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!

Opera Dress

At the beginning of the summer I read a blog review of a pattern by Lisette. As it was a range of patterns I had not heard of before I clicked onto their website to have a look.

The review I had read was for a tunic top and the blogger was raving about the pattern, about how easy it had been to sew and how practical and comfortable the tunic was to wear. (I’m afraid that I cannot now remember where I read the review). I browsed the website for a while and ended up ordering two patterns. Firstly the Passport pattern which is for a dress and jacket.

And, secondly the Portfolio pattern for the tunic top mentioned above (which can be made in three lengths – top, tunic or dress), and trousers.

The dress and jacket pattern was tidied away into my pattern box once I received it as I figured I would wait until the baby was born before sewing such dresses again.

However, shortly afterwards we were invited to go to the Opera. Now for some a night at the opera might be a regular occurrence. But when you live in the outer sticks of rural southern France and spend a lot of time with little people (otherwise known as children) a night at the opera is something to shout about. And something worth a new dress.

At the time I was six months pregnant so I perused Burda and the other major pattern companies for a maternity dress pattern but found absolutely nothing that appealed so I decided to use a pattern I already had and adapt it for the bump.

I had a couple of metres of black linen fabric in the cupboard and decided that a maternity version of a LBD would be just the thing for the opera. I had in my mind a fairly simple design and after going through all my patterns I decided that the Lisette Passport dress pattern would be just the thing.

I had already made a couple of other maternity dresses by adapting regular patterns (the Crepe one seen here) and I used the same method this time. I shortened the bodice section to finish just under the bust line and lengthened the skirt section accordingly also adding width to the front skirt section which I pleated to fit into the waistline (now, under bust line). Now if you have looked at the pattern for the dress at all you will have seen that the bodice is constructed with a crossover pleat in the centre at the front waistline. Unfortunately in adapting the pattern for the bump this feature was mainly lost.

To add a feminine touch I finished the armholes with lace bias binding which you cannot see on the photos below but which softened the look. I also added a same fabric tie belt to cinch the dress in on the waistline a little more.

I ended up wearing the dress a lot. I may not have looked or felt very ‘little’ over the last couple of months of the summer but a black dress is always useful and this one was no exception.

The pattern is definitely on my list (yes, that would be the never ending one!) of things to sew again – mainly because I really like the bodice construction with the centre pleat – I’m thinking in a bright colour or patterned fabric for next spring……..

Anyone for a crêpe party?

I admit I have maybe spent too long reading Nigella Lawson’s cook books of late (you probably had to see the tv episode of her in a lacy negligé, fully made up with perfectly coiffed hair pretending to have just got out of bed and stating that surely everyone has days when they wake up and just feel that they must have a frittata party – to get the heading of this post but I digress…)- but this dress (from the Crêpe pattern by Colette Patterns) was my ‘go to’ party dress of the summer (she says, as though she has parties to attend every other night!).

The pattern is for a simple wrap dress with an A-line skirt and a tie waist. There are two variations included – for a straightforward round neck  or a sweetheart neckline and both variations wrap at the back so that the front of the dress has clean lines.

As I was carrying the bump around over the summer the first dress I made I altered to accomodate a growing tummy. I shortened the bodice section to finish just under the bust and lengthened the skirt sections accordingly. I also widened the front skirt section and pleated the additional width to fit to the bodice. The final maternity alteration I made was to inverse the bodice pieces so that the dress wrapped at the front so that if the additional width I had added to the skirt section was not enough I could just loosen the dress a little.

The red, black and white fabric was a Mona cotton and the contrasting tie belt was made from a black and white spot cotton that I had in the cupboard.

I haven’t yet tried this dress on again since the bump became a baby but I am hoping that I can either still wear it as it is  – with just a very full skirt, or that I will be able to adapt it to make it wearable. I loved it in the summer but looking at the photos now I think it would also look good with thick black tights and a black cardigan or jumper – perfect to brighten up a dreary winter day!