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!

{ 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 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 4

So with three items already done and a skirt on it’s way to completion I decided to add a quick and easy project – a jersey top.

You may remember the red marinière I posted about here. Well I still had some of the red and white stripe fabric left and decided to make it into a slightly different kind of top. At first I thought I would go with a simple fitted top with gathered sleeves made from the bodice section of the dress pattern in Sew U Stretch but then I remembered this Vogue pattern I had bought a while a go to make a dress and decided to see if I could adapt it to make a top.The amount of fabric I had left meant that I had to go with the three quarter sleeved version but that suits me fine as you may have noticed from the other two tops that I sewn for this challenge that despite it being winter I still have a preference for short sleeved tops. It is not that it is not cold here it’s just that our heating works well (!) and often when I am busy , especially if cooking, I feel as though I am going to overheat. I therefore like to layer up rather than have one thick item of clothing on.

I separated the bodice from the skirt on the pattern and cut out the bodice front and back and the three quarter sleeves. The pattern sleeve states that the dress should be made in moderate stretch knits only and has a zip closure on the centre back seam. As the red and white jersey that I was using is relatively stretchy, even for a jersey, I decided that I could skip the zipper as I was confident that I would be able to get the top on without any form of closure.

I followed the instructions for the pleats on the front but in addition top stitched the pleats in place. For the top stitching on the pleats and around the neckline and the sleeves hems I used a contrasting navy thread.

And I added a grosgrain ribbon on the inside of the back neck seam to prevent the neckline stretching out too much (along with the regulation label of course!)I also added a pleat tuck on each sleeve mainly because they were too wide but I think that the added pleat goes well with the overall design.And, finally I added a double band waistband which I find works well to stop jersey tops growing width-wise at the bottom and giving that gaping look which is never a good look!Put all that together and this is what you get:Basically a three quarter sleeve length t-shirt with a difference. I like the pleats on this top and am looking forward to making the dress when I find some suitable fabric (I’m thinking a block colour to really show off the pleats with maybe an exposed metal zipper down the back…). In the meantime I can see myself adapting this pattern again to make more tops.