Pink loveliness

Please excuse the ceases (I really should remember to press before I pick up the camera) but even unironed I think you have to agree that this is loveliness in a top.

Pink Liberty fabric in a lovely soft and drapey cotton lawn, pin tucks and, la pièce de resistance??? why, heart shaped shell buttons, of course!!Here’s more of a close upYou may recognise the pattern – I used an adapted version of the Colette Patterns Sorbetto pattern. This project was, for me, mainly a technical one – trying out pin tucks, something I have been yearning to do for while but, until now, had not got around to. I therefore decided to use a pattern that, other than for the pin tucks, would be quick and simple to sew up (there is only so much learning a girl wants to do in one project!!). Given that I already have a few sorbetto tops though I decided to shake things up a little more by adding a button fastening down the centre back.

I added around 3 cm to the length of the front and the back pieces and then also added a little to the width of the pleat that runs down the centre front in the original pattern. I did some rough calculations as to how much fabric I needed in the centre front for the pin tucks given that I was going to do pin tucks of 1cm, 0.5cms apart (does that make sense?). For the back – to add the button fastening – I added some width to the back pieces to allow for the back pieces to overlap where they would buttons up and in addition I added a self facing that I interfaced so that the fabric would hold the button holes and buttons without drooping.

As said above this was my first pin tuck experience and overall I am fairly happy with the outcome. They are not perfect and I could have unpicked a couple in places but I figured that life is too short and I have to say that even though I know where they are slightly off I don’t really notice (and I am usually fairly critical of my own work). I had wanted to do some pin tucking for a while and actually now having done it I realise that it is like a lot of sewing things – not really difficult, just time consuming. The hardest part for me was actually drawing the lines straight – as I wasn’t using a pattern for the pin tucks I measured the lines and drew them onto the fabric. Next time around I will make up a paper pattern and transfer the lines either with carbon paper or by thread basting which will be time consuming but I think will give a better result. Once that part is done it is really just a case of stitching very straight lines which I found is easier if I go slightly slower than my usual trail blazing speed!- there are also gadgets that you can get to help with this which I haven’t invested in but might if I thought I was going to do a lot more pintucking.As you can see above, rather than using bias binding to finish the neckline I drafted a facing, which I rather like – I think it gives a cleaner line – although I did use same fabric bias binding for the armholes.I’ll get some photos of me wearing this soon  but for now I am off to dream of pintucking swathes of fabric!!!

Violet for Valentines’

A dress was the next item to sew on my never ending list of things I want to make but as it is a fairly fitted dress I need to wait a couple of weeks to make sure it fits the ‘non feeding baby’ me so I instead bumped this lovely blouse up the list.

The pattern is the lovely Violet pattern from Colette Patterns (what a surprise I hear you say!!) and it is a blouse with peter pan collar, bust darts and a back yoke with some gathering. It is described as a “gentle loose fit”.I was a little unsure how the blouse would suit me – as loose fitting tops and jackets don’t always work that well  – they can end up looking a bit boxy – on me but as I loved the detail of the collar I thought I would make it up as drafted, thinking that if it really looked too boxy I could always add some darts to the front sections and the back to make it more fitted.

I choose a Liberty print for this blouse thinking that the collar would probably benefit for being made in a fabric that draped well rather than a stiffer quilting fabric.

The pattern has two sleeve variations – a short sleeve and a longer sleeve gathered at the hem with elastic. I made the three quarter sleeve version and used lace bias around the sleeve hems to case the elastic. At first I thought the sleeves were a little too full but they are slowly growing on me and actually I think it is , in part, the fullness that adds to the originality of the design.

As I struggled to find buttons that went with the fabric I ended up covering some with the same fabric – and for the bottom button I used a plain flat black button so that I can tuck the blouse in without having the button stick out (the covered buttons do stick out somewhat). The only slight variation I made was to lengthen the blouse a little to ensure that when tucked in that is where it would stay!As with the other Colette Patterns I have sewn up this pattern and the instructions are great and I have already cut out another one ready to stitch up! I’d also like to try one with pin tucks as shown on the Coletterie…and maybe one with a lace overlay collar too…..oh! so much to sew and so little time!!

Happy Valentine’s!

the ‘button it’ dress

You may have noticed, if you read the post about the black jacket, that the fabric of the skirt showing was the same as the fabric for this dress. Yes, the dress that I started to make just before Christmas for Christmas day…..that I then promised myself I would finish for New Year….and when that didn’t happen it got stored in a cupboard until this last week.

This week the challenge of the week on The Sew Weekly was “Buttoned Up: to make something that calls for buttons (regular or special)”. When I read that my first instinct was to pull out the Beignet pattern again. But I really don’t need another skirt at the moment and I also really don’t need to start yet another project before I finish off some of the things that I have already started. So putting buttons to the back of my mind I pulled out this nearly finished dress and decided to complete it. All I needed to do was add the sash belt to tie it around the waist and do the hem. I had originally thought that I would make the belt in a contrasting fabric to add a bit of colour but I had nothing in the cupboard that looked right. I then stalled…adding a belt in the same fabric didn’t really appeal  – too monotone – and too bulky as the houndstooth fabric is a wool mix and although fairly light and drapey adding several layers around the waist seemed a recipe for, well, a thick waist….and then I hit upon adding buttons – perfect.

I had three green buttons left from my denim beignet and so made a button hole at the waist of each front bodice section and a further one between the bust where the front bodice sections cross over (to be on the safe side). As I wrap the dress right side over left (still with me?) I sewed the first button on the inside of the right side of the bodice at the waist, the second on the outside of the left bodice section at the waist and the third to match the third button hole.I have also posted about this dress over at The Sew Weekly and you can check out that post here.

New Year’s Blog Resolutions

I’m not normally one for lots of new year’s resolutions (or, to be honest, any) but this year, for some reason, I have jumped on the bandwagon. Most years I have made some feeble attempt to think up at least one resolution just because I felt as though it was the thing to do and usually it has been left by the wayside by about mid January.

This year though I felt differently. Littlest boy is now two months old and so the new year coincided with me wanting to get some kind of me-life back. I also decided that I needed some focus for what I want to do this year and also, coincidentally, for this blog. I started out blogging to document my sewing and I have decided that I am going to return to focus primarily on sewing on this blog. I will still include some cooking but my other main interest, photography, now has a blog of its very own – you can find the link at the top, up there just under the blog heading. I set up the separate blog as my first resolution for this new year is to improve my photography and this new blog is a place for me to document my adventures in trying to achieve the perfect shot!

So, as I said above, this blog is going to focus mainly on my sewing – and to that end I have a plan. I have chosen 10 projects that I aim to do this year. The projects vary from learning new techniques, attempting a pattern I have been putting off making, to sewing for others. I have chosen each project with the aim that my skills improve over the coming months and with the idea that I stretch myself technically and artistically (don’t laugh!). Some of the projects are more complex than others and that is intentional. Some will take me longer than a month and some (I hope) will take just a matter of hours. In choosing this mix I hope I am being realistic – with four young children it is unrealistic to think that things won’t crop up that will limit the time I have available to sew (without even mentioning school holidays).

So here goes (at first I was just going to introduce each project as I got to it throughout the year but then I realised that that would be cheating – as I could (and probably would) very easily modify them as I went along…). This way I can be held truly accountable!

I probably should mention now that I have listed the projects in no particular order – in other words I will not necessarily do them in the order listed below – in fact it is almost certain that I will do the easy ones first!! You will also notice, if you are paying attention, that some of the projects overlap (the Donna Karen dress for example could very well be part of my spring/summer capsule wardrobe). I make no apology for this and in fact it has been intentional so as to make this resolution realistic.

Project One.

The Sew Weekly challenge. There, now I’ve said it. But don’t be fooled, I am not completely unrealistic! I have signed up to be a contributor but in the full knowledge that sewing a new item each and every week is going to be a stretch too far. Project One therefore is to do at least one of the Sew Weekly challenges each month that I photograph and contribute to the Sew Weekly blog.

Project Two.

Donna Karan V1159. I have had this pattern for a couple of years now and have even had the pattern cut out for at least a year. All I need now are a couple of metres of two way stretch knit…Project Three.

This year I am, finally, going to sew something for my husband. I’d like to think I will manage a shirt (Negroni?).

Project Four.

A capsule Spring/Summer 2012 Wardrobe. As I did with my Late Fall Challenge I would like to create a capsule collection of garments for Spring/Summer focusing on fit and wearability.

Project Five.

I bought this book towards the end of last year and have picked out two (of the more straightforward) techniques that I would like to try.

Firstly, a bodice with a bamboo shoot design.Project Six.

The second technique I would like to try from the Pattern Magic book is this:

A dress with a draped design.

Project Seven.

Lady Grey. Another pattern I have been hoarding for a while. I need a mid season jacket and this will fit the bill perfectly.Project Eight.

The Colette Sewing Handbook challenge. This year I am hoping to sew up each of the five patterns included in the Colette Sewing Handbook.Project Nine.

This lace fabric. It has been in my stash for too long now. It has to be made into something. This is its year.

Project Ten.

Shirts and shorts. I have two girls and two boys and there has been a severe one sidedness when it comes to sewing for my children. This year I will make it up to the boys!

Et voilà! Now I just need to set to! What are your plans for this year?

2011 – All Sewn Up {for me}

Looking back over the last year, sewing wise, it has been a year of stop, start, stop, stop, start. After ending 2010 on a bit of a high after finishing my coat (which still remains, I think, the most favourite thing I have ever made)I made a slow start to 2011. We had building work to finish and rooms to decorate which left little time to sew and then there was also the fact that I knew that we were expecting a little arrival in the autumn which meant that during the early months there was little desire to spend time making things that wouldn’t fit for long. The same applied from the end of the summer until I got back on my feet after littlest boy was born.

However, trawling back through the photos of things that I did make this year (some blogged and many others not, but that’s for a different post), I have pulled out some of the things that, for one reason or another, I think merit inclusion in a round up of the year.

At the beginning of the year I, belatedly, joined in the trouser sew along hosted on the (then) Cupcake Goddess’ blog. These were the first proper pair of trousers (by which I mean not drawstring waist ones) I had made and marked a significant step in my sewing.

I made no less than three muslins for the trousers and finally finished them towards the end of March (seen below with a Liberty blouse made in June).Luckily I finished the trousers whilst I was still able to do them up and I then set to making things that I would be able to fit into over the summer. I made a couple of these tops using a burda magazine pattern.And a handful of Sobrettos, or variations of,as well as a trio of shorts using the Burda Ruby pattern.In amongst all of this I made various jersey tops to encompass my expanding bump and an assortment of smock dresses. Most of the rest of the maternity wear can be seen by clicking here.

I will just include two of the dresses here – the Crepe adapted dress (seen above) and the Opera dress (below) as they are the two that I spent the most effort on to finish properly and get a decent fit – and they are the two that I felt the nicest in – they became my go-to outfits for every and any occasion and received the most compliments.Finally, to finish up the year I created a capsule Late Fall wardrobe.Looking back over this year has been a bit of revelation – I hadn’t realised quite how much I had achieved and being of a disposition that tends to concentrate on the things that I haven’t managed to do it was good to spend time looking and reflecting on what I had done. Apart from the quantity of items sewn this year, which was more substantial that I had realised, I have successfully sewn trousers which this time last year would have seemed very daunting and I have gained experience adapting patterns to achieve a better fit and to achieve the kind of garment that I want. I am also now a convert to the ‘planning’ and ‘fitting’ school of sewing which I accept might mean less items sewn up and finished in the future but should result in more items that I will wear day in and day out and that have a better fit.

Here’s to planning and fitting – Happy New Year!

{ Nearly } A dress

I’m going to take you back to a couple of days before Christmas. You have a ‘to do’ list a mile long…four lots of stocking presents to sort and wrap…cranberry sauce bubbling over simmering on the stove…egg whites whipping for meringues…chocolate burning in the microwave and ten tonnes of vegetables to be chopped for soup….what do you do? A sane person would probably halt everything, make a cup of tea, prioritize the things on the list and work through the cooking projects one at a time to stop sheer carnage. What did I do?

Got out the stepladders, pulled out the black and white wool fabric I had stashed on the top shelf of the cupboard as I wouldn’t be needing it soon (!), got out the Crepe pattern to adapt (yes, you read that right) and set to work.

I mean, Christmas isn’t Christmas without a new dress, is it??Unfortunately, in terms of this being a new dress for Christmas, this is where I got to. The bodice is done, the skirt is attached but the button fastenings need sewing on and it needs hemming and time ran out.

But, hopefully it will be done for New Year….watch this space!

Autumn Outfits

Following on from the Late Fall Challenge posts here is a little gallery of the items I made being worn and how they work together.

If you are on the ball you will also notice a couple of additional items that have sneaked in…..the first and second Beignets (in pink and purple) and my bonus Late Fall Challenge item – a grey shirt dress with yellow buttons. I’ll do a separate post about the dress soon with more details.

(The black cardigan is from Jigsaw, the teal cropped cardigan from Boden, the brown leather plaited belt from Promod and the black patent ballerinas from Bloch)

Late Fall Challenge – Item 5

As stated in my plan I aimed to make for this challenge a pair of trousers, a skirt and a couple of tops.

which just leaves the skirt.

As I have previously stated I spend a lot of time in jeans so it seemed only appropriate that the skirt for this challenge should be a jean skirt. I have been hankering after a denim skirt for a while now and had originally planned to make something like the denim midi button through skirt at asos.com that you can see here.

But, that kind of skirt needs a fabric that drapes and is generally lighter in weight than the denim fabric I had in the cupboard left over from my clover jean trousers so in the end I decided to play safe and stick to what I know and make up another Beignet. Given that the pink and purple versions (more to come on those soon) are somewhat in your face I thought that a darker denim version would be sufficiently different and, luckily, I had just enough fabric!

As this was my third version of this skirt it made up fairly quickly. I decided not to line the skirt (which also helped the “speed sew”!) and instead of using the same denim fabric for the facings I used a fat quarter of a fairly heavy weight cotton that I had in the cupboard. This helped the skirt to not have too much bulk around the waistline and at the bottom of the front sections.For the colour flash I opted for green buttons which I thought would go nicely with all three tops sewn recently.and I used yellow thread to sew the button holes.I haven’t yet decided whether I am going to add the belt loops that the pattern provides for. For the moment I like wearing the skirt with different belts and it seems to work just fine without the loops.Well, that completes the Late Fall Challenge. Three tops, a skirt and a pair of trousers. Now all that remains is to show you how they all fit together. Check back soon for the ‘lookbook’!

Late Fall Challenge – Item 3

After sewing up the first two items, both tops, I thought it was time to tackle the trousers. As stated previously I had decided to make up the Clover pattern from Colette Patterns in a blue denim.

I spend a lot of time in jeans and my aim was to create a pair of trousers that could be worn like jeans (ie every day and for every occasion!) but were a little bit different. I made up version 1 of the trousers – ankle length and with pockets.

Trousers have always seemed daunting to make but actually a lot of them, construction wise, are realtively easy to put together. There are not many pieces (often just a front leg and back leg and waistband) and most of the sewing is straight lines. The difficult bit is in getting the fit right. Something to do with the relationship between the crotch, hips and waist can make fitting trousers a nightmare – and that is before we even think about thigh circumference or inner leg measurements!

The Colette Patterns blog recently did a Clover sew along and had lots of useful information about fitting. I also read up a little in my sewing books and then whipped up a muslin. The best muslins, if you read into it, are made up in fabric that a similar consistency to the fabric you are going to use for the finished article. The Clover pattern calls for fabric with a little bit of stretch and the denim I planned to use had that. Unfortunately that was the only fabric that I had that did have any stretch (other than some very stretchy jersey) which therefore meant that the muslin I made wasn’t entirely helpful. But, time being precious at the moment, I decided to plough on.

The muslin had at least confirmed that the crotch length was fine so I cut out the pieces in the denim fabric and basted them all together to check the fit more accurately.

The only adjustment I ended up making was to take some width off the back leg pieces from the hip to the back of the knee. If I had worked this out on the muslin I would have sliced the pattern piece in the middle and taken the width out of the centre but as it was I just took in the inner leg side seam and a little on the outer leg side seam and to be honest that seemed to work fine.(Please excuse the brush and my efforts at cleaning up in the corner of the photo).

As the denim was relatively thick I decided to use a thinner fabric for the inner waistband and the pockets – recognise it?

The pockets fit into the lower part of the front waistband giving a lovely clean line with no bunching at the side seams.

Now, other than getting a pair of trousers that I actually wear (which is obviously the aim – and something to definitely be proud of!) the thing I am most proud of are the mock flat felled seams…

Hmmm, I thought you might ask. Take a look at thisYou see the seam on the right and to the left what might at first instance appear like top stitching. But, it is much cleverer than that you see that is a mock flat felled seam. Smart and professional looking on the outside and oh so clean and tidy on the inside. I could lyric on about these seams but I suspect that would be very boring for anyone reading and so instead for those of you who might be interested I will just say that for more information and very good instruction on “how to” click here. (No surprises for guessing that the tutorial I have linked to is on the Colette Patterns blog).

Well, I think that is all I have to say. All in all I love these trousers and have already worn them several times. They totally achieve the aim of being casual but just a bit different to ordinary jeans and I am already planning several other pairs.

Late Fall Challenge – Item 2

For the second garment I decided to stay with florals and tops. I had bought the Jasmine pattern from Colette Patterns a couple of months ago and thought I would give it a try in the retro floral cotton lawn fabric that I had bought from this seller on ebay.The Jasmine pattern is, as you might be able to see from the description on the pattern envelope above, a bias cut top. I had seen a couple of versions sewn up on the Colette Patterns Forums and was keen to see whether the top was as flattering on me as it seemed on to be others.

I made up version 2 of the top – with the shorter neck tie and cuffed sleeves.The pattern was a dream to piece together and the bias cut really does flatter the body – gently hugging the body in the right places but without being tight. The bias cut also means that the top is easy to get on and off without having to sew nasty closures and without the top hanging off you once you have it on (in the way that some other garments that don’t have closures are – big in order to be able to get them on and off).

The cut gently shows off the waist without pulling out over the hips and the sleeves and gently gathered at the top which gives a feminine silhouette.Last, but not least. The neck tie is the part that I love the best. The construction of it is so neat. I can’t wait to make another with a contrasting neck tie to really make the most of it.I have already worn this top a few times and I’m sure it will become a firm favourite. Flattering and pretty and very very comfortable.

Next up will be my Clover jean trousers…