Something blue

It feels like spring has finally arrived in London this week. After months of the seemingly endless cycle of grey days and long, dark nights, the sun is finally shining, blossom has appeared on trees overnight, and any green space in the city is now edged with yellow daffodils (not a colour combination I’d ever wear, but in nature it works). With warmer days finally in sight, I decided to skip the grey tunic and move straight on to a blouse that I can hopefully start wearing soon.

The pattern

When I first started thinking about making this top, I already knew which pattern I would need: New Look 6483. I’m pretty sure it’s the first sewing pattern I ever used, and have made 4 (now 5) tops to date. It’s quite straightforward but has a few steps that always make me think – not to mention the slightly confusing wording of the instructions.

The fabric

I bought some blue shirting fabric from Misan West on Goldhawk Road a few months back. They have a massive sale section on the first floor, so managed to get the 1 metre I needed for just £3. I highly recommend the shop. It has every fabric you could think of and the sale/remnants section really is incredible – my friend picked up enough wool to make a coat for just £20!

The fabric was really easy to handle with very little stretch and wasn’t slippery at all (something I was worried about as it was so cheap). The only downside is that the pins and some unpicking have left a few marks – one right on the front in the middle! I’m hoping that it will be less prominent after washing the top…

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The fabric in question

The process

As I’ve used the pattern several times before, the process was largely straightforward. I decided not to use any interfacing as I always find it ends up making tops too stiff. An unlined facing seems to be enough, once I cut the right pieces. Note to self: still read the pattern carefully even if you’ve used it several times before!

The previous tops I’ve made didn’t have sleeves, so that was one thing that was different this time. I also deviated from the pattern slightly by making the sleeves long and wide. When cutting the pieces I simple drew a diagonal line from the original sleeve seem, being careful not to exaggerate the shape too much. I’m pretty pleased with the shape of the sleeves, but if I do it again I think I’ll be more careful to change the shape from the elbow downwards, rather than from the top of the sleeve.

Sewing the sleeves in took some time, but the time invested was well worth it. I read up about how to insert sleeves and how to use ease-stitching (Tilly’s book and Sew Many Dresses, Sew Little Time give great explanations – better than anything I could find online), and was super careful with pinning and basting. This is one of the reasons why I love dressmaking so much; thinking about how to turn a 2-dimensional piece of fabric and some thread into something that fits a 3-dimensional human body!

Et voila!

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Natural lighting highlighting my poor ironing skills…

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Shoulder seam no.1 (and the wholes left by unpicking some messy stitching)

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Shoulder seam no. 2 (the seam in action)

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The wide sleeve – I sewed a deeper hem than usual as the width makes the inside of the sleeve fairly visible

 

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Feeling blue

I’m somewhat neglected my sewing machine over the last few weeks. Work has been busy and I’ve upped my exercise regime (which was at 0 at the beginning of the year) so I just haven’t found the time. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about sewing or planning new makes though. Here are a couple of planned projects that I will report on in the near future…

Last summer, blue shirting fabric seemed to be everywhere, and judging by the new collections on the high street, it’s showing no signs of going anyway any time soon. As well as actual shirts, all kinds of tops and dresses have been made from this fabric. To jump on this trend, I have two projects in mind.

The first is a simple long-sleeved top, using a light striped fabric I picked up from Misan West on Goldhawk Road. To add more interest to the top, I’m going to make the sleeves quite wide (another trend that seems to have taken over) and possibly edge them in a different fabric. I think it will be the perfect top for work in spring – with either blue or black skinny jeans.

Here are some of the tops that have inspired me:

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Marks and Spencer | Warehouse | Warehouse

My second project is a little more ambitious. I recently bought a light blue men’s shirt for a fancy dress party (I was Mr G from Summer Heights High, in case you were wondering). I can say with some confidence that I’ll never want to wear the shirt again, so plan to turn this into a high-necked (?) camisole for summer. It’s a bit daunting as I’ve never really created something from scratch before, but I think it will help me to really think about the construction, rather than just blindly following instructions.

This is the top that’s inspired me:

bluetop

@tessa_perlow

 

My hand-sewing skills are average at best, so I think I’ll leave off the embroidery. If I do decide to add something to the top I think I’ll add some sew-on patches like these.

The first top is already under way, so will hopefully report back very soon!

 

Simplicity pattern of the week

It’s only February and I’m already taking a D-tour from my 2017 sewing plans. One my of many daily scrolls through Instagram lead me to find that Simplicity have a pattern of the week, discounted to just £2.95!

This week was pattern 8265: a 5-in-1 combination of trousers, a skirt, a waistcoat, a jacket and a tunic top. As winter trudges on, I’m seeking out comfy and cosy clothes in muted tones, so the tunic really called out to me, but I think the other patterns will have their uses too (I’m thinking about a spring jacket and the trousers will be a good stepping stone to making a more fitted pair).

simplicity-8265

My first ever post  on this blog was on a grey sweatshirt tunic. I was really happy with it at the time, but I now think it looks very homemade and want to make something similar, but finished with a little more finesse. I’m torn between these fabrics:

I’m really drawn to the first fabric – I’ve sewn with ponte roma before and think it will give me the slightly snuggly feel I’m looking for. The jersey from Sew Over It looks great too. The description says its perfect for summer, but I think some with some layering it could be warm enough for winter as well. Their wool-mix jersey would also work nicely. It’s a little more expensive but would probably be thicker and warmer.

Basically, I can’t decide. You’ll have to find out which fabric I chose for when I’ve actually finished it! See you on the other side.

Everyday mini skirt

Despite near-Arctic temperatures in London for the last few weeks, I’ve been working on a new mint green mini skirt. As part of my plan to refine my skills and make great-fitting clothes (rather than beautifully-made sack dresses), I’ve revisited an old pattern for this make.

skirttop

The pattern

Although I recently vowed never to use a traditional pattern company again, the shape of this Simplicity pattern I bought just over a year ago is perfect for the type of skirt I wanted to make, so thought I should do the sensible thing and re-use it. As I’ve improved slightly over the last year, I found the pattern quite easy to follow, though the number of variations and the order of some of the steps nearly caught me out once or twice. There isn’t a lot to it though, so was really all quite straightforward.

The fabric

The fabric doesn’t have much stretch, isn’t slippy and didn’t fray at all during construction, so was fairly easy to work with – not bad for a rogue fabric bought for £3 from a sale bin! Because it didn’t fray, I haven’t edged the seams. I also didn’t prewash so I’m hoping my hard work won’t (literally) come undone in the washing machine!

The downside is that the fabric is quite thick, which has made some parts quite bulky – particularly the darts and the seams of the facing. I decided to leave out the interfacing. Mostly out of laziness but actually I think it really wasn’t needed with this fabric as it has enough structure to hold its own (. It was also quite difficult to press – , where the extra bulk wouldn’t matter or show so much. Fortunately, after a few rounds of pressing, I think I finally got there!


Update: I have since discovered that the fabric is likely to be Melton cloth or Melton wool. It’s a felted wool (I wasn’t too far off), which means that it will have waterproof qualities – so will be interesting to see how it washes! The fabric was developed in Melton Mowbray and was originally used for fox hunting jackets, but has also been used for the more working class donkey jackets.


The process

The problem with the previous version of this skirt was that it fit at the hips, but was too big at the waist. Trying that skirt on again, I realised I needed to bring it in by 6cms. The skirt has four darts, so I increased each one by 1cm, and came in 1cm more on each side seam. When adding the facings, I measured them against the top of the skirt and cut to the right length.

I’m quite pleased with how the adjustments have turned out. The skirt fits a lot better than the previous version, and looks neat and even from the outside. It could have possibly been a little smaller at the waist, but given that I plan on tucking in jumpers, its probably for the best that there’s a little extra room. I could have also been a little neater with the top of the zip, but it’s fairly neatly tucked in and the zip itself if fairly invisible – so I’m happy enough with that.

skirtfront

skirtback

And here it is! You’re even finally getting a full outfit shot for this skirt, as I think its beauty lies in the fit. I’ve worn it here with my trusty grey Joules Harbour Stripe top  (the same top in the classic white and navy shown here) but think that any neutrals (greys, black, creams – maybe this from Topshop) would go well, and maybe a crisp white t-shirt for summer.

skirtoutfit

Mint green mini

This winter, a (faux) leather a-line skirt and a grey wool mini skirt have become staple items in my wardrobe, particularly for work. I love wearing them with roll-necks and more casual sweatshirts, but feel I need to inject a bit more colour into my wardrobe (because a pastel pink dungaree dress just isn’t enough) so plan to make one of my own.

I’ve been really pleased with my last few makes, but they’ve all been pretty loose-fitting. This year, I want to improve my skills and accuracy, and create more well-made and well-fitting pieces, and this skirt will be a good test.

Just before I started this blog, I made a plaid mini skirt using a Simplicity pattern, but I got the sizing a bit wrong and the skirt is a little on the big side. In the spirit of perfecting each pattern, I’m going to use it again for this skirt. To improve the fit, I think I’ll need to adjust the darts. I hate deviating from the pattern (I worry I’ll throw everything off and render the garment unwearable),  but I know that’s the secret to creating well-fitting clothes so will just have to suck it up.

On my last trip to Goldhawk Road, I picked up about half a meter of this fabric, for just £3!

skirtfabric01

Typically, I’m not entirely sure what the fabric is. I’m pretty sure it’s some kind of wool (boiled wool, perhaps?), and it feels like a smooth felt. I imagine it should be used for making coats. It doesn’t seem to fray (always good news) and feels thick enough to give the skirt structure, without being too bulky for my machine.

I knew I wanted to use the fabric for a skirt, but couldn’t quite picture how it would look, and what I would wear it with. A quick search on pinterest threw up a few great suggestions (among a sea of hideous turquoise skirts):

mini-inspo-2mini-inspo-3mini-inspo

The temperature in London over the last week has dropped significantly. It doesn’t usually get that cold here but this week it’s been so chilly that I’ve even been wearing two pairs of tights. It might seem like a strange time to be making a mini skirt but, hey, I can always wear three pairs of tights, right?

Pretty in pink

Tilly and the Buttons’ Cleo dress must have been the most popular sewing pattern of 2017. I’ve seen endless variations all over social media – from the traditional denims and cord fabrics, to florals and even sequins (!) – and have been dying to create my own. Fortunately for me, a pink denim pattern pack was waiting for me in my Christmas stocking (thanks for taking the hint, mum!).

The pattern

I’ve made the Margot pyjama trousers from her book, but this was the first proper Tilly pattern I’ve used. It was super easy to follow as it goes into quite a lot of detail. It might be overkill for some people but after struggling with the old style patterns for so long, it was a real relief to have it all spelled out for me. The photos really help too because they actually look like what you’re making yourself!

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The fabric

This fabric choice was slightly out of my hands, though I had strongly hinted to my mum that I loved the pink denim. Although getting it as part of the pack takes away some of the creativity in choosing your own fabric, it was nice to know that the material worked well with the pattern – something I don’t always get right. It was really easy to handle too – it has a little stretch but I didn’t notice that at all as I was sewing. It pressed really well too, which was perfect for the pockets.

The process

Because the pattern and the fabric made everything pretty easy, I didn’t really have too much trouble putting it all together.

Nothing was particularly difficult, but I did force myself to slow down and take more care, particularly with the the topstitching as I wanted to keep the lines as straight as possible. I’ve never done any topstitching before (and have actually actively avoided it), but I’m pleased this garment forced me to just get on with it and am really happy with how it’s turned out.

Likewise things like sewing the straps required a slow and accurate approach as any mistakes would be quite visible. I did struggle with one of the straps though (sewing at 11.30pm may not be the best idea). After unpicking wobbly topstitching 4 times, I decided to start again, cut out new fabric and restitch, which seemed to work.

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Largely straight topstitcing!

For anyone worried about embarking on topstitching for the first time, here’s my advice:

Topstitching toptips
  • Take. Your.Time. It goes without saying really, but going slow and steady will keep your stitching more accurate.
  • Pick your thread carefully. If you want your topstitching to be visible, think carefully about the colour you choose – the greater the contrast, the more visible the stitching.
  • Adjust the tension. When topstitching you could be be sewing through over 6 layers of fabric, so make sure you test and adjust the tension on your machine accordingly.
  • Pick a reference point. As a lot of topstitching involves sewing close to the edge of the fabric, you can’t rely on the seam allowance guide, so pick a different reference (i.e. the edge of the fabric needs to always be under the right ‘fork’ of the presser foot) to try to keep your topstitching the same distance from the edge at all times.
  • Don’t be afraid of unpicking. If you’re not happy with how something looks, unpick and start again. If it bothers you now, it will bother you when you’re wearing the garment.
  • Don’t be afraid full stop. You’re better than you think you are!
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Ta-dah!

dungarees-final

I’m so pleased with how its turned out and am really chuffed with myself – I can’t stop looking at it! I’ve already worn it twice, once with a classic breton top underneath and another time with a grey jumper. I think it would also look great with grey/white/black/navy roll necks and polka dots. I’m also looking forward to wearing it in the summer with plain white t-shirt and white trainers. At least one more version is also in order, in a more neutral colour. But for now, I’ll just wear this pink version to death and enjoy all the compliments I seem to be getting!

dungarees-back

 

Sewing Cleo

Ever since the pattern was launched last year, I’ve been dying to make a Cleo dungaree dress. Instagram has been awash with classic and more experimental versions (the sequins are most definitely my favourite), with the hashtag #sewingcleo currently on 789 posts, and I want in on the action.

Dungarees have been back in fashion for a little while now, with both smart denim and more laid-back options available. Here’s some of my inspiration for making the dungarees:

dungaree-inspodungaree-inspo-2dungaree-inspo-3

I really love the pink denim Tilly uses in her instruction book… and made my love so obvious that my mum bought me the pack for Christmas. I usually avoid wearing pink as I find it can look a bit silly with my blonde hair, but ever since pastel pink coats were in fashion a few years ago, I’ve become obsessed with the idea of pairing the colour with tougher blacks and greys, and I think the slightly slouchy feel will stop it from feeling too pretty.

I was able to whip the dress up over the Christmas break, so will share my results soon!