Oh Sallie…

Sometimes you see something and you don’t even blink before whipping out your credit card and clicking ‘buy‘! When the Sallie pattern from Heather Lou at Closet Case Files dropped into my inbox, I didn’t blink – I bought. I’m not going to lie initially I was drawn to the tops, I love a kimono sleeve shape and it’s easy to fit on someone my size and I knew I could adapt the straps on the tank too (thicker ones needed I’m afraid!) The skirt shape was great, then there was the jumpsuit…I. Loved. It. On Heather Lou at any rate, on me?? Not so sure…

Anyway, construction was very easy, the instructions are great, the only fiddly bit was attaching the lining, but I did it diffently to the instructions! I sewed up the shoulder seams and side seams then reached in between the layers to pin the lining to the outer shell around the sleeves, I found it easier to do it in two halves – stitch shoulder to underarm, flip it over and do shoulder to underarm. But apart from me messing around from that it was easy peasy.

For the dress…  I used a viscose jersey bought on EBay which wasn’t too expensive, it looks like a Jackson Pollock painting! I liked the colours so I thought I’d try it. It’s actually perfect for the dress, lightweight and swishy, bit of a pig to sew though as the edges curled a LOT when cut, but I fought and won! I cut a straight 20, which for me in a pattern is almost unheard of, I have to patterns about to make them fit but not in this case. The only alteration I made was to add 4cm in the length to the front bodice and lining along the bottom of the pattern piece from the centre to directly under the apex then curved it up to the side seam. I normally would do an inch to 2 inch FBA on most patterns so this addresses the issue of needing more room in the bodice otherwise the front would pull up (the back and front pieces are identical) it worked perfectly and I don’t feel the need to pull it down all the time. I stabilised the neckline with interfacing as there is minimal pulling and this worked fine. The skirt though is not same as the pattern – I didn’t have enough fabric!! So essentially it is a tube, straight up and down instead of being the gentle A line of the pattern, I had to stretch the bodice a little to stitch it to the skirt, but that’s the joy of knits! I overlocked the seams to keep it all neat…and wore it immediately. It is so comfortable and very nice to wear, I’m going to make a shorter version that I can wear to work because I think it would work just as well.

For the jumpsuit… 

 Well, what can I say, the jumpsuit was calling to me… No! I said, I’m a woman of a certain age and a certain size! I can’t wear a jumpsuit!! Rebellious streak said, just bloody do it, so I did! The fabric is some I had in my stash, I bought it on a trip to Goldhawk Road, it’s heavier than the jersey for the dress but I thought that would work better with trousers. Hmmm… trousers, I think the last pair of trousers I made was in the nineties, which co-incidentally is probably the last time I wore a jumpsuit. I was a little worried about fitting particularly as I knew was attaching them to a top. So armed with my favourite pair of pyjama bottoms (yes, really) and my trouser block I laid out the pattern pieces to compare. I laid my block over the top and from that I could see the 20 was a great fit width wise across the hip but I was going to need more length in the crotch, this wasn’t a surprise as I’m 5’10, I cut along the lines drawn on the pattern pieces for lengthening and added 4cm. My block was also wider than the pattern piece at the crotch point so I added 2cm there too. Having worn my dress and made no alteration to the overall length (back and front) it sat just on my waist, I was a bit worried that there might not be enough length when attached to the trousers so I added another 2cm (on top of the bust adjustment) my hunch was right, the fit is great, but would have been a little short in the body had I not done it. To stabilise the neckline on this I used clear elastic, I was very conscious that to get the jumpsuit on I would have to get my booty through that neck hole, so some serious elastic was required!! It works fine though, I was a bit worried trying it on for the first time!! 

So can a woman slowly sliding towards her 50th birthday who is not a size 10 rock a jumpsuit?

I think I’ll let you decide that one…but I’m still going to wear it!

Tempus Fugit…

Look at me!! My colleague in the Latin department will be so proud…

Time flies indeed, I have no idea where the last two months went. Given that my last post starts with the words ‘Happy New Year’ I’m shamed into updating with something! The truth is I have been quietly busy on my sewing machine.

I’m over Winter now and need something to look forward to. I’ve made two jackets this winter though, a couple of skirts, 5 tops and 2 dresses, not bad eh? I just need to get my act together to photograph them! My favourite make was my violet  Violet by Blue Ginger Doll, I made the straight skirt version, it’s very flattering and it makes me feel good when I wear it.

I’ve already cut out another in black ponte, which I know I will wear non-stop. I will try and photograph that one! My other ‘project’ at the moment is that I have started a Sewing Group in the town where I live, we are a small few at the moment but I’m hoping numbers will grow, the ladies who do come really enjoy it, and that’s what it’s all about.

Right back to planning projects for Spring, how do we feel about culottes??

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a great break over the holidays. I’m back to work tomorrow after 2 and a half weeks off, may be a slight shock to the system…
So before that all kicks off I thought I’d look back at what I did in 2014 and what my plans are for 2015.
I made a lot of things, many of which weren’t blogged for one reason or another, but my choice of projects has been eclectic to say the least. One thing I have achieved though is to make things which are more suited to my body shape and also use fabrics which I know I will wear. Sounds daft, but I love all sorts of fabrics, particularly bright, intricate designs, but I’ve discovered I’m much more limited as to what I will actually pull out of the wardrobe to wear.
Anyway, here are some of my favourite makes…

1. Coco by Tilly and the Buttons, a very versatile pattern, I love the neckline on this.
2. Self drafted box top, long to go with leggings, made in stripes so I could fiddle around with this pocket! Wear it all the time.
3. Self drafted maxi dress, inspired by the Flora dress from By Hand London.
4. Tova by Wiksten, made early in the year but worn lots!
5. My second Jackie Coat by Iconic Patterns, I made this just before Christmas in fur fabric I had bought at the sewing meet up in Goldhawk Road in January. In October I went back with friends and purchased the crazy lining!! I made some changes – slightly longer sleeves, put the closure in the centre and left off the collar and pockets. I absolutely love it and I’ve had lots of lovely comments about it too.

6. The Marthe blouse from République du Chiffon, I wondered about this shape on me, but I loved all the versions I’d seen on the Internet so gave it a go in some very light viscose and it worked really well.
7. This is the dress I made with Chinelo at one of her workshops in June, loved the day and love the dress.
8. My favourite make of the year in terms of a ‘eureka, it fits’ kind of way. This is the Georgia dress from Tilly’s book I had to make some adjustments to the bodice, but I now have a TNT pattern which I love, it’s very flattering and makes me feel great when I wear it, suffice to say I’ve since made 2 more…
9. This is the Dolores top from Zoe at So Zo, great shape and great to wear, in basic black but I wear it non-stop. I’ve made two others.
10. Finally! This is a cape I made for my sister for Christmas, the pattern is The Woodland Stroll Cape by Oliver & S, I made two, one for each of my sisters at Christmas, I suppose this sort of represents things I’ve made for others this year, there have been quite a few on reflection, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.

So for 2015, I’m going to challenge myself to a bit of different sewing. Tailoring and clothes with finer detailing, I can be a bit too eager to finish things sometimes, so this focus might slow me down a bit!!

Right time to pack the bag for work and launch myself back into a new school term. Happy New Year!!

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!

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 I was inspired by the other variation and drafted a similar shape to make 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. I made a lower front neckline and widened the straps, slightly more flattering for me. The skirt 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.

Spice Trail from the East

That’s the name of this lovely cardigan! I found this free pattern on Ravelry, I wanted to try something that looked a bit different and this jumped out at me. I thought it would be really difficult, but in actual fact it wasn’t too bad at all, once you’ve established the pattern it’s very straightforward. I knitted it up in a couple of weeks, knitting in the evening in front of the telly. I used an acrylic DK, which (after much googling) I found cannot be wet blocked. I’m new to this process so after trawling around a bit more, I found some different ways to do it. I ended up using this one, which advises using a steam iron, which worked fine although I did get a bit close with the iron on a couple of patches which made it a little shiny – nothing too drastic though!! The bit I really like about the pattern was that there was no rib to add on at the end, it’s knitted in as you go along, great for me as adding rib to a cardi / jumper is something I really don’t do very well, I seem to end up with loopy gaps between the ribbing and the main part if the garment…need to work on that. Anyway that wasn’t the case with this piece, I will definitely be making it again because it turned out quite well! May have to put down the knitting needles for a bit though, there’s something not quite right about knitting in summer…