Re-sew-lutions

Now that I’ve blogged my final make of 2016, I feel I can finally say Happy New Year! (It’s still ok to say that 11 days in, right?)

I’ve been looking back at the garments I made last year, and I must say I’m feeling quite proud of myself. None of the items I made are particularly show-stopping, but I’m pleased that I’ve continued to sew consistently (if slowly) throughout the year, and I think you can see a real progression in the things I’ve sewn.

So I’m feeling really positive about my plans for 2017. As ever, I want to dedicate more time to sewing and work on improving and learning new techniques. I want to stick with easier fabrics (cottons and jerseys, mostly) and really strengthen my skills before moving on to trickier items. Here are some of the garments I’m hoping to make in the coming year.

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  1. Cleo dungarees – My instagram feed has been full of amazing Cleo dungaree dresses over the last few months and I’ve been itching to make one for myself. The time is nigh.
  2. Shirt top – Blue and white striped shirting fabric seems to have been everywhere lately – from summer dresses and off-the-shoulder tops, to this blouse from Warehouse. I much prefer round necks to shirts, but love this type of fabric, so recreating this top would be perfect. It will also force me to improve my sleeve-sewing-skills, which can only be a good thing.
  3. White blouse – I tried this top (top right) on in a small boutique shop in France last year, but the fit wasn’t quite right. But I love the simplicity of this top and want to create something similar for this summer. Similar to the shirt top, this will force me to be neat and precise.
  4. Proper trousers – i.e. not with an elasticated waist. When one of my friends started sewing a few years ago, the first thing she made was a pair of trousers, so I think it’s high time I game them a go too. Fit will be essential here, which is not something I’ve had to worry about too much before. Fabric choice will be important too.
  5. Casual top – I’m obsessed with grey t-shirts in all their shapes and sizes – I’m wearing a baggy grey high-necked t-shirt as I type. If I manage to crack this, there’ll be no stopping me.
  6. Pleated midi skirt – A pleated midi skirt was one of the first things I ever tried to make, and, unsurprisingly, it did not go well. Now I’ve upped my game I want to give it another go, as I live in midi skirts in the summer.
  7. Casual midi dress – Again, I live for simple midi dresses in the summer, so want to try to create one of my own. The Lottie pattern pack I used here and here also contains a draw-string-waited midi dress so I just need to find some fabric for this one.
  8. Coco dress – because you can’t have enough stripes. No more to be said on the matter.
  9. Mini a-line skirt – back at the end of in 2015 I made a plaid mini skirt which at the time I was over the moon with. I’ve since come to realise that it doesn’t really fit all that well, so want to give the pattern another go.

The thought of making 9 items feels a little daunting at the moment, but I have picked up the pace lately (or, more accurately, the obsession has finally taken over) so it should be manageable.

I’ve actually managed to get a sneaky head-start on my first make of 2017 (the Cleo dungaree dress) as I was lucky enough to find the sewing kit for it in my stocking on Christmas morning! I got started on boxing day, and finished last weekend. I’ll blog my review soon!

 

Changing my spots

My latest make is a second version of the Lottie dress I made back in December. Aside from wanting a loose-fitting dress to wear out for drinks, I’m also trying to use patterns more than once, to improve my skills and to gain confidence in my ability.

The fabric

The grey and pink polka-dot viscosey-crepey fabric was fairly easy to work with. It had a little stretch, though nothing unmanageable, but I did find that it creased a LOT, making cutting and pinning slightly difficult. It also frayed quite badly – not fun after previously sewing with a ponte roma fabric. I was extra careful to edge all seams, which meant this version took a bit longer than my first Lottie dress.

The pattern

As with the previous iteration of this dress, the pattern was easy to follow. I struggled with the binding at the collar again. I had wanted to keep it as a stand up collar as with the stripey version, but I couldn’t manage to stop the seam allowance from showing, so decided to follow the pattern and turn the collar under, and topstitch it in place. It was quite difficult to sew with such a narrow allowance, but I think it just about works.

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The process

Despite moaning about having to edge the seams, this all came together pretty quickly. The advice to use the same pattern a few times really does make sense; I was far more confident the second time around despite having a slightly more difficult fabric.

I even adapted the pattern ever so slightly. I made the neck a little higher than the pattern suggests. To do this I simply cut the neckline higher than it is on the pattern piece. Once I had stitched the front and back together, I carefully measured the circumference of the neckline and adjusted the binding to match. And that was it – the binding fit perfectly! I think I could have cut the binding a little wider to help sew the curve of the neckline (it is a little wobbly in places), but that was more of a problem with my handling of the material, rather than the pattern hack.

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I’ve already worn the dress out once with black tights and heeled boots (it’s perfect for hiding the post-Christmas bulge), and think it will work just as well in summer with sandals and (hopefully) tanned legs. All-in-all, a successful make. Though I think I’ll be sticking with easier fabrics for the next few projects…

 

Oversized dress

As the descent into winter continues and temperatures drop, I’m finding myself turning to the baggier, oversized items in my wardrobe. The dress I shared last week (worn three times already), my grey tunic and this sweatshirt dress from Monki have become staples in the last few weeks.

I’m also finding myself searching for looser-sitting ‘nicer’ dresses, too. Essentially something that I can wear to a Christmas party and not worry about stuffing myself silly with mince pies and sausage rolls, while still (hopefully) look like I’ve made an effort.

My main inspiration for this make is an oversized black and white polka-dot dress that a colleague at work has. Sadly, as I’ve never actually spoken to her, I won’t be able to provide any pictures! But trust me, it looks great – particularly when layered over a rollneck. Fortunately, this one from & Other Stories, is almost identical:

 

 

As a self-confessed lover of all things neutral and monochrome (blacks and greys feature heavily in my wardrobe), I was surprised to find myself drawn towards some grey and pink polka dot fabric while shopping at Kirstie’s Homemade Fair – perhaps it was my mum’s influence! I’m a bit naive when it comes to fabrics, but I think this is a viscose. It’s quite light and drapey, and feels a bit like a non-slippery silk (v technical description).

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I love the idea of using a relatively delicate fabric for a simple garment, so plan to re-use my Lottie pattern (see my first attempt here) with this fabric to create this dress. Fingers crossed it doesn’t end up looking like a shapeless sack!

 

 

Black and white

As I mentioned in my last post, I can’t get enough of stripes and am a firm believer that you can never have to many breton tops. Following this ethos, I decided to make my own dress using some black and white jersey fabric and Christine Hayne’s Lottie pattern.

The fabric

Why have I never sewn with jersey before?! The last fabric I sewed with was a crepe-y viscose which frayed into a million pieces if you so much as thought about touching it, but this couldn’t have been more different or easy. The fabric has just a little stretch, but I wasn’t aware of that at all as I put the garment together, and not having to edge the seams made meant I was able to power through this dress in just two evenings – a new record for me! The only slight downside was that it took a little more effort to press than other fabrics I’ve used, but that’s a small price to pay for not using the zig-zag stitch once.

The pattern

After much searching among Vogue, Burda and Simplicity patterns for a simple, no-frills dress, I came across Christine Hayne’s range of patterns at Kirstie’s Homemade Fair earlier this year. All the patterns were exactly what I’ve been looking for since I started dressmaking – simple modern shapes that I can actually see myself wearing. I opted for the Lottie pattern, which contains instructions for three garments: a shift dress, a basic shell top and a tie-waisted maxi. For this dress, I opted for the shift-style.

The instructions were so easy to follow, although I did somehow manage to skip a few steps when sewing the sleeves in, resulting in a lot of unpicking. The instruction booklet also shows you all the possible variations (sleeves, length, pockets), which will be really useful for future makes.

This is the first ‘modern’ sewing pattern I’ve used, and I have to say I don’t think I’ll go back to the old style any time soon. I’ve often thought that dressmaking seems like an exclusive club, with its technical jargon and hard-to-follow instructions, but this pattern was totally accessible and made me feel like I knew what I was doing all the way through. Whether it was the easy  instructions or just the simplicity of the garment I was making, this dress was a breeze and a joy to make and has convinced me that this new style of pattern is totally worth the slightly higher cost.

The process

With a grand total of 5 sewing hours (including measuring and cutting the pieces), the process couldn’t have been much simpler. Inserting the sleeves was a breeze as you join the front and back pieces separately, and then sew the shoulder seam. I did struggle with the neckline, as I was slightly confused by the instructions for inserting the binding. I’ve ended up with a small stand-up neckline, but a second reading of the instructions made it clear that this should have been folded to the inside of the neckline and sewn in place. As the neckline is quite wide (and as I’m a fan of a high-neck), I’ve decided to keep it in its half-finished state.

I also deviated from the pattern by not adding pockets. I think they would make this dress look a bit more casual, so for this version (I’m already planning Lottie 2.0) I’m going to leave them out.

The finished item

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The finished item (please ignore the mess behind me!)

I’m wearing this dress as I type, so I think that shows how pleased I am with how it’s turned out ! (I’ve also had quite a few compliments, which is a bonus!)  I possibly could have made it one size smaller, but I actually quite like the oversized feel. I do also find the neckline quite wide, so next time I’ll try to alter this. I’ll definitely be making the dress again – I’m thinking plain coloured jerseys (there’s no turning back now) with contrast sleeves. And quite probably a few variations for my housemate, who has already been eyeing this dress up!

Earning my stripes

Ok, I’ll admit it. I can’t get enough of stripes. I own at least 10 stripey tops or tunics (each entirely different and serving a totally different purpose, of course), and if I ever feel I need to treat myself or want a quick wardrobe update, I’ll unfailingly head towards the stripes. If I’m in a rush and haven’t thought about what I’m going to wear to work, you can safely bet I’ll turn up to the office in black jeans and a breton top (this one from Joules is my current go-to).

I’ve just been trying to think about why I love stripes so much, and I’m still not entirely sure. I’m not a huge fan of bright colours or big floral patterns, so I guess stripes allow me to add some interest to my outfit. Stripes also somehow make me feel pulled together, even when I haven’t given my outfit much thought. I suspect that might be the real reason behind my love affair…

A simple stripey dress epitomises everything I love about stripes – it should be comfortable, flattering and stylish. This dress from Petit Bateau was essentially my inspiration:

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I found some striped jersey fabric in the fabric shop in my hometown, but I struggled to find a simple shift dress pattern for months (I’ll use that as my excuse for not sewing for months). Fortunately, I came across Christine Hayne’s range of patterns while at Kirstie’s Homemade Fair. I opted for the Lottie as I liked the shape of the shift dress, and thought I might make the other options in the future, too.

Stay tuned to find out how I got on!

 

 

Sewing plans

I know it’s a cliche, but this summer really has flown by. September crept up on me, bringing with it a slight chill to otherwise sunny days, and it’s now somehow the end of November. My plans to create endless floaty summer skirts were never quite realised, but I have managed to pick up some amazing fabrics over the last few months that I’m hoping will rekindle my love affair with dressmaking.

First up are these amazing linens I bought while on holiday in the south of France. The pink is from a shop called Blanc Casse in Uzès, which I was initially drawn to because it offered hamam towels in every colour imaginable at a fairly reasonable price (I bought one – my friend bought 3!). I bought the navy linen from the shop at the hotel we stayed at in Uzer (confusingly, a completely different place to Uzès). I plan on making a large-ish shopping bag (along the lines of this one) using both fabrics, but will probably need to source some strong canvas to line it.

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The next fabric was a bit of an impulse I-need-to-kick-start-my-sewing purchase. A classic striped jersey. I’m going to make a really simple dress with this, using Christine Hayes’ Lottie Dress.  I own far too many stripey tops/dresses already, but I know that this is something I’ll wear over and over in autumn and winter.

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Last up is this pretty grey and pink polka dot fabric that I bought from the Fabric Godmother’s stand at Kirstie’s Homemade Fair last week. It’s a little more girly than my usual style, so I think I might make another Lottie dress with this fabric. I’m hoping the simple shape will also mean I could wear the dress with tights in the winter – without looking too much like floaty a summer dress.

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I did have another fabric to share with you… but I’d already sewn it into a pair of culottes before I managed to get this post together! I used the same pattern as the striped trousers. Thinking I knew exactly what I was doing, I sewed up both leg seams before realising the instructions called for a different approach. Thankfully Tilly and the Button’s book Love at First Stitch saved me – I used her pyjama trouser instructions to figure out how to join the sewn-up legs together.

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I wish I’d made these earlier in the summer (by which I mean, actually in summer, and not in autumn), as I would have worn them to death! They’d be perfect for work on a warm day. I think they’ll look great with heels so I’m hoping the’ll get some wear as we head into winter.

Up next: The striped Lottie dress I mentioned earlier!

Simple summer skirt

Although the weather in London has taken a somewhat damp turn, I’ve recently booked a last-minute holiday to the south of France, which I am hoping will be much more sunny.

I always seem to be lacking and struggle to find simple skirts that aren’t too short or flimsy, so have decided to make some of my own for this trip, and hopefully the rest of the summer in the UK!

Unlike my previous posts, I have just one source of inspiration: COS, obviously. I love the look of their skirt with shirt hem. As with most of the clothes at COS, it just has a little twist to make a simple item much more interesting.

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COS Skirt with shirt hem

This post will be short and sweet – I already have the pattern as the one I used for the striped trousers also has a simple mini skirt, and I bought some blue chambray fabric this weekend, too.

 

I go on holiday in a few weeks so I really hope there won’t be another month in between posts – I’ll be really disappointed in myself if that’s the case. See you in *hopefully* a week!