Friday, 28 February 2014

More Unselfish Sewing - the Junebug dress

I don't know what's got into me!  Not only did hubby get a jacket, but I also made N a dress!

This is the Junebug dress from Craftiness is Not Optional, which I got as part of the Sew Fab bundle a while back.

N chose this fabric, which is Love & Joy Birds in pink by Free Spirit.  We found it in the sale in John Lewis, and she was determined to have the pink, despite my efforts to steer her towards the turquoise.  I did have my way on the contrasting buttons, which are from Ditto in Brighton.

On measuring I found she was the right size for a 4T, which seemed odd - clearly she is just tall and skinny!  I made a 5 (she normally takes 6-7 in RTW) but with the 6 length.

This pattern was really easy to put together with a simple lined bodice and gathered skirt.  The waistline is quite high and together with the puffed sleeves I think this is definitely a dress for a younger girl.  I'm not sure I'd make it for her in a bigger size.

The skirt is quite a bit shorter than planned, as when i went to sew the hem, I noticed I had nicked the skirt about 2" down from the waist with the overlocker knife and so had to cut the top part off - oops!  So it has a fairly narrow hem.  But it's all good - she often wears dresses with leggings, and it's necessary in this horrible weather we've been having.  It also looks better without the t-shirt but again this was a necessity for the weather!  My fault for making summer dresses in the winter!

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Giveaway - Win the Simplicity sewing book!

Those lovely people at Simplicity have a new book out and they have given me a copy to give away to one of my readers!

It's called Simply The Best Sewing Book and it's an update of Simplicity's original book published 20 years ago.  They have updated it to include timesaving tips and up-to-date info on newer sewing machines.

It is spiral bound with a hard cover so that it stays looking nice on the outside but lies flat so you can refer to it easily when sewing.

The fitting section

It covers tools and equipment, fitting (with a focus on tissue fitting but it also covers muslin making), using patterns, cutting and marking, the basics of sewing and how to work with more difficult fabrics.  At the back there are a few basic patterns to get you started.

Love the retro style illustrations

Before I was sent this, I was told it would be great for anyone who has recently started sewing, but having seen it, I think it's the kind of thing that would be useful to more experienced sewists as well. There are some great tips on overlockers which I have found really useful and are not normally covered in "Learn To Sew" books.

Sewing a flatlock seam

The section covering working with difficult fabrics has great tips on how to cut, mark, press and sew fabrics like velvet or lace:

Sewing with velvet

Matching patterns on lace
 The glossary of sewing terms is excellent and there's a really good index to help you find the things you need (and who doesn't need reminding of how to set in a zip from time to time!)

Hand sewing tips

Leave a comment below if you would like to win this book.  It's relatively heavy so only open to people in the UK - sorry!  I am planning a giveaway of my own soon which will be open internationally for everyone!  Please leave me an email so I can contact you if you win.  I'll pick a winner at random from all comments received by 12 noon (GMT) on Friday 7th March.

If you like (but not essential to enter) tell me what your top sewing tip is!

Mine is that you can shorten fabric on the bias by pulling it on either side of the presser foot as you sew.  It's a great way to ease in sleeves without puckers.

Edited to add - if you don't win, you can buy the book from Simplicity directly here!

Giveaway is now closed.  Winner to be announced shortly.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Wardrobe Architect Week 6 - Organising Your Colour Palette

This week's taks is organising the colour palette we came up with last week to see which colours we need more of and which are more accent colours.

When I divided mine up, I came up with the following:

Neutrals - basics that go with anything.

Neaurly Neutrals - like neutrals but with a bit more visual impact

Statement Colours - don't necessarily go with everything but have lots of impact

Plus we had to add Metallics, which is really easy for me - I never wear anything but silver tones.

Interestingly I have realised that as a late teen/ early 20s I wore almost exclusively neutrals, despite always having considered myself to be someone who loves colour.  Now I find I almost wear neutrals as an accent to the nearly neutrals in my palette.  I tend not to buy those classic things that are supposed to go with everything in my neutral shades.  I currently have a red winter coat, a teal and a cobalt blue jacket and a range of coloured handbags.

But I couldn't imagine my wardrobe without a serious dose of statement colours.  I could probably add just about any shade of blue and purple to that list.  I really do like blue a lot, don't I?

Monday, 24 February 2014

Scary Skill Swap - the reveal!

I posted here about the jacket I have been making for Mr Little Time and here it is!

It's been a long time in coming as I got the lining and shell assembled and ready to be stitched together and finished, and he changed his mind about the lining fabric, so it all went on hold while different lining was chosen, purchased and delivered.  Grrrr....

We started with the basic Fairbanks pattern from Green Pepper, purchased from Rocky Woods.  I was concerned that the fit would be very loose - more "hiker" than the look hubby wanted.  On measuring the pattern it confirmed there was about 10" of ease across the chest, which was far more than he wanted.  Comparing the pattern to a jacket with the right fit, we decided on a size 36.  After making a muslin, I added 1" to centre back and centre front to give a bit more space across the shoulders without messing with the raglan sleeves.  I narrowed the sleeves for a sleeker fit and took some volume out of the hood.

Overall the pattern is very good - all the seams matched and the instructions and pictures are very clear, even for the slightly more difficult techniques like welt zippers.

After looking at many different inspiration pictures, hubby decided on a front patch pocket with a flap rather than the welt zip and flap of the pattern or the integrated flap I drafted.  He also wanted the front in one piece without the vertical seams. So I was able to use the front lining pattern piece for the outer (extending it to match the length of the back outer - the lining is shorter).  He also wanted a little mobile phone-sized pocket on the arm.  Both pockets are lined in the navy cotton original lining fabric.  This was the look he was going for:

Kirk Douglas in Heroes of Telemark (Source:

I mocked up a storm flap in lining fabric to get it to the right size and cut it in outer and lining, sewed together and topstitched.  I attached to the inside of the zipper tape before fitting the zipper and it worked (phew!).  He didn't like the drawstring waist so I didn't need to incorporate that.  There was much debate about the hip pockets, but it would have made the front too busy - the Telemark jacket is quite a bit longer.

The construction of the jacket is pretty solid - every seam is straight stitched, zigzagged inside the stitching line, pressed to the side, top-stitched and finally seam sealant tape applied.  I was worried about how the tape would go on given that the fabric couldn't be pressed at more than a medium heat, but it was really easy.  It fixed on securely at a medium heat on the iron and was repositionable until it cooled.  As I was lining the jacket and didn't need to worry how the inside looked, I added extra pieces of tape at the points of stress like under the arms (it was tricky to get the tape to fit nicely round the curve - most of the seams were sealed when the jacket was flat so there was only an issue with the side seams.).

I didn't use the cuff that came with the pattern - hubby wanted a narrower one with a velcro tab fastening to pull it tight like a vintage jacket he has.  So I based the pattern piece on that.  Narrowing the sleeves also meant I could leave out pleating the sleeve at the cuff.

There was a lot of top-stitching so my edgestitching foot got a serious workout!

The new lining fabric is this from Point North.  It's a bit lighter in colour and a lot lighter weight than the cotton (which hubby preferred).  The lining is topstitched around the hood and zip, and finished inside the bottom hem and cuffs.  Rather than using the casing for the drawstring round the hood, I left an opening at the neck edge and stitched parallel to the topstitching to make a channel.  If you do this, a little tip - make sure you make the channel wide enough to get a safety pin through.  It'll make your life much easier! (Ask me how I know).

After much deliberation (turns out having it exactly as you want it isn't as easy as it sounds!), he chose navy buttons from Minerva for the front pocket, navy and white vintage 1960s suit buttons from Ebay for the sleeve pocket, and white cord and toggles for a contrast.  Rather than buy a grommet setter for one grommet at the hem, I did a sort of buttonhole over the side seam to finish the edges neatly for the cord to poke through.

Despite being extremely indecisive and changing his mind throughout, hubby has been massively appreciative of the work and the end result, so he might even get more items made! In fact I have ordered the Pattern Cutting for Menswear book from Amazon so it appears that he will....

Do you sew for your partner?  Is he/ she as indecisive as mine?

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Wardrobe Architect week 5 - colour

This was an easy one for me - I love colour!

I have posted in the past about my summer and winter palettes below.

My winter palette tends to be darker jewel tones:

My summer palette is more nautical (but thinking about it is really a brighter version of the winter one!)

Both have navy and blue in common with a red or burgundy to lift it.  I do wear a lot of blue.

I wanted to make something a bit more cohesive across all seasons so I had a play about on Picmonkey:

I would say this probably covers about 95% of my wardrobe.  I really like blues and reds (and a mix of both in the purple!).  You know, I thought I wore all colours, but clearly not!

I had my colours done when I was about 16 (hey, it was the 1980s and a thing!).  I found my little Filofax thing (I told you it was the 80s!) and this tallies pretty strongly with the colours I was told to wear then.  I have dark hair, blue eyes and very pale skin (incidentally a combination catered for very badly by magazine beauty columns - it is normally assumed that brunettes have brown eyes and medium skin and people with blue eyes have light hair!). This makes me a Winter, and I was apparently a True Winter.  Here's the colour chart for that:


Pretty close eh?  There's a colour theory I read about a long time ago (no idea where but could possibly have been something like Colour Me Beautiful) that says that we naturally choose to wear the colours that suit us.  Not sure where that leaves me with all that pink - I'm just not really a pink or yellow person, no matter what my colours say!

Looking forward to the next task!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Minerva Blogger Network - The Last-Minute-Save Top

Here’s my latest make for the Minerva Blogger Network.

The fabric is a gorgeously smooth and silky cotton lawn which looks like Liberty.  I fell in love with the purple and teal print as soon as I saw it, but what to make?  I settled on the Grainline Scout Woven Tee as I thought the simple shape would work well with the floral print.  However the more observant amongst you will notice that this is clearly not a Scout Tee.

I started with a muslin for the Scout so as not to waste the lovely fabric and it was pretty much a disaster.  The directions are clear and the pattern goes together perfectly, but I had totally overlooked the fact that this loose fitting style does not work at all on my body shape.  I need a waist!  No idea why I thought it might.  But even a belt wasn’t going to work.

So back to the drawing board.  

I made a Sewaholic Alma a while back and always meant to make another and this seemed like great fabric for it.  The pattern is great – the instructions are really clear and the pattern is well-drafted.  I knew it fitted fairly well although this was in my pre-FBA days so I re-traced the pattern and adjusted it.  I added 2.5” to the body length plus another 1” above the bust darts to get them in the right place.  I cut with slightly larger seam allowances since I wanted a looser fit then my previous version and this worked well – the fit is pretty spot on.

After sewing up the body and attaching the facings, it looked a bit frumpy.  The neckline is quite high, which I had never noticed on my collared version.  But in this floral fabric it wasn’t working for me.  After a fair bit of pondering I decided on a square neckline.  I cut off the facings and marked the right level for the front neckline.  I drew a line perpendicular to the centre front at this level and drew lines down from the neckline to cross it, added seam allowances and cut it out.  To make the new facing for the front, I traced the neckline onto interfacing and used that to cut out the facing.  I sewed it on as per the instructions, but before understitching the facing down, I clipped right into the corners to make sure it would lie flat.  An extra line of very small stitches around the corners (I used the shortest length on my machine) reinforces them.

Oops, 'scuse creases - I had been wearing it all day!

I used the short sleeves and love the way these are finished with bias binding – it looks great.

I recommend this fabric – Laura made some beautiful kids PJs from it recently, which shows how versatile it is.  It’s a lovely fabric and a great price.

If you want to make your own version of my square necked Alma (or a Scout tee!) you can buy a kit from Minerva here with 2m of this lovely fabric, plus matching thread.  This length of fabric is more than enough for either pattern.  If you decide on the Alma you’ll need to order a 12” invisible zip separately since that wasn’t in my original plan.

What do you think?  Did I save it from the naughty fabric corner?

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

You know what day it is today?

It's Great British Sewing Bee Day!  (if you are in the UK, of course!).

At 8pm tonight Twitter will no doubt be on fire with sewcialists discussing the new contestants.

And unless you are living under a rock, you will know that the company who makes the programme, Love Productions, are looking for contestants for series 3.  As there have been a lot of complaints on Twitter about the lack of sewing bloggers in this series, let's get a few into the next series, OK?  Closing date is midnight on 16th March - to find out more get in touch with them:

See you on Twitter tonight!

Monday, 17 February 2014

Hemlock Tee

A quick post for a quick make!

This is the Grainline Hemlock tee which is a free pattern that you can download from here.  It's available in one size (Jen's!).

I bought some navy jersey, planning to fill a wardrobe gap (I have one navy tee and lots of things that go with it which I can't wear when it is in the wash, as it is every week).  I was going to make a Renfrew, but totally failed to notice that my jersey had precisely zero stretch in it (why do they make fabric like that?).  I needed something looser fitting to compensate for lack of stretch and Hemlock fit the bill!

I after a little bit of measuring, I cut the pattern as drafted.  I have seen looser fitting versions which work well too!  It went together in about 40 mins on my overlocker, and I twin-needled the cuffs and hem.

I'm not sure this fits into my everyday work style, but I think it could still work tucked in.  But it's certainly a great lounging staple - I do like the dropped shoulder and the wide neckline.

I still need that navy Renfrew tho - must check the stretch of jersey before buying!

Friday, 7 February 2014

Wardrobe Architect Week 4 - Silhouettes

I had a lot of fun with this one!  I put together the above collages really quickly as I had already spent time thinking about my preferred shapes and had gathered quite a lot of inspiration on my Happy Wardrobe Pinterest board.

All of this thinking since starting Happy Wardrobe led me to the realisation that I really do love to wear dresses of all kinds.  There's a place in my wardrobe for casual knit dresses, long and short sleeved woven dresses and shirt dresses.  What they all have in common is a fitted bodice and a flared skirt.  I like the same overall shape when it comes to skirts - a fitted top and flared skirt (also a-line shapes).

For trousers, I am giving up the skinnies!  I feel much more comfortable in wide leg or bootcut/ flared trousers, again with a fitted top.  I do love slim cropped trousers in the summer though.

I love boat necks and peter pan collars, but I also wear scoop necks and v necks.  Slim fitting cardigans are an important part of my wardrobe - I have so many cardigans that I have a filing system for them!  Once my carpal tunnel improves I need to get knitting the Miette I have planned in my head.

The clothes that get the most wear in our generally fairly rainy and grey climate are ones that can be worn or without tights (and tights save on the fake tan for my pasty pins!), so unless it's a very summery item, i often steer clear of the lightest colours.

And definitely no heels!  I have heels but rarely wear them unless it's to a formal event.  I'm tall so don't need the extra height, and frankly can't be bothered.  They don't do well with my walking pace or lifestyle.  Flat boots, brogues, ballet pumps or flat sandals it is! (and based on the collages above I need a pair of red ballet flats - you can never have too many pairs of red shoes).

How did you find this week's exercise?  Was it easy or hard to distill your style into a few silhouettes?

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The Vintage Pattern Pledge

Do you have a lot of vintage patterns that you haven't sewn up?  But they are so tempting and so pretty right?  But then they get bumped for a new indie pattern all the coolkids are sewing up.

This is exactly what I am like and Marie from A Stitching Odyssey feels the same!

She has started the Vintage Pattern Pledge here and I am joining in!

During 2014, I, Joanne, will sew up at least five garments from vintage patterns.

I haven't gone for 5 patterns as I am not sure if that will work for me - if i find ones that work well, I may make more than one version!  But I'll probably choose at least 5 patterns to give myself a choice.

I'll be posting over the next few days with the patterns I am planning to use.  And if you are up for this challenge, stay tuned for the Pattern Pyramid and you can grab yourself a choice of more vintage patterns!

Are you in?   

Monday, 3 February 2014

Wardrobe Architect - Week 3

Onto week 3!  This week the task focuses on specific shapes and styles in dresses, skirts, trousers, tops, jackets, cardigans and outerwear.  We also have to think about neckline and sleeve styles we like.

I found this fairly quick and easy to do as I had been thinking about it already for my Happy Wardrobe project.

In terms of ease, I like fitted tops and looser trousers.  I'm not keen on loose fitting dresses as I think they make me look bigger overall.

For length, I like maxi or knee length skirts and dresses.  As I am tall, I tend to like tops that sit on my hips - I'm not a big fan of tunics (they can look like too-short dresses) and cropped styles make me look like a giant wearing too small clothes!

I like full-ish skirts.  A full circle can make me feel a bit dressed up for everyday, but dirndl/ gathered are good.  A-line is also very much my comfort zone.  I feel less happy in straight skirts (altho my Hummingbirds have seen a lot of wear!) and I don't normally wear pencil skirts.

A big reason that I sew is that I never get waistlines at the right level in RTW.  I have a high waist but as I'm tall, I rarely find things that actually fit on my waist (including a beautiful vintage 1950s silk dress i tried on the other day - sob!  Must find fabric and make my own version!) and I spend the day pulling dresses and tops down to my waistline and hoiking jeans/ trousers up!  I generally go for natural waistline for dresses (never empire line) and slightly lower for trousers and skirts.  I do like a high waist too - I wear my Kelly skirts a lot (wearing one now in fact!) and it's a flattering look I think.  I really don't like things with no waistline - it definitely makes me look bigger as I have a large frame.

I'm less fussy about necklines and sleeves.

I can live with most necklines with a preference for boatneck, sweetheart and scoop.  I don't tend to wear very low necklines and jewel necks can be a bit choking.

I am happy with most lengths of sleeve, other than above the elbow.  I find this uncomfortable to wear and not especially flattering!

Looking forward to week 4!