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? 

Saturday, 23 January 2016

January

Over the past few years, January and I have not been friends. It is the month that I find the most difficult and it isn't helped by the fact I normally have to a work trip to Switzerland where I can't find a quiet space for nearly a week. I had hoped for this January would be different and took steps to help by planning some new activities to help me relax and distract me and I've a rather productive month in between long hours at work. I also got a very welcome surprise when the work trip was cancelled for me and I'm delighted that I'm now writing this from my lounge in my dressing gown with a vanilla coffee rather than freezing my toes off making my way through the Swiss alps. 

The first new activity I've picked up is English Paper Piecing which I have wanted to try for a while. When you move into a new house, everyone tells you that you will go through your first winter saying you'll do things differently next year as you'll know the quirks of your house. I'm already there! As delightful as our house is, being built in the 1930s and being open plan, it is a little chilly especially during a cold snap. I've stolen Adam's fleece blanket for evenings on the sofa while he wears a thicker fleece. I feel a little guilty about this but not enough to buy another blanket right now. Instead I've used it as an excuse to make myself a quilt using English Paper Piecing. I've decided to keep it simple by using hexagons and have been slowly working my scrap box to get a variety of colours and prints. I don't have a set design in mind, just a vague notion that I'll work out over the next few months as I stitch the hexagons together. I've found the process so far to be very relaxing for the evenings - the repetition of folding over fabric and long basting stitches soothes the mind after a busy day. I'll have to find somewhere else to store these as my side of the sofa is filling up!

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Last Saturday I visited FabricHQ for a free motion embroidery class taught by Sam. This is another craft that I have been wanting to try for a while and when I realised they were only a 45 minute drive from home, I immediately booked. It was a great morning and it was lovely to finally meet Sam, who patiently took us through doodling on a scrap through to completing a picture. Moving the fabric around without the help of the feed dogs was a little strange to begin with but doodling my name and a few flowers helped me to get the feel for creating curves. I chose to make a pair of shoes and I'm happy with how they came out, especially for a first attempt. I'll be putting them up in the office next week now I've photographed them for this post. As it is so quick to make a small picture and is a great scrap buster, I will definitely be giving this a go from home. I'm just waiting for payday so I can buy a darning foot and some bondaweb.  

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My poor sewing machine has been feeling a little unloved while it has been trapped by boxes but I have had use of my overlocker. I could have moved the boxes to get to my machine but I decided against it and saw it as an opportunity to finally get to grips with sewing with knit fabrics. Last January I traced the Ultimate Wrap Dress by Sew Over It and then put it away for some reason and forgot about it. I now have a nearly finished dress to share soon. I honestly don't know why I waited so long to start with knits - strange how a delay in starting a project can become an unhelpful mental block. 

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Finally, the cancellation of my trip meant I secured the last place on the trouser drafting course run by Darn It and Stitch. Over four weeks I'll have a block to fit me and the skills required to draft some basic trousers. I'm really pleased to have got on the course as trousers are the most difficult item for me to fit or buy due to my body proportions being different to the measurements used in ready to wear. In the first class we drafted our block and I could see this difference clearly on paper. Homework for this weekend is to trace the block and toile them ready for fitting on Wednesday. I also need to decide on what style of trousers I want to draft over the coming weeks. I have few ideas as you can see in the photos below. 

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Learning new skills and trying new crafts/fabrics has been a lot of fun the past few weeks. Combined with an amazing mattress and some black out blinds for quality sleep, I honestly think they have helped my to get through the month and stay more positive than I might have been. Long may that continue! How has your January been? Have you been learning anything new?

Monday, 4 January 2016

Back to blogging and a peak at my new sewing areas

Well, hello there. It's been a while hasn't it - just over two months in fact. I hope life has treated you well, that you all had a good rest over the festive period and are looking forward to a brand new year of opportunities and stitching. 

The back end of 2015 was rather busy for me. Work exploded with a whole host of changes but more excitingly, Adam and I moved into our new home. Thankfully getting the place was relatively smooth and we got the keys in early December after living with some very kind friends for three weeks. Since then, we've been working on getting the place just the way we want it around the madness of Christmas. We're lucky as we don't have to do any decorating - the house was gutted and redecorated in the four years before we moved in and the previous owners had pretty good taste in decor. The slight downside to this is that it has taken a while to remove the feeling of this being their house but that continues to disappear as we unpack all of our possessions - the final lot will come out of boxes this weekend when the furniture for upstairs is delivered. It is pretty awesome to come home to a place that is ours - I still can't quite believe it! 

I'm slowly getting back into sewing and managed to squeeze in a final 2015 make on New Year's Eve which I'll share in another post. For now, how about a tour of my new sewing areas? We'll start upstairs in the study. This is where my overlocker will live and I'll have to come upstairs to use it as the noise drives Adam insane. I'm not sure how this will work out in practice but I'm sure I'll make it work. In addition to being a work space, it is also home to all of my sewing paraphernalia which is stored in Kallax units from IKEA. The top row contains my entire fabric stash and those pieces that are big enough to squeeze a full or partial item from. My crafting book collection (sewing, cross stitch and other) takes up the next row. It's so nice that they are accessible in full for the first time. The bottom two rows contain my thread, notions, UFOs and other craft equipment. On top of the units are my sewing patterns and button box. Jessica has found her home next to the units. 

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Time to move downstairs and to reveal the room that sold the house to me. We have a gorgeous open plan kitchen and dining area with quite a bit of space! The dining table is big enough for me to leave my machine at the end of the table while we use the top half for dinner (sssh! Please don't tell Adam this is my plan - we can keep this quiet right?) It is also big enough to trace and cut out. 

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In addition, the island is big enough for both activities too. I bloody love this island! I've used it so much in the time we have been here including cooking a Christmas dinner for seven. 

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The open space in front of the chimney breast is big enough for the ironing board. I'm looking forward to having friends round for a sewing party at some point in the near future. 

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Despite not sewing for the last three months of 2015, I still had a productive year. I completed 26 items: five skirts, one coat, one pair of trousers, one jacket, four shirts, one sweatshirt, eight dresses, one Mary Poppins outfit, two night dresses for my mum, and two cross stitched penguins. I completed two of my three Vintage pledge makes although one hasn't made it to the blog. In addition, I made seven pocket squares, eight table squares and added a trim to three bridesmaid dresses for our friends wedding - all in tartan to match the groom's trousers (which I didn't make!) 

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At present, I don't have any major goals for 2016 although I'm sure it will only be a matter of time before I formulate some sort of plan. I was lucky enough to receive a number of sewing books, patterns, and machine feet for my birthday and Christmas and I have no doubt that they will feature throughout the year. In addition, I now have two gardens and some indoor plants to look after. I've never been a gardener or a vegetable grower but I strongly suspect that will change now as I give the latter a try. One of the quirks of our home is that the front garden has been converted to an allotment - it has three big vegetable boxes and the beds around the edge have a mix of plants. So far I have identified rosemary and rhubarb - who knows what else is there! The back garden won't need so much work as it has a small lawn. However, we inherited three pear trees and a green house. Both gardens are looking a little sad and unloved at the moment but I'll get out there once the weather warms up. In the meantime, wish me luck as I attempt to keep two orchids alive - thanks to everyone on Instagram who gave me advice. I have some healthy looking buds I'm hopeful about. 

How about you? I'd love to know what you have been up to and whether you have plans for 2016. 

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