Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Simplicity 1418 dress

This weekend just gone my brother got married. An occasion like that demands a new dress, don't you think? And obviously I had to make that dress. I knew I wanted to stick with my favoured fit and flare silhouette, but with some sort of feature to stand out from the dresses I wear on a daily basis. I looked through my pattern stash and eventually settled on Simplicity 1418.

This is a pattern that I got free with a magazine at some point and to be honest I'd forgotten I even owned it, but it was just what I wanted for this project. Simplicity 1418 is one of the Pattern Runway series, which has various bodice options and a pleated skirt. I decided to omit the back inserts and shoulder straps, and use the off-the-shoulder sleeves.

I made a toile of the bodice using a size 16 at the bust and grading to an 18 at the waist, and making my standard adjustment of adding an inch to the length. The fit was good, apart from when it came to the sleeves - they were huge! I took a large wedge out of the middle of the sleeve piece, which greatly improved things but there was still a bit of extra room so I slimmed them down again. I think in the end I took around 3 inches out of the sleeve, and adjusted the elastic and casing that help hold the sleeve in place by the same amount.

That meant I was ready to move on to creating the actual dress. I considered a whole range of fabric options, but the winner in the end was this lovely viscose and linen mix from Sew La Di Da. It's a really gorgeous fabric, and I think the large scale print helps to make it stand out from my everyday dresses.

It is quite a thin fabric so I decided to underline everything with white cotton lawn. I'm really happy I made that choice - not only does it ensure that the fabric is opaque, it also makes the colours look more vivid.

I cut everything out in a single layer to make it easier to get the print placement right. I wanted to make sure I had one of the groups of 3 poppies in the centre of the bodice, and then carry that on down through the skirt. The front bodice also has princess seams, and I matched the pattern up as closely as possible between the centre front and side front sections. I'm glad I put in the effort to do that - I think the bodice could have ended up looking a bit of a mess with this print otherwise.


The sewing process was all straightforward and the instructions were easy to follow. I decided to line the bodice instead of using the facings. I used the facings on my toile and there's absolutely nothing wrong with them, but I just prefer the clean finish of a lined bodice, especially for a dress like this. I also added 2 inches to the length of the skirt pieces just to make sure that it would be a nice elegant length.

To top it all off, I used some of the remnants of the fabric to make the simple flowers that you can hopefully just about see in my hair in these photos. The benefit of making your own outfit is that it's easy to make sure your accessories match because you can just use the same fabric!

 I really enjoyed wearing this dress - I was slightly concerned that the off-the-shoulder sleeves would annoy me, but they didn't at all. I think having the elastic underneath the sleeves really helps them to stay in place and stops the bodice from slipping. It's not going to be one of my most worn dresses because it is a bit special, but it is definitely one of my favourites. Now I just need someone else to get married so that I can wear it again!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Megan Nielsen Reef PJs

My summer pyjama selection has started to look a bit sorry for itself. Winter sleepwear has a regular annual replenishment in the form of cosy Christmas presents, but most of my warmer-weather PJs have been worn so much that they're verging on falling apart and really need replacing. I've considered various summer PJ patterns before, but none of them ever seemed quite right - apparently I'm quite picky in my loungewear requirements. Then Megan Nielsen released the Reef camisole and shorts set, which ticked all my boxes.

The camisole is cut on the bias, has a V neckline, a cross-over back yoke and a high-low hem. The shorts come in two versions - one with pockets and a curved hem, and a second shorter version with no pocket and a straight hem. I made the first version, but omitted the pockets because I wasn't sure how they'd work with this fabric and, much though I love pockets in my daytime clothes, I didn't think I'd use them much in pyjamas.

One of the first things to point out about my version is that I did something a bit wrong when constructing the back - mine doesn't cross over as much as it should. I think I must have matched up the wrong notches or something, but everything seemed to be working out fine so I only noticed once I was a bit further down the line. Being as they're pyjamas, and so it wouldn't matter if the fit was a bit off, I decided just to plough on and not go back and unpick things. Happily, the camisole still fits nicely, although I'll make sure that I get it right next time because I do like the cross-over yoke.

I would say that this mistake is entirely down to me, and in no way a reflection of the instructions or the pattern. I'll openly admit that I was reading the instructions pretty quickly as I went along. When you're actually paying attention to them, the instructions are perfectly clear and easy to follow, with helpful added tips along the way like block fusing the interfacing instead of cutting out the interfacing and fabric pieces separately and then fusing afterwards.

In terms of sizing, for the camisole I graded between a medium at the bust and a large at the waist. Due to the loose shape, I could probably have got away with making the whole camisole in a medium, but I wanted to stay true to the breezy, flowing shape intended in the pattern. I made the shorts in a straight size large, and they fit nicely.

I'd say that both the camisole and the shorts have just the right amount of ease to make them nice and comfortable (as you want pyjamas to be), whilst not being so baggy that they become sack-like and unflattering.

The fabric I used is a pretty viscose that I picked up on a whistle stop tour through the rag market in Birmingham. My uni friends (none of whom are into sewing) and I have a habit of converging on Birmingham to meet up for the day from our various areas of the country, and I always seem to arrive before everyone else, which really just "forces" me to go and look at fabric while I'm waiting. It's a tough old life, isn't it?!

Anyway, this is lovely and drapey and was only £2 a metre. Perfect for trying this pattern out for the first time. I'm happy to make toiles for actual clothes, but it would seem a bit over-the-top for pyjamas to me, but at the same time I wouldn't want to commit expensive fabric to a pattern and end up disappointed. This way, it wouldn't be a disaster if things went a bit wrong. Thankfully that didn't happen!

I really love my Reef set. For me, they're pretty perfect as summer pyjamas - small enough to be nice and cool to wear, whilst still being covered up enough for me to be able to wander round my flat in them quite happily without having to worry about the fact that my neighbours can see right into most of my windows. The only thing I regret about this is that I didn't get round to sewing them earlier in the summer. I think I probably won't fit in sewing a second set this year, but another Reef set will definitely be high on my sewing list for next summer.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Father's Day shirt - SImplicity 1544

For Father's Day this year, I decided to make my Dad a shirt. But I also decided that it would be best not to make it as a surprise, but instead consult him so he coul pick what features he wanted in the shirt (he has quite specific opinions on pockets) and to make sure that I'd get the fit right. So I presented him with the pattern and fabric, and then I got to work on making him the shirt. Don't worry, it hasn't taken me this long to make the shirt for him - it's been finished for well over a month already - it just took a while to get a couple of pictures of him wearing it.

The pattern I chose is Simplicity 1544 -  a button front shirt with various options for pockets, shoulder tabs and yokes. The collar band, cuff and inside yoke are intended to be cut from a contrast fabric "for a fresh modern approach",

We instantly ignored the contrast fabric options, as well as the studded front yoke option, and the shoulder tabs. My Dad chose the pockets from view D (patch pockets with a buttoned top flap).

You've probably noticed the main difference between the pattern and the version I made is the sleeves - namely that the pattern comes with long sleeves only, and I made short sleeves. This is obviously an easy adjustment to make, and I simply measured the length sleeves on one of my Dad's short-sleeved shirts, added a bit extra for the hem, and then cut my traced pattern piece at that level.

The fabric I used is a pink Oxford stripe shirting from Fabworks. It's a really lovely quality cotton (especially for £4 per metre!), was great to work with and, I'm told, is lovely and soft to wear. Which is good news for me because I over-ordered so I think there may be just about enough left to squeeze out a top of some kind for me. Yay!

The buttons were a stroke of genius on my part (well, maybe not genius, but I was quite pleased with myself when I thought of the idea) because I harvested them from one of my Dad's old shirts. I tend to commandeer shirts that are a bit worn around the cuffs/collar to use the main fabric for linings, so there was one sitting here ready and waiting to have its buttons removed. More sustainable and I didn't have to wait till I could get to a shop to buy some. Everyone wins!

I've made shirts and shirtdresses for myself before, so I'm familiar with all the processes in making a collar, button plackets, etc. but they're still things that for some reason I imagine to be more complicated than they are. Does anyone else do that, or am I just weird?! I think making this shirt will have helped me get over that a bit though, because everything just seemed more straightforward. Admittedly, I did make things slightly easier for myself this time due to the fact that long sleeves and cuffs were eliminated, so maybe that helped.

The collar and collar stand is the area that I've struggled with most on other shirts, but this combination went together easily, and looked right first time without having to unpick and redo anything. Maybe the pattern is drafted particularly well, or maybe I've got better at inserting collars over time. Who knows.

In any case, the instructions were clear and easy to follow throughout. They're not overly hand-holdy, but they don't leaving you scratching your head wondering what on earth they're talking about either.

Shirts aren't necessarily the speediest of projects simply because of the number of pieces involved in creating a collar, button plackets etc. but there's definitely nothing to be afraid of as long as you've got a good pattern. I'm sure I'll be using Simplicity 1544 again in the future because I never usually know what to make for my Dad when it comes to present-giving times, but now I know this is a good option. And making things for people who appreciate the work that has gone into them is always nice, isn't it?

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Flora and ice creams

Some fabrics just demand to be bought, don't they? This fabric did that to me! It's I scream, you scream from the Boardwalk Delight collection, and I picked it up from The Village Haberdashery. Clearly I needed an ice cream dress. Because an ice cream dress is a complete necessity, and not at all frivolous in any way. Obviously. The only question then was what particular dress it should become.

With a fun print like this an Emery dress is usually my default choice but, as it's also a really summery print, I wanted something sleeveless. I've made a sleeveless Emery before, but ultimately I fancied trying something new. I've seen many versions of the By Hand London Flora dress that I liked, particularly the tank version, so I decided to give it a go.

Or at least give the bodice a go anyway! While I love the delightfully full skirt that Flora is intended to have, this fabric just wasn't wide enough, so I reverted to type used the gathered skirt and pockets from the Emery.

I made a toile of the bodice in a size 12, adding my standard inch to the length, and the general shape was really good, but the fit from the bust down was just slightly too tight for my liking. To some extent, fit is a matter of personal preference, and my preference is definitely to have a nicely fitted bodice but still to have room to breath and enjoy the odd slice of cake. I'm sure I'm not the only one!

As I only needed a tiny bit of extra ease, I decided not to mess with the pattern pieces and instead to sew the side seams with a slightly smaller seam allowance. We're talking 1.3 cm instead of 1.5, but even that little adjustment made all the difference.

I really enjoyed sewing this dress. The instructions are nice and clear so the whole process was a breeze, and it all seemed to go pretty quickly. I know some people wouldn't enjoy the hand sewing of the lining down the zip and around the waistline, but thankfully for me I enjoy hand sewing so it's all good!

The only problem that I had was with the pockets, and that was all to do with the fabric. I originally used the outer fabric for them, but realised pretty soon after sewing them that you could see the ice creams on the pockets through the background colour on the skirt. So the pockets were promptly unpicked, and replaced with pockets cut from the same white cotton lawn as I used for the bodice lining. Problem solved!

One thing I'm particularly pleased about with this dress is the fact that I realised that if I cut things right then I'd be able to get an ice cream on each shoulder strap (the photo above is from mid-construction, so excuse the unfinished centre back seam and any stray threads). Small things like that amuse me. It's not very noticeable when I'm wearing the dress, but I know they're there.

All in all, I'm really happy with how this dress turned out! I know it won't be one of my most worn dresses, purely because I think the print requires really warm weather to be appreciated, but that doesn't mean that I like it any less. And it'll be one of my top wardrobe choices for sunny days. There are still a couple of other summery projects on my sewing list, so I'd better hurry up and get sewing so I can actually wear them! I'm not the only one still sewing for summer am I?

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Winslow culottes

Where do you stand on the culottes trend? I'll be honest, it didn't really appeal to me at first. My main experience of wearing culottes was as part of Brownie/Guide uniforms back in the early 90s. Probably not the sartorial highlight of my life. But then photos of the Winslow culottes from Helen's Closet starting popping up on Instagram. They looked great on everyone I saw wearing them, so I decided to bend my usual "dresses and skirts only" policy and give culottes a chance.

The Winslow culottes are wide-legged, with the volume provided by four inverted box pleats (two each on the front and back), and are designed to be worn at any length from shorts to palazzo pants. The knee length version appealed to me most, probably because it's closest to the full skits and dresses that I'm used to wearing so gave me the chance to try out culottes whilst not really leaving my comfort zone.

The pattern was very straightforward, with thorough instructions and lots of clear illustrations to follow. All the notches and everything lined up perfectly, and the culottes came together really easily.

In terms of sizing, I made a straight size 14 based on my waist measurement. My hips should technically fall into the next size up, but as the instructions state, the wide legs mean there's plenty of room in the hips so there was no need for me to grade up.

I always intended to make a knee length version, but I actually cut out the midi length (view C) because I thought that I'd probably want my version a bit longer than view B, but I wasn't quite sure how much longer. This was both because I'm a couple of inches taller than the 5'6" that the pattern is designed for, and because I wanted knee length rather than above the knee. I made up the culottes, tried them on and then pinned them up to work out the length I wanted. In the end, my version is about 3.5" longer than view B from the pattern.

I chose to use a lovely viscose from Sewn because it drapes beautifully, and I thought that would work well for the culottes. Turns out I was right! It's really great fabric, especially for the price of £5 per metre. I was so impressed with it in the shop that I may have also bought some of the powder blue colourway to use for a top.

Talking of tops, the one I'm wearing here is another scoop-neck hack of the Sew Over It Susie blouse. I made this in exactly the same way as my first version - I'm really happy with how that one turned out and it gets lots of compliments (although I think that's mainly due to the fabric), so there was no need to mess with it.

This one uses some pretty Atelier Brunette fabric that I bought in the Black Friday sales last year and hid away to await the arrival of warmer weather. I'm happy it's now been used, because it's lovely to wear.

My Winslow culottes had their maiden outing last weekend and they were great - all the fullness of a skirt, but with the added practicality of shorts/trousers. Particularly welcome when you're out for a walk on a windy day because it means that you're in much less danger of unintentionally revealing more than you want to! I do love my slightly impractical skirts and dresses though, and these culottes won't do anything to change that, but I'll enjoy wearing them  and I'm already thinking of making a shorter version to wear with tights in winter. If you're thinking of giving culottes a go, I'd definitely recommend the Winslow pattern. Are you tempted?