Dahling Dahlia

It’s official, November is rubbish. It’s dark, cold and rainy, but when it’s like this I need to keep occupied so out comes the sewing machine!! So far I’ve made 2 So Zo Dolores Tops, a grey velvet self drafted pencil skirt, a Mandy Boat Tee (free pattern by the way) with a Dolores neckline and now a Dahling Dahlia.

Do you ever get the feeling when you are making something that it’s going to be a winner? As soon as Dahlia popped up as a pre-sale in my inbox, I bought it immediately, which is not usual for me, I need to procrastinate for a little while…

Anyway I was determined I was going to make it ASAP. I LOVE the green version on the pattern page, but I wanted a fabric that would work in Autumn / Winter. During half term I visited relatives up in Lancashire and made a determined detour to visit Minerva Crafts in Darwen, there was so much choice I didn’t know where to start. After spending some (a lot) of time browsing I settled on this Olive / Mustard Swirl design. It’s cotton with some stretch, but it’s quite heavy, almost like sewing a soft denim. I loved the retro feel to it and Dahlia sprung to mind.

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I had bought the .pdf so out came the tape and scissors (and a glass of wine, I find that helps…) I’m a bit of a maverick when it comes to instructions, I’m the same with flat pack furniture, I just launch myself into it without much consultation! I think I have enough experience at sewing to know what I’m doing, but I still have check occasionally! I really like the sewalong posts for that, I’m a visual learner, so seeing how it should look step by step is really helpful, I can also just pick out the bits I need. In terms of construction, I had to alter a few pattern pieces, one before and one during the sewing process…

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Number 1. is the front bodice piece, I have to do an FBA to everything, so it was no surprise I had to do one here! I cut a 16 bodice piece but then did a 2cm FBA. Instead of creating a side dart I left the extra ease at the bottom of the piece, as it is already gathered here, it just meant a few more gathers! This was one of the ways suggested on the sewalong too. I used this method to adjust my bodice piece on my version of Tilly’s Georgia dress, rather than having a large side dart. I measured the Dahlia bodice piece against the Georgia I had already cut and found they were nearly identical (which I was pleased about because the Georgia fits me really well) except the Georgia was 2cm longer, so I lengthened the Dahlia pieces (front and back) by the same amount. At this point the scissors came out and off went! I sewed the dress up to the point where I was finishing the neckline (ie. nearly done) and tried it on…The bodice fit was good, apart from the neckline (more on that in a min) but the skirt was too…much. In picture 2 you can see the pattern piece is essentially a pencil skirt shape, slightly flared at the side, with extra width which gathers into the waistband. The back piece (picture 3) is cut more like an A line piece AND it has extra width for gathers. I think made in drapier fabric and on someone with smaller hips than me this would not be an issue, but I need a slightly straighter shape to stop me looking bigger. Conundrum…I ended up unpicking the whole of the back skirt and recutting it using my own skirt block (picture 4). This meant that the back had darts instead of gathers ( which lie flatter and actually match the darts in the back bodice) and I didn’t look so…wide. Anyway here it is:

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The neckline was another issue, because the fabric was fairly heavy (and I think I may have stretched it a bit) the neckline was too big, even when I gathered it according to the pattern. I had to gather the whole of the front piece, and as I have a rounded back I put a few in there too. I was worried that normal bias binding was not going to do the job of holding the gathers / neck in shape so I made some from the fabric 6cm wide which I then stitched so it is visible. It did the trick and the neckline is spot on.

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Result? I love it, it’s a great shape for me (with the skirt adjustment) and it’s very comfortable to wear. I wore it to work today before two of my friends and I enjoyed afternoon tea at the Cotswold 88 Hotel in Painswick. It’s a pattern I will make again – a real winner, but I knew that before I started cutting it out…

Back to Batwing

Definitely a blast from the past for me! I’m a teenager of the 80s, a lover of Duran Duran and all things New Romantic, some of you are nodding in recognition, some of you haven’t got a clue what I’m on about. I can say for certain that I had several batwing tops and loved every one of them, when it saw the Dolores top from Zoe from ‘So Zo What Do You Know?’ I had to have it…

I love the fact it can be top / tunic / dress and has two sleeve options too! The pattern goes up to 16, which is too small for me, but I found this easy to address. I’m a size 16/18 high bust measurement so I traced the pattern pieces out another size to make an 18, which fit my back, but I still needed an FBA. My go to tutorial for this is from Vicki Kate Makes which she did for a Sewaholic Renfrew top, to make a dartless FBA, I like it because there are loads of photos (visual learner!) and because she is very similar in size to me. As the front piece of the Dolores is a kimono shape, first of all cut the sleeve section off before following the instructions…

This all worked a treat and mean I had enough room, without losing some of the waist shaping. I also left off the cuffs as I prefer a slightly shorter / three quarter length sleeve without any extras! Probably why I don’t wear many shirts. Anyway my lovely son took a photo of me this morning, in a messy garden, I had all good intentions of taking more before posting, but do you know what? I will never get round to it, so here is my (first) Dolores!

I love it! And wearing it today I’ve noticed it’s a great layer under cardies as the arms are close fitting, so you don’t have the whole issue of getting loose sleeves inside other sleeves (bear with me, it’s the little things…) I’m already planning how many more colours I can make it in for the winter, then I’ll do some short sleeved ones for the summer! Win win!

It’s alive…

…my website that is! What a week! I hit the publish button on The Sewing Pattern Directory last Friday. It’s taken a while to put together but I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out. I’ve had lots of nice comments too! It came into my head during one of those nights where you’re staring at the ceiling at 3am wondering where sleep went, got up the following day and set to work. All the pattern companies featured kindly replied to my rambling email to allow me to post pictures of their patterns and there are lots!

It’s quite exciting to see it evolve and I hope people will use it and like it. It also could be fatal for my bank balance…I’ve lost count this week of the times I’ve said “ooh that’s nice”, and promptly bought it! One pattern I purchased was the Dahlia dress by Colette patterns which was released on Tuesday, I’m now trying to find the perfect fabric for a festive dress!
It’s half term this week as well for me and I’m going to sew, sew, sew…


I have just realised how long it is since I have blogged on here! Blimey, I’ve had my summer holidays, gone back to school and I’m now looking forward to half term! I’ve been a busy bee, during the holidays I had a lightbulb moment for a website, all about sewing obviously, it’s going live in the next few days….watch this space!

Mish Mash Maxi

Doesn’t sound that attractive does it?? Anyway, what I mean is that I have put different elements together to make another maxi. I bought the Flora pattern for the wrap over bodice, but thought I’d give the other variation a go first in some inexpensive viscose I got on eBay. I wanted another dress for my trip to France, I have made a couple of Monetas (yet to be blogged, I’m cutting out my third!) which are knit fabrics so I wanted to try a pattern for wovens. As usual, I had several adjustments to make, I also lowered the front neckline and widened the straps, slightly more flattering for me. The skirt though is my self drafted A line, I made it wider to incorporate a couple of pleats at the waist.

It’s a wearable muslin really, but I have been wearing it a lot!
Last week I went to Bordeaux with my friend, we spent one night in the city before going on to a cooking holiday in Lot et Garonne. It’s a city I’ve not visited before, when I lived in France I was further north in the Loire valley and given any opportunity to go to France I usually make a beeline for Paris, so it was good to go somewhere new. I really liked it, it’s a very elegant city, helped in our case by arriving on Bastille Day, so lots of activities and fireworks in the evening.

The following day we got a train to our second destination – Le Gargantua about an hour away, an idyllic location in the middle of sunflower fields in the middle of nowhere!

We spent 3 days there visiting local markets and producers and cooking different dishes to learn new skills. We had an amazing time and it was very hot! My maxis came in very handy!!

As I’m a teacher I’ve now got 6 weeks to practise my new skills….and maybe do a little more sewing.

Made to Measure Maxi

It’s Summer! Well for us in the UK it’s gone over 20 degrees so we’re all walking round in shorts… I had a lovely day in London on Saturday meeting the lovely Chinelo. If you’re a) not a sewist or b) been locked in a dark room, you will not be aware of the Great British Sewing Bee. To say I was an avid viewer is an understatement, I had the whole lot on series record and sons had strict instructions not to delete anything or I may have forced them to leave home. Chinelo was one of this season’s contestants, her innovative way of cutting fabric and designs was really refreshing, instead of using paper patterns, she transferred measurements directly to the fabric to create designs that were bespoke and beautiful! When I found out she was doing workshops to share some of her skills, I jumped at the chance to meet her and learn some more. So off I went to London Town on Saturday, the longest day of the year, I got there early so had a little walk along the river…

I made my way to the venue and set to work with the other ladies on the course. Chinelo was lovely, very patient and showed us step by step how to make a maxi dress. We used lovely drapy viscose which was provided for us, we made the skirt part on the bias, drawing our measurements straight onto the fabric, next we made the bodice. We sewed it together then elasticated the waist and gathered the shoulders. I didn’t quite finish on the day, but I only needed to finish the shoulders and the hem. And there it was! A made to measure dress! I loved the fabric I chose, here’s a pic of me with the lovely Chinelo and my dress and fabric…

I had such a lovely day and met some lovely ladies who helped each other and had some good chats along the way. Sometimes it’s the contact with other like-minded people which makes these sorts of classes perfect. Here’s another pic showing just how much fabric there is in this dress!!

I have to say I’ve been doing a lot of swishing…

And sew it begins…

What? You may ask… Well the World Cup, obviously. The tension has been building for weeks and now the waiting is over… For my husband and 3 sons that is. Day 2 and I’ve lost the will to live. Every telly in my house had either a match on it, pre-match discussion or post-match analysis, what am I going to do??
Answer? Sew…
Today I have managed to make a lined pencil skirt, from scratch, that is draft a skirt block from measurements (in this case my friend) draw a pattern from the block and make the skirt…

Fully lined as well! I’m feeling very pleased with myself! I also managed to make a kimono jacket, paint some shelves and load the car ready for a car boot tomorrow (you can see how much I love football). Maybe after my madeless May (lost my sewjo) I have the motivation I need to get creative! (ie. anything but football) could be a productive few weeks!!