Monday, 23 December 2013

Top 5 of 2013

The lovely Gillian of Crafting A Rainbow has asked us to post again about our top 5 things from 2013.

I loved reading all the participants of this last year so I'm getting in on it early this year! In this post I'm doing my hits and misses and I'll cover off reflections, inspirations and goals in a follow up post.

Top 5 hits

I've had a pretty productive sewing year! I made more items that I thought I could and my skills and confidence have improved so much! 

1)  My Mad Men dress

I sewed this for Julia Bobbin's Mad Men sewalong and first wore it to Rachel's epic blogger meet up. It was the first item where I really cracked the fit (with the help of the lovely twitter sewcialists) and also the first time I did major alterations to a pattern. Worked out really well and wasn't so scary! 

Cake Patterns

This is a bit of a cheat as it covers so many of the garments I have made this year! But I have come to love sewing with knits and steph's fitting process makes it so easy! Also they are really versatile and lend themselves to being remade several times. This year I made 2 Tiramisus, 2 Cabaritas, 2 Hummingbird top and skirt combos and a Hummingbird flounce skirt, 2 Pavlova top and skirt combos and 3 Red Velvets (some unblogged, and a lot of them pictured above!).  That's a lot of Cake!

Blue Christmas dress

A really recent make in the nicest fabric I have worked with and I tried really hard with the seam finishing etc to do the fabric justice. Even though it's not quite as I expected I still love it!

The Kite Flying Hawthorn

I loved this pattern when it came out but I was worried about my sewing ability in managing to make a shirt dress. But I needn't have worried with the great Colette instructions holding my hand. I always get compliments on this when I wear it!

The Beach Hut Victoria

I wasn't sure about this pattern until I started seeing it on lots of blogs.  The line drawings looked scary.  But it's such a versatile jacket and I can't wait til it's warm enough to wear without freezing to death!

Top 5 misses

I don't have loads of wadders.  Normally when I start a make I finish it and it is generally not too bad.  Maybe I am lucky (or accepting of low standards!).

Juniper Trousers

These were my biggest fail this year - I was determined to make a pair of trousers in 2013 and it really didn't happen.  I made a muslin which I carefully thread traced to find it wouldn't have fit in a million years.  So I threw it in the sewing box and it is still there.  2014 will be the Year of the Trousers (umm, I think I said that last year...)

A second Gertie Portrait blouse

After making the first one with no issues, I grabbed a cotton remnant to make a quick summer top.  I sewing too far up the side seams so that it is really tight under the arms and I need to figure out a way to fix that without unpicking the narrow sleeve hems I have already done.

The Brave Peony

This is currently languishing in the mending pile.  The zip broke and after 3 failed attempts to replace it (currently the waist seam is totally misaligned across the zip) I gave up and threw it on a chair.  I am terrible at fixing problems.

The Deco Cardigan

This isn't quite a miss, but I definitely don't wear it as much as I thought I would.  I think this is partly to do with the wool content.  I do find it slightly itchy.  However the main problem is the pink grosgrain ribbon I used.  I find that really restricts what it goes with.  I may remove this and replace with something more neutral (maybe navy?).

The Shift dress

This failed at toile stage where I realised that the Burda shift dress pattern I was planning fitted me really badly and I wasn't keen on the line of the shoulder.  So I have a beautiful piece of pink raw silk that I need to find a pattern for. 
Stay tuned for the follow up post with inspirations, reflections and goals for 2014!

Are you sharing your top 5 of 2013?  Let me know in the comments so I can check it out!

Friday, 20 December 2013

Fall essentials sewalong recap

Well I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself! I had ambitious plans for the Fall Essentials Sewalong hosted by the lovely Sarah from Rhinestones and Telephones and I'm really happy with how much I got done. I didn't expect to get everything done as my list was my whole season sewing list, but it was a great start!

As a reminder, the sewalong was a very loose way of organising your autumn winter sewing under different headings. There was a Flickr group where we could get to know the other bloggers participating and I found some great new blogs to follow. You can see my planning post here.

Here's how I did:
Fashionable Foundations for Frosty Weather

I planned 3 skirts and a pair of trousers. I managed:

Teal corduroy Kelly skirt - I answered to call for pattern testers for Maria Denmark's new Paula skirt pattern and made this instead

A bonus Burgundy Kelly skirt - this was my first minerva make

Hummingbird Flounce version

Gertie pencil skirt - not yet started

Colette junipers - not started (unless you count last year's disastrous muslin which is lying in the bottom of my sewing box! )

So 3 skirts, no trousers!

Chic Chemises:

I planned to make 2 tops

Black cowl neck Renfrew - completed
Blue marl round neck Renfrew - completed

I also knitted a cardigan (not yet blogged). It is Andi Satterlund Hetty

Fabulous Frocks

I planned to make 4 dresses:

A winter Anna - Completed

A.teal simplicity 1882 - the bowling dress - completed

A cake patterns red velvet - I actually made 3! (one still to be properly photographed and blogged)

Colette Hawthorn in black wool - not yet done

So I made 5 (although one from the list still remains to be done)

Underneath It All

I planned and made 2 underskirts using Gerties tutorial

I didn't get started on the vests and knickers but I have fold over elastic purchased and plenty of knit scraps!

Baby It's Cold Outside

I planned to make the Cake Patterns Carmine jacket but the pattern hasn't been released yet.  I have the fabric and it's still planned!

Cosy Nights

I thought I might make pyjama trousers

I made one pair of Maria Denmark Laura lounge pants (the second are in the making)

Tender Tootsies

I didn't plan to make any socks
I think this is pretty good especially since I was away for a week in the middle! I am loving my new me made wardrobe and using a colour palette means it is really easy to find things that match!  I planned 12 items (which was never going to happen in a 2 month period!) plus some maybes of undies and PJs.  I actually made 9 and got underskirts, PJs and a knitting project finished.
I think the amount I got done was definitely due to the advance planning. It meant I bought all the notions - zips, thread, buttons etc in advance so I didn't get held up at the end. I got organised with pre washing the fabric and I didn't need to think about the next project - I just finished one and got on with the next. I think I'll do a bit of spontaneous sewing once I get to the end of this list though, but it is nice to do both!
Do you plan your makes or do you pick the next one on a whim? Do you sew for the season?  Did you get involved in FESA?  If you link me to your blog so I can see how you did!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Minerva Blogger Network - The Blue Christmas dress (with extra construction pics)

For my make this month I wanted something festive and chose this beautiful Prada (eek!) crepe.   I chose the fabric first and set out to find a pattern that would work and make the most of the gorgeous drape.  Retro Butterick 5707 fit the bill, with its cowl neckline.

The fabric has a shiny satin side and a matt crepey side.  I had intended to use both sides in the dress with the shiny side for the cowl, but loved the matt teal side so much that I only used the shiny side for the belt!
As I was too scared to cut into such lovely fabric without one, I made a toile of the bodice.  I lengthened the bodice by 3” (which I think may have been too much) and graded out from a 14 bodice to a 16 for waist and skirt. I did my usual ½” FBA.  The skirt is super long in the pattern – I’m 5’9” and it came to mid calf.  I had intended to use the long skirt as per the pattern but it didn’t look right, so I ended up cutting 3” off to make it knee length.

I bound all the seams with rayon seam binding as I wanted to treat such special fabric well!   After discussion with the lovely Tania, I ordered some Hug Snug seam binding from Ebay in the US.  It finishes the seams beautifully but adds no bulk at all.  It's great stuff - somewhere in the UK must stock it so if anyone finds a UK retailer please let me know!  However my application of it leaves a bit to be desired (hence why there are no close up pics in this post!)

After a total fail on inserting the zip by machine, I did a hand-picked zip.  I also sewed the sleeve hems and skirt hem by hand to avoid having stitching showing on the right side.

I made a self fabric belt using the shiny side of the fabric and a silver buckle from Minerva.  I love the belt (although it needs a press stud to keep it closed due to the slippiness of the satin – I didn’t think that one through well!  But it looks good!)
I’m a bit disappointed that the neckline isn’t as drapey as I expected – I think it would have been perfect in this fabric. It definitely seems like a more modern shape rather than a proper cowl.  I was envisaging a Mad Men style cocktail dress, but the end result seems to have lost a lot of the vintage feel.  I think I left a bit too much ease in the bodice, but it will definitely be better for eating a nice big Christmas dinner! But I think the end result is much more wearable than the full-on vintage style in the pattern would have been.

I do love the dress.  It’s very comfortable and doesn’t cling to tights due to the satin inside, so no slip needed.  I would say I can’t wait for Christmas to come so I can wear it, but I have far too much to do before then!  Still at least I know what I’m wearing!

If you like my Blue Christmas dress, you can make your own with the Minerva kit, which contains the Butterick 5707 pattern, 2 metres of the teal crepe and the silver belt buckle I used.
And for extra points if you got this far, how about some awkward pics of the "pretend to put the baubles on the  Christmas tree" variety?

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Bowling dress

After I did my Simplicity giveaway earlier in the year, they kindly let me choose a pattern to keep for myself and I went for Simplicity 1882.  I've seen some great versions, especially Karen's, but the version I loved was Virginia's from A Sewing Life.

I had an idea for a diner waitress style dress in aqua with black trim, but was thwarted by non-availability of aqua cotton sateen.  By the time I got to this one, autumn was approaching, the time for wearing aqua was running out and I spotted this teal sateen in my local Fabricland.  I paired it with a black sateen from Ebay.

This was my first Amazing Fit pattern and I really liked the system!  It comes with bodice pieces in A-D cup sizes, as well as slim, average and curvy fit skirts. So the first step is to get busy with a tape measure to take the difference between your high bust and full and waist and hips to decide on the pattern pieces to use.  Of course if your fabric has a little stretch (as mine did) it's quite forgiving!

Normally I do a 1" FBA on big 4 patterns, so I went for the C cup bodice and the average fit skirt (based on measurements as above).

Rather than doing a muslin, the pattern has large seam allowances for fitting, so it has you baste all the pieces together wrong sides together and try it on so that you can adjust the seams.  I did find the unpicking of the basting slightly annoying as the sateen showed every pull and needle hole - probably didn't help that this pattern had a separate 3 panelled front midriff and princess seamed bodice so lots of unpicking!  But still, no muslin!

I added the optional homemade piping (if you haven't made piping and like the look you really must try it - I love the effect and it is very easy to do with no special equipment needed) between the upper bodice and midriff pieces and at the waist.  It frames the nicely shaped midriff panel so well!  I also went for the contrast collar and bow (I was debating not adding the bow but if you saw the finish on the centre front V you would know why I did - not my best work!)

I had no real issues with it - these patterns would be great for fitting newbies as the instructions for fitting are very good.  Also the different sized pattern pieces make it easier to get closer to the right fit from the beginning.

I did deviate from the instructions with the invisible zip.  As I have had issues inserting these over piped seams in the past, I went for a hand picked normal zip instead.  I think I'm going to do this a lot more often in future.  As hand sewing goes, a hand picked zip goes in so quickly and easily (certainly compred to unpicking and redoing several times!), looks great and gives you so much more control of the final outcome than a slippy zipper foot that persists in sewing over the teeth and jamming the zip!

I also hand catch-stitched the hem, just because I preferred the look of it on such smooth fabric.

I wore this bowling with the Spoolettes - you'll have seen pictures on Clare, Sally, Janene, Nicole, Kathryn and Emmie's blogs to name but a few!  I did wish I had made a name badge but I totally ran out of time.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Red Velvet with added collar

Here's my second finished Red Velvet dress. 

This time I used the same crepe jersey from Minerva but in the plum colourway.

All the fitting etc was exactly the same as I used the same fabric, but this time I decided to add the collar. I wasn't sure about it at all before I started and figured I would baste it on and see how it looked.  I have to say I love it! It makes the dress look totally different from the red one.
The finish is great. I found it much easier to get a clean neckline finish as I followed the instruction to have the interfaced side facing up. This seemed counterintuitive to me but it is much easier to avoid the dreaded puckers! 

I also sewed the side seams with the extra I took off the first time removed.  Which made matching up the side seams so much easier (you don't want to look too closely at the red one in that area!).

I can tell I'll wear this one loads this winter!

Monday, 2 December 2013

The meta dress - a red Red Velvet for #sewredoctober

Oops, so I'm late blogging this one (there's a surprise!) but I did actually sew it in October! 

And another surprise (not!) is that I am in love with Red Velvet, one of a raft of new patterns StephC from Cake Patterns has released. As a total Cake fan girl, I love how easy she makes it to get a great fit off the bat with no muslin, and how you can get lots of different looks from the same pattern.

As I generally need extra length, I started with a tape measure.  This pattern conveniently has the bodice length and skirt length marked.  I lengthened the bodice pieces by 2" and the midriff pieces by 4". I cut the skirt with an extra 2" length. As usual with Cake, you use your own bust and waist measurements to make your own pattern pieces and choose bodice pieces based on cup size.

This version used a lovely crepe jersey from Minerva Crafts. I spotted it when Winnie used it to make her Victoria blazer and promptly ordered it in a few colours including this lovely bright red.  It's pretty stretchy with a 4 way stretch and super comfortable to wear. I would definitely recommend nabbing some of this jersey while they still have it in stock as you can't beat it for the price!

For the first version I decided not to add the collar. I also didn't add the invisible pocket as for me, pockets are for my hands!

It was really easy to make and fit as ever. At the fit check, I took an inch off each side seam to account for the stretch in the fabric. Later I took another inch off at the waist. I also removed some of the extra midriff length I had added once the skirt was attached.  This was due to the amount of stretch and the weight of the skirt pulling it down.

On this make I realised the importance of using decent thread for topstitching! The first thread I used was part of a box that came with my machine. It's fine for seaming but the topstitching round the neckline looked terrible. I knew it would bug me so I unpicked and redid it with thicker thread. 

All the seams are sewn using a long narrow zigzag and then overlocked.  Beware of overlocking the pleated waist seam if you have a lightweight (as the repair man put it - he was too polite to say cheap!) overlocker.  They are not made to go through that many layers and I badly bent the upper looper. That's not a cheap fix, believe me! Hubby managed to get it going again but it's not quite right.  I may have knocked out the timing or something.

For the hem i used fusible stay tape and then twin needled and it looks great.

But the dress is fab and I got lots of compliments!

And of course Steph is having a sew along so I had to get all competitive and join in! Go Team Esme! This dress doesn't qualify as I made it before the sewalong started but I have more to show you over the next few days.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

We interrupt the scheduled selfish sewing...

... to show you a baby gift I made for my cousin's long - awaited newborn baby.

I made a receiving blanket which I originally found in a tutorial from Saints and Pinners (but Handmade Jane also has a good one). 

I usually use a metre of winceyette and a metre of cotton, cut in half lengthwise. This gives a good size for pram or buggy and is also great for swaddling if the baby likes that.

To make the applique letters I found a font in Word that was quite clean and chunky (you don't want fancy curls or serifs for this) and increased it to the size I wanted. I  drew around the letters on the reverse of the paper and traced these off onto the paper side of some fusible Web. I normally have to spend ages thinking about this to get them the right way round! Then I cut the letters out roughly and fused them onto the reverse of some fabric scraps. I played about with the placement to get them far enough from the edge to allow for stitching the layers together and top stitching. Then I ironed them on.

Using a fairly wide zig zag ( this was 4 mm wide and 1 mm long) I stitched around the edge of the letters. No fancy presser feet for this - I used my normal zig zag foot. My machine deals with this fine but if you want to try, go slow and practice on a scrap first to see how much you need to manhandle the fabric to keep the lines straight. I swapped the dot of the I for a button (sewn securely by machine).

Then i placed the top and backing right sides together (you can trim to size if you need to) and stitch, leaving a gap of about 4" for turning. I trimmed the corners, turned right side out and pressed. Finally I top stitched around the edge which closes the gap.

We were staying up in Scotland and managed to squeeze in a visit with them. My cousin was very appreciative but does anyone else get paranoid giving handmade gifts that the receiver has to say they like them even if they don't?

Monday, 25 November 2013

A definite autumn essential!

Here's another of my FESA items completed!

I had planned to make pyjama trousers later in the winter once FESA was finished but decided to get them done earlier after noticing the state of my old ones!

I used Maria Denmark's Laura lounge pants pattern after seeing Gillian's great versions. I used the medium size. I added 2" crotch length and the same to the leg length (but the extra leg length wasn't needed - these are long!)  You need to add seam allowances and as I like my pjs wider legged than the pattern pics, I added 1" to each side seam and the usual 5/8" to the crotch seam.

As usual with Maria's patterns it was easy to put together with clear photo instructions.

There is a wide waistband which you can either make from ribbing and wide elastic or stretch jersey and shirring elastic. I used ribbing and they are super comfortable! Can't work out if I could leave the elastic out of the next pair or if they would fall down!

The only change I'll make for the next pair (teal with a charcoal grey ribbed waistband) is to scoop out about 1/2" from centre front as they come up a bit higher than I'd like. But otherwise these are great! They only need just over a metre of fabric and 25 cm of ribbing so a pretty cheap make. These came together in a couple of hours including cutting.

You're only getting mirror pics this time as I'm not venturing out in the garden for pics in my pjs (and also I am in my dad's pretty house which is much tidier than my own!). What would the neighbours think? 

Friday, 22 November 2013

Bend over let me see you shake your tail feather...

I've made the Hummingbird skirt before. Twice. But not blogged either. I know, bad blogger! I'll get to it soon, I promise! 

You may have spotted my denim version on the Other Renfrew post. I wear these loads - what's not to love? A simple fitted pencil skirt with cute pockets (pocket-aholic is totally a thing, just ask Carolyn!). Much as I love the simple style of the Hummingbird Orange, I had a hankering for the fancier Pink version with tail feathers flounce.

The fabric was part of the haul that supplied my Hawthorn, from Remnant Kings in Glasgow. It was a remnant, about 1.7m and cost the princely sum of £4.00. Burn tests were inconclusive but it's a woven with a bit of stretch and there's a fair bit of poly in there. It's a lovely airforce blue with black and white flecks running through it.

I had already lengthened my previous versions to 22" which hits just above the knee. I knew I wanted mid-calf length on this so I made it 28". Clearly I messed up in the measuring as the back ended up longer than the front so I had to cut it down after sewing the side seams. I consulted Twitter, especially Katie about lengthening the flounce. Although I couldn't get my head around it, I trusted Steph's drafting and all was well.

I ended up doing quite a narrow hem as I didn't want to lose much more length.

I love the end result! I know I won't wear it as much as the plainer versions but it's like the denim one's posher cousin! It's so comfortable to wear as the flounce stops you being restricted as you walk, even while the front view is quite pegged. It's flattering even on those of us who are blessed in the bottom department.

I'm wearing it here with my Gertie Portrait blouse.  I love using a colour palette - everything matches so well!

I haven't seen too many flounce versions around the blogosphere. Have you made one? Link me up in the comments!

If I was Jo from Amazing Adventures of Taracat, you'd probably get a some pictures of me shaking my tail feather. Since I am not, you'll have to make do with Susannah Reid on Strictly Come Dancing.


This was the first week too - she's brilliant! This woman is a newsreader, not even a singer or actress. I have spared you the 5 year old shaking her tail feather in her pyjamas - you're welcome!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Autumn Kelly Skirt for Minerva Blogger Network

For my first Minerva Blogger Network garment I decided to work with my Autumn Winter wardrobe plans.

As part of my long term goal to build an entirely me made wardrobe, I had planned to make quite a few separates this season. I've made Megan Nielsen's Kelly skirt before (but never blogged - must get onto that!) It's a great pattern for both summer and winter as it works with so many fabrics.

When I was planning this I was looking for fabric with a bit of body as it really helps to keep the shape of the skirt and the pleats. I chose a cotton drill as it was a perfect weight and colour - it comes in loads of other colours too but I wanted to stick to my winter colour palette.  Of course by the power of Twitter I could check with Megan herself and Vicki from Minerva that it would work well.

When it arrived I was really happy with the weight and sheeny texture of the fabric - much nicer than the twill I used before.  I also got some perfect interfacing which has spoiled me for the cheap stuff I normally use! It's a woven interfacing that fuses really easily without wrinkling or stretching.  Perfect for keeping the wide waistband of this skirt in shape.

The skirt is really easy and quick to put together, especially since i had made it before. It would be a great beginner project or for someone who wants to practice buttonholes. I made a medium and lengthened by a couple of inches so that i could keep the nice deep hem.

Even the buttonholes came out well! I sewed the buttons on with my machine - if you have a button foot I highly recommend getting to grips with it as it's so easy! My el cheapo machine came with one so it's likely lots of others do too.

As I have terrible indecision when it comes to buttons, I was happy to get help from Vicki at Minerva. She helped me pick some great navy ones with a slight texture to them which look great.

If you want to stalk my Kelly skirt you can buy a kit with the burgundy twill, fab interfacing, buttons and matching thread from Minerva Crafts.

Pictures were taken on a recent trip home to Glasgow - it's such a great city for photo locations!