Isca dress by Marilla Walker

You’ll know if you’ve read my recent blog about pattern companies that I have a ‘mixed’ opinion shall we say of indie patterns. Some of them are great with interesting, original and well-drafted patterns, others are too simplistic, lacking in instructions and poorly drafted. I happen to think that Marilla’s patterns definitely fall into the first category.

I first met Marilla nearly 3 years ago when she organised, via Instagram, a meet up at Walthamstow market in London. It was my first sewing meet up and I was more than a little nervous because it was such an alien idea in principle-turning up in a part of London I’d never visited before to meet a bunch of people I’d never met before! It was like a sewing blind date but I needn’t have worried because everyone (of course) was lovely. I’m slightly embarrassed now that I think about it that it’s actually taken me this long to try one of Marilla’s patterns out, anyway, I’ve broken my duck and I want to tell you all about the Isca dress.

IMG_8017

You actually get two quite different dresses for the price of one with just a few similarities. I got mine as a PDF but you can also buy them as paper patterns which Marilla hand-prints and packs herself-what a lovely touch.

I was particularly intrigued by the draped wrap-over front so this was the one I printed off and happily the PDF all went together well. I’m getting better at them now I think because I found them quite tricky to start with. I don’t always print off the making instructions because they can be quite lengthy but I did print these in ‘booklet’ format so now I don’t need to lug the laptop out to the workroom. Although I didn’t encounter any problems Marilla does give lots of useful advice in the instruction booklet about all sorts of details so if this is all new to you either read them first on a screen or print off the booklet before you do anything else.

The pattern has been out for a little while now so there are quite a few to look at for fabric inspiration but I think this striped version by Takaka is particularly lovely, if you search with the hashtag ‘iscashirtdress’ on Instagram you’ll find more for both styles.

I’d found a lovely soft chambray at Hitchin market which was perfect because it had sufficient structure but with drapiness. You could also choose a washed linen, a printed medium-weight crepe could look nice too, nothing with a lot of stretch though because of the neck-band feature-it could be a nightmare of stretchiness to sew then.

Because my fabric was plain it’s a breeze to cut out, yay, no matching!

The sizing isn’t the traditional 10/12/14 etc, take your body measurements and compare them to the chart [in inches or centimetres] and then pick the size nearest your measurements. There’s also a chart of finished garment measurements which will help you decide the sort of final fit you want. I’m really happy with the fit personally, it’s a close fit to the bust and shoulders becoming looser over the waist. One really useful thing Marilla has included, although I personally don’t have to use it, is instructions for a full or small bust adjustment. This would be particularly helpful because the strange shapes of the front bodice pieces could make this a bit of a head-scratcher otherwise.

fullsizeoutput_281b
FBA and SBA instructions

Although I’m a very experienced dressmaker there is some very helpful guidance if this a more advanced construction to you. Marilla is very thorough about where to trim seams, which direction to press them and how to make lapped or French seams if you want to use them. I didn’t top stitch any of the seams but you could do this if you wanted faux lapped seams for example.

I found topstitching the narrow band at the neck the trickiest part to sew, it had a tendency to twist and I had to unpick and re-sew a couple of sections. It would be well worth tacking this whole area if you’re in any doubt at all, it might save you time and frustration in the long run.

I really like the unusual details in this dress such as the raglan shoulder seam at the back, and of course the draping front section with it’s narrow band.

IMG_8015
The raglan shoulder seam at the back. It has a small yoke piece on the inside too, to stabilise the shoulder which is another construction detail I like.

fullsizeoutput_2819

IMG_8013
The back has darts and a waist seam which give it a very smooth, fitted shape in contrast to the front.

The pattern pieces for the front may look slightly curious shapes initially but the reason will become clear when they are joined together. There is bust shaping which results in the dress sitting smoothly over the bust and armhole area. This is a very well drafted pattern and a lot of time, care and attention has gone into it. This is the sort of indie pattern worth investing in! A single designer has put so much into this pattern for it to be the best it can be and I really respect that.

fullsizeoutput_2818
I love the way it ties across to the side seam.

IMG_8010

fullsizeoutput_2817
Indoor Doris is a bit skinnier than me so the dress looks a bit droopy on her. Also, it’s crumpled because I took these photos after I’d worn it for the day!

When I finished the dress all it needed was a button-fortunately Marilla points out that unless you need the dress to open up for nursing then this can be purely decorative. I had a rummage and found a single beautiful vintage button so I used that, it would have been too big otherwise. IMG_8012I finished the dress in time to wear at the Sewing Weekender in Cambridge and it got lots of very nice compliments which is down to the pattern not me being model material!

IMG_8009
pockets on a slant!
IMG_7984
The other pocket is under the ‘flap’
IMG_7982
The hem dips at the front and isn’t intended to be level all the way round.

IMG_7981

I’ll definitely make another version of this style of Isca before too long but the shirt-dress version won’t be very far down my autumn sewing list either. Plain or patterned, this is a stylish and unusual dress, in many ways it sums up why I love to sew my own clothes than a more ‘conventional’ style pattern might. You’d be very hard-pushed to find a dress like this in the shops and even if you did it would almost certainly come with a designer price tag! It could be sleeveless for summer in a cotton, or a really soft babycord with a sweater under for cooler weather. There’s room to eat a big lunch as well!!

Marilla has created a number of other patterns, including the Roberts collection dungarees which have been incredibly popular so check out her website to see them all. She’s an amazingly crafty and creative woman and if you want to hear her talking more about her background you can listen to her on the Stitcher’s Brew podcast here. Oh, and she makes her own shoes too…and bras…and soap…in fact I don’t think there’s anything she wouldn’t have a go at making!!

So normal blog service has been resumed and I’ve returned to writing about dressmaking and not just getting uppity about sewing stuff that bothers me….although judging by all the responses I’ve had, much of it bothers you too.

Until next time,

Happy sewing,

Sue

 

Cleo from Tilly and the Buttons

fullsizeoutput_203e

Have you ever found that just once in a while your off-spring are listening when you drop clanging great hints about what you’d like for Xmas?

I get the regular Tilly and the Buttons email updates and in early December received the one about Cleo kits, a complete fabric/pattern/thread/trims bundle at a reasonable price. My daughter happened to be lurking nearby so I casually mentioned this….

Anyway, I was quite startled when by chance the first gift I opened on Christmas morning was exactly that! whoop whoop! Of course I then thought there was no time until the New Year to start it but I remembered I’d bought a small quantity of peacock corduroy at the Rag Market in Birmingham when I went up for Sew Brum in October, I’d already pre-washed it so it was ready to go and a window of opportunity opened up so off I went.

In my opinion I’ve always found Tilly’s instruction booklets very clear and helpful, there’s lots of useful info if you’re a novice and the plan of making in the form of colour photos are excellent too. I decided that rather than use the bib-and-brace fixings for this one I’d use buttons and buttonholes instead.

This would also give me the chance to try out some of the features on my new toy…just before Christmas I finally invested (with my own hard-earned cash) in a Pfaff Quilt Ambition 2.0 from Sew Essential. They had it as a Black Friday (not a real thing) offer and, after driving for 2 hours to visit them and try it out, I bought one! [thank you to Irena for being patient with me while I got to grips with it, I’d really recommend you try out any machine you’re thinking of buying and Sew Essential are happy for you to visit for a demonstration of the various models and makes that they sell] IMG_4268

Cleo takes not a lot of fabric (if you’re using corduroy do bear in mind that it has a ‘nap’ or pile so cut all your pieces going in one direction or it will shade) I decided that rather than make the patch pockets by turning the edges under I’d bag them out with some scraps of Liberty Tana lawn I had. This has the additional benefit of giving them lovely neat edges, and once I’d stitched them on I tried out the bar tack feature on my machine. It’s a good way of reinforcing pockets and other potential weak points, or attaching belt loops.

IMG_4360
a rather natty bar tack on the pocket

There was just enough Liberty fabric to make a hem facing too using 2 straight strips too so this was a good way of neatening the hem without it being bulky.

fullsizeoutput_20ce
I cut the strips twice as deep as I wanted it to be when it was folded in half.
fullsizeoutput_20cf
the strips folded over
fullsizeoutput_20d1
The cut edges are then matched to the raw edges on the cord and stitched in position. I stitched each on separately because then I sewed all the way down the side seams and the facings too.

After I sewed up the side seams I under-stitched and pressed up the facing. Next I used the top-stitch to secure it.

IMG_4359
I used the additional edge guide for the topstitching as I wanted the hem deeper than the usual seam allowance markings.
fullsizeoutput_20d4
The triple stitch gives a nice chunky top-stitch and the facing is under-stitched to help it roll upwards.

It was lovely to be able to make the buttonholes using the one-step buttonhole feature too, my previous machine didn’t have this method. I tried out a couple of test ones but then the first buttonhole on the dress wasn’t so great because I touched the ‘stop’ lever accidentally as it was sewing so it reversed before it finished sewing the complete side-oops.

IMG_4361
oh dear-user error

IMG_4415

These are the most erratic colour photos, sorry about that, it’s a really tricky colour to photograph accurately.

Many of you reading this will probably already be familiar with the Cleo so I’ve concentrated on what I’ve done to make mine unique to me and not so much on the step-by-step aspect of making it. I’m happy with the fit of this first one so as soon as I’ve washed the burgundy I’ll get the ‘Christmas’ one made up too. I’ve made the shorter length version, I’m not sure if I like the longer version as much in truth but who knows, I might give it a go sometime.

fullsizeoutput_2055

fullsizeoutput_2052
My top is the Amy from Zierstoff patterns in a slightly sparkly jersey from Escape & Create in St Ives, Cambs. I love the long wrinkly cuffs although it might be that my arms are too short… (that’s another blog waiting to be written too as I’ve made 3 variations of it now)

Tilly often create these pattern/fabric bundles so check out their website to see what is currently available. The Cleo has been super-comfortable in this post-Christmas podgy period-or is that just me?-and I can see why it’s been so popular as a pattern, it’s quick, it’s simple and it’s fun and comfy to wear-what more could you want?

Happy Sewing

Sue

a busy year in sewing 2016

img_0567

I thought I’d take a look at everything I’ve made over the course of the last 12 months and it makes, for me at least, interesting viewing. There’s a variety of garments, styles, shapes and silhouettes. Some have been more successful than others for various reasons, some are self-drafted, others were new patterns free with magazines, some were hacked from patterns I already have and some were indie patterns and PDFs. There have been garments thrown together in very little time and with very little fabric, and there have been a few things that I’ve taken a huge amount of time and care over. There have been a growing number of refashions in the mix too. Not everything I’ve made ended up being photographed so I don’t think this is an exhaustive list but most of it’s here, wherever possible I’ll give pattern and fabric details but I think it will be a photo-tour through my sewing year 2016.

 

So here goes…

img_2953
Ha ha, trying to master the art of a decent selfie! This has been one of my favourite dresses all year, it’s New Look 6340 which was free with Sew magazine and it’s made in a lovely maroony/brown crepe with little pink stars from Man Outside Sainsbury’s in Walthamstow. It’s very swingy and I’ve worn it layered up on cool days or sleeveless in the summer. I keep planning another but it hasn’t quite happened yet. Silver shoes from Clarks
img_3013
This was my first foray into Burda Style trace-off patterns. The front and sleeves are scuba with crepe de chine on the back. I’ve worn it a few times although the fabric combination isn’t the best.
img_4370
The stripes on this one annoyed me as I hadn’t bought enough fabric so I couldn’t match them properly-turned out it was excellent for doing Pilates in though!
img_3165
This was my first refashion of the year. I made this bag using 2 old pairs of jeans to carry all my kit to and from college in London.
img_3198
I love this dress! it’s the Wisewood from MIY Wendy Ward. I like to think it looks a little ‘Vivienne Westwood’. Instead of cutting away the excess fabric at the centre front I pulled it across to sit over my hip and stitched it in place. It’s so comfy! The fabric came from a local market and cost me next-to-nothing.

I made 2 of this dress during the year, the blue chambray was first and the pale green was made during the Sewing weekender in August.  I blogged about them both and I love wearing them both. I’m particularly happy with the exposed zip on the green.

Quite different garments but both new to me-the stripes was a copy of a top I already had and the shirt is a refashion of one belonging to my husband, read about them here and here.

I made an evening dress for myself in March using Simple Sew‘s Floating Bodice pattern (for reasons I won’t go into it became known as the Flying Buttress dress) I’ve never blogged this one, maybe I’ll get round to it because I’ve used some interesting techniques on it.

I did a bit of pattern-making of my own for the next dress.

This was my own self-drafted pattern for the skirt with pleats and a false wrap over, and an existing bodice from years ago. Overall I’m pleased with it, the skirt works really well but the bodice needed some tweaking-the shoulders were too broad and the bodice too long so I altered it the next time I made it-sleeveless this time, in gorgeous cotton/linen mix from Ditto fabrics in Brighton.

img_4721

img_3636
This was a free Burda pattern 6914, again with Sew magazine. I added pockets to the side seam and gave it longer sleeves with darts around the cuffs to echo the neckline and hem. It’s bright red and black houndstooth check wool mix and a really comfy dress for cooler days. I made it again in a stripe later in the year.
img_4982
I cut the short sleeves on the bias to give them an interesting effect although they’re a bit tight on me for some reason so I’ve only worn it once so far. I love the binding around the neck though!
img_4461
This one was an absolute pleasure to make, it’s a’graduation’ gown for a little boy with dwarfism-he looked brilliant it in and his little face was a joy to see-that’s when I love what I do.
img_4493
I loved this fabric so much but stupidly didn’t buy enough so it’s tight around my hips and snug over the bust, I wore it anyway. The pattern is adapted from Simplicity 1620

This gorgeous fabric came from Faberwood and although I only had 1.5m I got two tops out of it! On the left is New Look 6230 (free from Sew magazine!) On the right is a top from a hacked pattern I’ve used at least 5 times in various versions either as a top or a dress.

Still with me…?

Next up was an Alder from Grainline patterns, the summer version was a cotton poplin from Backstitch and the red is more recent and I’ve added long sleeves . Both have had plenty of wear.

img_4654
This is the simplest top ever! It’s quite literally two rectangles of silk crepe de chine joined at the shoulders and two side seams.
img_4653
Another holiday pic, this is Simplicity 1665 and another freebie. In fact the fabric was gifted too!
img_4697
This dress was custom-made for Liz’s eldest son’s wedding, you can read how I created it here 

 

This top has been one of my absolute favourites over the summer, it’s my version of a RTW  top from last year and was an early blog post. The skirt was a wonky bolt-end of jersey I turned into a super-comfy skirt, even the elastic in the waist came from something else.

img_4811
gorgeous bridesmaids, what else can I say. Old-school petticoats and Cath Kidston styling-lovely.
img_4904
Pyjama shorts for Mr Y-they have steam trains on!

This was another extreme labour of love. It’s a jacket made for Portia Lawrie‘s The Refashioners project 2016. It didn’t win but I got a mention in despatches and I’ve had a lot of use out of it. The dress underneath is from last year and is one of my absolute favourites-I’ve had random strangers on public transport compliment me about it!

I love this waxed cotton dress, I got the pattern (Simplicity 2444) from the swap at the Weekender in August (and the button was in the goody bag) and the fabric is from a shop in Walthamstow.

This was my first Tilly and the Buttons pattern and also my first properly inserted exposed zip. I blogged about it here. Then came a pattern-testing opportunity for Megan Nielsen patterns, her new Karri dress to be precise. You can read the blog for that here.img_0111

Next was a bit of fun with this swooshy cape, I’ve blogged that on here, the lovely fabric came from Fabrics Galore when I visited the London Knitting and Stitching Show in October.

img_0141

While I was working on many of these things I was slowly beavering away on possibly my favourite dress ever-it’s the gorgeous evening dress I created for our special Ladies Night in November.

img_0267
I felt so glamorous and pretty in it.

Nearly there…

img_0375
This was more of a wearable toile from a PDF in Love Sewing Magazine by Thrifty Stitcher Claire-Louise Hardie. I really like the clever front folds with integral pockets, it’s quite short for me so it’s strictly a thick tights dress!
img_0388
Self-drafted trousers with welt pockets, in a lovely ponte from Ditto. They finished up a little big for some reason which is strange as I’ve made 3 other pairs and they’ve been fine-oh well.
img_0455
I love this top so much! I’m wearing it right now and when I find the right fabric I’ll be making more, possibly with long sleeves and roll-back cuffs.
img_0511
Obviously this isn’t a dress at all, this is Doris being a Christmas cracker at our Christmas Tree Festival in December. Twinkly fabric from Goldhawk Road.

Almost finally, this is version 1 of the Zoe dress from Sew Now magazine, in a lovely printed denim from Ditto

img_0253

img_0536
…and this is the final (probably) completed project of the year. It’s version 2 of Zoe by Simple Sew which was free with new magazine Sew Now. The printed cord came from Goldhawk Rd in West London.

There was one last dress I made recently which wasn’t so successful not because the pattern wasn’t good but because the fabric didn’t work well for the style. I have worn it but there’s no photo, I intend making it again because I really like the pattern but I’ll be more careful with fabric choice this time. I’ll write a review when I’m happier with it, it was me not the pattern!

So there we have it, well done for sticking with me all the way through this trawl of the last 12 sewing months. In between all the making I completed a large number of bridal and other alterations, which are much less fun frankly. I’ve taught lots of lovely people new things too either individually or in weekly classes. It’s been so much fun. I’ve really enjoyed meeting lots of sewers and dressmakers in the flesh this year too and I hope there’ll be more opportunities for meet ups and Weekenders next year, I like nothing better than to get together with other people to talk sewing/patterns/fabrics until the cows come home…

There’ll be one last blog for 2016 which will be a review of the two shirts I’ve just made Mr Y for Christmas, but I haven’t written that yet….

Thank you for reading my blog and I really like to receive your comments. I hope there’ll be a lot more sewing fun in 2017. I’ll still be pushing myself to try new techniques and methods and patterns, I’m every bit as keen to learn new things as any beginner-I love learning from newbies just as much as I’m happy to share what I know with you. Just because I’ve been doing this forever is irrelevant, we’re never too old to learn something new, or another way of doing it.

Don’t forget that, if you don’t already, you can find my page on Facebook at Susan Young Sewing and also on Instagram (susanyoungsewing) that’s usually where I post lots of pictures of what I’ve been sewing, galleries and museums I’ve visited and what my cats are up to!!

Merry Christmas, a healthy and prosperous 2017, and lots more sewing of course,

Sue xx

A Grainline ‘Alder’ shirtdress with sleeves

img_0340

I’ve already made one Alder earlier in the summer and liked wearing it more than I expected to…a slightly bizarre statement surely?  I loved the fabric, a cute butterfly-print poplin bought from Backstitch in the spring, and I like the style a lot but it felt a bit snug over the bust (and I’m not large) and I couldn’t get the collar to go on the neatly. This may have been because I forgot halfway through (or never actually checked) that the seam allowances are 1/2″ which isn’t a typical SA for most patterns sold in the UK. If I used 1.5cms this would explain why it was a bit tight. Rookie error!

img_4575
Sorry about the messy hair-I was on holiday!
img_0349
I made view A again.

I added a box pleat to the back this time to create a little extra fullness, as well as it being a new detail. This is simple to do. Instead of placing the pattern piece directly against the fold of the fabric just move it parallel away from the fold by the amount you want, I moved it by 2cms which added a total of 4cms. [If you don’t want fullness all the way to the hem, place the hem against the fold and pivot the pattern piece from that point away from the fold at the top by as much as you want to add] Then you can pleat out the extra as you wish, I top-stitched it down, western-shirt style.

img_0342
This is what it looks like finished

I decided exploit the distinct pile of the fabric by cutting the patch pockets on the bias. It was pretty straightforward from then on to make up the dress, I was really careful about the seam allowance this time.

img_0341
pockets cut on the bias and saddle stitched

I top-stitched most of the seams using the saddle stitch setting on my machine [it looks like 3 lines of stitches side by side in the diagram if you’ve got it, it oversews each stitch so they’re highlighted more than if you just did one row of normal stitch in regular thread]

img_0345
This time the collar went on just fine, I must have goofed somewhere on the previous one.

In the end I decided not to make it sleeveless as before so I added sleeves from a Simplicity pattern I’d used previously. I checked the arm scye measurement against the sleeve head to ensure the sleeve was big enough, but not too big, to go into the armhole. This sleeve has a simple cuff without a placket so it was speedier to make and not too bulky in the cord fabric.

img_0343
Finished cuffs, I haven’t top stitched them although I might…so indecisive

I should mention that I’ve also added pockets to the side seams this time-always handy for a tissue to go through the washing machine and cover everything in white fluff!img_0346

Considering I have about 4 billion buttons in my collection I was somewhat surprised to not be able to collect together enough buttons all the same! So….there are two different-coloured ones on the front and perfectly matching red ones on the cuffs, a quirky detail I like to think.

img_0344
You’ll notice it’s been hard to capture the colour of this.

And there we have it, it needs a bit more of a press judging by this photo but I think it will be a lovely cosy winter dress with thick tights or leggings, and boots. The pile on plain cord gives lots of different shades even when it’s all cut in the same direction as this was.img_0418

…and there’s still a bit of fabric left too, perhaps I’ll keep that another 23 years and make something for my yet-to-be-born grandchildren!

Happy Sewing,

Sue xx