Simple Sew Amelia tea dress hack.

The Amelia tea dress isn’t one I’ve sewn before but Jane who comes to my sewing class had made one last summer and I remember liking the shirred elastic midriff section. The brief for our makes this time was ‘festive’ (we usually don’t have a brief, it’s free-choice) Bearing this in mind Bobbins n Buttons had offered to provide me with fabric so I had a browse on their website and selected the Lady McElroy ‘beauty and the bees’ stretch velvet. 

The pattern isn’t intended for jersey but it is simple shapes and a bit of gathering which I knew would still work well, what you don’t want is a fabric that’s too thick or stiff though because the shirring won’t work properly. I planned to hack the pattern a bit so I decided to add long bishop sleeves as it’s winter, I also lengthened the skirt (more on that later) and of course I added pockets! 

Because of the distinctive large print I opted to remove the centre back seam and put the zip into the side seam instead, this was to save me the hassle of trying to pattern match the print across the zip. Because I’d removed the CB seam in the bodice I took it out of the skirt too, for the same reasons. If you’ve got a tricky print to match over a seam like this consider whether you can move the zip to the side, it’s not much different to put in and the opening can be a little shorter but still give you sufficient room. Now I could have a line of bees central down the back (and front of course) and just needed to get a good horizontal match too for me to be really happy.

As I said before I wanted the skirt as long as possible but there needs to be a compromise between length versus flare because of the width of the fabric. If you want the skirt to be longer you’ll need to reduce the amount of flare at the hem because you’ll be restricted by the fabric width. The wider the fabric then the more scope you have. I measured how long I could make the skirt before it would need reducing at the hem and decided it would be an acceptable length. I could add around 10cms to the hem making sure the new side seams were at a right angle to each other so that the hem will run in a smooth lineI traced around a few bees where they crossed the cutting line so that I could ensure the front and back matched as well as possible. 

In order to cut everything as efficiently as possible from the fabric I first cut the skirts against the main fold-don’t forget to exclude the CB seam or the piece will be bigger than your back bodice (if you’re excluding the zip) 

Then I refolded the fabric with the selvedges into the centre to cut the bodice pieces on the folds. This is vital to get those bees running down the centre. 

From the remaining fabric I cut a pair of long sleeves. I used the pattern from another design I’ve made a few times, I measured the armhole of the dress and compared it against the sleeve I have. It was a little smaller at the crown so I added a small amount to give it sufficient widthFinally, because it’s jersey, I chose to use a neck binding instead of the facings so I cut two narrow strips which were each the same length as the CF to CB measurement of the neck plus a couple of centimetres seam allowance. 

I increased the sleeve head by 2cms, moving it out by 1cm either side of the shoulder notch.
It’s important to keep the sleeve level when you add the extra width so draw a line at a right angle to the grainline, then move the pattern piece 1cm in each direction using the line as the axis.

Ok, so I mostly followed the instruction with a few minor changes because of my alterations. One thing I did first of all was to stabilise the back shoulder seams and the left side seams where the zip was going to go with iron-on interfacing because I don’t want them to stretch out of shape. I chose to leave the back darts in although I possibly could have eased them out as it’s a stretch fabric.

stabilised side seam before the zip goes in.

After joining the shoulder seams I added my neck binding. I folded the strips with RS out along the long edge-I didn’t join them to each other at this stage-then, starting at the V, I stitched just that section into place. This way you can sew just a small part, snip into the V and pivot at the corner more accurately. When I was happy with this I sewed the rest of the binding on leaving just the CB part unsewn, then I could join the two strips in the right place and finally attach it to the neckline. Finally I neatened the edge all the way around and then topstitched it down close to the seam to stop it rolling. 

The next part is the shirring which really isn’t difficult so don’t panic. First wind shirring elastic onto an empty bobbin BY HAND stretching it very slightly as you go, put it into the machine in the usual way (you may wish to check the manual if you have an older machine in case there is anywhere else you need to thread the elastic through) Use your matching colour thread on the top in the usual way and lengthen the stitch slightly, it doesn’t need to be zigzag or anything though. Definitely try out a test piece first and don’t forget to secure the start of each new row so that the stitching doesn’t come undone. I don’t secure the other end at this stage though in case I find I need to pull the threads up any more later. You should be able to sew 8 rows of stitching parallel to each other to complete the strip. The fabric will naturally pucker up pretty well but when you’re done stitching hover the iron with plenty of steam over it and you’ll find it gathers up some more as a result. Finally knot the ends of the threads to secure.

Then you need to attach the gathered band onto the lower part of the bodice making sure it’s evenly divided as you go.

Attaching the shirred waist section to the upper bodice.

Attach the skirts (I’d sewn the pocket bags on to each side seam before doing this. I just use my handy cardboard template which I made ages ago, I just trace around it directly onto the fabric and cut out.) 

Next the zip goes into the left side seam. I sew it here out of habit as I’m right-handed and find it easier to do up that way but put the zip in whichever side works for you. After neatening both side seams separately first I sewed up the top of the side seam by about 4cms from the armhole edge. I used an invisible zip and inserted it in the usual way, making sure the waist seams matched, and then joining the rest of the side seam once I was happy with the zip insertion. I sewed up the other side seam and I was ready to tackle the sleeves.

The sleeves are set-in so I made the elasticated cuffs on the flat first using straight strips of jersey the same length as the curved cuff edge. With the strip open and RS together I sewed it once. 

Then I folded the strip in half and sewed it on the overlocker to create a channel.

 This will turn downwards to form the cuff which I slotted wide elastic through, securing at both ends. 

Finally, I sewed the underarm seams to create the sleeves which are inserted into the dress as per the instructions. 

All that’s left to do is the hem which I sewed on the coverstitch machine which is on loan to me by Pfaff at the moment. 

I’m really pleased with how the dress has turned out, it’s very swishy and has a slightly 1940’s vibe to it. I like the extra length on the skirt and the sleeves look fab. I was a little alarmed when I saw the large scale of the print but actually I really rather like the bees now. One thing I’m not keen on (and this is down to the manufacturer and not the supplier) is that they have printed a black background design onto a white base cloth. Because the cloth has a pile it means that anywhere there are joins there is a slight hint of the white showing through which is not ideal. The velour isn’t too tricky to work with as the pile is a bit flatter than velvet but it does still ‘creep’ a bit in places so if you’re in any doubt that pins aren’t enough to keep it all in alignment make sure you tack (baste) seams together. If you have a walking foot I would definitely advise using it. 

Lots of pictures swishing about!

I hope this will help you to feel inspired and perhaps have a go at ‘hacking’ a pattern for yourself. This was a very simple one but if you look at my Simplicity blouse hack you can see just how carried away it’s possible to get!

Until next time, happy sewing

Sue

Sidewinder pants by The Sewing Revival

The Sidewinder pants are my third make using a pattern from The Sewing Revival following on from several versions of their Heron dress and Bellbird top. I’ve already written reviews of them which you can read about here and here, plus I made a new version of the Bellbird at the recent Sewing Weekender in Cambridge, organised by The Fold Line.

The Sidewinders are a very simple pull-on trouser pattern with a tapered leg but their USP is the diagonal side seam which gives them such an interesting ‘twist’. They are flat-fronted with an elasticated back waist and of course there are pockets in the seams too. There are variations at the hem too as you can choose plain full-length, 7/8ths with turn-ups like mine or use wide elastic to gather the hem into cuffs. As you can see from the artwork they could be very casual or dressed up with heels, fabrics with a bit of body but some drape and softness are suggested. Like the other Sewing Revival patterns these are PDFs so you can buy, download and print your pattern any time, or have them printed for you on A0.

As I’ve come to expect with SR patterns the instructions and illustrations are very clear and personally I’ve always found their sizing very good too. I cut the large based on my measurements although I did decide to shorten the leg length very slightly as I didn’t want them ‘pooling’ around my ankles too much, the idea is that they sit above the ankle bone. The instructions tell you what length of elastic to cut for the back waist which you can then adjust to suit.

For the first pair I used some Royal blue crepe fabric which was leftover from the Trend Asymmetric dress I made last year. If you’re using a plain fabric these trousers are surprisingly economical to cut and if you’re short of fabric you could cut the pocket bags and waist band facings from other fabrics too. You could have fun with stripes or checks to give them a bit of a Vivienne Westwood vibe but you’d need more fabric for that. What about using ribbon or piping down the side seam for emphasis?

Construction is very quick, I’d say that this could be a half-day project if you aren’t getting fancy with pattern-matching. I really like the way that the waistband is a facing because when it folds over the top it secures the pocket bags in place, you only need to neaten the lower edges of them. The elastic gets slotted through the back channel which extends slightly around to the front beyond the ‘normal’ side seam position. Once this is stitched in place you sew down the facing at the front. This line of stitching isn’t near the edge, it’s approximately 3.5-4cms away depending on the width of your elastic so use a guide of some kind to keep it parallel, I always use the quilting guide which comes with my machine or you could use Washi tape or similar stuck onto the bed (I’m not keen on this personally as I wouldn’t any sticky residue near my fabrics but I know others use this method)

These are the second pair which I made at the Weekender and that is why some of the overlocking is different colours.

As I said earlier I’ve made both versions with a small turn-up so once I’ve turned them up I stitched through seam lines of the inner and outer leg seams to hold the turn-up securely in position.

You’ll notice from the grey version that I contrast top-stitched in pink either side of the outer leg seams to give some emphasis to the diagonal seam, I like how it goes ‘off’ at the hem.

The blue pair are sooo comfortable because the crepe fabric has quite a bit of natural give, and the back elastic gives a nice snug fit without being too tight. My blouse here is a longtime favourite, the Imogen from Sew Me Something
There was enough fabric to make a belt which ended up being massively long so it goes round twice into a big bow!
And these are the grey pair which I teamed with the second garment I started (but didn’t finish!) at the Weekender which is another Sewing Revival Bellbird made in a very lightweight woven check cotton which I picked up on a swap table somewhere last year. The label was given to us by lovely Harriet of Sew me Sunshine which is a really nice reminder of what I made and where!

Janine at The Sewing Revival generously provided me with the pattern for the Sidewinders and I’ve been more than happy to write a review because I love these trousers! I’m planning to make more for the winter and I’ll definitely give a gathered ankle pair a try too.

After a few weeks of sewing for others, writing (and then completely rewriting the Sew Over 50 birthday blog post because I lost ALL 4000+ words!!!!) and being away from home it’s lovely to get back to a bit of sewing for myself and sharing my thoughts with you. I’m so happy that I discovered The Sewing Revival as a result of our first Sew Over 50 challenge at the beginning of the year, did you find any new patterns brands as a result too, that was certainly our hope.

Until next time,

Happy Sewing

Sue

French dart shift by Maven Patterns

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This could very well be the perfect dress for the imperfect figure. It sits nicely on the shoulders with smooth set-in sleeves that blouse slightly at the cuff (if you’re going full-length) the French darts give it shape and the slight A-line flare of the skirt skims the body, it has pockets and finally there’s a funnel-neck collar to draw attention up towards the face if that’s your best feature! Oh, and there’s no zip, just pop it over your head!

I bought my pattern from the lovely Mike (son in law of Mrs Maven) who was manning the stand at the autumn Knitting & Stitching show for Mrs Maven who’d had to dash off for a family emergency. He must have done a grand job because I bought a pattern, as did many others while I was there, the samples on display were very enticing.

The French Dart Shift appealed to me because I liked it’s relaxed but stylish aesthetic, there are lots of possibilities. It has 3 sleeve options (plus sleeveless) and you could make it in a whole variety of fabrics from winter-weights like worsted wool or denim, through cotton poplins to softer fabrics like crepe or lace with suitable linings.

The patterns aren’t cheap at £18.50 but they are beautifully produced in a folding wallet, printed on quality paper with a comprehensive instruction booklet. I decided to trace off the pattern onto Swedish tracing paper rather than cut it out-I don’t always do this as I’m not an habitual tracer! I checked my body measurements and then using the measurements chart provided so I went for a UK 14. fullsizeoutput_2154

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This time I transferred the pattern to Swedish tracing paper.

I had a rummage in my stash and found some navy fabric with tiny dots which I bought ages ago in Hitchin market and there was just enough. I didn’t follow the cutting plan as I hadn’t got the suggested quantity but by careful refolding and some single-layer cutting I got everything out.

One detail you need to watch out for is that the seam allowance is just 1cm rather than the more usual 1.5cms. The instructions are comprehensive and thorough although if you struggle with following written instructions this might be a challenge for you. There are illustrations too which are very detailed but they could do with being just a bit larger for those of us who are a bit sight-challenged, I managed but that’s partly because I had an inkling of how it was likely to go together.

The instructions encourage quality details such as taping the neck and pocket edges to prevent stretching (I actually used iron-on tape which fulfils the same job) and reinforcing the joins between the pocket bags and the side seams.

I failed to take any photos during the making, sorry about that, but it all went together as intended. The band on the cuffs is quite narrow and a bit fiddly but it’s worth persevering because the end result looks nice. You could leave the cuff off i suppose and make a channel with elastic through it if you wanted, or you could shorten the sleeve to between wrist and elbow length too.

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the narrow gathered cuff is very feminine

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The collar is cut on the bias which gives it a lovely roll and it stands well on it’s own, there’s no interfacing inside it. If you were making the dress in something more flimsy (like cotton lawn for example) you could mount the collar onto a fine fabric like organza, or a second piece of lawn or voile to give it more body.

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Finished, I actually hand-stitched the hem so that it was nice and invisible.

I finished the navy dress before Christmas-I wore it on Christmas Day in fact, but I’ve only just made a second version recently [a 2 week bout of flu put paid to any creative sewing for a while]

I’ve made this second version in a lovely Ponte Roma I bought from Fabrics Galore at the Knitting & Stitching Show 18 months ago (I don’t like to rush these things) Although Ponte isn’t one of the suggested fabrics it’s worked well but you need to make sure that the wide neck edge is taped to prevent it being stretched before you put the collar on.

I think I can safely say this dress is my ‘secret pyjamas’, it’s sooo comfy!

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Whoop, the sun came out so here’s some pictures in the garden. I used the twin needle to turn up the hem on this one.

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I chose not to cut the collar on the bias because it’s a slightly stretchy fabric and this has back-fired a bit because it’s collapsing. Never mind, we live and learn, I should have followed my own advice and mounted it onto something else for a bit of structure.

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All in all I’m delighted with this dress and I can see me making several more for the summer. Take a look at the Maven website for more inspiration with fabrics, you could even leave the collar off, and I know Portia Lawrie has produced a colour-block version too which looks fab. I think I’ll investigate some of Maven’s other patterns now too as they look really appealing!

Let me know if you’ve tried any of them,

Happy sewing

Sue

I made a coat!! Butterick 6423 to be precise…

Two years ago I did a 10 week tailoring course at Morley College, London but it’s taken me until now to actually make my own coat. I settled on Butterick 6423 partly because it’s a fairly similar silhouette to a RTW coat I already own and wear a lot, and then, ironically, it came free with Love Sewing magazine just before Christmas.

Butterick coat

Added to this I had 3 metres of lovely turquoise-coloured wool in my stash that was gifted to me about a year ago by a friend who was clearing out her mother’s belongings and wanted the fabrics and patterns (LOTS of them) to go to an appreciative home. Not only that, I had just under 2 metres of almost psychedelic lining fabric which came from a different elderly lady ( I had no idea what to do with it at the time but, as is often the way, it goes really well with this wool)

Because I had plenty of fabric, which makes a change for me as I tend to underestimate, I could cut out the coat without having to watch every centimetre. I didn’t have quite enough lining though so I cut all the pieces which would be visible inside the main body and the sleeve linings I cut from plain lining, again from my stash.

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Sleeve lining, with 4cms of the length folded out

Initially, before I cut the fabric, I pinned the tissue together to check it on my dress-stand. I chose to take 3cms out of the overall body length and 4cms out of the sleeves because they seemed terribly long. This proved to be sensible as you’ll see in the finished garment.

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I used loads of good old-fashioned tailor’s tacks on all the balance marks, I’m not always this meticulous but it proved invaluable for this project.

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coming together slowly…

I found the instructions very clear to follow and I don’t think at any time did I get in a muddle although I do think a common problem with the ‘big’ pattern companies is that the diagrams can be very small making it difficult to see exactly what you should be doing, particularly areas like clipping into important corners eg at the collar/shoulder seam.

Because I do a lot of alterations for people I’ve noticed various techniques employed in the construction of RTW garments. Cuffs, for example, are usually stabilised with iron-on interfacing of some kind so that’s what I did here.

By doing this it stops the cuff from stretching (my fabric is fairly loosely woven too) and gives it firmness and stability. I bought my iron-on interfacing in Goldhawk Rd, London so I can’t really give much detail about it except to say I was told it’s suitable for woollens and tailoring with a light jersey backing. I used it on the collar facing too and it seems to be absolutely fine. You could use a firmer one if you wish, that would make the collar firmer than mine.

There are a few places where you’re told to hand sew hand, attaching the sleeve lining to the inside of the cuffs for example, but if you’re not a fan of hand sewing  it is possible to do this by machine, you just need to get them pinned correctly (double-check you’ve got it right first by turning the sleeve right-side out before you sew it)

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I sewed up the sleeve hems inside using herringbone stitch.

It’s also worth attaching a small amount of the sleeve-lining seam to the sleeve seam inside, this stops any chance of the lining sliding out of the end of the sleeve.

You can do this on the machine, or a few running stitches will do the job.

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This is the inside of the back-neck collar seam. I’ve pinned them together and then stitched to keep the seam from shifting about.

Making the back pleat needs a bit of concentration partly because the lining gets stitched together with it-this makes sense because it reduces the bulk if you’d done them each separately. I opted to partly stitch the pleat together for about 10cms down from the top simply so that it didn’t have a chance to be to flappy in wear. IMG_0024

Once the pleat section is sewn on the instructions say to slip-stitch the lining down. Again, it’s possible to do this on the machine, you need to work your way into the right place by going in through the gap at the front between the facing and the coat front. IMG_0023

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I sewed the coat hem up using herringbone stitch because I think it holds a hem nice and firmly. You sew this stitch from left to right, looping each stitch backwards from the previous one, one above then one below.

Throughout the making process I pressed often and used plenty of steam, with a pressing cloth to prevent shine. If you’re using pure wool you can press and re-press because it’s very forgiving although be more careful if you’re using a fabric that isn’t well or is made with mixed fibres. As my tutor on the tailoring course often said, “steam is your friend” A tailor’s ham is a great boon too because it will enable you to press in tricky areas or under curves seams, for example.

The lining hem was just turned and machined. To neaten the bottom of the front facing I applied a little bit of self-made bias binding, it’s looks nice and it doesn’t add the bulk that turning the edge over could do.IMG_0027

I also added 2 small loops of fabric to hold the lining and the coat together at the side seams, again this stops it flapping about in wear.IMG_0028

I added a hanging loop at the neck which I should have sewn on by machine at an earlier stage but I forgot so I had to sew it on by hand at the end.IMG_0029

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I sewed a few stitches through the CB neck seams to secure the collar facing and under-collar to each other.

The last thing to do is the single buttonhole. I had a rummage for a suitable button first and I came up with a single beautiful mother-of-pearl one which I’d bought a couple of years ago, simply because it’s lovely! I paid £1 for it and I’ve actually left the tiny price label on the back, just because…

I created a surround of tacking stitches to hold the area firm and stable before sewing the buttonhole. I did several trial ones first because my Pfaff is so new to me and I didn’t want to mess it up at this late stage. Unfortunately the thread I’d used for the whole garment was clearly too dark in such a prominent position so I had to go and buy a single reel of thread just for the buttonhole! When I sewed the button on I sewed another small button on behind it so that the fabric doesn’t have to take all the strain of a button being done up and undone constantly.

This is a coat with a slightly retro aesthetic, it’s a little bit 50’s, the back is a little bit 20’s. The result though is modern and wearable and I’m really happy with it.IMG_0060

I love the fun lining inside too. The wool fabric isn’t that thick though so I don’t think I’ll be wearing it when it’s very cold although there is room for a jumper underneath.

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You can see where I’ve sewn up the pleat by about 10-12cms.

As you will have noticed it’s a difficult colour to photograph accurately, the outdoor ones are probably the closest to the real shade.

It’s been an enjoyable process, I took my time over it and I’m very happy with the result. It would be a good project to try if you’re becoming a bit more experienced with your sewing, nothing is terribly tricky, buy suitable but not too expensive fabric and take your time! I’m glad I took some of the length out of the body and sleeves as they would have been very long. I made the size medium and it was plenty big enough, I think the sizing is definitely on the generous-side though so don’t be tempted to go up a size, make a toile if you need to or tissue fit if you can. I didn’t bother neatening any of the seams inside because all of them were going to be enclosed but you could choose to leave the coat unlined and then bind all the seams (Hong Kong finish) which is practical and attractive.

…and the coat cost me barely anything at all!

Because it was the free pattern with Love Sewing I expect there will be lots of versions of this coat popping up over the winter so it will be fun to see how they all vary. Have you made this pattern, I’d love to know how you got on?

Happy Sewing

Sue

A year in sewing 2017

2017 turned out to be a very busy sewing year for me. Not only did I make a loads of projects for myself and occasionally others but I wrote two articles for sewing magazines, and did a multitude of alterations (some very complex and time-consuming) to numerous wedding dresses, along with more mundane hems and sleeve-shortenings too.

This is a quick dash through many of the things I got up to although I’m not sure everything got photographed at the time. I’ve included a lot of links too if I’ve written blogs on some of the things I mention.

January saw a couple of self-drafted sweat shirts, I was particularly pleased with the blue one because I made it from a £3 fleece blanket from Ikea!

There are also 2 Sew Over It Heather dresses, and finally the Grainline Farrow dress, the teal one was the one which featured in the review I wrote for Sew Now magazine.

In February while I was having a week’s holiday in the Lake District I managed to squeeze in a visit to Abakhan fabrics in Manchester and bought fabric by weight for the first time in my life. I also went to a meet up organised by the lovely Emily of Self Assembly Required in a pub at King’s Cross station! I met loads of fellow-sewers there as well as picking up some new patterns and fabrics from the swap including the Holiday Top by The Maker’s Atelier which I’ve made twice over the summer.

Another February highlight was seeing the latest Burberry collection alongside the fabulous capes, each one of which was a stunning one-off! I wonder if there’ll be a similar show this season?

March saw the Moneta party (dress pattern by Colette) so I made my first which I altered to include full-length sleeves, a roll collar and a fake exposed zip (I made a short-sleeved one later in the summer too) I wore it when I went to the spring Knitting and Stitching show where once again I met up with a few fellow-sewers organised by Gabby Young (no relation!) from Gabberdashery vlog.

One of the new people I met was Juliene from Zierstoff Patterns who gave me the opportunity to try out several of their patterns during the course of the rest of the year.

Another new departure was a fundraising initiative with my weekly sewing group. We all spent an afternoon making little ‘pillowcase’ dresses which would eventually be sent off to a girl’s school in Africa.

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our very own Sewing Bee!

Moving rapidly into April I visited the wonderful ‘Five Centuries of House Style’ exhibition at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, made another Holiday top utilising a few fancy stitches on my sewing machine, as well as a Sophie bolero by Zierstoff. IMG_1725Also during April I was approached to teach some dressmaking classes at a local craft shop so I made some sample garments for that including a dirndl skirt and a jersey tube skirt.IMG_1803 I made the first of 3 Imogen tops using Sew Me Something’s pattern too, more about those later.

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Imogen blouse and Gina by Zierstoff skirt

In May I went on my travels with my good friend Sue when we walked a section of the Camino di Santiago in France which was a fantastic empowering experience.

In June Mr Y and I went on a cruise to the Baltic and it happened to be a Strictly Come Dancing cruise! The company that make all the costumes, DSI-London, were on board along with many of the dresses so I was in seventh heaven being able to see them close up. I had to write 2 blogs about that just to be able to include all the pictures! you can read them here and here.

By July I was teaching in Hertford and one of the garments was a ‘no-pattern’ kimono which was popular and also the ‘pillowcase’ dress (nothing to do with pillowcases other than a child’s version could be made from one) It’s basically two rectangles of fabric sewn up each side, hemmed at the bottom and a channel at the top with ribbon through it.

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Also in July I made my first visit to the fabulous Balenciaga exhibition at the V&A in London which was wonderful. I’ve actually been 3 times now, each time taking a different friend, I’ve had excellent value from my V&A membership and I’d urge anyone local enough and interested in the decorative arts to think about joining.

I had hoped to go to the second Sewing Weekender in August but I hadn’t been lucky enough to get a ticket….or so I thought! About 10 days before the event I got an email from Rachel at The Foldline telling me that sadly someone had had to drop out and would I like her ticket? Silly question! So off I went to Cambridge and had a wonderful time amongst so many fabulous sewing people, friends old and new. It was my birthday too! I made a simple top while I was there this time, one I’d made before so it was quick, meaning I’d have plenty of time for chatting…and taking on Elizabeth for a Ninja sewing challenge!

We each got given a copy of the same pattern and some stretch fabric off the swap table and away we went, with one hour to get it done. The results were ‘mixed’ shall we say, Elizabeth left out a section and didn’t notice until it was too late and I only cut one piece where I should have cut two so I had to go back and cut that. It was a lot of fun though, even if we looked like stuffed sofas!

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Sewing Weekender 2017 Alumni, photo by The Foldline.

I spent September making the top and trousers that I’d be modelling in Love Sewing magazine! This was certainly one of my sewing highlights in 2017, although there have been lots really.Love Sewing page 328_09_17_LS_Reader42916I made a third Imogen blouse from fabric I got off The Foldline’s swap table at the first Great British Sewing Bee.

Another favourite top this year was the Merchant & Mills Camber Set which I also got from the King’s Cross meet up in the spring. It’s been a really useful pattern and I love the neat way the binding and the neck yoke finish off the neck edges, it’s a really clever piece of construction.

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neat bias binding on the Camber Set top-my scissors necklace came from the V&A

I also made this top with 1 metre of fabric generously given to us in the Weekender goody bag by Stoff&Stil, it’s Burda 6914 which I’ve used 3 times now although this is the first time as a top. I really like the pleated neckline with a bias binding finish. There was just enough fabric to add slim ruffles to the sleeves which I neatened using the rolled hem finish on my overlocker.

I spent a lot of time during August and September making my entry to The Refashioners 2017, an Alexander McQueen-inspired jacket which I was extremely proud of when I finished it.

Into October and more fabric got purchased at the Autumn Knitting and Stitching Show at Ally Pally (oops) I made my first pair of jeans this month but I can’t talk about them yet as they were a pattern test which still hasn’t been released-I’m really happy with them though so I’ll publish the blog as soon as it’s released into the wide world. (I think the designer needs to get on with it otherwise the whole world will think that Ginger jeans are the only pattern available!)

After literally months of dithering I finally bought a new mannequin, or ‘Doris’ as she’s known to me. Old Doris was falling to bits and only held together by the t-shirt that covered her, I’d had her for well over 30 years so I reckon I’d had good value out of her. I chose the ‘Catwalk’ model from Adjustoform which I bought from Sew Essential and I’ve been very pleased with it. IMG_4038IMG_4039IMG_4040

Also in October I went up to Birmingham for the SewBrum meet up organised by EnglishGirlatHome, Charlotte where I had a really fun day (apart from the sweary drunk woman on the train coming home!) catching up with chums and visiting Guthrie & Ghani for the first time. I took part in the fantastic raffle while I was there but was unsuccessful….or so I thought (again) About 6 weeks after the event I got a message  from Charlotte asking if anyone had told me I’d won a brand new mannequin in the raffle!!! So now I have New Outdoor Doris who lives in Threadquarters and Indoor Doris who lives…indoors, and I use her to take photos on.

November saw another new departure for me when I volunteered to write some reviews of fabric shops in my area. This was for Alex of Sewrendipity as part of her plan to create an unbiased worldwide database of fabric retailers, available to everyone to use. It meant I visited some new places as well as some old favourites.fullsizeoutput_202f

I made another entry for our annual church Christmas Tree festival. It was a refashion/upcycle of the fabric I used for the previous year and sadly it was Old Doris’s last outing before she heads for the tip! The net petticoat was a tube of fabric with the baubles and lights inside it.

I had also volunteered as a pattern reviewer for Jennifer Lauren Vintage so I made a really nice Mayberry dress and wrote a blog for that very recently. One other new pattern I tried out but haven’t blogged yet was the French dart shift by Maven Patterns. It’s a lovely flattering shift dress with a funnel neck and a variety of sleeve styles and no zip. I made it in a navy fabric of unknown origin and wore it on Christmas Day.IMG_4272IMG_4273

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French dart shift dress by Maven patterns.

The biggest deal of the year in some ways was in December when I finally, finally, decided to buy a new sewing machine! This was such a big deal because I’ve had my beloved Elna 7000 for probably 27 years and it’s still going strong (only the occasional hiccough) and I have a strong emotional attachment to it. Thing is, technology moves on and whilst that really isn’t the be-all-and-end-all for me there are processes and functions that I would like in order to keep (even after all these years) on top of my sewing. In early November I went to a fun jeans refashioning workshop hosted by Portia Lawrie and Elisalex (By Hand London) and we were provided with gorgeous Pfaff sewing machines to use. IMG_4092

Anyway, I was thinking about it long and hard for a while because it’s an awful lot of money when I came upon a Black Friday (not even a real thing) deal where this model was virtually half-price. Sooooo, after a visit to Sew Essential a new Pfaff Quilt Ambition 2.0 has come home to live with me and we’re getting to know one another…

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she’s a beauty!

So that just about sums up my sewing year. It’s been a lot of fun at times, and hot and frustrating at others (sweltering under mountainous wedding dresses in the height of the summer is no fun) I’ve met some lovely new people and been reacquainted with lovely ‘old’ ones too! I’m looking forward to another busy year of sewing, blogging, teaching, chatting, tea drinking and generally feeling connected to sewers all over the world. It really feels like dressmaking is an activity that is worthwhile again and not just some strange little hobby that old biddies do, besides, it’s surprising what you could learn from an old biddy, she may just have made the same sewing mistakes as you have but 30 or 40 years earlier!

Happy Sewing

Sue

 

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

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 pattern 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 bagging 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, so that it has 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

Using a fleece blanket to make a top

You might have seen my recent funnel-neck top… img_0455

I was jolly pleased with how it turned out and decided I’d make another when I found the right fabric. I didn’t expect IKEA to be the place I found it! They sell (amongst many many other things) inexpensive fleece blankets and the day we went some colours were selling for a ridiculous £2!! I bought a light blue and a charcoal grey (that might have been dearer, I’m not sure)img_0699

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I gave them a wash and tumble dry and I was all set.

There is a slight widthwise stretch but the fleece is otherwise stable.

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I folded the edges in so that front and back are both on folds, the back would have had a seam originally but I didn’t want that.

The sleeves and neck pieces came out of what was left.

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I wanted long sleeves this time so I just extended them on the fabric and marked it with an air-erasable pen.

The other change I decided to make was to add an exposed zip to the collar as a new detail. I had a metal jeans zip in the drawer so I used that.

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To work out where the end of the zip needed to go I matched the seam allowances for the collar next to the shoulder (where the gauge is). The two red pins indicate where the snips will go at the base of the zip.

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I reinforced the area where the zip was going with iron-on interfacing, then snipped it where the two red pins had indicated for the end of the zip.

I then used the same method of insertion as for the Tilly and the Buttons Orla blouse.

Another joy of this fabric is that it doesn’t fray so there’s no need to overlock or finish the edges-superspeedy!

It all went together very quickly, even allowing for the collar-change. I haven’t added a pocket to this one although I might and the sleeves simply roll up. I’m wearing it as I write this with a turtle neck top underneath and it’s very cosy. img_0743img_0736img_0754img_0757

You can always tell when my daughter has taken the pictures because they come over all arty aka wonky! Excuse the roughness of my appearance, I’ve had a cold…

I haven’t started a grey one yet, I’ll probably think about a change of neckline for that one.

Obviously I bought an inexpensive fleece blanket but you could just as easily use any blanket you already have, or better still, buy one from a charity shop. (I do feel slightly guilty for buying this blanket rather than up cycling but I didn’t have anything suitable at the time) The size of the average fleece blanket is just about right for a sweatshirt, I haven’t made a Named Talvikki or a Grainline Studios Linden but it might be possible to try them for example, you may need ribbing for the cuffs and neckline though.

Why not give it a try…

Happy Sewing

Sue

a shirt for Mr Y

 

img_0465I spend most of my time making things for myself or other people and, apart from a few pairs of PJ shorts, I haven’t made anything for Mr Y in years. I thought that needed to change so when we were away for the weekend in November we paid a visit to Sew Creative in Bury St Edmunds. It’s recently been acquired by Sew Much To Do, Ely although the name hasn’t changed at the moment. I only went in for some beeswax which they were out of stock of at the time but never mind, plenty of other things to look at hehe! They’re a lovely, busy little shop with knowledgable and friendly staff, as is so often the case for me, I wish I lived nearer (although it’s probably best for my bank balance that I don’t….

For a small shop they have a very extensive selection, and upstairs was also a wide range of sale fabrics too. I spotted a nice burgundy check which I steered Mr Y towards-he thinks he chose it himself but what he didn’t know was I’d already bought him a burgundy jumper for Christmas and that this fabric would go very nicely with it!! Devious eh?

He also saw a dark green cotton which he liked so I let him choose that for himself…I had no agenda for that one. I hadn’t got a man’s shirt pattern to hand so I guessed at 2.5m of fabric for each, which turned out not to be enough really-more of that later. img_0524

I ordered a couple of patterns from Sew Essential because Burda patterns were half price at the time. My beloved isn’t a slim fit kind of chap so it would have been foolish for me to pick a super-trendy indie pattern for him because it wouldn’t fit and he wouldn’t wear it! Traditional shirts are the way to go for him.

Mr Y chose style C but when I came to lay up the pattern pieces it was obvious, because of the check print, that I was going to be a bit short for all the pieces. It’s a two part collar so I opted  to cut both under-collar parts in a contrast grey cotton that I had a small amount of, and the inside shoulder yoke too. Doing this saved just enough fabric although the matching wasn’t going to be spot on, Mr Y wouldn’t be super-critical about that (even if I was myself) Although Mr Y is 6’3″ tall the body and sleeves would have been monstrously long on him so I shortened the pieces a fair bit and, ultimately, they were a much better length for him-thus saving fabric too.

The pattern went together well by and large, the only difficulty I had was in following the instructions for front plackets. Burda patterns expect you to have a good working knowledge of construction ( which I do) so they give a minimal amount of instruction. I think my problem was that I’m so used to making female button plackets that I couldn’t quite get my head around swapping them the opposite way around. I had one of Mr Y’s other shirts there for reference so I worked it out in the end. This is a useful tip if you’re ever not sure what you’re doing, have a similar or identical ready-made garment to hand so that you can study how it’s put together. If you keep in mind how you want your finished garment to look this can help as you construct it. Having one of his shirts also meant I didn’t need to keep trying it on him which is handy because he’s often out!

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cutting the patch pockets on the bias meant that I didn’t need to have perfect matching and it looked more interesting.

This is the underside of the collar and the inside yoke. You can also see that I cut the inner collar stand in two parts as well because it doesn’t match at the CB.

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The finished cuffs with their buttoning plackets, again not a perfect match but good enough.

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The first finished shirt.

Mr Y was delighted with this shirt and imagine his surprise when he opened the parcel containing a matching jumper…

I made the second shirt in the green fabric without his knowledge (he thought I hadn’t had time before Christmas) Strangely I managed to get everything out of the 2.5m this time, partly I think because I didn’t need to pattern match, the fabric was the same width as the burgundy after all.

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The box pleat on the back.

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The two-part top collar

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top-stitching around the sleeve-head and the patch pocket.

The sleeves are a basic shirt-sleeve construction which is done on the flat so no slightly  tricky insetting of sleeve-heads.

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A detail on the patch pocket-I always sew little triangles to make them a bit stronger.

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The side seams feature an insert detail at the hem (blurry photo, sorry)

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I cut one corner of the cuffs at an angle on the green, to give it a quirky detail.

So there we have it. Burda 6874 is a good basic mens shirt pattern, I would describe it as an intermediate level because there are details like the two-part collar and plackets on the cuffs which need a bit of understanding and interpretation, so definitely not for a beginner. If you’re looking for next-steps though this could be a project for you to try but maybe make it in a plain or non-matching fabric for your own sanity.

I don’t currently have any pictures of Mr Y modelling them because he’s a bit shy so you’ll have to take my word for it that he likes them, and looks very nice in them!

Happy Sewing, and Happy New Year!

Sue