. Who knows, this may just be the push I need to complete the Colette Wardrobe Architect!

Are you joining in? If so, what's your challenge? 

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Completed: Sew Dolly Clackett Emery

Tell me - do you have a favourite blog or one that you always look forward to the next post? I do, several in fact, and one of them is Dolly Clackett by Roisin. I cannot wait to see what fabric she has used to make a dress. That girl can see potential in fabric that I can't. So when Sew Dolly Clackett was announced (a chance to pay tribute to Roisin's style, wish her and Nic a wonderful wedding and try playing with novelty fabrics), I knew I had to join in.

Dolly Clackett Emery

Choosing fabric and which pattern was tough. For the pattern I narrowed it down to the Anna or Emery but I decided to get the fabric and then match the pattern to it. Three weeks later I came home from shopping in Birmingham with two meters of the Viva Frida fabric by Alexander Henry - I couldn't turn down the teal. 

Those of you familiar with patterns will notice that the Emery won. I was thrilled to finally get my hands on this pattern. I had heard so many good things about it and seen so many beautiful versions I desperately wanted in on the action. One of the best features of this pattern is the fact that it seems to fit most reasonably well straight out of the packet. Mainly because I was too lazy to do an FBA, I cut a larger size and lengthen the bodice by an inch. It fits very well around my waist although I need to remove some excess from the neckline (both front and back) to make it fit really work. I skipped the pockets - not because of my dislike of pockets in dresses, but because I didn't have enough fabric to make the skirt properly. 

Dolly Clackett Emery

The skirt is the width of the fabric, just 112cm wide. You see, I don't normally wear novelty prints and I didn't want to splash out on three meters of fabric when I might not wear the dress. While I like the more fitted look, I have to admit that I wish I had bought three meters! A slip must creep to the top of my sewing list as this dress becomes a wiggle dress when wearing it with tights and I just don't have the patience for slow dainty steps! 

Dolly Clackett Emery

I lined the bodice with some navy fabric I picked up at the Fancy Silk Store. I'm not sure what the fibre content is, probably a poly, but it feels lovely against the skin. It has been a while since I lined anything and I'm pretty happy with the result but I need to work on my under stitching which would have probably got a stern look if being judged on the Sewing Bee. I don't have much to say about the construction, it has been covered well by others, but I will say it is simple and quick to make. I can completely understand why the Emery has become a favourite for many. I have the perfect fabric in my stash for a second. 

In addition to creating wonderful dresses, there are two other things you should know about Roisin that are relevant to this sewalong. First, she has the most amazing shoe collection I have seen (and I have friends who have pretty great collections). I turned to my trusty red Backlash shoes by Poetic Licence. Second, most of her photos are taken outside her front door. Sadly I don't have an attractive front door but I could replicate this photo outside the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford.

Dolly Clackett Emery

I was amazed that I didn't feel too self conscious when posing for the photos, not because people stare at you while posing for shot after shot but because I was wearing something so out of my comfort zone. Or so I thought. Turns out bright colours and interesting prints are great fun to wear. I might just be buying more of them...

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Completed: The Diamond Winifred

Thanks for your comments on my last post. It is good to know that many of us have found some sort of normality during tough times by crafting. This week has been similar to last but more importantly I have the first completed item to share with you! Let me present The Diamond Winifred. 

I fell for Winifred as soon as Abby released her. Cute front tucks that create a box pleat effect, a flowing skirt, no fastenings, an elasticated back covered by a fabric belt, kimono sleeves - what is not to love?! And she has lived up to expectations despite a couple of self-inflicted imperfections. The style is flattering, the design is simple yet full of interesting features.  


I looked in my stash for fabric and chose the final piece I picked up in Mood - a stretch cotton with white and blue diamonds. The stretch is perfect for pulling this dress on and off. Cutting out took some brain power as there was a very real danger I wouldn't have enough fabric or the front pieces would have needed to be cut slightly off grain. In the end I managed to squeeze them out, on grain, by cutting in a single layer and fully rotating the pattern piece - thankfully it didn't make any difference to the direction of the pattern. As a result I made no attempt to pattern match although I have managed to keep the lines of the pattern consistent (so wasn't a fluke!) 


I bought the pdf pattern and it was a slightly disappointing experience as the layout is wasteful. There were some pages where only a few centimetres were used and in some cases there were a 5mm discrepancy in matching the lines. I had to re-stick a number of pieces once I had roughly cut out each piece. However that frustration was forgotten as soon as I started sewing. 


The measurements on the pattern differ to what you normally see as the waist measurement is one inch smaller than the bust measurement. I chose the size based on the bust, as the excess fabric would be pulled in by the elastic at the back and whipped up a toile. It told me that I had the right size but I needed to add extra to the front as the side seams finished a inch closer to the front than they should. I also needed to raise the back shoulder seam by the same amount. I had expected to need to raise the armscye, like I did on my Mae blouse, but this one fits perfectly. 


Construction is as easy as you would expect for a pattern aimed at beginners. I did have some trouble setting the collar though. I couldn't get it sit smoothly where it joins the shoulder seams despite ripping it out several times. I'm just about satisfied with how it is sitting now after tacking it down in many more places than recommended in the instructions. I'm certain that this issue is my fault and that I missed a needed alteration on the collar when I moved the shoulder seam. Luckily the rippling is covered by the collar but I should go back to the pattern and work out what I did. I didn't want the pattern to be interrupted by the thread so I catch stitched the hem and sleeves by hand. I'm pleased with the result as it looks almost invisible - you would have to look very closely to find any sign of the thread in the blue diamonds.


Unfortunately the finished fit isn't quite as good as I had hoped it would be. I have a slight ripple around my waist at the front where the darts finish. I wonder if this is because the waistline of the pattern is a little higher than my natural waistline and I didn't pick this up in the toile. I added a popper to the belt as the fabric slips too much to stay in place. The hem is straight, despite how it looks in some of the photos. I'm not going to worry about this as I quite like the slight hi-lo look that is created by the heels. 


Despite the fitting issues I absolutely love this dress and feel great in it. The balance is very good (or would be if I got the waistline in the correct place!) and the sleeves are great. Kimono sleeves are quickly becoming my favourite as they give a lovely line as well as being easy to sew. The belt at the back is a really neat feature - I love it when designers give as much though to details at the back as well as the front. I even bought new shoes to go with it - the dress was screaming out for shiny blue heels and who was I to disobey? 

Saturday, 5 April 2014

When sewing gets you through

Boy, this week has been tough. It has been a very long and trying one. Almost every aspect of life has been stressful at some point. Normally when this is the case I turn to chocolate, biscuits or some combination of the two. However, this week has been different. Instead of reaching for a nearby sugar high, I've been reaching for anything sewing related, no matter how tenuous the link. 

Three projects

I suddenly find myself with three projects on the go. I have cut out my Robson coat and started to piece it together. I made three bodice toiles for the Emery and Winifred dresses (two for the Emery, not three each!) and then cut them out of the fashion fabric. One of them is almost completely finished. This is a lot for me - I'm normally a one or two projects kind of girl. Three actively being worked on is practically unheard of! In addition I've been reading books on fit and fabric, examining patterns more closely to work out how and why they were drafted and have re-watched many episodes of the Great British Sewing Bee and the House of Eliott. So what is going on?

Put frankly, I've needed to claw back some control and sewing has done precisely that. Being able to plan projects, ensuring fabric is on grain (tearing fabric is amazingly therapeutic!), cutting out the pattern and preparing everything ready for construction is incredibly soothing in a world full of noise, decisions and confusion. The gentle concentration needed for hand basting darts and bias binding to seams has a quietening effect on my mind. Working out how to balance three projects and sew them well but efficiently, without any interruption from others, has been a tonic. I've been taking my time, trying to enjoy every aspect of the process - even when I've realised that I've cut out half a dress and am struggling to get the rest of it from the remaining fabric and keep it on grain. 

But there has been a bigger revelation this week. When feeling under pressure or low, I also re-establish a close bond with “comfort” clothing. Do you understand what I mean when I say they feel safe? They are like a form of armour when I'm out of the house and warm hug when I'm in. This week all of my comfort clothes have been items I have made. I can honestly say this has never happened before. I haven't reached for my oversized university sweatshirt, my cosy green fleece or my pyjamas. Instead I have worn my Ceylon, Miette, purple Ginger skirt, Cami and my Lady Grey. I have been building an layer that is trying to protect me from life's stresses but this time it is a layer that I have built completely by myself. I have found additional strength and some comfort in knowing this. Does this remind you of Karen's recent post where she describes sewing as providing a coping strategy? I think she is spot on. When you need that extra nudge to help you push on, put on some of your favourite makes and take pride and strength whenever you look at them. And the best part about it? It is completely guilt free compared to comfort eating!

How about you? Do you turn to sewing or something else when you are under pressure? And does anyone remember the House of Eliott? 


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