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 Hoodie

Whilst the ‘grand froid’* continues I decided it was time to sew something that I could get some instant gratification from, both in terms of a quick sew up and making something that I could wear straight away (I mean I enjoyed making the Meringue but it doesn’t do much for my motivation knowing that I am making something that is then going to sit in the cupboard for a few months before it can be worn).

A couple of months ago I bought a metre and a half of grey sweatshirt fabric on line. I hadn’t really got a plan for the fabric but it was cheap so I bought it anyway thinking that it would always come in for a sweatshirt or some tracksuit bottoms for the children.

When the fabric came I have to admit that I was a little disappointed. The colour was slightly darker than I had imagined it would be and slightly bluer. The fabric also had very little stretch. Nevermind, I thought. It will come in for something. And I promptly stashed it away in the back of the cupboard which is where I found it when I was looking for inspiration for my instant gratification project.

Thick, fleecy sweatshirt fabric + quick project for ‘le grand froid’ = perfect match.

Still unsure of what to make I grabbed my Sew U Home Stretch book and flicked through for inspiration. A few days earlier I had seen this hooded sweatshirt which I still have my eye on so when I saw the pattern modifications set out in the Sew U book to make a zipped hoodie I thought I would have a go.

A couple of hours later I was snuggled up on the sofa with a cup of tea wearing my new hoodie. I followed the modifications set out in the book to the raglan sleeve top and it went together easily and quickly. I lined the hood (instructions for which are also set out in the book) and mainly used my overlocker – except for attaching the ‘very useful’ pockets(!!)  for which I used a twin needle on my regular machine. As I didn’t have any jersey ribbing to use for the cuffs on the sleeves and around the waist I used the same fleecy sweatshirt fabric and made a pleat on each sleeve so that the sleeve fitted into the cuff (if you use ribbing you can just stretch the ribbing to fit the sleeve).

the very useful pockets!

The picture above shows the colour more accurately than the other photos and also shows the metal zipper that I used. As I was reliant on what I already had in the cupboard I made do with a zipper that was slightly shorter than the jacket (as you can see in the second photo above). Overall it doesn’t really matter for this top as despite it being lovely and warm given the colour of the fabric (which if I am honest I don’t love) it is a top that will get lots of wear at home and for yoga but is unlikely to be worn out and about very much. I am however pleased that I made it – firstly because it has already had lots of wear at home and it is lovely and warm – and secondly because I will make this pattern again – in a better colour – because hoodies are one of those items of clothing that I find useful – they can be thrown on – they are nice and warm – and great for hiding in!!

Right, I’m off to snuggle up in my hoodie with a hot chocolate!!

Happy Sunday!

The Meringue

And here it is. It has still been far too cold to expose my legs in a skirt outside but I thought it was about time I shared the finished article with you.You may remember that this is the first pattern from The Colette Sewing Handbook. It is described in the book as a skirt with a ‘simple and straightforward construction…It has a simple darted fit and sits just below the natural waist’.

The skirt sews up brilliantly. The pattern pieces all match up without any problem (as we have come to expect from Colette Patterns) and the instructions make putting it all together like a walk in the park. I especially love the instructions for attaching the facing after the invisible zipper which make for a very neat, dare I say, professional finish.

If you have a copy of the book or have seen a copy of the skirt you might have noticed that my skirt appears slightly more A-line than the one shown in the book. I didn’t make any changes to the pattern, other than to lengthen the front darts by a couple of centimetres but when I tried the skirt on again this morning I realised that I could probably have made the skirt a little smaller from the hips down (which would also eradicate the wrinkles across the skirt at hip level). I am not going to adjust this skirt as I think it looks fine as it is (particularly when ironed!!) and my normal skirt adjustment of just taking the side seams in a little will mess up the scallops. But I will note this adjustment for next time I use the pattern. {I’m not sure I’ll make another scallop edged skirt but it is a good simple skirt pattern to use without the scallops and one that can be modified quite easily to add pockets or other embellishments}.

I was slightly nervous about sewing the scallops but actually they sewed up remarkably easily – the hardest part being the pressing afterwards….but then I have a fairly fractious relationship with my iron at the best of times anyway*!

When I first tried the skirt I wasn’t completely sure about the scallops…but seeing them in the photos I have to say that they are growing on me and I now think that they look quite cute. As you may have noticed the fabric I used is more for the late Spring/Summer anyway and I think with tanned legs, sandals and a summery top this skirt will make a nice outfit. Who knows – I might even go the full hog and make a scallop edged top to complete the look!

Skirt pictured here with the red and white striped top I made before Christmas – remember it??

*apologies for the rather ‘unironed’ look.

Scallops and hoodies

I have not been idle, despite what you might think if you have been looking for an update on my sewing….

the merengue is done


scallops and all. I have just been waiting until I have some decent photos of it on to show you. But we have the kind of weather at the moment that means that the thought of wearing a skirt, even indoors, makes my knees start to knock together in fear. It is too damn cold. So you will have to wait to see it on me.

All that I will say is that despite my reservations about the scallops I think it looks quite cute now that it is done. I’m not completely over the flowerpot feeling but paired with the right top and accessories I think I will get quite a lot of wear out of it (once the weather warms up!).

After the merengue I had been thinking of making a dress. The pastille dress is next up in the Colette Handbook of Sewing sew along and I had thought that this would be a good start to my Spring wardrobe. However, I just can’t get enthusiastic about sewing things for spring or summer when it is several degrees below zero outside. So instead I pulled out a metre and a half of grey sweatshirt fabric I had in the cupboard and cut out the pieces to make a hoodie. Just what I need to cuddle into doing my yoga for those chilly mornings. So far it has gone together very quickly so I shall try and get some photos of the finished article this weekend – hood up and all!!


Have a great weekend!

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.

jacket for a scarf

You might remember that one of my resolutions for this year is to participate in at least one of The Sew Weekly challenges each month. 2012 kicked off on the Sew Weekly with an introductory post by each of the participants featuring one garment they made last year. You can see my post here.

As I managed to get that post in within the time period set for that challenge I suppose strictly speaking I can tick off January. But that seemed a little lame – I mean it is hardly participating in a weekly sewing challenge when they only thing you have to show for it is something you made last year is it? So I decided to knuckle down and go for at least one of the other challenges this month.

Which brings me to the ‘jacket for a scarf’. I received a lovely black and white collar/scarf for Christmas (the one you can see in the photo at the top) which, to my mind, was screaming out for a black jacket to go with it. And, would you know it? The second challenge on The Sew Weekly was to create a garment or outfit inspired by an accessory. Bingo (only I didn’t manage to get the jacket finished to properly participate in the challenge – hence show casing the jacket here and not there!).

Luckily I had some of this fabric in the cupboard (bought about this time last year I think in the January sales of the most expensive fabric shop in the south of France, say no more). Unluckily I had only bought a metre and a half (probably something to do with the price, even in the sales) which ruled out most of the patterns I had in mind.

But then I remembered this pattern.

Vogue 8640

I have made a couple of versions of the pencil skirt but hadn’t yet made the jacket and after a little bit of reflection and modification I thought this would be perfect. I was looking for something a little longer but realised it would be simple to add some length to the body and the arms.

The pattern is actually very simple – a front and back yoke, the lower back and front and the sleeves. The directions stated that the same pattern pieces be used for the lining and that the outer shell and the lining would then be sewn together. I ummed and ahhed over whether to add facings in the same fabric as the outer shell to make it look more ‘professional’ but in the end I decided to go with the pattern directions.*

Other than adding some length to the body and the arms I also added some top stitching around the yoke and I finished all of the seams by creating mock flat felled seams (some of which you might just be able to make out on this photo).*I wore this jacket for the first time on Friday and essentially I like it (what is not to like about a useful black jacket) but something was bugging me….the lack of facings – maybe I am being pedantic but it feels wrong and, worse, when the wind flaps it open from time to time you can see that the lining comes right to the edge and I don’t like it – in addition, despite understitching around the neckline the lining still has a tendancy to creep over – and believe me I have pressed it to death. So I am going to take out the lining and add facings and re-line it. Give that the jacket only took a couple of afternoons to whip up I don’t mind this too much and hopefully the addition of facings will take it from a ‘like’ to a ‘love’!!



The Grey Shirt Dress

You may remember that when I posted pictures of me wearing the items I made for my Late Fall Challenge I also included a picture of me wearing a grey shirt dress (please forgive the awful photos – and the unironed look…).I had started this dress before littlest boy was born but didn’t get around to finishing it until just before the Christmas holidays. I had it almost completed, save for the hem and the buttons and then stalled in the hunt for the perfect buttons! I bought the fabric on line and whilst I love the feel and drape the colour is probably a little bit more drab, colour wise than I would have chosen. I therefore decided that I needed a bit of a colour pop to stop it being completely ‘grey’ and set my heart on some bright mustard buttons. Unfortunately, bright mustard buttons don’t seem to be too common in my neck of the woods and so I finally settled on these yellow ones.

The dress is based on the same pattern used for this dress:

and is from the Japanese pattern book Les Couleurs Francaises.

The pattern itself provides for short slightly gathered sleeves and, as you can see above, for the first version I made of this dress I left off sleeves altogether. I used the pattern again, in an adapted form, to create this Liberty blouse at the beginning of last summer (where I used the sleeves as provided by the pattern).

For the grey dress, as it was approaching winter, I decided I needed a slightly longer sleeve. I therefore lengthened the sleeve provided by the pattern to make a three quarter length sleeve to which I attached a cuff, leaving a small hole/gap just above the cuff.

There is probably a proper word for this, rather than “hole/gap thing” and, somewhat obviously, on reflection, shirts, blouses and other garments with sleeves often have them to allow the hand to pass through where the cuff can then be fastened to fit more snugly round the wrist.

Given I attached a fixed cuff to the sleeves (in other words one that has no fastening) the hole/gap is functionally superfluous but aesthetically I like it (simple things hey?).

The only other area in which I strayed from the original pattern was in respect of the hem. As I said earlier the fabric has a lovely feel and drape but is very light and I decided it needed a bit more substance around the bottom. I therefore decided to make a wide hem and I added a light interfacing to the hem to give it a bit of weight. I then turned the fabric under twice and hemmed the dress using a plain straight stitch all the way round so you can see the stitches on the right side but I think that suits the style and feel of the dress (and let’s face it – it is quick and easy!).

I have already worn this dress a lot – it fulfills nearly everything I love about dresses – separates are good but the one stop shop approach to dressing that dresses give you is sometimes just what you need on a busy morning when you haven’t got much time. It is not too dressy, so combined with boots and a cardigan I don’t feel out of place on the country roads with a pram or dragging little people back up the hill from school but by the same token it remains a dress so I feel as though it looks as though I have made an effort. And that has a great psychological effect.

{And as a post script for any other mums out there who are breast feeding shirt dresses are about the only dresses that you can wear and still feed (I wear a large scarf to cover myself up when feeding in public as I am not comfortable being completely exposed)- with the exception of one other kind of dress – watch out later this week for another dress option.}

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!