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!!

When Jane met Megan…

Well if you are a fellow sewist / blogger type person, you would have to have been locked in a dark room to not have seen the new book from Tilly and the Buttons called Love at First Stitch. I bought mine through Tilly’s shop and my signed copy dropped onto my doormat on Friday morning! It’s a great book, as Tilly says it’s the book she wishes she’d had when she started sewing and I can see why. It has really clear instructions accompanied by easy to follow photographs ( love that…can’t cook a recipe unless I can see what it’s supposed to look like!) which make all the difference in understanding something new. Although I’ve been sewing a loooonnnnggg time I was interested in seeing how this book would turn out. I only started blogging last August and it’s all still fairly new to me, but I can honestly say that Tilly’s site was one of the first I read and inspired me to claw back my long lost passion for sewing, so buying the book was something I was always going to do.

The ulterior motive though was the fact that there are 6 patterns in this book, not one or two…SIX!! Plus a tutorial for the Brigitte scarf. Have you seen the skirt on the cover!? Anyway having pored over the book most of Saturday morning instead of doing the cleaning, (dust? What dust?) I decided I needed to make the Megan…

This dress is brilliant, I love it. It’s a classic shape, the pattern is very easy to follow and is really well drafted. I read with interest Alana’s from Lazy Stitching’s post on ‘a curvy perspective’ on Tilly’s book, I wondered whether the patterns would work for someone like me, 5’10″ size 18/20, but do you know what? It doesn’t matter what size I am, all the wonderful blogs I read are of people of all shapes and sizes and regardless of whether you would label them ‘plus size’ or not they ALL talk about alterations they make to patterns to make them their own and to make them fit. I’m developing my own formula for dresses. I need to cut a size 16 neck and shoulders, grade out to an 18 under the arm, probably do an FBA and grade out a couple of centimetres at the hip beyond the 18. I need an inch extra length in the bodice and a few on the skirt length for my preferred length. This is now just something I need to do to patterns much the same as other people will shorten, grade out / in to make their pattern fit and that is part of the joy of making our own clothes. After some serious deliberation as to what to make first, I decided to make the Megan dress. I started with my high bust measurement which matched the size 6 on the pattern, traced the neck and shoulders in this size then out to an 8 under the arm (probably the only occasion I can say I’m a size 8!!!) as I need this size sleeve so I need the armhole to match, plus it gives me more room across the bust. However after measuring there wasn’t enough room, so I needed the FBA. Here’s what I did…

1. Cut a horizontal line through the middle of the dart from the side seam to the apex, cut a line vertically down from the apex to the waist seam and cut a diagonal line up towards the armhole leaving 1.5cm for the seam allowance.
2. Moved the pieces so the space between the two vertical parallel pieces is the amount of the FBA needed, in my case 1″
3. Cut a horizontal line across from the centre front so the waist pieces match.
4. Normally at this point I can stop and retrace my pattern piece, but I noticed that the dart was now quite big and the fabric I was using had a directional print, on a plain fabric it would not matter. To resolve this I moved the legs of the dart together which turned the dart into the waist seam. My intention then was to gather the excess created into the waist seam. My new pattern piece looked like this…

At this point I added 1″ in length, I’ve learned (to my cost!) to do the lengthening AFTER the FBA as the process give some extra length anyway, I added an inch, so did the same to the back pattern piece so the side seams were the same.

I have put the gather line in, it’s roughly a third of the length of the new pattern piece, keeping it flat under the arm and centre front, but you could have gathers all the way along if you wanted or even pleat it!
Phew! I’ve waffled on a bit there, hope it helps someone!! I am thrilled to bits with this dress, I wore it to work today and felt really smart in it and that’s what this sewing lark is all about isn’t it? To make us feel good??
Back to the book, I’m now looking at what to do next, Lilou is looking favourite. Two words to sum up this book?…Buy it.