Monday, 31 March 2014

Mad men challenge - the Pensive Betty dress

After much debating over fabrics and discussion on Twitter, here's my entry to Julia Bobbin's Mad Men Challenge.

Pensive? Grumpy? Miserable? You decide.

I posted about my inspiration dress here. I used vintage Simplicity 4766 from 1954. I had originally planned to use the Anna bodice cut off at the bust pleats with a midriff panel added, but when I saw this pattern it looked perfect (and doubles up as a Vintage Pledge item!).

I loved working with this pattern. As it is a single size, there's so much information on the pattern sheets. I traced the bodice pieces to alter with my usual 1/2" FBA (and I did use a ruler this time!). I lengthened the bodice by 3" but I think that was slightly too much. 2.5" would probably have been fine. I made a muslin and other than needing a slight square shoulder adjustment it was perfect. I needed that after my Emery fitting fail!  Oh i also added 2" at the waist. Damn you slender 1950s ladies!

The fabric is a quilting cotton (I know, gasp in horror, but it's good quality and softened up really nicely after prewashing). It's Moda from the Vintage Modern collection. Although it's not a rose print, I think the red and pink flowers capture the feel of the original dress pretty well. It's surprisingly hard to find rose print fabric that's not just red.

It came together really easily. There was no mention of interfacing the facings but after consultation with Twitter I did (I guess convenient fusibles weren't around at the time). 

The pattern suggests using seam binding to stabilise the waist seam. After talking to the ladies on Twitter (again!) I decided to add a waist stay. It's just seam binding stitched to the waistline seam allowance and topstitched, fastened with a heavy duty corset hook and eye. I may add this into other dresses as it's really comfortable.

I used a side lapped zip as per the pattern and sewn by machine.

I made the skirt as per the pattern length but when it came to hemming I chopped a huge 5.5" off. Since I am tall I didn't think it would need shortening by that much! Worth checking if you are shorter and have limited fabric available as you could save a lot! I hemmed it to just below the knee as it was the most flattering on me.  The hem was hand catch-stitched - well you need something sto occupy your hands while you want Sewing Bee!

I love this dress and wore it to my sister in law's birthday party this weekend - I got lots of compliments!

Did you make a Mad Men dress?  Show me!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Wardrobe Architect Week 9 - Choosing Silhouettes

This week's Wardrobe Architect starts us thinking about our capsule wardrobes.  I've never been able to get interested in capsule wardrobes before as when I have read about it in magazines, it has been about 10 items in neutral colours, all wardrobe basics.  This is really not me.

Since Sarai mentioned that this was the method she was following, I have spent a bit of time reading the Into Mind blog.  (Warning, this is a total rabbit hole if you are interested in this kind of thing!) and I was so glad to find that this is not the method at all.

You decide on the number of days with no repeat outfits so you can have say 3 weeks of outfits planned, and this tells you the size of the wardrobe you should consider.  Sarai is suggesting 20-33 items - this is much more me!

First of all, we have to choose up to 6 of our silhouettes we created in Week 4 for our Spring Summer wardrobes.  Here are my chosen ones:

Full skirted shirt dress with cardigan and pumps

Sleeveless summer dress with cardigan and pumps

Boat neck print dress, long or short sleeved with pumps

Flared or gathered skirt with boat neck tee and boots
I am all about the skirts and dresses!  Since starting to think of my wardrobe and what I feel good in, I have gone from wearing jeans a lot to only wearing them a couple of days a week.  I feel much better about my wardrobe!  I may add a wide-leg trouser option in there too.

The sleeve lengths will vary, and the tights/ boots will be worn in spring but (hopefully) not in summer.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Catching up on Wardrobe Architect - weeks 7 and 8

I have been slacking on Wardrobe Architect for a couple of weeks - I was struggling to find time to blog about the tasks although I did think about them.  For the sake of completism (is that a real word?) here you go!

Week 7 - Exploring Solids and Prints

We had to think about what percentage of our wardrobe is solid vs prints and what prints are we drawn to.

I found this quite easy!  Like lots of people when they start sewing, I was totally drawn to all the fabulous prints and *whisper* quilting cottons.  They are so fun and eyecatching in the fabric shop, much more so than bolts of plain colours.  And then I realised I had made lovely items but they didn't go with each other or anything else in my wardrobe.  So in preparation for Me Made May last year, I made a conscious decision to sew plain colours.

Almost all of my bottom half garments are plains - I don't wear printed trousers ever.  I have a couple of printed circle skirts, but the rest are plain.  I have quite a few pairs of jeans, a lot of skirts and am sorely in need of trousers.

For tops, my woven tops are probably 50/50 printed and plain.  The plain ones are all in fairly bright colours.  For knit tops, most are plain (possibly to do with the difficulty I find in getting nice patterned knits).

Dresses are tougher to categorise.  I have quite a lot of knit dresses in plain colours (see above re patterned knits).  My woven dresses are 50/50 solids and prints.  The solids tend to have details - piping or collars or buttons.  The prints tend to be fairly simple shapes with flared/ circle skirts.

I see stripes, gingham and polkadots as plains.  I love them all!  I tend to prefer large scale prints , especially florals, watercoloury abstracts and of course novelty prints (which I tend to try and limit myself on as I know I wear them less - but, y'know #sewdollyclackett and all that!).  I do wear small scale floral prints (like my Alma blouse) but only as tops.  A whole dress in a tiny floral would be too cute for me - I'm too tall for it!

Week 8 - Hair, MakeUp and Beauty

As regular readers will know, I recently had my hair chopped into a jaw length bob and I am totally in love with it!  I have never really liked my hair - it's never gone into the styles I have wanted.  Basically it does its own thing, and my new hair cut works with that!  My new cut saves a lot of washing/ combing time and adds a little bit of drying/ styling time but it is ace.  I need to find the time to play about with it, but I am hoping it might be able to be styled into more vintage looks with some blow drying for special occasions.  I also think it will cut down to the army of hair products in my bathroom!

I totally love beauty products and always have a lot of lotions and potions.  I am a dedicated cleanse/tone/moisturise person and never ever go to bed with make up on, even when drunk!  Once every couple of weeks I try to find time for a mini facial where I cleanse with a hot cloth method, exfoliate, put on a face mask and facial oil.  I don't buy pricy products but I have quite a lot of them.

My make up routine is quick and easy (5 minutes tops) and totally based around my skin.  As a spotty teenager (with spots that unfortunately lasted into my twenties) I got obsessed with foundations etc.  I don't like to look as though I have a lot of base on but I have to have something.  I use a primer (currently in love with Garnier Perfect Blur - you have to try it!), then a lightweight liquid foundation in winter or a BB cream in summer.  Concealer stick on any spots and around my nose and under eye bag cream (I have terrible dark circles!).  I use a cream blusher as I don't normally use powder so don't like a powdery finish on cheeks only.  Everything else is based on things to stop me looking tired.  Benefit LemonAid cream on eyelids and EyeBright pencil under eyes before smudging on black kohl pencil.  I never go out without mascara and always black.  I rarely wear eyeshadow or lipstick.  If I wear lipstick it is usually a fairly neutral gloss.  It doesn't vary much if I am going out - probably just another coat of mascara.

I have an obsession with Jo Malone Vetyver perfume and it is the only thing I wear currently.  It's quite different - spicy and clean and not at all sweet.  I like the idea of having a signature scent and this is the closest I have come to the right one!  I try not to use other strong smelling products so that they don't clash.

I am feeling the need to change this routine up a bit.  Maybe I should get a bit more adventurous.  I may try a few new lipsticks this weekend! Must be the new hairdo...

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The not-quite- right Emery

I wasn't sure whether to write this post but after much prompting on Twitter, here it is!

I don't have a lot of sewing fails really. I'm quite methodical and usually make a muslin but the end result here isn't good and I'm not quite sure why!

The pattern is Christine Haynes Emery dress. I love it so much and every other blogger has raved about it and the perfect fit (Roisin amd Tasha's versions are gorgeous). I bought some lovely but relatively pricy John Kaldor fabric in the Sew Essential sale in January and Emery seemed like the perfect pattern for it. I love a boat neck, could easily change up the skirt and there are collar options.
Luckily I decided to make a muslin using some cheap poly crepe I picked up. I had an idea in my head for a lace overlay on the collar and I used a silvery grey lace for this. 

OK so ignore my weird face - this is the only side pic
As the bodice is lined I used a navy cotton - the cheap poly against the skin would not be pleasant! I love lined bodices as in addition to looking and feeling nice, you can use them as the muslin.  I tissue fitted to work out length issues - I added 1" above the bust dart and 2" below and did my usual 1/2" FBA. I think this is where I went wrong however. I think I made the FBA too big (more like 1" - I really shouldn't eyeball. My eyeballs don't have a clue - or a tape measure) which accounts for some of the problems.  I suspect adding length above the bust was less correct than moving the dart down?  In the muslin the main issue appeared to be bagginess under the bust. I get this quite a lot and got some good advice to curve the bust darts to remove some bagginess. I think I made it too curved - probably due to excess at bust so it didn't press well. I did a square shoulder adjustment and added a little to the sleeve to match (and as I felt the sleeve might be a bit narrow anyway). I didn't muslin the skirt but added 3" in length after measuring.

The collar didn't attach easily either. I was easing the bodice into it a lot which gave some weird wrinkles - I asked about this on Twitter and no one else seems to have had this problem. I wonder if the crepe was stretching but the interfaced collar wasn't - the crepe stretching could account for a lot of the other problems!

I also didn't attach the  collar correctly - the centre front seam isn't in the right place when I look at other collared versions - Lauren and Kathy's and it doesn't press or sit very flat. I think this caused problems when I hand sewed the lining at the waistband. Also the shell seemed to need to be eased to the lining which suggests the shell stretched.

There were a few good things about it - the fabric has great drape and eased nicely into the waistband with even gathers. The sleeves went in perfectly first time. The invisible zip is perfect. 

The end result? A wrinkly pile of meh.

Just to be clear these are not issues with the pattern. It seems well drafted and the instructions are clear. I'm totally not giving up on it as I reckon I can fix the issues.
But I don't think this version is fixable and I suspect this is partly my too big FBA, partly the fabric and partly carelessness in attaching the collar and bodice.

What do you think? Could I /should I try and salvage it? Or start again with the right FBA? I'm not super attached to the fabric. It was and feels cheap and is tough to sew with and pin into. But I love the idea of the lace collar!

Can you give some fitting tips? Maybe a broad shoulder adjustment needed given the pulling at the shoulder? One observation is that the people who have blogged about getting a great fit were narrow across the shoulders which i am definitely not!  Or is it just not a good style for me and I should give it up?

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Minerva Blogger Network - the almost-Anna dress

Ooh yes, and new hair too!

As the title suggests, I ordered this fabric intending it to become another Anna dress.  Then the By Hand London ladies released the Flora pattern and I fell for it hard.  I ordered it that day and crossed my fingers that it would arrive in time.

I loved the fabric as soon as I saw it and started thinking about what I could make from it – one of those rare occasions for me when I pick the pattern for the fabric instead of the other way around!  It’s a smooth and silky lightweight cotton lawn with an fan print.  There are a number of different colourways but I loved the grey-blue of this blue and orange one.  It’s lovely to work with – light but not see through. 

This is a really straightforward pattern with nothing too tricky so it would be a great first dress for a beginner.  It does use an invisible zip but the instructions are pretty clear on inserting that.

I did my usual FBA and added 1” about the bust.  I also lengthened the straps by 2” and the bodice length by ½” at the bottom.  Looking at the wrinkles on the back, I perhaps lengthened a bit too much so I’ll leave that out for the next version.  I increased the length of the skirt by cutting the longest length plus 1” – this meant that the front piece was too wide to fit on the folded fabric (you definitely need 60” wide for this).  So I folded a piece out of the side seams (leaving the waist intact) so that I could fit it on the fabric – it’s a full skirt with extra pleats so it still works fine!  I had enough fabric to cut the 2 back skirt pieces in a single layer so could use the full width.  The bodice is lined and as I was a bit worried about the print showing through I used some white lawn I had in the stash.

As ever the By Hand London instructions are really clear.  The only issue I had was getting confused between which version I was making when attaching and finishing the lining as the two are completely different - totally user error and not the fault of the pattern.  I realised after I had overlocked the back and waist seams that I wasn’t supposed to catch the lining in there, but I decided not to unpick all that overlocking even though it would have given a neater finish on the inside (lazy me!)

The only problem with this dress is that it’s a bit too summery to wear quite yet.  But I haven’t given up hope of some more sunny weather to come very soon!  I was aiming for a Lizzy-esque barefoot pic (it's in no way because I was too lazy to dig out summery shoes to go with this dress!) but my pasty legs and back garden really aren't a patch on an Aussie beach!

If you want to make your own version (with 3m of fabric so it would work for an Anna or Emery too) you can buy a kit from Minerva here.  It also includes an invisible zip and matching thread.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Sew Blue February

A blogger's godsend - a vintage car!

If you are on Twitter you will know that there are monthly sewalongs and every other month is a colour theme.  I made this dress for Red October, skipped Green December (my colour palettes will show that I never wear green!) and here's Blue February (oops, bit late in posting).  This was a total no brainer - another look at my colour palettes will show that I wear blue a lot.

I was a little tight for time this month as I was finishing hubby's jacket and making a dress for N but luckily my planned garments already included a couple of blue items (no surprise there!).

Both fabrics were bought extremely cheaply from Norman Lyons, a fabric shop that doesn't look like a fabric shop not far from my work in Central London.  I think both were £2 a metre!

I am always in need of more long sleeved T-shirts so the striped jersey was destined to be another Renfrew.  I have made this pattern before (here and here) and apart from a bit of lengthening it fits great out of the packet.  I made the round neck variation again.  Given that the stripe is so dominant I made my first real attempt at stripe matching, using this tip from Lauren at Rosie Wednesday to line up the underarm points on the same stripe.  I think it worked pretty well on the side seams and underarms but maybe I should have paid more attention on the sleeves.  Or is it not possible to match across a sleeve head?

Matchy matchy!
 I lined up the cuffs and waistband on the same stripe so they are consistent and cut the neckband on the broad navy stripe.  Not perfect but I'm pretty chuffed with it.  Should perhaps have used my walking foot to make sure the fabric didn't shift but I'm still getting used to having one!

The second garment is a Megan Nielsen Kelly skirt.  Again a pattern I have used before (here and an unblogged version) but this one is a bit different in that I omitted the button closure on the front.  This is really simple to do.

Instead of the buttons you'll need a zip and a side closure (I used leftover buttons from my Blackberry dress but you could use a skirt hook instead).  I used an 7" zip from my stash but to be honest it could be longer, so 9" might work better!

 - Cut the back and waistband as per the pattern.  Instead of cutting 2 fronts, line up the fold of the fabric with the placket fold line market on the pattern and cut in one single piece.
- Mark the pleats and staystitch them as normal.
- Mark the length of the zip on the left side seam and sew it up to this point and the right side seam as normal.
- Sew in the zip with your preferred method.  I sewed it by machine.
- Attach the waistband with the front edge overhanging the zip edge by 5/8".  The back edge will stick out further past the back zip edge but don't worry -  this is where you will put the closure/ buttons.
- Finish attaching and top stitching the waistband and hem as per the pattern instructions.
- Make the buttonholes in the front waistband and sew buttons to back waistband (or attach your closure) and you are done!

These are 2 bargain items - £7.50 in total for fabric and stashed buttons and zip.  I had both patterns already.  Love it when sewing actually saves you money for a change!  And it matches my square necked Alma perfectly!

Friday, 14 March 2014

The next stop on the Vintage Pattern Pyramid is...

by the power of the random number,

one of the lovely Spoolettes Nicole Needles!

Congrualtions Nicole!  Can't wait to see what pattern you pick.

Drop me a line and I'll arrange to get the patterns to you.

Sorry to everyone who entered but didn't win this time.  Follow Nicole's blog to get another chance to win when she holds her giveaway.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Mad Men Challenge number 3 - my plans

After much debate, here is the beauty I am planning to recreate for this year's Mad Men Challenge organised by Julia Bobbin.

I was planning to us the Anna bodice with a midriff panel and a gathered or pleated skirt, until I saw this beauty that Anne from Mercury Handmade was selling:

It's Simplicity 4766, a beauty from 1954.  Just look at that gorgeous neckline and those gigantic pockets?  The red one is a dead ringer for Betty's dress - she even looks a bit like Betty!  She certainly has the same feeling of ennui (and the possibility of a cigarette in hand).  No dickey or jumper underneath for her.

I'll be leaving off the pockets (but will definitely make one with pockets in the future - I think they use about a metre of fabric on their own!).

I have been scouting for fabric for ages before finally settling on this:

It's by Moda from the Vintage Modern Range by Bonnie & Camille.

Although it's not an exact match for the rose print, it was surprisingly hard to find something closer and I liked that this had the lighter pink flowers as well as the red.  I think it will give more of the impression of the original than some of the modern digital rose prints I found.

And it's number 1 of the 5 I have pledged to make for the Vintage Pattern Pledge!  Result!

Are you entering this time?  What are you making?

Monday, 10 March 2014

The winner of the Simplicity Sewing Book is....

Ruth Procter!  Drop me an email Ruth and I'll get your book in the post.

Thanks to everyone who entered - sorry I don't have copies for everyone!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Sew Dolly Clackett - Are you in?

As I'm sure everyone has heard by now, the latest fun sewalong in town is Sew Dolly Clackett, organised by the lovely Sarah in honour of the impending nuptuals of Roisin and her partner Nic.

I have had the pleasure of meeting them both, and they are one of the nicest couples you could ever hope to meet, as evidenced by the amount of love floating around the blogosphere for them.

The challenge as outlined here is to make up a Dolly Clackett style dress before 23rd April and post it to the Flickr group.  Roisin herself will judge and award a range of fab prizes, from vouchers for fabric to patterns.

I've been thinking about the patterns I could use.  I've made up Simplicity 2444 and By Hand London Anna before, and have plans for Christine Haynes Emery and Gather's Mortmain.  If I can get a good fit on the Emery I will probably use that as it's a great blank canvas for the key thing which is the fabric!

Roisin is known for her fabulous novelty prints - it wouldn't be a true Dolly Clackett dress without at least a polka dot!  I'm looking for something that fits my wardrobe (no way to I have time to sew up things I don't wear!) and I'm not sure I can pull off pin-up girls or cowgirls on a daily basis.  Nautical? Paris-themed? Maybe!

In an attempt to actually narrow down all the fabulous prints available I have started a Pinterest board here.

These are the front runners at the moment but I'll probably change my mind a million times before I decide!

Makeower Washday in Blue (Source Rainbow Silks)

Henley Studio Birds on Clouds (Source Hawthorn Threads)
Hmm, clearly there's a cloud thing going on in my head!  Other possibles are retro geometric prints like these 2 - both from the Art Galley Carnaby Street collection, both from Hawthorn Threads.  Perhaps less Dolly Clackett but more me?

Carnaby St 60s Waves in Midnight

Carnaby Street Retro Pop in Mint

Are you joining in?  Have you picked your fabric/ pattern?  Let me know in the comments!  Any favourite prints I should look at?

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Original Pattern Pyramid comes to town!

I was lucky enough to be the next stop on the Pattern Pyramid!  This is the original one started by Karen from Did You Make That when she was generously gifted a trove of vintage patterns from one of her blog readers.

You can read the original post here.

I got these patterns when Marie from A Stitching Odyssey hosted it recently and it's a great stash!

There are vintage dresses galore:

Vintage separates:

A host of 1970s goodness:

Some 1980s and modern patterns:

We get to choose a pattern to keep.  I chose this gorgeous 1950s pattern which Marie added.  I fell in love with the neckline, and although I might have to do a bit of grading down, it'll be worth it!

Damn you Blogger for the sideways pic!

In return we have to add a pattern.  As there was a bit of a shortage of mid-sized patterns in there, I added these 3 from my stash:

If you would like to be the next stop for the Pattern Pyramid and have the chance to choose one of these for yourself, here are the rules:

  • Any blogger with an active blog can enter.  You can live anywhere - these patterns are pretty well-travelled!
  • You can keep one pattern for yourself, and then you have to host your own giveaway!  You must be happy to post internationally if you win.
  • Most bloggers have added more patterns to the mix to keep it fresh (but it's not essential)
Want to be part of it?

Comment below by 12th March (midnight GMT), I'll draw a winner by random number and the patterns could be winging their way to you!