When do you use those other fancy stitches your sewing machine has?

I’d already made a The Maker’s Atelier Holiday shirt recently which you can read about here and I’d got a second cut out ready. This second one was a soft cotton voile (or muslin, not entirely sure) which my elderly neighbour had gifted me a while back and I cut it out as part of my batch-cutting binge. I didn’t realise it at the time but she’s since told me that it’s Liberty which makes it even more special. I asked her why she’d never used it but she said it was “just one of those things”, it just never happened.IMG_1291IMG_1293

I started making up the blouse as before but this time I fancied changing it up a bit by using one of the range of stitches my ancient Elna 7000 machine offers.

Does your machine have loads of these embroidery stitches that you’ve never used? I’m curious to know whether having all these extra stitches was a reason for you to choose a particular model? trying out machine embroidery or quilting perhaps? [and I’m not talking about utility stitches that help with construction and finishing here, purely decorative ones] were you persuaded by an enthusiastic sales assistant, or a bargain price, to go with a more complex machine than your needs or skills warranted? I think it’s so important to be able to test machines and compare them before buying, and the internet makes it much easier to compare reviews than ever before. When I bought my Elna well over 25 years ago I was working in the dress fabrics department of our local John Lewis where we had two wonderful ladies who were employed by Elna and Brother to demonstrate the machines and give individual lessons. This gave me the luxury of taking my time and seeing the different machines in action before I eventually bought an ex-demonstration model which cost me nearly £500 then!! It was money well-spent though I’d say. If you’re new to dressmaking but aren’t sure that it will become a life-long hobby then there are some terrific machines available in the £120-£160 bracket, if you want it to be lifelong then you may choose to buy one machine now for the long-term and up to £500 would easily be enough to spend and get a good quality machine for it. If you have bags of money then you could spend waaay more than that-it’s up to you entirely.

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This is my machine when it came with me to the Sewing Weekender last August.

When my two girls were little I did use some of the stitches, little ducks, flowers etc and when my eldest started school her summer dress featured patch pockets with ‘LEFT’ and ‘RIGHT’ written across the top of them! But that’s 22 years ago so not very much use since then…

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These two rows of illustrations rotate to show all the stitches available.

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I tested a few that I thought would look nice around the collar, in a couple of different shades of blue, to see which I fancied best.

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Initially I liked the little triangles but I wasn’t sure I could get it to fit accurately to turn the corners which wouldn’t have pleased me at all.
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I tried out the blanket stitch on a corner and it was much more satisfactory so I decided to go with that.

Once I’d settled on the blanket stitch I made up the collar and embroidered it, I decided to add it to the sleeve hems too. I made the blouse up exactly as before after that.

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Blanket stitch on the collar
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…and on the sleeves.
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Finished Holiday shirt.

It might not be the most exciting use of embroidery stitches but it’s a start and I think it looks rather pretty. Do you use any of the stitches like this that your machine offers or were they a big lure to buy the machine to start with but then are actually redundant? I’m curious to know.

I’ve got plans to make at least one more Holiday shirt with some chiffon I bought at Birmingham Rag Market last year too, that will have to wait until my next batch of cutting though!

Happy sewing,

Sue

‘Sophie’ bolero PDF from Zierstoff patterns

After the success of my first Zierstoff PDF pattern (the Sue which you can read about here) I was keen, as soon as time allowed, to try another style. I opted for an intriguing-looking bolero called Sophie which has a lovely slouchy shape.

This time I didn’t have any trouble printing the pattern either, I simply checked I had it in the correct rotation by printing the first page off, it was right so I printed the rest of the pages. The Sophie pattern only needs 7 sheets of A4 too which is amazing! At £4.80 it’s very good value too. IMG_1706

As I described in the previous blog Zierstoff uses a system of rows and columns which is extremely simple to piece together. You might notice that a few of the lines aren’t quite in alignment but that’s more about my printer than their system I think. There are only TWO pieces to this pattern! The whole jacket and two sleeves (OK that’s three but it’s only 2 pattern pieces!)

I didn’t have any suitable fabric in the ol’ stash so, as I had a Saturday that didn’t feature any specific plans, I went up to Walthamstow to see if the fabled ‘Man Outside Sainsbury’s’ had anything suitable. I actually combined it with a visit to the William Morris Gallery which is a 10 minute walk from Walthamstow station and well worth the effort. It’s the house he lived in as a teenager, it’s surrounded, now, by a lovely public park and has some modest but very interesting and informative galleries about him and his life’s work.

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William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow, London

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Once I’d spent an hour or so absorbing culture I headed back up the road to the by now busy and vibrant market. Walthamstow has, over the years, become a very diverse and multi-ethnic area which means there are a wealth of varied and fascinating shops and stalls selling all manner of things. My primary interest though is the fabric and haberdashery shops and stalls, of which there are several. Karen at Did You Make That? blog has produced a downloadable map here which is helpful. Even though it isn’t that recent I believe most if not all the shops and stalls are still there.

I was quite restrained this time and only bought things I ‘needed’ including plain cotton lawn for lining at £2 per metre from TMOS and a patterned lightweight denim from him too. I got the double-knit jersey for the Sophie bolero from Saeed’s fabrics, and finally I got 5yds of teal polyester with a fan print on it from Classic Textiles for £1 per yard!! [they price in yards and metres, metres is dearer and I wanted a straightforward £5-worth…simple as that!]

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Teal polyester crepe, lightweight denim and the double-knit jersey with fine stripes on the reverse.

I got the last 2 metres of the jersey which was more than enough because the main body and sleeves of the bolero fit in a little over a metre (smaller sizes would take even less)IMG_1710

Because the fabric is double-faced I thought it might be a good idea to use a flat-fell seam which would mean that the bolero could be reversible.

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On the left, sew the seam on it’s correct seam allowance then trim down one side to approximately 4-5mm. Press the longer edge over the trimmed on folding the raw edge under to enclose it. On the right, stitch close to the folded edge to secure. This is traditionally the seams used on jeans. I used a very slight zigzag on my trial seam but I then used a straight stitch on the actual bolero.

You can only really use flat-felled seams in applications where you’ve got complete and easy access to where you’re positioning it because of the method of construction [if you look at the legs of a pair of jeans the flat-fell seam will be either on both outside legs OR both inside legs, not both]

Sewing the bolero together is a doddle because there are only 4 seams, 2 sleeves and 2 side seams so (even quicker if you’re not using flat-felled seams!) it goes together in no time. I chose to neaten the edges by turning the striped side over to the patterned side to give it a contrast.IMG_1727

I also added a little marker to the CB neck so that I know which way up to wear it! It’s a bit tricky to tell the difference otherwise…

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marker to show the top! ‘This way up’

So I’ve finished up with a super-quick, reversible bolero which will be really handy on holiday because it will roll up small and come out largely unscathed.IMG_1723IMG_1725IMG_1722

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Stripy side out

Have a look at the Zierstoff website if you’re a fan of sewing jersey because they have a variety of patterns as styles specifically for knits. I’ve been generously given this pattern to test but the opinions I’ve expressed are entirely my own-I always try to be honest about the patterns I try out because I think it’s not in anyone’s interests to make statements which I don’t believe in, aren’t instructive or could be misleading.

Happy sewing

Sue

House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth House

 

IMG_1544As many of you will know by now I love to go to exhibitions which allow you to see beautiful garments up close and this newly opened event at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire is a new and original example of that.

We’d been away for a long weekend break to the Yorkshire Dales and because I’m such a tolerant and supportive wife during that time we looked at quite a few railways, trains and steam engines! Yes, really…although Mr Y is also generally very patient about fabric shops too so it’s a fair compromise. Anyways, my reward for all this train spotting was that we’d stop at Chatsworth on our way home to see this newly opened show.

I’m not going to lie, it’s quite pricey to get in (£19.90 for an adult to go into the house and gardens, plus car parking) but that said, there is a lot to see at this world-famous site because, as well as the house, the grounds are very extensive with many beautiful corners to discover, a very nice gift shop and several high-quality eating places so you can easily spend a whole day here if you want too.

The show is the brainchild of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire’s daughter in law, Laura Burlington with assistance from Hamish Bowles, European Editor-at-large for American Vogue and expert in couture and vintage clothing.

Right from the magnificent entrance onwards there are clothes, accessories and memorabilia to see in virtually every room that you pass through.

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ermine-trimmed velvet gown worn by Deborah Devonshire for the Coronation in 1953, at the foot of the grand entrance staircase.
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It is an original gown from the mid-19th century which she was given special dispensation to wear because it is off-the-shoulder

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It’s not really possible for me to do justice either to the beautiful surroundings or the quality and quantity of clothing and memorabilia on display so I’ll merely use quite a few of the MANY pictures that I (and Mr Y) took to give you an idea.

The Devonshires have had so many interesting and notable people within the family over the centuries ranging from Bess of Hardwick in Tudor times, who could probably be regarded as having founded the dynasty, pieces of her jewellery are on display, and  Duchess Georgiana (subject of the film The Duchess and starring Keira Knightly, in turn based on the book of the same name by Amanda Foreman which I read about 3 years ago and is a fascinating read without the filmic ‘rearrangements’ of the story) She was a real trendsetter of her time, a fashion icon, and whilst little of her clothing is still in existence there are numerous fabulous portraits of her which show her as a very stylish, and politically active woman.

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Duchess Georgiana (1757-1806) painted by Thomas Gainsborough

This fabulous 18th century-style dress is by John Galliano for Christian Dior from 1998 which was modelled by supermodel Stella Tennant, niece of the present Duke. It’s placed in front of a portrait depicting Georgiana as Diana the Huntress. Interestingly it’s painted by a female artist, Maria Cosway.

The exhibition isn’t in chronological order so all sorts of loveliness keeps appearing around every corner, and in every room or corridor. There are wedding dresses from more recent brides in the family including two worn by Laura Burlington herself, Stella Tennant (again) and Lady Celina Cavendish, daughter of the present Duke. Obviously these are my special interest and they are a beautiful, and diverse selection surrounded by a cabinet containing family photos and wedding memorabilia. In the same room are displayed a number of mourning ensembles, original 1947 Dior New Look and Alexander McQueen amongst them, and Christening robes including the Mitford family gown. IMG_1636IMG_0067IMG_0063IMG_1634IMG_0074IMG_0068

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The Mitford family Christening gown
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not a great photo but it’s McQueen!

As is so often the case, fancy dress parties were extremely popular with the gentry and the Ball to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee at Devonshire House (now demolished) in London in 1897 was described as the ‘Party of the Century’. A few of the splendid and imaginative costumes do survive, many now kept in the V&A archives. Those that no longer exist are cleverly realised with life-size laser etched figures alongside photos of the whole ensemble, and others are displayed in cabinets which I recognised as having come from Savage Beauty, the Alexander McQueen retrospective at the V&A two years ago!

Throughout the exhibition there are also numerous examples of the ‘insect’ brooches and jewellery that Deborah Devonshire, the previous Duchess and youngest of the famous Mitford sisters, collected. [I recommend reading The Mitford Sisters by Mary S Lovell which is a good read as well as informative if you want to learn more, or Wait for Me! by Deborah Devonshire herself. I’ve read several of her books and her style, whilst very upper class, is also very entertaining and funny]

As I’ve said, there is so much to see and enjoy I should leave you with just a few more pictures of some of the delights in store. There are lots of hats, many by Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones and worn by the present Duchess, there are shoes too including Debo’s Elvis slippers! she was a huge fan of Elvis Presley and his version of the hymn How Great Thou Art was played at her funeral in 2014.IMG_1645

The collection of jumpers with slogans worn by the previous Duke and his family are something worth seeing too.IMG_1528

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Oscar de la Renta gown worn by Debo for an American Vogue photo shoot at Chatsworth in 2010
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Debo and her granddaughter Stella Tennant taken by Mario Testino at Chatsworth, 2010

The final room, the Dining Room, contains a sublime collection of evening attire by many fabulous designers including Balmain, Dior, Vivienne Westwood, Helmut Lang, Armani….the list goes on…there’s even a dress by red-hot designer Vetements belonging to Laura Burlington. IMG_1558IMG_1559IMG_1560IMG_1561IMG_1563

Naturally my primary reason to go to Chatsworth was to see this exhibition [we were on our way home from Yorkshire remember so we didn’t make a special trip] but it’s a beautiful house without needing the embellishment of dresses. The exhibition has been 5 or 6 years in the planning and a huge amount of thought and imagination has clearly gone into it-the only tiny niggle I have is that it’s a bit difficult in some places to read the signage when it’s written on the display cases, or to find a list of the exhibits. The display cabinets with small items are well-labelled though with hand-written labels which give it a personal touch. It’s only a little thing though and when speaking to one or two of the room staff it was feedback that I’m sure will be looked into for the rest of the season. We were also able to go on a weekday so I couldn’t say how busy it might get at weekends. You might also recognise the house as Pemberley from the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

And I haven’t even mentioned other notable women who married into the family such as Kathleen ‘Kick’ Kennedy, sister of JFK, or Adele Astaire, sister and dance partner of Fred! I treated myself to a copy of the accompanying book (a signed copy no less!) which contains many beautiful images and fascinating background facts, I shall enjoy leafing through that!

You have all summer to get to Derbyshire because the show doesn’t close until October 22nd. If you’re in the area it could be an excellent day out, there’s an adventure playground, farmyard and farm shop too if you’ve got ‘hangers-on’ to entertain!!IMG_1549IMG_1550

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The Cascade
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Mr Y sitting by the famous Emperor fountain

I can see this idea catching on with other notable families wanting to attract people through their stately doors, although whether it would have such intriguing family stories to back it up I don’t know, the Devonshires are probably out there on their own for fascinating women amongst their ranks! Make no mistake, this is an extensive and varied exhibition, a few dusty crinolines and a corset it ain’t!

As ever, I bought my own ticket for this event and all opinions are entirely my own.

Back to sewing next time probably,

until then…

Sue

trying out a new-to-me brand-Zierstoff Patterns

It’s funny how some things come about isn’t it?

I wasn’t going to go to the Spring Knitting & Stitching show at the beginning of March originally but then I saw that Gabby Young of the Gabberdashery blog/vlog fame was organising  a meet up on Friday so I decided to pop along after all…and I’m so glad I did.

For one thing it was lovely to catch up with Gabby (and her chocolate brownies, I accidentally ate 2!) as well as some of the ladies I’d first met at the Sewing Weekender last August including Klarke, Megan and Elle  along with some delightful new sewing peeps. We knitted (!) and chatted for ages before I finally went for a proper look around.

I was wearing my Moneta dress-which I blogged about here-and blowing my own trumpet a bit I had lots of strangers comment on it and ask about the pattern as I made my way around the show, deeply flattering!!

Eventually I arrived at the Fabrics Galore stand (of course!) and quickly fell in to chatting with another lady who was drooling over the fabrics too (again, of course I did, it’s a sewing show, right?!) That person turned out to be Juliene who is the Creative Director for Zierstoff patterns who are based in Germany… I was initially slightly confused because Julie is actually from the US not Germany at all! Now I don’t know about you but I wasn’t familiar with Zierstoff at this point. Anyway chat chat chat and we swap business cards (ooh, get me!) We move on to eventually selecting fabrics and head around the corner to get them cut and who should be manning the stand that day but the lovely Kate from The Fold Line.

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Love this picture. It’s Ok, we knew Kate was photobombing us hehe

So, back to the story. Julie invited me to test some Zierstoff patterns, which are all PDFs, to see what I thought of them and this is how I got on….

Zierstoff logo

Zierstoff have a bright and comprehensive website, in English or German, and the patterns are very reasonably priced in Euros, Sterling, US, Canadian and Australian Dollars. The ‘Sue’, which I selected, was just £4.85 [One thing I don’t know is if the prices fluctuate according to exchange rates or whether they are currently fixed prices] They offer a range of ladies, babies and children’s patterns as well as a few bags and home accessories. There are also a variety of free patterns to download too. They don’t currently have any specific mens patterns but because there are quite a number of T-shirt styles I think they could easily be made up for boys or men. I was particularly struck by the super-cute babies and children’s styles, and especially the car seat blanket and bath towel poncho-sadly I don’t have anyone to make these for at the moment (I might have to find a willing baby to try them on!)

The ‘Sue’ is a T-shirt top with two neckline variations and I opted to make the contrast shoulder version.

When you download the pattern there are a number of pieces of information you’ll receive including the instructions HOW to go about it and a test print. There is also an Overview page with an image of how all the pattern pieces should look when assembled. Because the patterns are available in the US as well you get the option of A4 size or US letter.

So far so good….this is where I came unstuck (entirely down to my limited tech ability I think) I printed the pattern off once according, I thought, to the instructions but when I came to try to put it together I couldn’t make head nor tail of it. Ok, back it up a bit…because I didn’t have the settings on correctly each page had auto-rotated instead of being printed landscape so it was never going to work as parts of the pattern were missing off the page!

Zierstoff also use a different system to any other PDF pattern I’ve used so far. They use a system of numbered rows and columns, and the pages are sticky-taped abutting one another exactly so there’s no trimming and overlapping to join pieces. Once I’d printed the pages correctly the sticking system was a breeze although there might be places were the printing doesn’t run right up to the edge of the paper.

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excuse my dodgy sticking…

You might notice that the pattern is printed in colour because there are lots of size options. You could decide to print in black and white but you’re advised that not all the lines will show up by this method. However, if your preferred size is one of the darker colours the you might get away with it but I’d suggest you print a single page first to check.

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This help I can do without…3 rows and 8 columns, or ‘Still Life with Cat’

Ok, now I’m back on track! now for the sewing…

Once printed, stuck together and cut out the next thing to do is make the contrast shoulder sections. These are clearly indicated and there are instructions for using it. I opted to make new separate pattern pieces for them to simplify cutting out the fabrics. I traced off the front and back ‘yoke’ parts and the sleeve head. It’s VERY important to remember to add seam allowances, don’t just cut along the line!!!IMG_1297IMG_1298IMG_1299IMG_1300

Once I’d got the contrast parts I could fold the corresponding sections on the main pattern out of the way while I cut out the main fabric. The printed fabric was one I’d been gifted recently and there was nearly 1 metre of it.

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You can see where I’ve folded down the shoulder sections out of the way. Also, by folding the selvedges into the centre I got front and back and both sleeves out of very little fabric.

I decided I’d lengthen the sleeves to give them a gathered cuff similar to the ones I’d seen at the Burberry Makers House show recently.

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I love this look so much!!

To do this I pinned the sleeve pattern onto the fabric and then added 6cms extra to the cuff directly on the fabric. This was simple to achieve using the trusty Patternmaster and air erasable pen. If you try this out don’t forget that the extended cuff needs to remain the same width as the original, if you just extend the sleeve downwards without  maintaining the width the cuff might get so tight that you can’t get your hand through it! IMG_1302IMG_1303IMG_1304IMG_1305IMG_1306

And so to making….

Zierstoff provide an ebook with each pattern of the making up instructions which you can either print off or follow from your device, which is what I did. It features full-colour photos of each stage so this makes it simple to follow. [There are also a number of videos to follow for various patterns which might make it even easier although I haven’t checked if Sue has one specifically]

I simply joined the contrasting parts together first, then the shoulder seams after which the sleeves go in. The various notches seemed to go together correctly which is always a bonus.IMG_1307

Ta-dah!

So here’s Sue in her Sue! I’m pretty pleased overall but my cuffs didn’t work quite right, they were just too long and dangly, not nicely ruched.

I put this right by sewing some stretched elastic onto the seam which puckers it up much nicer.

Since I’ve got my borrowed Brother set up with a twin-needle I can now have some proper twin-needle action on the cuffs and hem, at last.

Overall I’m very happy with my first Zierstoff PDF pattern and I have a few observations to make about this top-none of them super-critical though.

  • I will slightly narrow the chest area when I make another because this one in a little bit broad for me, otherwise the fit is good (possibly even go down a size but I don’t want a T-shirt too tight)
  • I had some initial trouble with printing off the pattern. Given my general ineptitude with technology I eventually worked this out for myself without the input of the young (Young?) people so it can’t have been that serious. I wonder if a novice sewer would also have this trouble or was it just me? There’s plenty of help online from Zierstoff though which is very reassuring.
  • The system for joining the pattern pieces (when you’ve printed them correctly) is very simple, the rows and columns make a lot of sense and was very quick. However, because there’s no overlap you’ll have to use sticky tape not glue sticks.
  • You may not want to print in colour for cost reasons but check your own size ‘colour’ before printing the whole thing because it might be a colour that’s visible in B&W
  • If you’re more used to brands that have greater degree of finesse to their PDFs you may not be that keen on Zierstoff but given their inexpensiveness I think that this particular pattern is a good product. It’s simple in it’s design and execution and you although have to do some of the work for yourself (contrast neck pieces) it’s not difficult to carry out.
  • There’s lots of information re:sizing, fabric quantities etc on their website as well as provided with the pattern once you’ve downloaded it. The online reviews seem to be universally positive too.

I should say that although I’ve been provided with this pattern for nothing all the views expressed are entirely my own and I’m not receiving any payment for them. I have a couple of others which I’ll be trialling, including a skirt, over the next few weeks so watch out for them too. Have a look at the website for yourself, if you have children you may like to try out some of those patterns, or you could try a free pattern first to see what you think.

I’d like to thank Julie for inviting me to try Zierstoff patterns after our chance meeting at the K&S show, I’m very flattered. I also notice that Zierstoff has recently been added to The Fold Line pattern resource.

Let me know your thoughts if you’ve ever used one of their patterns before, or as a result of reading this review.

Happy Sewing

Sue

 

Farrow dress by Grainline

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I can finally publish a blog all about the making of this dress so I hope you enjoy it and find it helpful or insightful…

I was very excited when Sew Now magazine asked me to review a pattern for them. What an opportunity! Editor Sam asked me to suggest 3 patterns that I’d like to make which were ‘me’ so I thought about the various patterns that were around at the moment and which ones I wouldn’t mind having a go at.

It’s funny but when you’re given the opportunity to push something to the top of your ‘make’ pile it really concentrates the mind. I thought the best way of seeing lots of patterns together was to go to The Fold Line where there’s a brilliant online database of virtually any pattern brand you can think of. I spent a happy hour (or two) browsing until I eventually settled on 4 patterns to submit. They were the Farrow dress from Grainline, the  Talvikki sweatshirt by Named Clothing, Ivy pinafore by Jennifer Lauren Handmade and the Landgate jacket by Merchant and Mills. I spent quite a while sourcing suitable fabrics for each of the garments too so that, once Sam had made her final choice, I could tell her the fabrics I thought would work well for it.

Because I really liked all the patterns, and they were quite diverse, I didn’t mind which one Sam chose. I’ve made a dress a little like the Farrow already and it’s actually one of my favourites. What made the Farrow different is the diagonal seams which bisect the front and back, and there are pockets set into the front seams. It has sleeveless and long sleeve variations too. I was stupidly excited when it arrived speedily in the post courtesy of The Draper’s Daughter img_0696

There was a slight hiccup with the first fabric I chose because the supplier hadn’t got quite enough so we had to go with my second choice, a lovely turquoise squared design viscose crepe at £12.99 per metre kindly supplied by Ditto Fabrics in Brighton.  img_0006

And so to begin….

Because Grainline are an American brand it’s important to remember that their sizing bands are different to UK and European sizing so I took my measurements and then chose accordingly. I’m usually a cutter not a tracer with patterns (always have been because it was never suggested to me there was an alternative, patterns are there to be cut up and used)

The Farrow doesn’t have loads of pieces and, apart from a curiously-shaped front piece for the pocket which needs a bit of space, I do think the lay plan is a bit over generous although the largest sizes will inevitably need more fabric overall. On a wide width fabric-especially if it is plain-you could easily reduce the quantity needed although I would urge you to double-check before buying if you’re not sure.

Luckily for me the Ditto fabric doesn’t have a distinct one-way design so I could interlock the pieces successfully and get the dress out of 2m60 instead of the suggested 3m20 (incidentally another factor of being a US pattern is that the fabric widths and quantities are in Imperial not metric so you’ll need to convert these)

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This is the lower skirt piece with it’s integral pocket.
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It’s not very economical as a lay plan but I expect I’ll find a use for the leftovers eventually.

Once cut out it’s a very straightforward sew. The instructions are clear although the diagrams could perhaps be a little bit bigger and also the right and wrong sides of the fabric are coloured the opposite way around to most other patterns I’ve ever used. This could lead to confusion and mixing up which side you’re supposed to be sewing so you’ll need to concentrate!

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stitching the back diagonal seams.

img_0011Stitching the lower edge of the pocket, the crossed pins higher up mark the pivot points for the seams creating the upper edge.

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I’ve overlocked the lower edge and then I drew on the stitching lines so that I followed the correct line, otherwise the pockets could be wonky on the inside!

Since first making the dress it’s been through the wash once and I’ve noticed the top edges of the pockets have stretched slightly because they are on a bias grain. I would suggest for future makes that you use a strip of iron-on interfacing approx 3cms x the top width of the pocket to reinforce the edge and stop it from stretching and nagging out of shape. 

Once both fronts have their pockets sewn it’s a case of matching the centre front seams and stitching.

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The CF and CB seams should look like this on the inside.

So far, sew good. Everything from now on was pretty simple. The neck is faced, as are the cuffs-this gives them a really nice crisp finish to the edge. I’d made another Farrow when the pattern first arrived and I used a contrast fabric for this, just to make one of those little secret details that only you know about-that’s one of the things I love about making my own clothes, their uniqueness.

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I used a Liberty-print twill for the facing and binding on the first Farrow dress.
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faced sleeves give a nice crisp finish to the edge.
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Giving the neck facing a press on my tailor’s ham (sooo useful!)

One final thing that I changed was the hem. I decided I wanted to use contrast bias binding to give it a nice finish, the hi-lo hem means whatever finish you choose it will be partly visible at the back.

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I had a rummage among my scraps and found some cotton lawn left over from lining the waxed cotton dress from last summer. I cut bias strips to make enough binding for the hem.
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The bias stitched on and I under stitched for extra crispness along the edge.
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The raw edge is turned over in the usual way and slip-hemmed by hand.

Obviously you can machine the hem up if you wish but the point is I wanted the stitching to be barely visible and hand-stitching is by far the best way to achieve this.

The final detail was to use a button and hand-sewn loop at the back neck closure (the pattern calls for a hook and eye but I don’t think they stay done up very well and a button looks much nicer anyway)

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The button came from Liberty ages ago and was a lonely single one I had left…

So there it is, the Farrow dress is a satisfying, moderately quick sew. I’ll definitely be making a sleeveless one for the summer in something a bit lighter, a chambray or soft linen would look nice, or a cotton shirting in a check or stripe could look really interesting if you’re up for the challenge of matching on the those pockets and diagonal seams! Broderie Anglais fabric would look gorgeous too!

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Ta-dah! The finished dress.
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This was the first version I made using the herringbone twill from Birmingham Rag market last year, the photo was taken at the V&A museum, one of my favourite haunts…
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Close up of the front seam and pockets-not too shabby…

I really enjoyed writing the article for Sew Now and was dead chuffed to be asked. I spent a long time considering which patterns I’d like to make and which fabrics would be suitable for any of them. I was more than happy with editor Sam’s selections in the end. Funnily enough, getting everything into 300 words was the hardest part! There were so many things I felt it was important to talk about (it’s a review after all and there are facts that I’d want to know about if I’m considering spending £15 on a pattern and I thought they were important to include) and I still wanted it to sound like ‘me’ too. With strict editing I got it all in there and I’ve gone into greater detail here on the blog. img_1036

I was so thrilled when my copy of the magazine came through the post! I’ve had photos of garments I’ve made featured before in a few publications but this is the first article I’ve been asked to write, I’d love it to be the first of many (hint hint)

Thank you for all the feedback I received when it first appeared and I hope you’ve enjoyed finding out about my writing experience in more detail.

Happy Sewing

Sue xx

a Moneta dress to ‘party’ in!

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I haven’t made anything by Colette patterns before but I’ve heard about the Moneta and when I saw friends Elle (@sewpositivity) Abi (@sewabigail) and Rach (@rach_wain) on Instagram had got together and were organising a ‘Moneta party’, with enticing prizes, I thought I’d enter.

It’s a pattern that’s available as a PDF or in paper form and to be honest, even though it was cheaper, I didn’t really want all the cutting and sticking of a PDF this time. Luckily for me my (almost) local fabric and pattern emporium The Creative Sanctuary in Hertford had one in stock. I popped over to collect it-and ended up buying the pink sparkly star sweat-shirting I used for the top I blogged about previously here at the same time!IMG_1003.jpg

I already had 2 metres of a really nice geometric design Ponte from Backstitch near Cambridge which I thought would be perfect for the dress. In theory, as ever, the pattern instructions stated more fabric than I had but that’s rarely stopped me before!

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I used the blue knit for the Moneta, the black and white and the plain black became a Heather by Sew Over It which you can read about here.

I wasn’t keen on the elbow length sleeves because I prefer below the elbow if they’re not long OR short, I wanted full-length as it was going to be a wintery dress. The idea of the ‘party’ was, I thought, to put a new spin on the style but I wanted it to be a dress I’d be comfortable and happy in so I opted to put my favourite roll collar on. I thought that in itself wouldn’t be original enough so I decided I’d put a fake exposed zip on the back too.

I made a quick toile of the bodice before cutting the fabric because even though it’s a stretchy style I didn’t want it too tight. I cut it slightly between two sizes and this was absolutely fine so I went ahead and cut the dress out of my ‘good’ fabric!

Because of the scarcity of my fabric after I’d cut the rest of the dress with long sleeves I ended up having to cut the collar in two parts and making a join in the centre front.IMG_1029.jpg

There was enough fabric to make 2 rectangles, each 14cms x 35cms which would just fit around the neckline.

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The pattern wasn’t going to quite match at the CF but I decided, unusually for me, that it  wasn’t going to matter too much!

I interfaced the two pieces to give them a bit more stability and then joined them to form one long rectangle. Incidentally, I’d raised the back neckline on the bodice because it was lower than I wanted for a winter dress and the collar wouldn’t be long enough to fit either.

Before I sewed the collar on I’d added the zip (taken out of something else previously) which I bound first with bias binding and then sewed directly onto the CB of the dress. It didn’t need to be a functioning zip because the fabric is stretchy and the dress just goes over your head.img_1028

Next I sewed the collar on to the neck edge.

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Rather than trying to get the seam of the collar under the overlocker I added bias binding to neaten the seam instead.

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I flipped the binding down towards the inside of the dress to enclose the edges and sewed it in place. The stitching won’t show on the right side because the collar would roll down and cover it.

Next it’s the skirt. The pattern calls for clear elastic to gather it but a) I hadn’t got any and b) I discovered it was pretty expensive so I used regular stuff! I cut a length to my waist size plus about 4cms to overlap the ends. This gets evenly divided into quarters around the waist of the skirt. [The skirt has been sewn up the side seams, with pockets inserted already] I used the 3-step zigzag stitch on my machine to sew on the elastic, gently stretching it to fit the skirt as I went. That was surprisingly straightforward! It isn’t a massively gathered skirt so there isn’t loads of fullness to deal with. After this the skirt gets attached to the bodice, simples!

The sleeves fitted in beautifully and everything gets hemmed as required. All that remained was to finish off the back of the collar so I dug out two small metal buttons and stitched them down on each corner to give a buttoned down effect.IMG_1109

So that’s it! One Moneta dress. It would be a pretty quick make if I didn’t keep complicating things! I’ll make a nice simple one next time. As it turned out my original take on the dress wasn’t interesting enough because it came a big fat nowhere in the competition but I’ve had LOADS of lovely comments from people about it and it’s really nice and comfy to wear so it’s not about the winning, it’s the taking part…isn’t it?

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I’ve realised that I look like Stretch Armstrong from the back! Aaargh, good job I can’t see my back 😦
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Ta-dah! in ‘the photo corner’ of the room where I teach my classes.

As I said earlier, this a quick-ish make especially if you have an overlocker but that’s by no means essential. Make sure you use a ballpoint or jersey/stretch needle in your machine (jersey is a ‘knit’ and so can ladder like tights if you use a sharp needle) and if you have a stretch stitch setting or can make a very shallow zigzag you should be fine. Jersey doesn’t usually fray either so it isn’t even essential to neaten the edges every time-use your own judgment on this though.

I wore my Moneta to the Knitting & Stitching show last week and I had loads of people comment on it and ask me for the details-I hope sales of the pattern have gone up as a result!!

Happy sewing

Sue

 

Sam McKnight and Burberry capes

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This isn’t exactly a blog, more of a sharing of the photos I took when I visited the hairdresser Sam McKnight retrospective at Somerset House recently, and the Burberry Maker’s House exhibit in Soho.

Obviously I’m not a hairdresser but I knew that the show featured McKnight’s collaborations with designers, as well as fashion magazines and publications over the last 3 decades. I felt though that the show, whilst interesting and well put together was a little lacking in very much substance. Lots of photos and hair-pieces, part of McKnight’s travelling ‘salon’ kit (a massive number of brushes, rollers, driers, straighteners, hairspray and general hairdressing paraphernalia) The opening section where a number of work stations are set up allows the viewer to feel they are backstage at fashion shows during the build-up which is interesting. This moves through to a section featuring McKnight’s collaborations with Vivienne Westwood over the last 20 years. It’s a good excuse to display a number of her outfits from previous collections.

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Vivienne Westwood

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Then there are lots more photos, large and small, and Vogue magazine covers. Sam McKnight is well-known as Princess Diana’s hairdresser, it was he who first cut her hair very short and created the ‘wet-look’ style that divided the press and public opinion. He accompanied her on a number of Royal overseas tours and was instrumental in the ‘reinvention’ of her look after her divorce from Prince Charles. diana

The next section revolves around McNight’s collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel.

The best bit of the show, for me, was the continuous showing of recent Chanel Haute Couture shows, being shown in their entirety. Each one runs for about 15 minutes and I watched 4!! So that was an hour spent watching exquisite dresses and suits on the runway-the hairstyles weren’t my particular focus though….

I don’t want to sound like I’m dissing the show and I’m really not because there was quite a bit that I enjoyed, and Sam McKnight is clearly a very nice bloke who’s very well-regarded in his field and influential in styling terms but it could just as easily have been a show about Westwood or Chanel.

The show is still running until March 12th if you want to go and I’ve shared the link above, or here

From Somerset House I took myself to the last day of Burberry Makers House which displayed their collaboration with the Henry Moore Foundation. I’d seen a number of people share images from it on Instagram so I wanted to see it for myself and I’m SO glad I made the effort to go.As I arrived there was the opportunity for a guided tour (it was a totally free-entry event anyway) which really enhanced my appreciation and understanding of what I was seeing. I couldn’t understand beforehand how a dead sculptor could be linked with a fashion house (albeit a long-established one) There were a number of Moore’s sculptures on display, as well as many of his tools, maquettes and sketches, most of which had never left Perry Green before. [If you’ve never been to Perry Green and you have the opportunity to visit I’d recommend going. It’s in a lovely rural spot and many of Moore’s most monumental sculptures are there in the settings that he intended for them, with the sheep still wandering happily between them keeping the grass down!]

The tour guide pointed out many of the inspirations and cross-pollination of ideas that Christopher Bailey created for the new season collection. I particularly enjoyed seeing the ideas boards and fabric samples. Ideas such as the elongated arms on the sculptures, the striped apron Henry Moore always wore in his studio, and the sheep that continue to wander around the site at Perry Green where Moore lived and worked for many many years, all found a place in the garments that were presented on the runway in the form of over-long sleeves and cuffs, blue-striped matelot T-shirts embellished with lace and beautiful asymmetric cable knitwear.

There were some wonderful ideas which any dressmaker could easily ‘interpret’ in her own way. I particularly liked the layering of stripes and sweatshirts, and evening dress-shirts with lovely details like pin tucks and bobbin lace, and delicate lace over-dresses. I’m hatching plans with a few ideas around these so watch this space.

The capes were the most extraordinary things! They weren’t capes in the useful, Sherlock Holmes sense, they were more like grand shoulder embellishments. There were 78 of them and there was so much variety between them all.  I’ll just share my photos here with the odd comment by way of explanation….img_1199img_1152img_1153

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GIANT cable knit
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Lace was pressed into clay to form a ‘relief’ pattern, and then wired together.

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beaded and sequined feathers
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More giant cable knit and ceramic designs.
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This one reminded me of an exquisite Edwardian evening cape.

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The cape was made up of multiple layers of silk georgette which was then hand embroidered with Japanese-style ‘sashiko’ stitching. As you can see, the edges have been left unfinished. It took over 400 HUNDRED hours to complete!
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Sea shells!

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Discs of fabric looking like scales or sequins.
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Eye-glasses!

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Trimmed feathers and tiny beading around the neck.

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Lace, tulle and feathers

So that’s it. One exhibition you can still go to if you’re quick and one that was somewhat ephemeral and all the more special because of it.

It would be lovely to hope that when the capes come back from their travels they could be displayed again somewhere for people to enjoy. It would be a real pity if such beautiful workmanship representing thousands of hours of work couldn’t be appreciated once more.

Meanwhile I’ll be having a go at my own take on some of the RTW collection (I don’t think the capes would to be that wearable on a day to day basis!)

Happy Sewing

Sue xx