Pattern hack: The Afternoon Bolero

What do you wear to a wedding? The age old question for us sewists is do I make a dress? We were invited to a wedding at the end of July and I didn't have time to create a new dress. Thankfully I had a few lovely RTW ones that I could pull out. Still, I wanted to have something handmade and I was missing a suitable jacket. 

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I had come across a beautiful 1950s bolero on Pinterest. It had kimono sleeves and buttoned up at the front with a round neckline. Sound familiar? 

Of course, it is exactly like the rounded neckline Afternoon Blouse.

I pulled out the pattern and began a very simple hack. To fix the gapping neckline I had on my previous versions (here and here) I went down a size at the shoulders. To get the desired shape of the bolero, I drew a straight line from the end of the curve on the neckline to the lengthen/shorten line. For the back, I used the lengthen/shorten line as the hemline. I then trued the side seams to ensure they were the same length. 

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The fabric is white crepe which was part of a large fabric stash I was given a few months ago. It was great to work with, and is stable although there were a few indentations from the iron when I pressed it with a too hot an iron. These were covered fully with silver bias binding. I really wanted to get robin egg blue or mint binding but couldn't find them in a satin finish locally. It had to be satin to smarten it up! 

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The bolero is self-lined, meaning I cut two sets of the front pieces and the back. This allows the pattern to be reversible, providing your happy to restitch the button or find another way to close it. The button is wooden button with a pink flower. The whole project took a few hours to finish and was very satisfying to make. 

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The photos were taken recently as unfortunately I didn't get any photos at the wedding where I matched the bolero with a peach 50s style dress with a full skirt. It was overcast with a little rain in the morning and by the time it brightened up, we were having so much fun I completely forgot to get the camera out. It was definitely one of the best weddings I have been to! 

The Cressida Skirt

Have you seen the Cressida Skirt, the latest pattern from Jennifer Lauren? I was lucky enough to be selected as a pattern tester. 

Cressida is a half circle skirt with two versions. View 1 is a double breasted button up. View 2 has a single button placket and button waist tabs. Both versions have in seam pockets. I knew immediately that the second version would be a perfect addition to my autumnal work wardrobe. I love the more simpler, elegant lines of this version. 

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To test the pattern I originally used lightweight cotton as I anticipated I would need to make alterations (as I do with most patterns). The test garment came together very well - the skirt drapes well in lightweight cotton. However, for my final version I used a grey suiting fabric I got from The Man Outside Sainsbury's at Walthamstow Market for about £6m. It has a beautiful drape, is wonderfully soft (even after washing) and was a delight to handle. 

I made just two alterations. I added a little extra to the front parts of the skirt, a reasonably common alteration for me. I also moved the waistband tabs to make them a little more central as they were coming up at the sides. This is something that Jen has altered for the final version. 

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The skirt is pretty easy to construct and Jen's instructions are clear. It is designed for all levels and anyone can tackle this as long as you're ok with, or willing to try and tackle, button holes. It is a perfect project for dipping into over a week or is easily completed over a weekend at a leisurely pace. 

As this is an autumnal item, I chose to fully line the skirt to prevent the skirt sticking to my tights when the cold weather really bites. Lining the skirt is not included in the instructions. I cut the skirt pieces only and added them when I stitched on the button plackets. Incorporating the lining here gives for a really lovely finish. If you need to length or shorten the skirt, you can do so by adding or taking away from the hem. I didn't chance the length at all. 

I used a 1.5cm hem on the outer fabric.

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Amazingly, I kept the pockets! Regular readers will know I'm not a fan of pockets in skirts and dresses. I was pleasantly surprised by these though. They had the potential to stick out slightly and give that ugly shaping at the hips. Nope, none of that. Jen really took care with the width of the skirt to ensure they lay flat. Once I saw this, I just couldn't resist them.   

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The biggest problem I had was getting buttons to complete the skirt. I picked up these light blue and grey buttons with flowers on them at Hobbycraft but they didn't have enough to complete the project. I put out a call for help on Twitter and Vicki Kate came to the rescue. I love the sewing community! 

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In short, I absolutely love this skirt. It is flattering and feminine while being practical. It drapes very well from the waist and I don't feel like my small hips are drowning in a huge amount of fabric. I paired the skirt with an unblogged cotton Alma blouse. I really hope that this isn't my last version - I could definitely find a place for an everyday version in my wardrobe. As a bonus, this counts as my second piece for the Fall Essentials Sewing Along. How is your autumn sewing coming along? 

In the interests of transparency, I did receive a copy of the final pattern in return for testing. All views are my own - I was under no obligation to post my version. 

What do you wear to afternoon tea?

What do you wear to an afternoon tea hosted by the head of your workplace? An Afternoon Blouse that you stitched up the night before? Well, of course! 

One of the things I love about this pattern is it makes a great stash buster for fabric leftover from other projects. I dug out the remaining fabric left over from my Beating the Winter Blues Cami dress. The colour of this fabric works across seasons and I love having the option of bright colours all year round.

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Being short on time and logic, I didn't make the alterations to the pattern that I identified last time. As this cotton is more tightly woven than my first blouse, it came out more fitted. There was still too much fabric around the front neckline which bothered me a lot the first couple of times I wore it. The effect was a box at the front of the neckline which wasn't particularly flattering. To correct this, I pinched out the excess fabric and added two darts. I feel much more comfortable wearing it with the added darts and like the new slightly angular look of the neckline. 

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For this version, I overlocked all of the edges. Oh my, how an overlocker changes your sewing life! The arms and hem are machine stitched and I top stitched the neckline so the piece looked balanced. Unfortunately not all of the top stitching is even. I'm waiting to see if I can live with it before pulling out the seam ripper. The button is one I picked up a while back at Hobbycraft.  

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Obviously the photos were not taken in the gardens during the tea (I was too busy chatting and eating mini scones!) but that was the first time I wore the blouse. Instead, the photos were taken in a garden just outside the Botanical Gardens in Oxford - apparently a medieval Jewish crematory lies beneath the prettiness.   

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I love this version and have worn it a lot since it was completed a couple of weeks ago. I honestly don't think I can feel anything but happy when wearing this colour. It can be dressed up or down and is a perfect all rounder. So can my other version it turns out. I wore it to work for a VVIP event with a black skirt and it didn't feel at all casual. You guys were right! 

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Do you have fabric or a particular item that makes you happy every time you wear it? 

Not Normally Me Afternoon Blouse

Do you ever need a quick sewing win? Life has been busy for me recently and following the completion of my Robson coat, a quick win was exactly what I needed. I've seen many Afternoon blouses popping up and decided to jump on the train. 

If you don't know the Afternoon Blouse, it is the first pattern by Jennifer Lauren. It was designed with beginners in mind to complete in an afternoon (hence the name) and is very appealing due to its cute design and the fact that it has no closures. The button on the front is decorative, removing any potential beginners fear around button holes. That's definitely a win in my view! Oh, and it has Kimono sleeves. You can choose from two decorative necklines. I went for the square/triangular one as I feel it has a much cleaner finish. 

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Let's quickly talk about the PDF pattern. This is the best PDF pattern I have used. Jen has really thought about the best layout for the pattern. The front and back pieces are put together in separate blocks meaning you just print what you need and you have little waste. It is also exceptionally easy to put together and everything matches up perfectly. 

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I whipped up a quick toile to test the fit. I fell between sizes and went for the smaller one as I like a more fitted look. I also wanted to try out attaching the facings before I cut out my fabric. This is the trickiest part of construction as you have stitch the facing starting and stopping at the same place on the centre front seam. Finding the place to stop stitching is the hardest part but stitching slightly slower at this stage should give you a good result. Alternatively, you could mark the spot on both sides. 

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I'm on a self-imposed fabric buying ban at the moment and turned to my stash for this make. I chose this beautiful floral cotton that Kelly kindly gave my for my birthday last year. It has pin tucks and stitched in ruffles throughout. While it is very pretty, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to pull it off and feel comfortable in it. I have a mixed relationship with florals - it is so hard to find flowers in the right size, get the correct colours and find the right balance between the flowers and the background. I'm also not a huge fan of ruffles but these are small and sweet. 

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This blouse really does come together very quickly, mainly because there are few pieces and the stitching lines are mostly straight. My seams are turned under and stitched and I hand stitched the hem. I choose to finish the blouse with a wooden button from Hobbycraft which adds more flowers! 

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I like that I can match this blouse with many of my trousers and skirts. I've worn it a couple of times now, despite my initial hesitation with the fabric, and I think it will become a much worn item. However, 

I am surprised by just how casual the top feels. I had hoped that it would become a top specifically for the office (which I'm desperate need of, especially with the arrival of warmer weather) but it feels much more like a weekend top. Or perhaps that's only because I've worn it with denim so far...