a run down of sewing and more in 2022

Well, here we are at the end of another year which has not been without its challenges again. We’ve been learning to live with Covid 19 as a fact of life but 2022 has been tumultuous in terms of other world events, including the beginning of the war in Ukraine, multiple Prime Ministers here in the UK, the Platinum Jubilee and then the death of Queen Elizabeth, and a worsening cost-of-living crisis, to name but a few.

You haven’t come here to read my personal thoughts on any of these though, there are many who have or will continue to comment more eloquently, passionately or noisily, than me and my blog is for me to detail my sewing.

I began the year with sewing a few garments for the book written by Juliet Uzor to accompany the spring series of the Great British Sewing Bee. The series didn’t air until the late Spring so I wasn’t able to share these photos at the time. In total I sewed five garments which featured, some of which were Juliet’s original designs and others were pattern challenges from the new or previous series of GBSB. Obviously when I’m making these samples I’m sworn to secrecy and I’m rarely told anything more about them anyway until the book comes out. I really enjoy sewing for this though and whilst there are time pressures and it has to be my best possible sewing that’s a challenge I’ve enjoyed rising to. [I’ve sewn for a few books now so I know what’s expected] I have to say that I have no idea how the Bees manage to complete the pattern challenges in the time allowed because they took me a jolly sight longer than a couple of hours!!

Immediately I finished these garments I became a Backstitch Ambassador and sewed up my first Merchant and Mills Ellsworth shirt. You can read my review of it here, it’s proven to be the most popular post of the year.

The Ellsworth shirt for Backstitch, plus I’m wearing the Eve trousers also by Merchant and Mills. I’ve sewn 5 iterations of them in 2022, it’s such an adaptable pattern.

Next I sewed a Paper Theory LB Pullover from a herringbone tweed wrap which I made a few years ago and then never wore, this became the first of 4 LB Pullovers this year. It’s occurred to me that I haven’t blogged this top yet so I need to put that right in 2023. The trousers are another pair of Eves in soft corduroy and they featured in a Sew Over 50 post I wrote early in the year with many of your favourite trouser patterns in.

An upcycled LB pullover with cord Eve trousers.
I sewed this Named Talvikki sweater in a really thick sweatshirting I bought at 1st for Fabrics. I wrote a review of it over on the Fold Line website if you’re interested.

I also hosted a couple more of my Herts Sewcials before the lawn bowls season started again and we had to stop until early October. They have been such a source of fun and sewing camaraderie and I hope to announce some other sewing days later this year. It all takes time to find a suitable venue, make bookings, advertise etc etc though

I was (finally) struck down by the first of two bouts of covid in late February which meant I had to miss out on the The Stitch Festival show in London and being in the first ever Sew Over 50 lounge. This was particularly gutting because I had organised the whole rota of people who had generously volunteered to ‘woman’ the space over the four days and I couldn’t share all the fun and chat, and the fashion show which I could only watch unfolding on social media from home.

I sewed a Tilly and the Buttons Nora cardigan using another of the fabrics I bought from 1st for Fabrics and it’s been in regular use on chilly days (I’m wearing it again right now)

I diversified a little after that when I made a fabric roll to keep our ‘good’ cutlery in. It’s only ever lived in a box with bits of tissue and an elastic band around the items so I finally got around to making something more suitable. I used a couple of fat quarters and some Liberty off-cuts in the stash, plus some wadding to go inside. The embroidery function on my machine was very handy for making the labels for each pocket too, all in all a very satisfying make.

Dhurata Davies had very generously gifted me a copy of her Overlap pattern in 2021 and I bought this silk habutai fabric from Hasan, the Man Outside Sainsbury’s in Walthamstow specifically to make it. However, it took me until March 2022 to actually do so! I’m so glad I finally did because it’s been absolutely lovely in warm weather and on holidays, it’s so light and folds up very small. The construction of the collar and facings on it are things of beauty too.

I used a ‘vintage’ 80’s blouse pattern in my collection to sew a shirt dress for our delayed holiday to Antigua in March. We should have gone in March 2021 to celebrate Mr Y’s 60th birthday but world events scuppered that. In spite of my having Covid just two weeks before we were due to go I was cleared to fly at the last minute and thankfully we all made it there-and back-without further problems.

I sewed the first of two Elbe Textiles Serpentine hats, the first from Ellsworth leftovers. Because I hadn’t been able to leave the house in the lead-up to our trip I had to make do with the interfacing I already had so the brim wasn’t really stiff enough. It was shady and kept the sun out of my eyes though. Mask-wearing was still strictly enforced in Antigua.

As soon as I got back from holiday I chatted on Instagram live with Gabby of Gabberdashery on her Quick Unpick feature. It was nerve-racking to start with but I quickly forgot that people were watching and just enjoyed nattering with Gabby.
It wasn’t as bad as all that!

I had been wanting some kind of vest or tank top for a while and then Charlotte Emma patterns released the Clove Vest which was exactly what I wanted! I bought, printed, stuck together and sewed one in double-quick time and I have been using it ever since. In fact I’ve just made another using small leftovers of another project so it’s a good way to use remnants up.

The Clove Vest in action on a walking trip to the Yorkshire Dales, Swaledale to be exact.

From Yorkshire we continued north to Scotland where we had the huge pleasure of staying with Sew Over 50 Supremo Judith Staley. The OHs went off to play on trains while Judith I went first to the V&A in Dundee and the following day we visited the Great Tapestry of Scotland which we would both highly recommend.

In April I organised a quick, low key, visit to Walthamstow market where I caught up with friends old and new. Not too many purchases on my part, I’m more of an enabler…

I delved into the remnants box and found enough of this linen to make a short-sleeved Fantail Top by The Sewing Revival, I love the gathered elastic hem detail on this pattern. Using fabric I bought at Walthamstow I sewed this shorter, wider pair of Eve trousers.

I returned soon after to Walthamstow and the William Morris gallery to catch the small-but-perfectly-formed exhibition of Althia McNish’s work. Until I listened to the very first Haptic and Hue podcast nearly 3 years ago I had never heard of this wonderful textile designer. I’m very glad I know about her now because her designs are so full of life, colour and vibrancy.

I hadn’t sewn anything for Lamazi as a blogger for a while but I was able to make this McCalls 8090 using their beautiful own design Tencel Lyocell ‘Garden of Dreams’. It has the most gorgeous handle and drape, and I love the vibrant colours of the print. It worked beautifully for this pattern and I’ve worn it loads, plus I’ve layered long-sleeved tops under it this autumn/winter, and with tights and a cardigan over the top too. I really must write this pattern up as a proper blog post in 2023!

In late April myself and my fellow Love Sewing models finally FINALLY got to Thirkelow in Derbyshire for our sewing retreat. I can’t tell you how many times this got pushed back and pushed back because of the pandemic and we were all just so thankful to be together as planned and have a wonderful time chatting, sewing, walking, laughing, eating and drinking at last. We booked for 2023 before we even left, and 2024 is in the diary too!

I made my second LB Pullover while I was in Derbyshire (yes I actually got some sewing done…)
These are the Trend Utility trousers from a couple of years ago.

Another departure was a waistcoat for Mr Y, everything except the buttons (ironic when you see how many buttons I have) came from the stash. I first used the pattern over 20 years ago for some wedding ushers.

I don’t think these Marcy Tilton trousers have been my biggest success…I’ve met someone since who was wearing them and they looked great so if I size down by at least 3 sizes (or more) they won’t look so voluminous, I hope.

I made my second Serpentine hat which worked better than the first, I wore it loads
Claire and I went to both Africa Fashion and Fashioning Masculinities at the V&A on the same day and unexpectedly bumped into Barbara so we all had a lovely outing together
Farie from GBSB Series 7 was a work colleague of my friend Jane who kindly hosted a lovely lunch so we could all meet Farie and have a good old chat about all things Bee and sewing!

I spend a good deal of time sewing this jacket for my dear friend Sue for her son’s wedding in July, we bought the stunning fabric from Misan in the Goldhawk Road. It all got rather more complicated after she broke her wrist on holiday and I had to make the whole outfit because she couldn’t get to the shops!

The ridiculous steaming heat of July meant I moved everything indoors where it was only marginally cooler. Sue’s top was the Maker’s Atelier gathered top from their spring/summer magazine sewn in crepe-back satin.

I was asked by a friend if I could replicate a dress she had seen last year online so eventually I was able to create this dress partly utilising an existing 1980s pattern and partly by pattern cutting other elements myself. Our measurements are very similar so I dug this cotton fabric out of the stash and made a version for myself first which Lynn then tried on as a toile. Astonishingly it was all perfect so I made her own dress without any need for further fittings!

I’ve made a second version for myself using some very inexpensive fabric from Walthamstow. This time I made a new cropped bell-shaped sleeve and altered the front to add a shirt collar.

After my second bout of Covid (thank you MR Y) June saw us able to travel on a long-planned trip to Tuscany in Italy. We had a wonderful stay in Florence which included a visit to Bacci Tessuti which was chock-full of beautiful fabrics. I bought myself a lovely piece of fine linen and Mr Y treated me to two pieces of Liberty Tana lawn. I also bought a remnant of Pucci silk/cotton which was just enough to make a short version of my own Dexter pattern.

I added a button back
This was the first version of a short Dexter in fabric that had sat in the stash for a while.

And then in August I turned 60…

Afternoon tea at Cliveden was one of my treats over a wonderful weekend
At the end of August we had the opportunity to get up close and personal with several hives full of honey bees
The exhibition celebrating 150 years of the Royal School of Needlework at the Fashion and Textiles museum was well worth a visit with many beautiful exhibits including this stunning Red Dress

At the end of September was the event many of us had been waiting months for, it was the very first Sew Over 50 Frocktails event held in Edinburgh and hosted by both Judith and Sandy! I suggest you pop over to the blog post I compiled afterwards to get the full rundown with loads more pictures.

The beginning of October saw my Herts Sewcials recommence again. I didn’t have a project to sew until the day before, there was lots to organise and I became so indecisive! At the last minute I settled on the Portobello Trousers by Nina Lee in a bright pink crepe and what a good choice they were, I’ve really enjoyed wearing them!

Next up I headed to London and the autumn Knitting and Stitching show, not once but twice!

Catching up with Maria from the Sew Organised Style podcast and Sewing Bee alumnus Mercedes
Another Bee, Jen Hogg on her own Jenerates stand this time along with Sew Over 50 stalwart Sue Stoney, also visiting from Australia
I was the only non-Australian here at the Tessuti stand!
Trying out a Simplicity PDF for the first time

In October I treated myself to a Sew Me Something retreat in Stratford upon Avon which was so enjoyable and I met some lovely people while we all sewed together.

Day 1 hotel mirror selfie, the Olya shirt by Paper Theory and those pink Portobellos again.
On day one I completed this Tessuti Lily Linen dress in red check bought at the K&S show a few weeks earlier. I love this dress but sadly I’ve got to do some fixing because somehow a pen I was using sprang a leak and blobbed ink down the front skirt! I’m very upset about it and I think I’m going to have to cover it with a patch of fabric if I can match it successfully.
Fun times with CL @thriftystitcher and my chum Elizabeth came to visit on day two
Third LB pullover of the year, a sleeveless one this time and completely influenced by Sandy @sunnydayz and her holiday wardrobe
I popped pockets into the side seams

I also started a Closet Core Sienna Maker jacket while I was in Stratford but I didn’t finish it until after I got home. I’ll blog this one in the new year, I’m really pleased with it though and, weather permitting, it’s had a good number of wears so far. After this I also compiled a Sew Over 50 blog post rounding up lots of your favourite casual jacket patterns

In November I had a massive tidy up and sort out in Threadquarters and as a result I made this Fehrtrade Tessalate Tee for yoga from various jersey scraps.

This gorgeous lawn was one of my purchases from the K&S show, as soon as I saw it I knew it would be perfect for another M&M Ellsworth.

Sue treated me to afternoon tea at the Lanesborough Hotel in London and we both proudly wore our me-mades for the occasion.

My next Backstitch blog came at the end of the year when I sewed this cheerful saffron Ingrid by Homer and Howells.

Nearly there, honestly….I constructed another ‘tree’ for the local Christmas Tree festival at the beginning of December, she was called ‘Etoile de Noel’ this year because almost everything came from recycled toiles

We had loads of snow in late December (unusual for this part of the UK) and I took the opportunity to take pictures of this full circle skirt sewn using a vintage Vogue Claude Montana pattern from the early 80s.

A bit more crafting before Christmas with these Festive oven gloves, I found a tutorial on’t t’internet which helped with fabric requirements and measurements but actually you could copy a pair if you have them.

And so to the final two makes of 2022, first was another LB Pullover, this time in ruby red velour-so comfy!

And the absolute final make was another Charlotte Emma Clove vest in stash remnants (from a sweatshirt for Mr Y in 2020)

This wasn’t absolutely everything I sewed in 2022 but most items are there, not all of it was for me by any means. It looks like I need to write up a few more reviews though, they have definitely not been happening so much in the previous twelve months. In November and December I did some teaching for Backstitch which was very enjoyable, I’ll be doing some more in 2023 too. There will be new exhibitions to look forward to in London including one featuring the work of Gabrielle Chanel in the autumn.

Thank you for following my activities this year, it’s been great to meet more of you in real life and I hope we’ll get the chance for more meet-ups again in 2023. I don’t have any sewing resolutions for next year, we’ll just have to see how it all unfolds I reckon.

Until next time, happy sewing

Sue

PS as I was writing this the news about the death of fashion great Vivienne Westwood came through, I wrote a post reviewing her autobiography which I would highly recommend if you want to learn more about her.

My latest Backstitch project, the Ingrid dress by Homer and Howells


It’s been a while since I wrote my first blog post for Backstitch way back in January but I’m happy to say that I have loved wearing the Ellsworth shirt I made then, it’s been a great addition to my wardrobe. 

For my second post I’ve sewn a Homer and Howells Ingrid dress. Like many popular styles circulating this year it’s a loose-fitting dress but the USP of the Ingrid is its unusual asymmetric style lines. 

The front and back are both quartered by differing horizontal and diagonal seams, plus the bust shaping is in the form of tucks in the centre front seam. It pops on over the head so no zips to insert, there are inseam pockets and a choice of two skirt lengths and two sleeve shapes. 

I felt with all this unusual seaming going on that I didn’t want a busy printed fabric which disguised it (that said, you could have fun with stripes or even checks) My original plan was to use needlecord and deliberately cut the pieces in opposite directions to highlight the shading this would create. 

However I wasn’t sure that any of the colours available in the shop at the time I was making it were really very ‘me’ so I plumped for the saffron yellow Broderie Anglaise double gauze instead! [I made this handbrake turn decision partly based on having recently seen a woman wearing a similar style RTW dress made in grey Broderie Anglaise and the fabric looked great, not too ‘girly’ or twee at all]

The stitching on Broderie Anglaise fabric usually has a right and a wrong side if you look closely at the embroidery but it isn’t always very obvious. My advice would be to choose the side you prefer and stick to it throughout! Because virtually every piece of the Ingrid is cut as a single I pinned paper labels onto each one so that I didn’t get them mixed up. Alternatively you could use small sticky dots to differentiate.

I gave the fabric a pre-wash before cutting, there was virtually no dye run and no obvious shrinkage either. Because of its asymmetric shape the Ingrid is almost all cut from a single layer of fabric so I would highly recommend keeping each pattern piece attached to the fabric until you’re ready to use them, or label them as I’ve suggested earlier. [Incidentally, if ever you’re short of fabric for a project, check if you can cut it out of a single layer rather than folded, it’s always more economical…just make sure you mirror everything as necessary] Helpfully Backstitch sell their fabrics in 25cm increments which can mean a lot less wastage, I bought 2m25 for this dress.

I pinned rough labels to the pieces so that I knew exactly which one was which.

I found the instructions and diagrams for construction nice and clear and very straightforward, do read them through a couple of times first though because I made assumptions about the order of making in a couple of places which would have led me up the garden path and some unpicking. The right and left dress parts are sewn tops to skirts before joining vertically at the centre front and back. Some of the seams which would normally match one another on more conventional styles don’t on the Ingrid because of the asymmetry but if you start pinning at the top of each seam down to the hem you should be fine. 

The fabric sewed up nicely although be aware that the weave of double gauze causes it to have a little inherent stretch so try not to pull it about too much during construction, and pressing causes some of the natural crinkles of the cloth to flatten as well but they will bounce back after the next wash. 

I made a couple of other small deviations from the pattern by using self-fabric bias binding instead of the neck facing. I cut a bias strip 4cms wide, folded and pressed it lengthwise before sewing the two cut edges to the neckline on the dress. Next, I understitched the seam to the inside then finally topstitched it down to finish. I also chose to sew my own thread loop for the button at the back neck rather than try to make a rouleau loop with such ‘bobbly’ fabric, I was delighted to find a button in the shop which is a great match to the fabric colour. 

marking the centre front point on my folded binding
Pinning the bias binding in position
Close up of the centre front seam details

I wasn’t convinced that either skirt length would be quite right on me so I went somewhere in between, finishing a little below knee length (I’m 5’5”) I wanted longer sleeves too so I used a bell-shaped pattern with a cuff which I had drafted myself for a different dress earlier in the year. 

My sleeve has a fixed cuff with gentle gathers (incidentally, the colour here is paler than in reality, the outdoor photos of the finished dress are much more accurate)

Finally, I turned up the hem by 2.5cms and then used one of the huge range of embroidery stitches on my Pfaff machine to sew it up, it took a while to go all the way around the hem but I love the little detail it gives. 

The hem is finished with a machine embroidery stitch

The only fitting change I will probably make if/when I sew another Ingrid is to slightly reduce the width of the shoulders, the sleeves cause them to droop off my shoulders a little but it’s not a major issue. I sewed the UK14 with no fitting adjustments other than the length and it’s very comfortable.

The back seams are asymmetric too
The button and hand-sewn loop

Thank you to Backstitch for providing me with the fabric and supplies to sew with by means of gift vouchers, the Ingrid is not currently stocked in the shop though. Broderie Anglaise might not be typical winter fabric but I love the sunny colour on a miserable English day.

I hope you’ve found my review helpful, until next time,

Happy sewing
Sue

Edinburgh Frocktails 2022

When Judith and Sandy announced the first @SewOver50 Frocktails event was going to be held in Edinburgh in September 2022 I knew I had to be there to celebrate its success with them. SewOver50 has been a big part of our sewing lives for the last four years and I was so excited at the prospect of meeting some of the people I’ve chatted with over that time. As it turns out I wasn’t at home in Hertfordshire just then but on holiday in the North York Moors so I was basically halfway there!

Mr Y dropped me off at Northallerton station on Friday morning and I was on my way!
While I waited for my flatmates Kate and Fiona to arrive I had time to wander over to Princes Street gardens and the Scott monument.
I had booked a 3 bedroom flat for us very close to the Frocktails venue in Leith, not too far to totter in high heels.
But first, pre drinks at Malmaison with some of the gang, Lisa, Janet, Corrie, yours truly, Nic, Elke, Judy, Kate and Lisa. This group of people alone had travelled from England, Wales, Canada and Germany!
Oh well if you insist…there was delicious food later too
We each got to choose a goody bag from the table which was stuffed with generous discounts and gifts and some also contained special spot prizes. I was thrilled and surprised to discover I had won an Advent calendar from Fabric Godmother-I can’t wait to receive it in November to see exactly what it contains.
and ArkDefo were incredibly generous with the sheer quantity of fabrics they donated as gifts. They are new company specialising in ex-designer fabrics at vastly reduced prices, usually waxed cottons in various weights and loads of colours. In fact I ordered two pieces from them before I even got out of bed on Saturday morning!
I definitely need new glasses…#squinting
Lou and Jen chatting, in fact it’s a whole room of people doing the same thing for the whole evening.
Selfie time with Ruth and Fiona
Judith chatting with occasional SewOver50 stand-in editor Janine who had flown all the way from Canada (with Sandy in the background, who had come even further, from Brisbane!)
still gassing…with Margaret this time
There were speeches (not karaoke) from Sandy and Judith
The Granary in Leith was a perfect choice of venue for the Frocktails
Sandy very sweetly thanked me for my contribution of writing the SewOver50 blog, which you’re reading right now!
I was especially happy to finally meet Lou because through a strange quirk of fate we discovered she had been the primary school teacher of my best friend’s two boys.
another daft selfie
getting into place for the group shot. The professional photographer for the evening Chris Scott captured some really lovely candid shots. There was also time for a catwalk where me-made creations were shown off and appreciated, and the evening ended with some Scottish country dancing (the Scots having a distinct advantage over the rest of us when it came to execution!)
Going though the goody bag on Saturday morning in bed
Leith looking beautiful in the sunshine on Saturday morning

On Saturday many of us headed into Edinburgh city centre on the bus to visit first The Dress Fabric Company followed by a glorious walk across the Meadows until we eventually arrived at Edinburgh Fabrics. I’m polishing my halo at this point because I resisted buying any fabric from either shop…others didn’t!

Arthur’s Seat in the distance across the Meadows
Herding cats!
The collective noun for a group of dressmakers? a bobbin of course!
Saturday supper at The Shore with Fiona, Diane, Janet, Corrie and Kate
it involved quite a bit of silliness
a lot of silliness in fact
got there, after a fashion, in the end
Edinburgh Castle from Princes Street
Waiting for the famous One o’clock gun…it doesn’t fire on a Sunday we discovered
Serious tile-action in the loos at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Once we arrived at the correct gallery (there’s more than one Scottish National Gallery it turns out) we enjoyed the Barbara Hepworth exhibition
a recreation of Eduardo Paolozzi’s studio
and finally Kate and I headed back to the airport to wend our way home, tired but very happy from a great weekend spent with friends from far and wide.
Going through the goodie bag at home, I may have taken advantage of some of the generosity of the sponsors-Thank You

What a wonderful weekend it was, to be reunited with existing friends and meeting new ones too from all over the country, and the world in fact. Judith and Sandy have created, and sustain, an amazing community which we all get so much from, very real friendships have been made because of SewOver50. Trying to explain this to people who don’t use social media, or have had a bad experience of it, isn’t always easy but being in the room with over 70 people who all came together because of a simple connection-making our own clothes-was all the explanation anyone would need.

Until next time, happy sewing

Sue

The Maker’s Atelier asymmetric gather dress

In the summer of 2021 Simply Sewing magazine invited me to choose an Indie brand pattern to sew and review for them. After some deliberation I settled on the Maker’s Atelier Asymmetric Gather dress which they generously provided me with free of charge. The article was published a year ago now but if you didn’t see it then I’m sharing some of my thoughts about the pattern here.

I like Maker’s Atelier patterns because they are deceptively simple to look at but many of them have stylish details such as notched hems, interesting seam lines, button-up backs or gathered sections which can elevate the garment out of the ordinary. On their website, and also in their newsletter, they always illustrate how much variety you can create from reusing a single pattern simply by sewing it in different fabric-types. I’ve made numerous iterations of their Holiday Shirt and Top using a number of different fabrics and embellishments for example.

If you’ve seen my various makes of Trend Patterns you’ll already know I’m rather fond of an asymmetric style and although the Maker’s Atelier one is a simple cocoon-shaped shift dress the gathered features really lift it out of the ordinary.

Because the front pattern piece is cut as a whole ‘right side up’ by flipping the piece over you can have the gathered neckline to the right or left depending on your preference. I love how the back is given shape and definition by adding the wide elastic at waist level too. 

I made this first version in gingko-printed crepe fabric bought at least four years ago from Fabrics Galore.

The style works best using a fabric that gathers softly and has some drape which is why the viscose twill kindly given to me by Sew Me Sunshine worked well. I wanted a fabric with a little bit of weight to it so that the elastication looked right, a stiff fabric without any fluidity would not flow nicely over the contours of the body. I really wanted a design that would look interesting whether it was gathered or not. This particular fabric from Mind the Maker contains 100% LENZING™ ECOVERO™ Viscose, which is a sustainably certified viscose fibre by LENZING™ with minimal environmental impact in the production process (compared to production of traditional viscose fibres). Some fibre and fabric production methods can be very damaging to the environment and the work force so this is at least a step in the right direction.

It was very satisfying to see the shape come together once I’d inserted the elastic, I know it probably sounds odd but I do love a bit of understitching on a facing. However I’ve found the back neck facing keeps creeping up though so I need to find a way to fix that.

Viscose often shifts around quite a lot so it’s important to not pull or drag it too much while you’re laying it up so that your pieces aren’t distorted once you’ve cut them out. If you have to cut on a table which isn’t quite big enough make sure the overhanging fabric is at least supported on a chair to prevent it pulling the fabric on the table out of shape. If you can manage to cut on the floor that would probably be preferable. Thankfully there aren’t many pattern pieces though so it isn’t a complex lay-plan.

My measurements at the time fell between a UK 12 and 14 so I measured the front and back pattern pieces to work out what the finished bust and hip sizes would be, from these I opted to sew a UK12. I was happy with the final fit, there’s just enough fullness without becoming too voluminous and baggy. I’m 5’5” tall and a little ‘pear-shaped’ but this style would suit a variety of body shapes because it skims over the waist and thigh area, it isn’t a ‘fitted’ style. The elasticated sections on the hip and back give the slightly-cocoon shape some definition and this could be adjusted to your personal preference. I’ve gained few pounds since I last summer but the dress still looks okay I think.

At Eltham Palace in south London, summer 2021

The one major adjustment I made was to shorten the pattern by 5cms before cutting out. I read a few online reviews before I started which all said they wish they had, or they did, make it shorter. I’m happy with how the finished length looks on me, it would definitely not have looked right if I’d left it as it was. I took the 5cms out horizontally across the front and back just below the hip/knee area, not from the hem. If you shorten it from the hem you will make the shape at the bottom a little wider which might result in it losing a little of its ‘peg’ shaping. The only other thing I did was to slightly raise the position of the elastic channels on the back and hip by approximately 1.5cms so that proportionately they sit a little higher on me, I think it looks better. 

An easy hack would be to use a narrower elastic than suggested, or sew two or more rows of narrower elastic into channels, you could even use shirring elastic. Instead of elastication how about slotting ribbon or tape through the channels, sew buttonholes for the tape and leave the ends dangling so that they are decorative and adjustable, perhaps finish the ends with small toggles to make a feature of them? Leave the sleeves off completely maybe or turn them into full-length sleeves with elasticated cuffs, or a cap sleeve. If you’re feeling adventurous you could even elasticate the hem! What about having fun playing with the grain line, especially if you use a check or striped fabric. There aren’t any pockets so you could add at least one in-seam pocket, probably on the non-elasticated side seam.

As well as viscose-types like I’ve used you could also choose fabrics such as handkerchief or washed linens, crepe, softer types of satin, crepe de Chine, challis and wool crepe. Softer cottons like lawn or chambray-types would all work well too. You don’t want anything overly stiff or thick because you wouldn’t get the lovely definition to the elasticated folds, they could become a bit clunky. Ideally avoid fabrics which crease badly if you might be sitting in it for any length of time, creases would spoil the look of the front. 

I chose to trace off the pattern, I find I’m doing this more and more often even though I’m not a big fan of doing so. Take your time if you’re tracing the pattern, transfer all the markings accurately. Because the neckline is asymmetric make sure you cut the neck facing to match and double check you have a mirrored any pieces that are a pair before cutting into your fabric. Read through all the making instructions before you start and highlight any areas that you think are, or might be, trickier for you. 

The Asymmetric Gather dress isn’t a difficult garment to sew up, I would say anyone from an adventurous beginner upwards would enjoy making it. It certainly took me less than a day to make, especially as there are no openings like zips or buttons to construct. 

I’ve found it entertaining to see my changing hairstyle since I first made this! I was paid for the original article last year but all thoughts, advice and opinions are my own.

until next time

Happy sewing

Sue

Italian cloth and hacking a ‘vintage’ pattern

First a bit of preamble, because the origins of the fabric I used for this top were important. In June 2022 me and Mr Y were finally able to return to mainland Europe again for a four day stay in Florence, one of my favourite cities. We knew it would probably be very busy with visitors during the summer but frankly I didn’t care about this, I was just so happy to be able to see all those magnificent buildings and beautiful art again.

In between looking at the art and strolling the ancient streets I indulged in a little window shopping at the stores where I can afford literally nothing, including Alexander McQueen, Missoni and Gucci.

I could get a closer look at the details in the Gucci store that is based in the Gucci exhibition (worth a visit)
Missoni….obviously, look at that extraordinary panelled dress
Alexander McQueen…be still my beating heart

Amongst all these shops though I *may* have come across a fabric emporium….In truth, there are quite a number of fabric shops in Florence, what with this being Italy and home of fabulous quality textiles.

I failed to make a note of the name of this particular shop but it was very close to the Duomo and the Baptistry. I didn’t go in (thankfully it was shut at the time!) but they clearly specialised in very high-end alta moda fabrics which were nowhere near my budget!
Stunning beaded silk cloth

I had, however, been given the name of another more accessible shop by a kind Instagram follower so we set off to find it with only the vaguest idea where it was. Bacci Tessuti is quite close to the Medici Chapel and San Lorenzo and, with a little help from Google Maps, we found it eventually.

The air-conditioned shop was a very welcome haven from the extreme heat Florence was experiencing during our visit and I was not disappointed by what I found, there is a wonderful selection of lovely cloth to browse.

The choices in a beautiful store like this can be quite overwhelming so I had a sort-of plan to buy something which felt ‘Italian’ to me. I set out looking at their fine linen, personally I would call it handkerchief linen and it’s much lighter and softer than most of the heavier and more durable linens I’ve seen on sale in the UK. I homed in on one with a large design in blue, red and pink flowers (I love a floral fabric but I don’t often wear it) but this one ’spoke’ to me. So that was great but then the helpful shop manager, who spoke excellent English, pointed out the Liberty Tana lawn he had at a very good price! I would have resisted but my husband wanted to buy some for me so who am I to turn him down!

These were going to be my total purchases but when I went over to the counter the manager told me that the linen cloth was by the textile designer for well-known Italian brand, Pucci. At this point he produced from under the counter several short length pieces of some beautiful Italian designer fabrics including Dolce and Gabbana! They were all very lovely (and still expensive) but I wouldn’t have a use for them. The one I did fall for though was a small piece of silk/cotton cloth from Pucci with their trademark psychedelic design in delicate ice cream shades. It still wasn’t cheap but it was just a bit different and there was enough to make a top of some kind. So of course it came home with me…

it’s a bit crumpled from the wash after I got it home
The linen is on the left, plus the two pieces of Tana lawn bought by my husband, and that was my view from the hotel in the background, straight over the Arno with the Ponte Vecchio just to the left.

With my purchases safely stowed away we got on with enjoying the rest of our holiday (although I spent a fair bit of time planning in my head what I was going to make when we got home!)

Initially I was going to use this ‘vintage’ Style pattern as is (I bought it new in 1988 so it’s a little upsetting to think of it as vintage!) I used it several times back in the day, and I’ve sewn it again a couple of times in the last few years. The back buttons are the feature I like, the rest is basically a woven T-shirt.

As I said earlier, I had no more than 1m30 of fabric to play with and I still wanted to do a decent job of matching the print as best I could. The basic pattern fitted on the fabric, it’s only a front, back, sleeves and facings, but I thought it might look a bit meh, and there would still be some wastage. After a bit of a rethink, by shortening the body and making two deep ruffles across the width of the fabric I knew I would get a much more interesting design and have very little wastage in the end.

Basically it was a case of working out how long I could afford to make the top section and still get ruffles that were a balanced length [I had the Merchant and Mills Florence top in my head as inspiration] I took a line horizontally straight across to the centre front/back from the side seam approximately 15cms down from the bottom of the arm scye of both the front and back. What I should have done if I had stopped to think about it was make the centre front longer, I didn’t though and as a result the front hem lifts up because of my bust. The back is fine though.

The first dashed line is roughly where I folded out the pattern to make the horizontal seam, the curved dashed line on the front is how I should have shaped it.

I was able to cut the front and back pieces side by side on the folded cloth which meant the design ran smoothly around the garment. From the remaining fabric I calculated how deep two full widths of the fabric could be (approximately 28cms each strip) and still have enough to get two sleeves and the neck facings out too.

Once I had all the pieces it was just a case of assembling. First I did my usual scavenge through my button boxes to find enough suitable colours in matching sizes. After joining the shoulder seams and attaching the neck and back facings I sewed all the buttonholes at this stage, by doing this first it meant I wasn’t fighting the bulky seam of the gathered ‘skirt’ later.

My usual mash-up of various buttons down the back
By sewing the buttonholes at an early stage meant I didn’t have to struggle getting the bottom one under the buttonhole foot with the gathering in the way.
All finished. I know I’m just being fussy but you can probably see what I mean about the top rising up at the front slightly. There is no bust dart on the pattern which would have made a difference.
I’m pleased with how the top uses almost all the fabric and shows off the print to good effect, I didn’t want to chop it up unnecessarily and there weren’t many options with the small quantity I had anyway. I had to use a very narrow pin hem on the ruffle to maximise the length, the sleeves had their normal hem allowance on them. If you want a few more ideas for finishing hems I wrote this blog a couple of years ago which you might find useful.
I opted to have the ruffle run straight across the back rather than have an opening (this was because I was being lazy and didn’t want to make a facing and sew more buttonholes!!)
The top is shorter than I’ve worn in the recent past but I like the look, especially with the flat-fronted Eve pants by Merchant and Mills
Out in the wild at Africa Fashion which is on at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London until 16/4/23

As for the other Italian fabrics, I have plans to make a shirt dress with the beautiful linen, I have a design I’ve drafted and sewn a couple of versions of but there’s probably still a few tweaks I want to make to it before making it in the ‘real thing’. The Liberty lawn is waiting for the right project to present itself too, no need to rush these things. I’m all for sewing the good stuff but it’s really upsetting if you sew a dud with it!

Until next time, happy sewing

Sue

Sewing and other bits in 2021

Well that was another weird year wasn’t it!? I’m not gonna lie but I’ll be glad to see the back of 2021. For every good event there seemed to be two or three stinkers which I found made it really hard to see positives anywhere. I know that there were some good things though and I’m incredibly grateful to have the life that I do so I don’t want to dwell on the downside, let’s move into 2022 with an air of cautious optimism!

I entitled my round up for 2020 as ‘sewing in a time of pandemic’ and I’m so glad I didn’t know then that 2021 was going to be ‘part two!’ Anyway, I’ve collected a few photos to round up my sewing and other events I was able to get up to during 2021 although I’m not sure if they are particularly chronological…the length and colour of my hair at any given time will give you a bit of a clue!

I’ve decided that the Trend Utility pants are definitely my favourite trouser pattern of the year-I had made two pairs by the end of 2020 and finished a third, in orange linen, in spring 2021 and I’ve worn them all fairly constantly. I find them interesting to make, they aren’t a completely straightforward sew and need a bit of concentration but they are all the better for that. The leg flaps are their USP and they are a design feature that make me very happy!
I was wearing them in the late summer when we finally escaped with one of our daughters on a week’s holiday, along with another favourite, the Maker’s Atelier Holiday Shirt.
The orange linen pair were perfectly autumnal at Kew Gardens in November, and the colours were absolutely stunning.
This hacked Sewing Revival Heron dress was one I finished in 2020 but wore a lot in 2021, and will do in 2022 as well.
I’m still not convinced about the ribbon bow but I haven’t actually done anything about changing it.

I was looking for new sewing challenges early in the year during the next long lockdown and Mr Y was the lucky recipient of a few items including this Carmanah sweatshirt by Thread Theory. The fabric was kindly provided for me as I’m part of the Lamazi blogger team.

This is the Thread Theory Finlayson sweatshirt I made for Mr Y at the start of the year and he’s worn it on heavy rotation. These items of menswear led to me writing an article for Love Sewing magazine about sewing for men, and by men, in the spring and I joined Maria at Sew Organised Style podcast to chat about it too.
Mr Y celebrated his 60th birthday quietly at home in March, we both wore hand-mades!
…and we celebrated a second wedding anniversary in lockdown too. Cabin fever had taken hold a bit as I dug out my wedding dress and flounced around the garden in it! I really hope our 33rd anniversary this year can be outside of the house!!
Let joy be unconfined because mid-March saw us going for our first vaccination and I wore entirely hand sewn garments to mark the occasion, including a Holiday Shirt, a Nora sweatshirt and my self-drafted rain coat.

I was selected to contribute some articles offering sewing tips and advice for an online sewing project in the early spring but after just two such items they just stopped contacting with me or replying to my emails. Bit rude I’d say, I’ve no idea what was wrong because they never had the courtesy to tell me, and I’ve no intention of wasting more time on them frankly.

Moving on…

Lucy at Trend generously gifted me the kit for the Box Pleat shirt from her capsule shirt collection. Like all her patterns it is so well drafted, I should have gone down at least one size though (my fault for being overly-cautious) There are currently three patterns in the shirt collection but I know there are more in the pipeline.
I only made two Minerva projects in 2021 and this Tabitha dress from Tilly and the Buttons book ‘Make it Simple’ was one of them. I really like the Art Gallery fabric and I’ve had plenty of wear from it.
I was so happy to see my dear sewing chum Claire after far too long at the Alice in Wonderland exhibition at the V&A in the summer. It was an interesting show although I suspect we nattered all the way around it! [it seems there was a ‘wear checks’ memo sent out too!]

As you know if you read my posts I like to reuse patterns if they have lots of options so I’ve sewn several variations of a number of Sewing Revival patterns during the year, including the Fantail top below which I made in an ancient remnant in my stash which I believe somebody once paid 90p for!

The wide elastic casing in the front hem is such an interesting detail.
This is another version of the Fantail featuring jersey cuffs and back hem.
This Sewing Revival Kingfisher top was made using the fabric from a summer dress which I never wore. It’s been a satisfying project because I worn it often (I‘d had a haircut by this point too!)
I enjoyed the challenge that this Heron adaptation presented because I used linen jersey provided for me by Lamazi fabrics. It was a learning experience and I shared lots of hints and tips in the accompanying post. It’s been such a lovely fabric to wear, it’s very comfortable and it has a beautiful sheen which is not particularly obvious in this photo.
I made another pair of Simple Sew Palazzo pants in a linen remnant I bought from Lamazi, they are comfortable and very nice to swoosh about in! That’s a M&M Camber Set top with them.
I sewed a third version of the Trend Bias T-shirt dress which I made specifically for an occasion at Capel Manor College in north London when the Japanese ambassador to the UK came to plant cherry trees. I’ve only had a chance to wear it once so far because the weather was getting colder but I have every intention of wearing it a lot in 2022-you know I love a floaty dress and this pattern is perfect for that!
I managed to get an outing to the Fashion and Textiles in the autumn to see ‘Beautiful People’ and it was well worth it because the colours and fashions were so uplifting.
One of my personal favourite posts of the year was this one where I had rediscovered lots of my college work and sketches from the 1980s. It was so much fun to find them unexpectedly and it seems it was a trip down memory lane for many of you too.

I wrote just three specific Sew Over 50 blog posts in 2021, the first was a summing up of lots of ideas and inspiration for how to sew more sustainably which the followers of the Sew Over 50 account contributed. There was a lot of it and it definitely worth a read.

Judith Staley joined Maria on the podcast to chat about it too.

I was a guest editor on the Sew Over 50 account in the autumn when we chatted about mannequins in our sewing practice. Many of you contributed some brilliant and insightful comments, I wonder how many people have gone on to buy a dress form, or use the one they have differently, or more often, as a result?

Sew Over 50 stalwart Tina generously shared with us the many resources she has gathered together over the last couple of years for sewing and adapting patterns and clothing after a breast cancer diagnosis. It has been one of my most read articles on the blog since it was published in the autumn and I know Tina is happy for followers to contact her via Instagram for any advice or support she can offer them. For me, she very much represents the positive aspects of being a part of this worldwide community.

One of my favourite ‘in person’ events in the sewing calendar, Sew Brum, quietly took place in the autumn and my lovely mate Elizabeth kindly put me up overnight and we had some quality shopping and sewing time together. Our friend Melissa even joined us for a couple of hours for a Zoom sew! Plus I ran in my first (and so far, only) Park Run too! phew, it was a busy and almost-normal 48 hours.

We got VERY wet at the Park Run but we earned extra smug points in our me-made Fehrtrade running kit! [I wrote a post about the Tesselate Tee that we’re both wearing here]
I didn’t even buy any of this green fabric at Barry’s in the end…

I finally made a jumpsuit (or two) at the end of the year, it’s the Cressida by Sew Me Something Patterns.

I made this second one to wear at the first Lamazi open day in November. It was so much fun to be a part of and I really hope there will be the opportunity to hold more events during 2022 because it so good to meet up with people in person and to just chat about sewing all day.
This was fun outing to the V&A that actually happened rather than being cancelled like so many others, it was an in-person talk by Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell and it was absolutely fascinating. I’ve really missed these talks in the lecture theatre and it was great to be back.
Being an actual grown-up at a fun event!
I splashed out on this unusual quilted fabric from Merchant and Mills and sewed it up into their Fielder top plus I wrote up a blog post on how I made the too-wide elastic fit around the neckline.
These Eve pants are also a Merchant and Mills pattern and they became my second-favourite trousers of the year, made in their Elinore checked linen and worn with a long-sleeved Holiday shirt in Swiss Dot.
This second Hug hoodie of the year by Made It Patterns is definitely one of my favourite makes of the year. It looks tricky but is very straightforward to sew and the style lines look very effective.

For quite a while I had wanted to organise an informal sewing event and they were finally able to happen in October and November with #HertsSewcial It was such a joy to be reunited with my Sew Over 50 stalwart friends Ruth and Kate, along with meeting several other online friends like Bev and Elke in real life for the first time. We had so much fun sewing and chatting together, the time flew past far too quickly and I very much hope I can organise some more in the New Year, current situations permitting.

Can you tell that Ruth, Kate and me are happy to see each other again after far too long!?

And my final sewing treat of the year was being able to meet up with Judith Staley in her hometown of Edinburgh!! It was much too brief but absolutely better than nothing, we had so much we could have talked about but that will have to wait until our oft-rescheduled and much looked forward to sewing get together next spring…fingers tightly crossed!

My final personal make of the year was another Maven Somerset top in this celestial jersey I bought at the Lamazi open day. It’s festive without screaming CHRISTMAS!

And so ends another year of sewing and other stuff, as well as the new garments I’ve sewn for myself there were many other occasions when I wore, and re-wore, favourites which didn’t need to be photographed! I fervently hope 2022 brings better times for everyone and that we can adapt to our new or changed ways of living. Sewing will continue be a big part of my life and I hope there will be some new and exciting projects and opportunities during the year. There are so many wonderful people in this community and the support and encouragement that swirls around has been so important during another trying year-I hope I will get a chance to meet up with more of you in person during the next twelve months.

Until then, thank you for reading my wafflings, happy sewing and a very happy New Year,

Sue

Tips for sewing with linen jersey, a new Lamazi post

Did you know that linen jersey was even a thing? It’s an unusual fabric which you don’t see often, we all know knits are available in most other fibre types-cotton, wool, silk or man-mades for example- but I’ve never worked with it before so when Liana invited me to sew my next Lamazi project using it, and to pass on any hints and tips for sewing it, I was up for the challenge. 

This 100% linen jersey comes from Mind the Maker in a range of colours and I picked the Dry Mustard shade which is a lovely vibrant ochre. The fabric has a beautiful lustrous sheen on the right side, the reverse is duller so it makes it much easier to tell the difference between the two. It has lovely light drapey quality too and is slightly sheer.

Linen fabric is not a textile known for its inherent stretch qualities and this jersey does feel slightly different from other knits because it has only a small amount of stretch along its length and quite a lot of stretch across the width but it has very little recovery so once it’s been stretched out it will stay like that at least until it’s washed again. During construction the application of plenty of steam will encourage some of this accidental stretching to be eased back into position so, coupled with its sheerness, this means that you need to think carefully about what garment to sew with it. 

Plenty of steam will help remove most unwanted bagginess like this

The properties of linen fabric itself [cool in warm weather, warm in cold weather] mean that it would be ideal for loose-fitting leisure or exercise wear, for yoga or Pilates for example. I would definitely say it’s better to avoid anything that is particularly close fitting because areas like the elbows or wrists would become stretched or baggy with little recovery. However the fabric has a lovely drape and its fine gauge allows it to be gathered up successfully so these properties could be exploited instead.

Bearing all these factors in mind I decided to make (another) Sewing Revival Heron dress which I would hack into a blouse. The pattern has a neckline which is gathered using elastic along with raglan sleeves with deep elasticated cuffs. To mix it up further I decided to pull the hemline in onto elastic rather than have a wide smock silhouette.

First things first, I washed the fabric by hand to remove any risk of excessive shrinkage or twisting in the machine. If you want to wash it in the machine then it might be an idea to overlock the cut ends together first to form a long loop and place it into a large washing bag to protect it further. Alternatively you could press it on your ironing board with plenty of steam instead. If at all possible it is better to dry the fabric flat, and certainly don’t wring or twist it. All of this might sound off-putting, and it is clearly not as straightforward as chucking a nice stable cotton into the machine but this is a luxurious fabric and deserves to be treated and handled carefully in the preparation. When it comes to cutting out your pattern pieces lay the fabric as flat as possible, handle it gently and don’t pull it about too much, especially if you decide to fold it. I made a whole back pattern piece for my top so that I could cut it flat, another appeal of the Heron pattern for me is that it has just three pieces so it’s a relatively quick sew usually. 

After cutting all the pieces the first thing I did was stabilise all the raglan shoulder seams using some iron-on seam tape, I did this to prevent any unwanted stretching before I sewed the sleeves in later on. I added small squares of iron-on interfacing to reinforce the bottom of the opening on the centre front seam too. I also decided to press all the folded parts of the casings/ruffles for the neckline, sleeves and hem before sewing anything together, just so that I was handling the cut-out pieces as little as possible, again to prevent unwanted stretching before they got joined together. I also tacked these folded parts into position temporarily. All this might sound excessive but I wasn’t in a rush, and I found the slow and considered processes very soothing at quite a difficult time. 

iron-on stay tape to prevent unwanted stretching of the raglan seams
I pressed and tacked casing/ruffles before joining the sections together later on
reinforcing the bottom of the neck opening with small squares of iron-on interfacing.

Something else I did before commencing was check on fabric scraps which needle and stitch-type would give me the best results. A ballpoint needle suitable for stretch/knits/jersey is essential to prevent snagging which could lead to laddering of this delicate fabric, and I found a short straight stitch was better than a narrow zigzag but you must do what works best on your own machine. You could sew a garment together entirely on an overlocker but be aware of the lack of rebound this fabric has so if it gets stretched or misshapen while it’s being sewn then it’s probably like that permanently. I also tested the overlocker finish before diving in for the same reasons. If you don’t have an overlocker this fabric is fine enough that where possible you could probably sew self-neatening French seams, or a wide zigzag might work but just be careful it doesn’t chew up the edges. If you have an overlock stitch option on your sewing machine and/or a special foot to sew an overlock-style stitch then definitely use them. Test all options before making your choice, the time taken could save you upsets later on. I slipped some folded strips of paper underneath the seam allowances when I pressed them to minimise any chance of the seam showing through on the front

testing stitches and overlocking
I popped two strips of folded paper under the centre front seam while I pressed it so that there was no show-through or unwanted shininess on the right side.

If you have a walking foot for your machine this is definitely a fabric worth using it for, even if you don’t it’s a good idea to use plenty of pins. I’m not a fan of mini-clips because I think they are too heavy and get in the way, this fabric is lightweight and I think mini-clips could distort it while you’re sewing but it’s up to you. Tacking seams is always an option too of course, any technique that prevents the fabric shifting while you sew basically.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while you’ll know I’ve made a few Herons before so the construction was straightforward, the only area I did differently was to create the ruffled hem with a wide elastic casing. I couldn’t decide between my planned 2cms or 1cm wide elastic initially so I tested with the two widths to see which I preferred-I chose to stay with the 2cms width as planned. 

testing which elastic width I preferred for the hem, this was the narrow one (the fabric scrap is wrong side out!)
and this is wider width, it’s the one I used at the hem in the end.
using a bodkin to insert the narrow elastic in the neck casing.
checking the gathered neckline on the stand
I used this quilting attachment on my machine so that I sewed an accurate parallel width for the elastic casing
close up of the elasticated hem casing

To sum up, I’m really pleased with how my first experience of sewing with linen jersey has gone, I’ll admit I was a little nervous because Liana was putting her trust in me with an expensive fabric but taking the time to plan and test, and use my existing knowledge of working with knits definitely helped. Because of the sheerness of the fabric Lamazi also provided me with a metre of Atelier Brunette crepe viscose in Ochre to make a camisole to wear underneath, I used the Simone camisole and trousers pattern by Maven which is a very quick make and a very useful garment to wear on its own or underneath other garments. The crepe viscose is a beautiful quality fabric with lovely handle and drape but be aware that there’s a disappointing amount of creasing, you might want to take that into account when planning, for example if you’re making something you’ll spend a lot of time sitting in.

all finished

As always, I hope you find my hints and tips helpful if you choose this lovely fabric, I wouldn’t recommend it to a novice sewer because some experience of sewing with other similar fabrics is definitely an advantage, plus it would be shame to end up with a costly mistake, but if you’re looking for a new challenge to add to your repertoire this could be a good start. I’ll launder the finished garment either by hand or in a wash bag on a gentle cycle in the machine. I’ll dry it flat too and store it that way, I don’t want a coat hanger to make it misshapen. If you’re a person who prefers not to worry too much about their clothes or their maintenance then this might strike you as overkill, and that’s fair enough, but I don’t think it hurts to have a few special things in our wardrobes which were worth the effort to make for ourselves. 

I’m looking forward to wearing this top as autumn is fast approaching (did summer ever arrive!?) thank you to Lamazi for providing me with the fabric to review.

Until next time, happy sewing,

Sue

1980’s College Days refound!

Did you keep any of your old college course work? I am by nature something of a hoarder but even I was surprised when an unpromising cardboard folder came to light recently while we were having a grand clear out. It said “Russia 1980” on the outside so I was excited to think that it contained some memorabilia from my school trip of that year [The trip caused some local controversy at the time because that year the USSR had invaded Afghanistan just a matter of weeks earlier and some people felt we should no longer go. Our Head Mistress, the doughty Miss Pagan, was having none of it so we went regardless! Many countries boycotted the Moscow Olympics later that year in protest…about the invasion, not because my school trip went ahead]

I digress, upon opening the folder I found it contained nothing of that trip at all but it did contain many of the sketches and designs I produced whilst at London College of Fashion between 1983-85 including the final project when I produced two ‘mass market’ bridal outfits. Well what a trip down memory lane they proved to be! It was a period of my life when I was so happy with what I was doing, I’d finally found the right course for me (technical garment construction and not just design) I had a great bunch of college mates, I loved it.

I’m sharing the sketches partly because then I’ve documented everything for my own reference and enjoyment, but also because I hope there might be things of interest to others as well. Fashion-wise the early eighties were a time of puffball skirts and massive ruffles, enormous sleeves and ra-ra skirts, wide collars and even wider shoulder pads! Princess Diana was the style darling of the fashion magazines and whatever she wore became a trend. Last year I shared lots of press clippings and photos from my early working career which you can still read here.

The earliest image is from before my college days and it’s the dress I made for my school friend’s 21st birthday in October 1982. It was entirely self-drafted because I hadn’t formally learnt pattern cutting yet at this point. I can remember it clearly and the notes on the sketch are very thorough. It was a great party too!

What follows are the design and development sheets for an evening wear module [you can see now why it’s my first love when it comes to making] We had to design variations of similar dresses and gowns to illustrate how a garment could be adapted and simplified to cater for it’s appropriate market.

This was the high-end dress as a starting point, it still has fabric swatches attached. I will have trawled the fabric suppliers around the college in London’s West End and been one of those annoying students who would ask for swatches of expensive fabrics which they had no possibility of ever buying! Most of the shops and showrooms were amazingly tolerant of us. It’s such a typical 80s dress with ruffles and bows a-plenty.
This was the middle market version so the fabric would have been less costly and the ruffle quota was much reduced, it was similar but simplified. There would have been fewer hand-sewn elements but the silhouette is still recognisable.
This is the mass market dress and I made notes to the side as well. It is still recognisable as the coming from the same silhouette but costs were further reduced by using inexpensive fabric and much less of it. I wonder if I made a conscious decision to use felt tip for the sketch as well?
Variations for the high-end dress (I obviously preferred this market as the drawings are better!)
more development ideas
Crikey, getting very carried away with the felt pens here, I think there’s a hint of Antony Price and Thierry Mugler creeping in
I remember starting to make this one up but I don’t think it was ever finished, I wonder what happened to it? It’s probably in a box in my parents’ loft!
lots of detailed annotations
yet more variations
Blimey!
What I find interesting about all of these sketches is the similarity to the designs I would actually go on to work on at David Fielden after I left college. At this point I had no real idea that bridal and evening wear was the direction I would eventually take, I just knew that I really enjoyed it.
And this is where my bridal career effectively began, it was the optional bridalwear module in the second year of the course. I still had a hankering for theatrical costume so this was a perfect outlet for those ideas. I cut and made this dress, eventually I disassembled it and I know I still have the buttons at least in my ‘collection’.
Sleeves were clearly a ‘thing’ for me!
I don’t remember what these were related to, just general evening wear I guess
woaah, more enormous sleeves, and rosettes too

For my final project I opted to make two bridal outfits, I’m guessing they were mid-range and the jacket and skirt was probably intended as a register office outfit whilst the ‘Laura Ashley” dress and jacket was probably for a simple church wedding or registry office. I had a real client for the suit which was my then-boyfriend’s sister. This was handy because she paid for the fabrics for it, the jacket and skirt were white crepe-back satin and the blouse underneath was a soft green georgette. I think my ‘brand’ was possibly Jacques Verts who specialised in smart workwear for the modern working woman (definitely power shoulder pads with everything) or mother-of-the-bride type outfits with matching everything, dresses, jackets, hats, bags, shoes, the lot.

Quite a bit of Eighties power shoulders going on in these

Laura Ashley were hugely popular in the Eighties with their feminine and floral styles, they also produced a range of dresses for brides and bridesmaids at reasonable prices so that will be why I picked them as my brand for this project.

I remember those box pleats being the very devil to work on, I think I made things very complex for myself with them. I bought a pretty white cotton damask fabric from Laura Ashley to make my sample from (like tablecloth fabric but softer) I’m pretty sure there’s still a bit of it knocking about in one of my fabric boxes…I wonder what happened to the dress and jacket though?

Well, there we are, another wander back into the past for some Eighties fashion extravagance. You’ll see why I probably won’t embrace the current trend for wide collars because I did them the last time around (although fabulous sleeves will always hold an attraction for me) we were all busy being New Romantics but that Steve Strange eye make-up was difficult to pull off with glasses!

rocking my Eighties mullet (specs sponsored by Everest double glazing…)

Until next time, happy sewing

Sue

My latest Minerva make-Tilly’s Tabitha T-shirt dress

I seem to be constantly attracted to teal/turquoise/duck egg shades recently so this Art Gallery organic cotton jersey for my recent Minerva post looked perfect when it hoved into my field of vision! 

I’ve used Art Gallery knit fabrics in the past and the designs and fabric, whilst fairly pricey, are lovely quality. This particular jersey is an organic cotton (with a little Elastane) and very soft, a lighter weight than many so it would be good for children’s and babies clothing as well as adults. I love the print, I think it’s a vaguely ‘Tribal-esque’ graphic stripe and I quickly decided to make a Tabitha T-shirt from Tilly and the Buttons book ‘Make it Simple’ which I’ve made a few times before but to try out the dress hack version for a change this time. 

I traced off a new copy of the pattern using the horizontal lines indicated across the bodice specifically for the dress. I’m not long in the body but I thought it looked a little short so I added an extra 2cms to the bodice length. In truth I probably could have added more than that because I feel there isn’t as much blousing at the waist as there seems to be in the photo in the book [If you know, or suspect, you have a long body length then pay close attention to this before cutting your fabric, get someone to take your nape to waist measurement and compare it to the back pattern piece. If necessary then add any extra through the horizontal ‘lengthen/shorten’ lines, and don’t forget to do the front as well!] If you’re wondering why this matters, it will mean that the waist seam sits too high above your natural waist and could look more like Empire line. 

I followed the instructions in the book to draft my own skirt pattern which was simple enough, you only need one because the front and back are identical (you’ll need a decent sized piece of paper to do this) I cut the new front and back as complete pieces so that I didn’t have to cut anything on the fold, I also wanted a short sleeve so I traced one off. 

The fabric was a little bit curly at the edges so I took my time cutting out, be careful not to pull or drag the fabric at this stage because this could result in twisting of the finished garment. It’s helpful to mark stripes onto the pattern so that you can then match them to corresponding seams more easily. Cutting a single layer of fabric can really help make this more straightforward, and be less wasteful too.

Moving on, the suggestion for the waist casing is to use eyelets or buttonholes. I used a small round-ended buttonhole, whichever method you choose make sure you interface underneath first to stabilise the fabric. I used the quilting guide to help me sew an accurate 2cms seam to create casing. Once I’d sewn it I used a bodkin to thread the ribbon through.

Tiny round-ended buttonholes instead of eyelets
Using the quilting guide to sew an accurate 2cms seam to create the channel
I used a bodkin to thread the ribbon through, this was some tape I used initially until I got the better-matching teal grosgrain ribbon.

The rest of the construction was pretty quick because I already knew the T-shirt in size 5 was a nice fit, the skirt was a bit ‘hippy’ though so I took some off in that area. Following the drafting instructions the pattern piece is shaped for the waist but, for me, a straight rectangle would suffice.

The length was educated guesswork but I’m very happy with it and it’s not too restrictive at the hem, any longer or narrower and the skirt might need a split in it to allow movement. I have the advantage of using a Pfaff coverstitch machine to hem the sleeves and skirt but a twin needle or a zig-zag stitch will do the job too, and don’t forget to use a ballpoint or jersey needle. I used a narrow grosgrain ribbon in a toning teal to slot through the waist casing to complete the dress. As I mentioned near the beginning I might add just a little more length to the bodice next time but otherwise I’m really pleased with this Tabitha dress, it will be comfortable to wear for everyday and easy to roll up in a suitcase if I ever get to go on holiday again!

not keen to reveal pasty white legs!

Minerva provided me with this lovely fabric to write about, I’m delighted with the quality and I’m especially happy with the dress which is so just comfortable.

Until next time, happy sewing

Sue

The Sewing Revival Heron dress hack

Two years ago I wrote a review of the Sewing Revival Heron dress which you can still read here. I liked the pattern so much that since then I’ve made another knee-length version in a viscose/linen mix fabric from Ditto in Brighton and a blouse variation too in a beautiful soft Italian cotton voile, also from Ditto. I wore it often although not so much lately…

wearing the blouse on my trip to Paris for the Sewcial in May 2019
my very first version of the Heron dress…it has pockets!

While I was at Sew Brum in October 2019 I bought some lovely soft brushed printed viscose twill from Barry’s Fabrics with the express intention of making another Heron but this time making it longer and more cold weather-friendly. There had been a lot of Wilder Gowns by the Friday Pattern Company popping up everywhere at the time, I liked the tiered style a lot but I knew I could create my own take on it by using a pattern I already had. A multiple-layered skirt like this isn’t difficult, it’s really a case of working out the number and sizes of rectangles you want to use. If you take a look at this post I wrote about recreating a sun dress for a client in 2019 you’ll get the gist. Because I like the top section of the Heron so much I decided this was a good pattern to use and it wouldn’t be difficult to adapt it to what I wanted.

All the quantities and proportions I have used for this dress were completely arbitrary and had to be based primarily on the quantity of fabric I’d purchased [which I can’t actually remember as it’s well over a year ago, probably 3m of 150cm wide fabric I’d guess] and my own height of 5’5” so bear this in mind if you decide to have a go yourself. I wanted the dress to be nice and long so eventually I settled on approximately hip length for the bodice, the finished length of the side seam is now 40cms. I folded the front and back dress pattern sections up out of the way when I pinned them to the fabric (obviously you could trace or print off a new copy of the PDF if you wish) Once both bodices, sleeve and pocket pieces are on the fabric [pockets could be cut from something else if you’re a bit short of fabric] I could see exactly how much I had left to create the skirt from. I kept it very simple and divided the remaining fabric into two equal rectangles across the full width, each one measured approximately 56cms long but that had to include the seam allowance at the top and a hem at the bottom.

Initially the construction of the dress followed the normal method up as far as putting the pockets into the side seams of the bodice as per the pattern.

Making the skirt was very straightforward, I joined the short selvedges to one another [if it’s a one-way design make sure the print is running the same way on both pieces] to form a large cylinder of fabric with two side seams. Press the side seams open, if you’ve been able to use the original selvedges they might not need finishing. I made the hem at this point too, it seemed easier than wrestling with a complete dress at the end, although this could have backfired on me if I hadn’t been happy with the length but I was pretty certain it would be OK.

I ran two rows of gathering stitches within the seam allowance of the top edge, I pinned them in position matching the side seams, centre front and centre back, plus the quarter seam positions too. Gather up carefully so as not to break the threads, small pleats would also work here especially if the fabric would be bulky otherwise, it depends a bit on the weight of the fabric to some extent. Once I was happy with the gathering distribution I sewed the skirt on and overlocked the seam.

And that was it. Now, I have to say that because I was taking a risk with proportions and limited by the quantity of fabric I’d bought that if I were to repeat this I would definitely make the bodice quite a lot shorter and make the skirt from more than one gathered tier instead. I’m happy with the overall finished length but I think the seam at the hip isn’t quite right. But, by wearing it with a narrow leather belt (there wasn’t any fabric left for a self-belt anyway) and bringing it in at the waist I’ve saved it, the belt gives it a lot more definition.

I added a tie at the neck this time using a bit of grosgrain ribbon which I had knocking about.

I grabbed a cheeky selfie in John Lewis with my sewing friend Ruth in the autumn, we can only dream of when we can meet up again at the moment though sadly. that’s my upcycled jeans jacket I’m wearing

The dress was finished around a year ago and these photos were shot in the autumn but it’s taken until now to write up. I just wanted to demonstrate how easy it can be to make your own version of popular patterns using one you already have-there’s a certain risk involved because it might not be completely successful but that’s always the risk anyway when making our own clothes-a style might turn out not to suit us after all, or we make a wrong fabric choice, or it could be a triumph so why not revisit what you already own before buying another pattern?

Until next time, happy sewing

Sue