Completed: The Cadbury Ceylon

Do you ever get a thrill of excitement when you put on something you made? I did when I put on my completed Ceylon this morning. Not even a chilly January day, taking photos in front of curious tourists by the Sheldonian Theatre, could dampen that feeling! I finished this dress very late in 2013 and it was the item that completed my 20:20 challenge, although it is not the last to be shared with you. 

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I have wanted to make this dress for a long time. Adam bought me the pattern as a Christmas present in 2012 and it sat patiently while I looked for the right fabric and decided on whether to add trims and other design features. I looked for inspiration from other bloggers and the ones that called out to me most were those made in solid colours. I do have a soft spot for solid colour dresses. However, I wanted to add a little bit of detail and chose a lilac thread for the edge stitching and button holes. I used the purple fabric I bought in Croatia. I'm not fully certain what it is but it feels like a medium weight cotton with a bit of stretch. It was very easy to work with. It cut easily and glided through the machine. The only problem I noticed was it can mark if you press it with too high a heat, I had to use a lower setting than normal with cotton. I've also discovered it creases easily so please excuse the slightly crumpled look in the photos. 

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Like most Colette patterns, it was straightforward to make. The instructions were clear and I didn't get lost once. It doesn't follow the conventional way of piecing a garment together by matching the right sides. To stitch the pieces together you press under the seam allowance, overlap the pieces and then edge stitch together. It is an easy way to create a dress but take your time on matching the pieces together. Luckily I have managed to get an even distance on all of the pieces. My seams are finished with an overlock stitch in the same lilac thread as the edge stitching. 

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I did deviate from the recommended number of buttons for the dress. The pattern calls for 16 buttons. I wanted to make fabric covered buttons and the ones I had were one inch instead of 3/4 inch. I decided to drop the number to 10. This is the first time I have tried to make fabric covered buttons and ouch! My thumb nails were sore for a week after completing them. I definitely think there is an art to creating them and you certainly need a lot of patience. However, these were a breeze compared to the button holes. Yet again, my machine gave mixed results. It did a few perfectly, some were half completed and some less than that. I must have ripped out about six of them before deciding to finish off the incomplete ones by hand. It took a while but it was more satisfying than continually ripping out the thread. It also took the stress off the fabric. I don't know why I'm having these problems. I make perfect practice button holes in exactly the same fabric and interfacing combination but as soon as it touches the dress, it all goes wrong. Does any one have any suggestions or have similar problems? 

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I managed to get the fit just about right. I graded out a size between the bust and the waist. I probably should have done a FBA but it seemed a little too complicated with the different pattern pieces and I had started sewing this at a stressful time at work. The midriff pieces at the front don't quite match up at the bottom and I didn't realise this until I tried it on. I don't think it is too noticeable and is probably because I didn't pay enough attention in matching the pieces at that point. Something to work on if I make this dress again.

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I really like the small amounts of gathering, they are a lovely finishing touch, and I love the interesting neckline. Normally I hem skirts and dresses to hit at my knee but this dress is about 10cm longer. Usually I feel very self-conscious with longer hemlines but it feels right with this one.

Overall I LOVE this dress. I feel great in it and I can see me wearing it a lot right through until spring! 

20:20 Challenge complete and year in review

2013 is drawing to a close and it seems only right to reflect on a year's worth of sewing. 

Let's start with the crazy 20:20 challenge I set myself back in March. Create 20 individual items from 20 different patterns between March and December. Well, I did it! It was tight, I have only just finished the final button hole on my Ceylon dress and I'll get photos up as soon as I can. There were times when I didn't think I would complete the challenge. I was very behind in September and it took some creative thinking and a few simpler patterns to get me back on track. 

I won't show pictures of all of them here - you can find the posts in the list at the bottom if you would like to browse, but I will share the six I have worn the most. 

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While all of the above are worn frequently, the Cami dress has to be my favourite make this year. I love the bright colours, it makes me smile and it is worn nearly every week. My Newsboy cap isn't far behind but only because it is winter here! The Alma is a favourite for work as well as the Beehive Victoria Blazer, which seems to go with so much. The Tova is a wonderful top for staying at home and I wore the Reglisse a lot during the summer months. 

As with most people, there are some misses. I haven't worn the Laurel once and the Simplicity 2541 skirt just hangs in my wardrobe as it is too tight across my hips despite fitting well in the toile. I haven't worn the Anise much and think it is because it feels a little short - I should have added an inch to two to the length. 

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I originally said that only 10 of the 20 items could be pink, blue or black and I made 11. However, I did introduce more purple and green. Green is the real surprise, I've never considered it as an option for me but I actually feel very comfortable wearing it. 

This challenge has made me realise that I am rather competitive with myself and that I don't like to be beaten when I have announced an objective publicly. I have learnt new techniques from pattern cutting to fabric covered buttons, French seams to creating my own bias binding, how to do a FBA and sew with a variety of fabrics. I have got over my fear of wearing hats, top stitching, working with silk and chiffon (especially together), and fitting shorts. I've learnt to tackle large projects a step at a time, to enjoy the process of creating and that my hands are not immune to pin scratches. 

In addition to what I have made for me, I have sewn a Cooper bag, a dressing gown, a garment bag, seven other Newsboy caps, a quilt, a quilted mat for my sewing machine, some heat pads, four cushions, needle cases, a baby's dress, made an ironing board cover, replaced the lining of my coat and created three outfits from scratch for the magpie photo shoot. I make that just over 50 items since March - phew! I'm pretty pleased with that level of output. 

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I haven't made any firm plans for the next year but I can guarantee that I won't be setting myself a challenge now, or midway through. I'll probably focus on learning new techniques and improving others. What are your sewing plans for 2014?

20:20 Challenge:

Completed: Tova blouse

Ooh, I'm getting close to the completion of my 20:20 challenge. Item 18 is Wiksten's Tova. I have seen a few versions around the blogsphere and thought it would make a great casual top for pottering around the house (I potter a lot!) These photos are taken in front of my lounge window. I had planned to take them outside to show off the real colour of the fabric but Christmas shopping got in the way! 

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I downloaded the pdf version as, sadly, I didn't have time to wait for a paper copy to arrive on the door mat. I did have some problems putting the pages together, with many of them not matching up by about five millimetres. I did use a different printer for this pattern so I may have had the settings slightly off but the test square was the correct size. After a bit of tinkering once the pieces had been roughly cut away from each other, they sat much better. 

Wiksten Tova.jpg

The fabric is cotton and the print is Crosshatch. I got it from the Village Haberdashery about six months ago. Like most cottons, it was a dream to work with and pressed very easily. I kept thinking that it was a little stiff until I realised, after I had cut every piece out, that I hadn't actually prewashed the fabric. Oops! I'm not normally that disorganised and the tell tale sign of no folded over edges should have set alarm bells ringing. Hopefully it won't shrink too much during its first wash. 

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The pattern goes together very easily. You need to remember throughout that it only allows for 3/4" seam allowance. You have plenty of opportunities to practice top stitching while constructing the front inset. Both plackets need top stitching as does the inset. I did find positioning the inset the trickiest part of the construction. I just couldn't get the bottom corners to work but after a lot of pinning and repinning, I finally stitched it in place. This is one area that I would recommend basting the pieces together before stitching. The collar and cuffs were very simple to put in. I did add an extra line of top stitching to the collar as it looked a little odd with just the top line. All of seam allowances are overlocked and I'm really pleased with how neat it looks on the inside.

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Over the last couple of years I have leaned towards more fitted clothing and was a little worried about the loose style of this pattern. When I first put it on, I wasn't sure but I have worn it a couple of time since completing it and I've completely changed my mind. I love the length of the top. The sleeves also hit at the right spot as I'm always guilty of rolling up my sleeves. I've grown quite fond of it and can see it being a go-to piece for weekends or evenings that call out for comfy clothing. There is the potential for a smarter version for work and I have this planned to sew in the new year. 

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How about you, are you planning next year's sewing yet?

Newsboy cap

Two things happened this week. First, I want to be a turtle became a .com! I bought the domain name a few months ago and it seemed silly not to use it. Second, I decided to make a hat. I've mentioned elsewhere how this is a big thing for me as I don't normally like wearing hats. However the cold weather is kicking in meaning my ears are getting very cold on the walk to work and the wind and moisture levels in the air give me frizzy hair. A hat seemed the obvious solution. 

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I knew I wanted a cap of some sort and looked around for a decent newsboy pattern. I came across this one on Craftsy. It is fully reversible although you can't really use two thick fabrics because of the bulk at the seams.  My hat is completely made from scraps. The wool is leftover from my Lady Grey coat and the lining from my Beehive Victoria Blazer. You need lightweight interfacing for the cap and heavyweight for the brim. I didn't have any heavyweight so settled for a thick cotton.

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The pieces are all sewn using a 1/4" seam. The cap is made from six pieces and each seam is topstitched. The band attaches easily, in the same way you would finish bias binding. The trickiest part is placing the brim properly but that can easily be taken care of with a tiny notch in the band once it is attached. 

The bottom rim is topstitched in place stopping just alongside of the brim. 

Newsboy hat.jpg

It is such a simple project, taking about 90 minutes from cutting out to completion at a leisurely pace. I love the fit. I have worn it a few times now and I'm feeling much less self-conscious in it, plus my ears are staying warm! 

I've already got plans to make a few more.

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This project takes me within touching distance of my 20:20 challenge - just three more to go before the new year. That's doable right?

Completed: Beating the Winter Blues Cami dress

I'm so excited to share this make with you. I'm hoping you have all seen the Cami dress by Pauline Alice. As soon as I saw this pattern I knew it wouldn't be long before I made it but I just needed to find the right fabric. I debated about using a solid purple that is in my stash but then I went to the Knitting and Stitching Show with Kelly and Vairë Gwîr and found this wonderful fabric. I knew immediately it would be right for the Cami.

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I made a quick toile of the bodice to check the fit after grading out a size from the bust to waist. I was worried about the fit as I've never been able to wear a rtw shirt without experiencing gaping. It fit reasonably well but I noticed that the front was higher than the back and decided to try my first full bust adjustment. Like many of my sewing experiences recently, I'm not sure why I hadn't done one before. It made the world of difference. I do wonder if I made it a little too big but as I won't wear the dress buttoned all the way up I didn't bother to tweak it. I'll spend a little more time perfecting the fit for my bodice though. As I had to add quite a lot I added extra darts at the bust. 

Pauline Alice Cami dress 3.jpg

I was desperately hoping that the construction of this would be easier than my skirt. To my immense relief it was. Partly because the cotton was a dream to work with but mostly because the construction is logical and the steps are easy to follow. I whipped up this dress in two evenings. I thought the collar would be the hardest part but it was quite simple. I did turn to Pauline's sewalong here to make sure I did right. I have to show you my top stitching. It is the best top stitching I've done. Ever. I was starting to believe that accurate, neat top stitching was beyond me but something clicked last night. 

Pauline Alice Cami dress 2.JPG

The pattern is designed with a reasonably full skirt made from two rectangles. It calls for the rectangles to be 39.4" wide. I decided to make it even fuller and went with the whole width of my fabric, about 44". I love the skirt so much, as demonstrated by my cheesy grin below! 

Pauline Alice Cami dress.JPG

To make the dress a little more winter friendly I chose the long sleeve version. The button holes were made without a hitch and I chose some interesting buttons from my red button pot (yes, I have coloured coded my button collection). The left side closes with a regular zip.   

The colours are reasonably accurately in the photos. The blue is rather bright and the flowers are red, pale pink and burgundy. I wore this to work today as I just couldn't resist showing off the colour. I got a couple of really lovely comments and I felt happy in it all day which bodes well for the dark winter days ahead. 

Completed: The power skirt

I love pencil skirts and one of my favourite items for office is my rtw grey pinstripe pencil skirt. Sadly I'm not wearing it much as it too big and is made of many different panels, making it hard to alter and keep the style in balance. 

Luckily I bought some wool in Croatia that would make a perfect replacement. I was keen to use this wool as I wanted to see how difficult it would be to match plaids. I'm always impressed when seeing others achieve wonderful matches and I thought it was time for me to give it a try. I found the perfect pattern, Hot Patterns' Deco Vibe Deceptively Skinny Skirt. I was drawn to the sharp silhouette and the godet at the back. 

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I'll get to the construction details in a moment but first, a quick note on the physical pattern. I was impressed by the quality of the paper Hot Patterns print on. It is thick and sturdy and will last a long time. I originally thought that the instructions had been left out but I found them printed onto one of the pattern sheets. This midly irritated me, as I couldn't put the large pattern sheets away during construction. 

Matching plaids is time consuming! I spent a good while trying to figure where to place the pieces, even using these great tutorials: Sewaholic and Colette. The pieces I most worried about matching were the centre back seam and the waistband. I didn't mind if the side panels were a little off, it's a design feature and you probably wouldn't notice it anyway. I'm pretty pleased with how the matching turned out, except it is slightly off at the back centre seam. 

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I thought that the worst part was over. From that statement, you can tell it wasn't. I had a number of issues as I put the skirt together. I made my standard alterations to skirt patterns - grading down two sizes from my waist to my hips. This was very straight forward, the pieces fit together very well. The problems lay in the instructions, which don't match the pattern pieces in places, and in some of the drafting. 

The instructions clearly state to attach the waistband to the skirt at the side seams. Trouble is there isn't just one side seam, there are two as there is a side panel. If you place the side seams of the waistband to either of these it just will not fit properly. I comprised and placed the side seams of the waistband in the middle of the side panels. That was more annoying than difficult. 

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The main problem I had was with the hem. You create the hem by adding facings at the bottom and turning them up before stitching into place. Sounds simple enough. However, the facings aren't big enough. I carefully checked which way round the pieces should go and then checked I had cut the right size. All fine but I just couldn't get it lay flat. I tried to manipulate the fabric while hand stitching but eventually I ripped them out. 

I turned to my iron to help save the situation. That hem has been to hell and back with the amount of steam that has been poured on to it. Finally the wool shrunk enough for it to lay reasonably flat and I machined stitched it in place. You can see that the skirt pulls in a little at the hem line so it isn't perfect. If I make this skirt again, I'll have to extend the facings or find a different way to hem it. 

Hot Patterns Deco Vibe Skinny Skirt.jpg

I lined the skirt with some gorgeous deep purple silk habotai I picked up for about £5 m at Masons. It is as light as anything and I expected problems while handling it but it behaved itself. I was thankful for this, I'm not sure I could have handled fabric and pattern problems! The inside looks rather pretty, don't you think? 

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Despite the odd hemline I'm happy with this skirt. It hugs my hips just the right amount and has a little bit of ease at the waist which will be rather useful just after lunch. That's a classy thought, isn't it? Completing this skirt also takes me three-quarters of the way to completing my challenge

Completed: It's all about the spots blouse

Following my last post I was determined to find time to sew. I wanted something reasonably simple that would become a quick win. Tucked away in my stash was a deep purple chiffon with white spots. I picked this up on a trip to Goldhawk Road with the idea of making a blouse for the office. I looked around for a suitable pattern and settled on this one from Burda. I surprised myself with this choice. Generally I like a more fitted silhouette and this one doesn't have much shape but I've become more accustomed to a looser fit after wearing my Beehive Blazer a lot. The ties are knotted together. I tried a bow but I just wasn't comfortable. I don't really get on with big bows. 

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This was the first time I had used a Burda pattern. I downloaded the pdf which certainly makes it easier than tracing the patterns off the crazy sheets that come with the magazines, although it still took me a while to figure it out. Turns out there are three patterns within the same pdf. Luckily I remembered to add seam allowance before cutting out the pattern. 

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The chiffon was relatively easy to work with as I used all the tips and tricks I learnt when making my summer cocktail dress. I pinned and pinned before basting every seam. I used French seams throughout and that made for a lot of basting! It was worth it though as the chiffon behaved itself at the machine. If I had just pinned, which was very tempting at times, I would have ended up with a mess of chewed up fabric and uneven stitches. 

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I did struggle with the scantly written instructions that came with the pattern. A lot of the steps just didn't make sense to me. I made a toile to check the sizing but mainly to see the order of the construction. After playing around a bit, I threw out the instructions but kept elements of them like sewing the side seams and the arms in a continuous line. It makes the inside look nice! I definitely prefer having diagrams in instructions. 

The design of this blouse is interesting. Half the front yoke and the full length of one tie are from a single pattern piece. This does leave a gap at the front which needs careful attention. According to the instructions, the seam allowances of the front yoke and ties are taken care off right at the beginning and then it calls for bias tape to be added all the way around the neck line. I couldn't figure this out so just added it at the back and the front. It isn't the perfect solution but it works well. 

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I changed the sleeves and the cuff slightly. The design calls for a slash in the sleeve to be closed with covered buttons. I'll be honest, I was feeling far too lazy for this. After removing two inches from the length of the sleeve I added the cuffs. I can get my hands through with ease. 

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I quite like this blouse, the length is just right and I can see me wearing it quite a bit in the office. It will definitely add a pop of colour to my dark trousers and I have a pair of heels that match the purple perfectly!

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. 

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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! 

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. 

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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. 

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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! 

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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!

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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. 

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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? 

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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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! 

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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! 

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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!

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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.

20:20 Challenge: How I'm getting on

You may have seen that earlier this year I set myself a challenge. Dubbed my 20:20 challenge the plan is to make twenty individual items from twenty different patterns. I'm now almost midway through and thought it was time to check progress. I haven't really been keeping a log of items made except that I know I need to make two items a month. 

I started off with twelve chosen patterns with eight spare "slots" as I knew I would find some along the way and would want to buy patterns as they were released. And I have! I now have just two more to choose. I added the Sorbetto, the Miette and the Victoria Blazer. I also have my self-drafted pattern. 

How many have I made then? Nine, just one short of my target for half way. I'm pleased that I have managed to stay on track so far. I couldn't resist sharing again the photos of the completed items! Unfortunately I don't have photos for my Miette or the Sorbettos (yes, plural) yet but they will come soon. 

Deer and Doe Reglisse.jpg
Me Made May 2013 week 4.jpg
Sewaholic Alma Blouse.jpg
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Tilly and the Buttons Mathilde blouse.jpg
Colette Patterns Laurel Dress 3.jpg
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Some of you will remember I promised at least half of them will not be blue, black or pink. I'm still comfortably within this, with six being those colours. The fact that I have been selective with which Sorbetto to include helps with this a bit. Is that cheating? I don't think so as I set my own rules here! Which means you can probably guess what colour the Miette is. 

Three patterns are work in progress. The Peony, which I haven't looked at since I noticed the fitting issues, my self drafted dress and the Thurlow shorts for which I'm going to stay toile number 3 this weekend. I'm hopeful this will be the last one. 

I've noticed that, in typical fashion, I have completed the easier projects at the beginning. I'm convinced this will come back to bite me as I attempt to complete two more complicated patterns a month. Oh well, I learn the hard way! 

What about you? Did you set yourself a goal this year? If so, how are you getting on?

Completed: Anise Jacket

Earlier this month I signed up for the Indie pattern sewalong hosted by Modern Vintage Cupcakes and the Curious Kiwi. I had originally intended to make two, yes two, Colette Peonies. I can normally make Colette patterns out of the packet with some grading out between the bust and the waist, and grading in from the waist to the hips. I made my usual changes and cut out the fabric. Guess what. The bodice doesn't fit. That will teach me not to make a toile of the bodice at the very least. 

Indie pattern month

Instead of wrestling with it I decided to put it away for another day and promptly decided to turn to another pattern from my 20:20 challenge *I will keep on track*. As I was putting away my purchases from the Birmingham meet up the navy suiting spoke to me. "I would make a great, lightweight Anise" it whispered. I was sure that I couldn't finish in time and looked for something else but all I could think about was a navy blue Anise, so I caved in and traced the pattern. 

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Learning from my previous mistake, I made a toile. I'm pleased I did. My standard changes were too big as I've managed to lose half an inch around my waist meaning I have dropped a size. I really enjoyed making this jacket. I decided to take my time and to put a lot of work into the preparation. I get tempted to take shortcuts now and then when I want something to come together quickly but I consciously stopped myself cutting corners. I think it is the influence of my pattern drafting course coming through. The whole thing took just over a week as I steadily made progress each day. 

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As with all the Colette patterns I have tried, it came together very easily even though it has a lot of pieces! I did feel that I was taken back to creating my Lady Grey as the jacket has three layers - fashion fabric, underlining and lining as well as interfacing. I had some horsehair canvas left over and used that as my interfacing and a cotton sheet became the underlining. I did have some problems though. The back bunches up a little, probably because I have a slight sway back but not enough to normally make changes. The collar refused to lay properly where it should and I had to sew it twice and press the hell out of where it joins the jacket before it looked vaguely wearable. My welt pockets aren't perfect but a very good attempt for a first time. I also had trouble setting the lining on one sleeve, it kept twisting as I stitched until I couldn't get my arm in! This meant additional hand sewing. There is a lot of hand sewing to make this jacket. I do love the finish of hand stitching but it a time stealer.

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Speaking of sleeves, I changed the lining for them. My lining is made from a cotton with blue flowers that have a vintage feel that has been in my stash for ages. I needed something more slippery though to get my arms in and out easily. Out of my scraps I managed to find some pink polyester lining. I generally hate the feel of this lining, added to the fact it isn't breathable, and it doesn't make for a great relationship but this was the only thing I had to hand. I didn't want the pink to show at the cuffs so I chopped the pattern and made the lower part of the sleeve lining from the cotton. It works perfectly and if I ever fold my cuffs over (which is so likely to happen), you can see the pretty blue flowers!

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I couldn't be bothered didn't have time to make bound buttonholes but normal ones work well. I got these amazing buttons from Darn It and Stitch. Thanks Jo and Laura for talking me into getting them! 

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Earlier today I took my new jacket for a day out. We went to the British Grand Prix and this is the reason I look sunburnt in the photos - I am. I'll be truthful, Formula 1 isn't really my thing (it entered my life three and half years ago when I met Adam) but going to see a live race is great! It was my second and we were closer to the action this time meaning the noise levels were almost deafening. For those of you who have not been to a race, the noise of 22 F1 cars is like standing very close to about 20 pneumatic drills that are working very quickly with a range of pitch while standing in a wind tunnel. It is a great sound though! Here's a picture taken at the end of the day. It was way too hot to wear the jacket (hello summer!) but I popped it on for a couple of photos.

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I have no idea who the random people are in the background and I promised I am not superimposed!  

Completed: Reglisse

How many of you have seen the Spring-Summer collection from Deer & Doe? When they came out I knew that I would soon be the owner of the Reglisse and it would become one of the yet to be named patterns in my 20:20 challenge. I was drawn to the elegance of it on the model and figured it would be a perfect summer dress. A few weeks later I was in Masons, a local fabric shop, looking for fabric specific to a future project when I saw a girl drape a medium weight cotton over her arm. Have you have had that moment when you go "I HAVE to buy that?!" Well, that is what happened and I decided to pair that fabric with the pattern. Yes, it is blue but it has small white spots on it! They don't come out well in the photos so you'll need to believe me they are there. I need to double check my numbers but I'm pretty certain that I will soon have to leave the blue and pink fabric alone!

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I couldn't wait for the sewalong and jumped straight in. The pattern is wonderful and it is straightforward to make. The bodice is cut on the bias and it has an elastic waistband. I always tend to read the instructions, even if I don't follow them when actually sewing. They are clear although I seem to have missed the line where it tells you to stitch the sides of the bodice together... The skirt is flared and gobbles up fabric. The pattern calls for 3m of 150cm wide fabric if you want to include the collar. I only had 3m at 115cm so sacrificed the collar but managed to squeeze out the rest of the dress with some creative layouts before cutting. I even managed to get the 4m of bias tape out of it!

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I graded out from the bust to the waist and then in again to the hips - my standard alterations. I made a toile for the bodice and it fitted perfectly. The bust darts are exactly in place and the length of the bodice hits perfectly at my natural waist. Even the length is where I wanted it to be. It is the first pattern in a long time where the fitting felt effortless. 

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The cotton was also a breeze to work with it. It hardly moved when prepared for stitching at the machine and stayed in place after just one press. Making the bias tape was extremely easy as a result which was great as pinning it and sewing it onto the skirt felt like an age. It also encloses the neckline. That is when I realised just how flared the skirt is. It also helped for a very tidy finish on the inside. I used French seams where possible and overlocked the rest - they are probably the neatest finished seams I have produced to date. 

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How do I feel about this dress? I absolutely adore it, as those I have spoken to since its completion can testify! I love everything about it, the fabric, the cut, the skirt, the sleeves. Need I go on? It will work well with my pink or white cardigans and a red one, when I finally get round to finding one. I can wear it with a belt or not. I wore it for a warm but slightly breezy afternoon in the park yesterday and stayed reasonably cool. There is a minor issue with it though and that is with the skirt. If you're not careful a gust of wind will reveal everything under it so I'll probably have to invest in a slip to keep my dignity! Having said that, it will take an effort not to wear it everyday and I can see me making a few more of these. 

Oh, the excitement!

I can sew! I can’t tell you how happy I am to find out that I can continue to sew without using either of my feet. It is also slightly embarrassing as I didn’t realise that my machine has a Start/Stop button until a colleague mentioned she had used a machine with one. That rang a faint bell and I raced home to find out that my machine has that magic button! I can now get on with my Laurel, my skirt and goodness knows what else! It is almost like an early Christmas present - one of my stress relievers is back in the game.  

Anyway, enough excitement. What I actually want to talk about today is
I first came across this last year and thought it was a great idea. This year I’m signing up to take part. Ok, so the excitement continues! For those of you who don't know about this challenge head of to Zoe's page. Some of the pledges are amazing. 

I decided I would take part while I was on the bus. I had images of all the outfits I would wear, flashing past like the buildings on the route home. And then I was jolted awake from my daydream. Just like that feeling when the bus driver hits the breaks too hard and you jolt forward, I realised that I couldn’t fulfil this challenge the way I wanted to. Why? Quite simply, I don’t have enough home sewn items. If I pledged to wear something every day then you would be seeing my wearing the seven same outfits, or slight variations of, each week. That would be pretty boring for me, and for you. 

While I can’t fulfil my daydream I can still set myself a challenge. I can easily increase the number of items available if I finish attaching some bias binding to a top and replace a zip in a skirt and maybe seeing if I can save some of my first makes. Add that to the (hopefully) 4 patterns I am due to finish between now and then and I should be more than ok. I’ve decided to tie this in with my 20:20 challenge to give me a extra push. So, here goes: 

 'I, Claire at iwanttobeaturtle, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '13. I endeavour to wear one home made item for fives days each week for the duration of May 2013. In addition I pledge to make two new items and repair at least one.’ 

I won’t be posting daily photos of my outfits, mainly because I am lazy (!), so I’ll do a round up each week. Anyone else taking part?

Also, to readers using mobile devices I have finally managed to work out how to get the photos to show! 

Project planning

I had hoped to share with you my finished Laurel dress today but there is a serious lack of sewing going on at the moment. The reason is I have been spending a lot of time with my foot raised on the sofa. 

Last Saturday I managed to miss a step on our stairs and somehow twisted a number of my ligaments in my right ankle. It was a comical fall! While I’m pleased it isn’t broken the official verdict is it might take six weeks to heal and I have to spend a lot of time resting it. SIX weeks?! This was not the news I wanted to hear as I am incapable of sitting still for a couple of hours. I’m not the type of person who sits in front of the TV night after night without doing something else (although there is nothing wrong with this). I cut out two parts of my Laurel dress yesterday and then had to rest it. It will be slow and small steps to finish this as I use my right foot to use the pedal at my machine. I tired using my left but it sort of messes with my head! 

So, I’ve spent some time planning projects. First up is Simplicity 2451. I have some beautiful fabric in my stash which I’m planning to use for this. I have been waiting for a long time to use these. I just can't resist butterflies!


A dress would be too much and I haven’t been able to find the right pattern for a top. I haven’t quite decided which colour and yes, I am aware that my choices are pink and blue! But that is ok because my Laurel is not.

I’m also going to try out these. 

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They are part of a surprise so I can’t say much more but if anyone has any tips on working with them please let me know. 

I’m working on some gifts and the red bias that I showed in the last post is part of this. I know need to make some piping with it. I’ll share how I have made that once I am to. 

The fourth project is one I’m quite excited about. I have crossed stitched for many years but I haven’t really done any over the last year. This project requires a lot of cross stitching. It will test me a bit as my stitches at the back will be on show and therefore need to be tidy. Normally I frame or sew on my finished items so it doesn’t matter what the back looks like. No so this time. I’m waiting for the postman to bring me a plentiful supply of 14 count Aida before I can start. At least this is a project I can do in front of the TV! 

A couple of the patterns in my 20:20 challenge will need grading up so I’ll spend some time looking up how to that. And I need to think about my fabric choice. 

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I’m starting a pattern drafting course next month to make a summer dress. This will be my first attempt at drafting and I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been browsing the web for ideas and think I am almost there. 

And if I get through all of that I can think about the other patterns from 20:20 that I haven’t thought about yet! It feels quite good to have a plan, normally I hop from project to project. Do you plan your projects or hop around? 

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). 

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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. 

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:

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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!

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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? 

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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.

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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?

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. 

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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):

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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.

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PeonyCeylonLaurelSimplicity 8482B5882 by Gertie1960s Off Center Front Button Belted DressAniseJasmineJuniperAlmaSimplicity 2451; Thurlow

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!