Sunday, 31 May 2015

Sew Over It Betty Dress

How are you all? I hope you're all enjoying your weekend. May has been an impossibly long and busy month for me with many evenings curled on the sofa trying to regain some energy for the next day. This culminated in a big event a few days ago that also left me on the sofa, almost unable to walk as I strained my ankles running around so much. Needless to say I'm very, very pleased to see what back of this month! I did, however, have the energy to make a dress. 

This is a dress that started with the fabric. I've long adored the Betty dress by Sew Over It and finally scooped it up a couple of months ago when my By Hand London fabric arrived. I had ordered an extra metre from the girls to make sure I could fit a Betty out of this gorgeous design. The fabric is Sweet Female Attitude in pale grey and pink and I just love how they work together. 

Betty dress front

Before launching into the construction details, can I start with what makes me sad about this dress please? I was so excited when the fabric arrived. It was beautifully presented with my other goodies (I've not been parted with my mug while sewing since it entered the house). It washed and pressed very well, and has a good hand, like a lot of high quality cottons I've used in the past. I had high hopes for it but they were dashed a little. You see, this cotton is a little unforgiving. Pins left marks and I have permanent lines where I ripped out poorly sewn lines or removed basting stitches. These permanent lines are now white and glare at me constantly. No one else seems to notice it though. Despite these issues, I'm still very pleased that I paired this fabric to this pattern and I hope you will agree. 

Betty dress side

I was first drawn to Betty by her feminine style and back neckline shaping and she hasn't disappointed. We did have a little argument though over the bodice. I had to make a series of alterations: lowered the armholes by 1.5cm, hollow chest adjustment of 2cm, moved the back darts closer to my centre, and pinched out about 2cm from the back neckline. My second toile fitted perfectly so I merrily cut out and during a sewing day with VG, stitched until the bodice was attached to the skirt. I got home, delighted with my progress, only to find that she didn't fit. The centre back seam didn't meet. Fabric was thrown and a few tears were shed. I'm still not fully certain what happened but I suspect I took too much out the paper pattern when I altered the pieces from my toile. Thankfully I had enough left over fabric to recut the entire bodice at the original size and just pinched out the excess at the back before inserting the zip. 


Betty dress skirt

The skirt isn't as full as I had originally envisaged. I struggled to get the full skirt width out of the fabric so removed about 10cm of width from each piece. I also shortened it by 3.5cm to ensure the white borders of the fabric were hidden. I rather like the effect. The cotton hangs beautifully and I love how it flows over my hips. It seems that there is the right amount of fulness for this fabric. Construction was easy. I love that the facings are all in one even if I got a little confused on how to finish the shoulder seams cleanly. Turns out it very easy in practice, not so easy to describe in words! 

Betty dress back

Despite our rocky start, Betty and I have made it up completely. She is a very welcome addition to my wardrobe and I love how versatile she is. I can wear her as a summer day dress or dress her up for smarter events and thankfully I have enough accessories to match her subtle colours. Except shoes, I need to buy shoes - now that's a hardship isn't it? How about you, do have an item that you fell out with at the beginning but wouldn't be without now? 

Sunday, 24 May 2015

A Robson Summer Jacket

Are you full steam ahead in your current seasonal sewing? I'm certainly am! This make is in anticipation of cool mornings and evenings in spring and summer that the UK is so prone to. It also fills a gaping hole in my wardrobe: a lightweight summer jacket.

Summer Robson 3

It's no secret that I absolutely adore my Sewaholic Robson Trench Coat. It is one of my most worn items due to the shape, fit and fabric so it was pretty clear which pattern I would use for this jacket.

Summer Robson 2

I made a number of changes this time. The most obvious is changing the length so it finishes around my hips. The second is stripping away a lot of the features: the front storm flaps, epaulettes and sleeve tabs were all discarded. I took out 2cm from the back - regular exercise is definitely changing my shape! I decided to keep the back storm flap as I really like this part of a classic trench. Instead of cutting two and securing them with a button, I used one and top stitched the turned seam allowance. Shortening the length meant the pockets needed to move upwards. They are as high up as I could make them while maintaining comfort and practicality. 

Summer Robson

As you would expect, there is a lot of top stitching in this jacket. Every seam on the main part of the jacket is top stitched either side and including the sleeves. The stitching is even throughout and this makes me smile a lot. The stitching that lets the side down though is the bar tacks. I definitely need more practice to neaten them but at least each belt loop is very secure. Forgive the collar in the next photo - I should have straightened it out.  

Summer Robson 4

The fabric is a cotton drill from Plush Addict and a Christmas present from Adam's Grandpa. It is of great quality even if it crumples as soon as you touch it. It was fun and forgiving to work with. I managed to squeeze the jacket out of 2.5m - not bad when you want a fabric hungry belt. Shall we talk about the bright pink lining? Yes, that's right, I was far too lazy to want to deal with all the bias binding that I created a lining. Somehow cutting additional pieces, stitching and overlooking the seams seemed much a more attractive use of time than lining up and stitching perfect binding. More practically, the drill would stick to my clothes making it hard to pull the jacket on. I debated for a while on how to finish the lining ( a cotton silk I bought on Goldhawk Road) and in the end chose to bag it. I would recommend top stitching the outer shell before you bag as it is very easy to catch the lining in the stitches. 

Summer Robson insides

This has already become a staple of my wardrobe as it has had a lot of wear since completion. I just love it. The top stitching, fit and the happy colour are the major reasons for this. Although I love the purple, I'm tempted to make another in a more muted colour so I have all occasions covered but I'm not sure I yet justify another version. Do you have a pattern that you want to make over and over? 

Saturday, 16 May 2015

When is a handmade piece worth more of your time?

See that small pile of clothes below? That's the pile of handmade items I can't decide what to do with. They are all currently hanging in my wardrobe waiting patiently to know whether they will ever be worn again or if their fate lies somewhere else.

Pile of clothes

I'm pretty good at clearing out items that I no longer like and wear and this includes my handmade clothes. Yet it is different for these pieces. Sadly they do not see the light of day. They are all too big and look ridiculous when I put them on.

There are many reasons why they have not been added to the charity bag: I thoroughly enjoyed making them, I loved the feeling I got from wearing them, and the fabrics are just gorgeous that I can't bear to let them all go. A small but influential part of me thinks they should be unpicked and resized. Why haven't I? Time - they would all take so long to complete. Somehow it is easier to start over than alter. But isn't that just laziness? 

I'm really not sure what to do with them. What do you think? Should I just take the plunge and invest the time or should I say a fond farewell? To all? To some? I would love to know how you decide whether a piece is worth more of your time. In case you want to judge the individual pieces they are: Peacock dress, Anna, Mae blouse, Cressida skirt and Ceylon

Saturday, 9 May 2015

The Morning Granville Shirt

This post feels like it has been a long time in the making. Do you remember when you helped me decide that Sewaholic's Granville shirt would form the basis of my sew before work experiment? Here it is, after 22 days of stitching, in all its glory.

Granville shirt

You were right: a shirt is the perfect project to stitch when you have limited time as it breaks down into small enough steps. I often completed a couple of steps during the morning. I posted my progress on Instagram each morning and if you missed it you can catch up by visiting my feed. I have to come clean though and say I didn't complete this solely in the mornings before work. As I had very limited silk to work with, I checked I could get the pieces out of the fabric and also reduced the sleeve length in the evenings. Messing up these steps would have made the project impossible! Like many others, I had to reduce the length of the sleeves. I think I took off 7cm. I also pretreated the fabric and unpicked a few seams in daylight to reduce the possibility of snagging the fabric. Still, all of the actual stitching took place between 6.15-7am.

Granville

This is shirt is made from handmade Thai silk which Debbie sent me in the Spring Swap last year. I fell in love with it as soon as I opened it. The purple is amazingly vibrant and the floral print was one that I could actually see myself wearing regularly. It sat in my stash for so long because it measured 97cm wide and 2.3m long. The inside cuffs, inside collar stand and lower collar are from some random black fabric I was given as part of a fabric haul. I think it is a polyester. I wouldn't use it for an actual item but it works for the shirt as it complements the drape and weight of the silk. 

Granville

Given the hour of sewing, stabilising the silk was vital. After seeing how gelatine had changed the hand of one of Hannah's silk blouses, I decided to give it a go. It worked beautifully. The silk became crisp, lost its slippery nature and was like a cotton lawn. This made stitching flat felled seams so much easier. It also slowed the fraying. The gelatine came out very easily at the end and hasn't damaged the silk in any way - it has regained its drape, soft hand and it feels amazing to wear. If you want to know more about using gelatine, check out Hannah's post. I will definitely be using this technique again. 

Granviille upclose

This is the first time I have made a shirt and I found the process to be rather satisfying. There is a lot of precision sewing but I got through that by going at a slower pace. My stitching isn't perfect in many places, especially the sleeve plackets and the collar stand but I doubt anyone will notice. I found the sleeve plackets the trickiest part. Getting a clean point while turning under a small amount of fabric is fiddly. I chose to baste the point in place before stitching the placket to the sleeve. It worked reasonably well and didn't get in the way of adding the placket. We all know that pressing can take a make to the next level and this has never been more true than when making a shirt. I found it fascinating to see the difference. Here's a goofy picture of me but one that shows off the shirt well. 

Granville

While this make is no where near perfect, I do love it. It is a great feeling to have a shirt that fits well, is comfortable all day and is worry free - there's no gaping here! While this shirt was made to go with black trousers or a skirt for the office, I think it works well with jeans. I'm seriously tempted to make several more of these for the office and more casually. Will there be another sewing before work challenge, I hear you ask? Not just yet. This isn't because I don't have the energy or the project but because I am about to start a mindfulness course which will take up the spare time I have in the mornings. 

Saturday, 2 May 2015

"What is your biggest hurdle?"

How do you spend your morning commute? I have recently been listening to podcasts - I just can't seem to get enough of them. Lately, I have started working my way through the archives of The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry and one episode in particular hooked my attention. 

Todd chatted with Jeff Goins about his latest book. The conversation about finding your thing in life, your calling if you will, was interesting but there was a question towards the end that I've been pondering for a while since hearing it: 
Struggle
That question is applicable to every part of life: work, personal battles, family, relationships, exercise and healthy living etc. It also applies to hobbies. I could list a lot of things I find difficult or wish I could overcome with sewing and blogging but I don't really class them as a big hurdle or a struggle - I just need to practice or research them. However, I do have an answer for both.

Sewing: time. Put simply, I do not have enough time to make all of the projects I would like or to learn all of the things I want at the speed I would like. This where I got the idea of sewing before work and I am having fun trying to figure out how to make life a little more efficient while actively building in relaxation and rest. It is definitely an interesting challenge! 

Blogging: the fear of taking the next step. Now that sounds grand, doesn't it? It's actually rather smaller as I don't have plans to change the focus of this blog. I do wonder if I could grow this little corner of the internet in some way though. The struggle comes from many questions that stack on top of each other: what direction? Will my next series be any good? Will you come back if I made changes? And the cycle continues... I'm waiting to see where my thoughts settle. 

How about you? Would you be willing to share your biggest hurdle or struggle in sewing and/or blogging? If so, leave a comment below or drop me a email. 

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