Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Make Nine: 2018 Review and 2019 Plans

I've enjoyed taking part in the Make Nine challenge (hosted by Rochelle New) over the last couple of years. I'm the kind of person who likes compiling lists and devising plans, and I always have a plethora of ideas for future creations swirling round in my head so it's always fun to come up with a list of projects that I want to tackle over the course of the year. Admittedly, I haven't yet succeeded in making all nine projects, but that's fine and just means I have room for improvement still. Here's how I got on with 2018's list.

1. Closet Case Carolyn Pyjamas - done! And they were one of my favourite projects of last year.

2. Finish my scrappy hexagon quilt - almost! The quilt top is done, and I've started removing the paper hexagons so hopefully it'll be a finished quilt in the not too distant future.

3. Vogue 8577 - done! Another winner - I love wearing this dress.

4. Cloth Habit Watson Bra - done! Not a roaring success, but it's always good to try something new.

5. Butterick 6446 - done! I'm pleased with how this dress turned out.

6. Knickers -  done! Like the Watson bra, these could have turned out better - I'd like to try making some more knickers in the future.

7. Lovely cardigan by Kim Hargreaves - done! This definitely wasn't a quick project, but it was worth the effort.

8. Wainthropp cardigan by Andi Satterlund - not yet! I'd still like to try this pattern at some point, but I didn't manage to fit it in this year, and other patterns that I already own have jumped ahead of it in my queue at the moment.

9. Colourwork yoke sweater from Simply Crochet magazine issue 66 - abandoned! I've decided for now that I'm going to keep my crocheting simple and probably stick to non-garment projects, mainly because my crochet is always stupidly tight and comes out smaller than it's meant to be no matter what size hook I use so I think I'd struggle to make a garment that fitted me nicely.

Now, here are my plans for 2019 ...

1. Simplicity 8014 shirt dress. This one is probably going to be one of my first projects of the year so hopefully you should be seeing it soon!

2. McCalls 7848 coat. I'm on the look-out for some nice coating fabric to use for this one (possibly pink - anyone got any tips?). I'm planning to make view D, but shortened to knee length.

3. Lace Hearts Cardi by Martin Storey. I've got some lovely yarn ready to use for this one - I'll be casting it on any day now!

4. Shawl(s) from The Shawl Society Season 1. My parents gave me this lovely book by Helen Stewart for Christmas and I'd like to knit at least one of the shawls from it this year.

5. Fold-up sewing folio. This is the project pictured on the front of Stitched Sewing Organizers by Aneela Hoey (my review of the book is here) - I know I'd find it really useful, and it would be a good way of using up a bit of fabric left over from other projects.

6. Sew Over It Ultimate Trousers. After the success of my Carrie trousers last year, I thought I'd give some more trousers a try.

7. This is the yarn left over from from my crochet blanket. I have almost as much of all the colours (apart from white) left over as I actually used to make the blanket so it deserves to come out of this basket! It may be used to make another blanket, or it may turn into something completely different - I'm still deciding at the moment. If I do make another blanket, I'm not going to put pressure on myself to finish it this year, but I would like to make good progress with whatever I decide to do!

8. Something  a bit different here - watercolour! I bought the book The Joy of Watercolor by Emma Block a couple of months ago but have yet to actually try painting anything. I don't expect to be a particularly talented watercolour artist, but I'd like to give it a try.

9. Embroidery. I have a couple of Dandelyne mini hoops (I got mine from Cloud Craft), as well as the book Mandalas to Embroider, and a Nancy Nicholson teapot embroidery kit so I'd definitely like to put them to good use and do some more embroidery this year.

This year's list is a little different from some of my previous ones. I've picked projects that I already own at least some if not all of the supplies for, and I'm going to try to buy only fabrics/yarn/patterns that I need or that I really love. Although I'm definitely not banning myself from buying things, because that would be the surest way to prompt a shopping spree! 

I'm also making a conscious effort to dedicate some more time to projects other than sewing clothes. Don't get me wrong, there will still be dressmaking happening around here - just maybe at a slightly slower pace than in previous years. Much though I could happily keep sewing all the pretty dresses (and fully support anyone else who does that!), my handmade wardrobe is already fairly well stocked and I don't want to end up drowning in clothes!

I'm excited to make a start on these plans now! How about you - have you made a Make Nine list for 2019?

Thursday, 20 December 2018

2018 Hits and Misses

I've been busy over the last couple of weeks making Christmas presents, so while they still need to be kept secret I thought I'd share a quick round-up of some of my favourite projects from this year, as well as a couple of things that weren't quite so successful. Let's start with the hits...

My Vogue 8577 dress is probably my favourite dress that I sewed this year. I think a major part of the reason it was so successful is the combination of the pattern and the fabric - the cotton sateen that I used has a good weight and drape to it, which makes the skirt hang really nicely and swish pleasingly as I walk in the dress. I'd definitely like to make another version of this dress in the future - I'm keeping my eye out for the right fabric!

The Sew Over It Carrie trousers that I made this summer were a bit of a surprise hit for someone who usually lives in dresses and skirts! I really enjoyed wearing them, and it was nice to try something a bit outside of my usual comfort zone. I'm planning on trying out some other trouser patterns in the future.

Time for some knitting now! With the amount of work that went into my "Lovely" cardigan (I always feel the need to emphasise the fact that "Lovely" is the name of the pattern and not just an adjective I'm using to describe the cardigan!), it definitely deserved to be included in my top projects of the year. I'm really happy with the fit of the cardigan, and it's proving to be delightfully cosy to wear now that the weather is colder.

Next up we have my Carolyn pyjamas. In some ways you might think that all pyjamas are fairly standard, but the trousers and shorts that I made from the Carolyn pattern are by far and away the nicest fitting pyjama bottoms that I can remember owning. They're the perfect combination of having just a touch of shape to them to make them fit nicely, whilst still being baggy enough to have the comfort that you want from PJs. I'm hoping to make some more soon.

And the last of my hits is a fairly recent addition to my collection - my Pippi pinafore. I love wearing pinafores at this time of year, so it was always a fairly safe bet that this was going to be a success. It's lovely to wear and the pink denim that I used is a great cheery colour for brightening up dull days. What more could you want?!

Now, let's turn to projects that weren't quite so successful. I'll preface this by saying that I didn't have any complete disasters this year (I've got a fairly good idea of what suits me, and I make toiles so I can spot any fitting issues early on) and all of the projects I'm about to share definitely have their plus points too. For one reason or another though, these haven't got as much love as some of this year's other creations.

First up is my foray into sewing lingerie. My Watson bra is perfectly fine and I do wear it occasionally, but the insides just look a bit messy (totally due to my lack of experience of working with all the different elastics rather than any fault of the pattern) and I stick by the assessment that I made at the time that this is one occasion where it might just be better to buy something than make it. As for the Acacia knickers - after wearing them a few times I was forced to admit that the elastic is just a bit too loose. I've been meaning to go back and try to fix it, but fixing things is always at the bottom of my list of things to do so I never get round to it! I do still want to try making more knickers to use up jersey scraps though.

My McCalls 7714 dress is a bit of a sad tale - I really liked the dress and happily wore it. Unfortunately, when I washed it some of the red from the background of the fabric bled onto some of the white flowers making them a wishy washy pink. I'm not sure why this happened to the finished dress when it didn't happen to the fabric when I prewashed it, but there we go! It's still wearable, but it does look a bit odd.

Lastly, we have my Sew Over It Clara blouse. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this project - I enjoyed sewing the pattern, I like the fabric, and it fits nicely. I struggle to know what to wear it with other than this red skirt though, so it just hasn't been worn that much. I'm including it in my list of "misses" at least partly to try to remind myself to try to find other ways to wear it!

So there we go, a fairly successful year of sewing/knitting all in all! I'm now starting to look forward to the new year and planning what projects I want to make in 2019. Have you come up with any plans yet? And what was your favourite thing that you made this year?

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Closet Case Patterns Ebony Dress

The dress I have to share with you today is a bit of a different one for me. Generally I'm a fan of fitted bodices/tops, waist shaping and full skirts. The Closet Case Patterns Ebony dress doesn't exactly fit that description! It's a modern swingy dress (also with cropped top and raglan sleeved tunic options), with plenty of the fullness that I like in skirts but absolutely zero shaping other than the shoulders being nicely fitted.

Closet Case Patterns Ebony dress - I'm wearing it with RTW leggings and a roll neck top here

So what made me want to try making an Ebony when it's really not my usual silhouette? Basically, the fabric that I've used. I bought it around this time last year hoping to make a dress for my mum for Christmas. The shop that I bought this from didn't offer swatches so I'd gambled on it because from the description and pictures, it looked like just what I wanted.

It was described as a medium weight ponte roma, but when it turned up it definitely wasn't like any other ponte roma I've ever seen/used. It's lightweight and very drapey, and you can see straight through it if you hold it up to the light. Annoyingly, not long after it arrived, I saw what looked like exactly the same fabric on another site, where it was described as a lightweight jersey and was significantly cheaper. I'm not mentioning the name of the shop where I bought it because I can't 100% remember which one it was now, and I wouldn't like to be critical of the wrong place!

Anyway, in addition to not offering swatches, the shop also didn't offer refunds/returns on fabric so I put the jersey away knowing that I'd find a use for it sometime. Much though it's not what I wanted for the project I had in mind at the time, it's a lovely quality fabric in itself.

A slightly blurry photo, but it shows the volume well!

At various points during the year, I got it out to think of what to make, and the Ebony dress seemed like the right project. Yes, it's not exactly my normal style but it does have plenty of swish/twirl factor (which is always good in my book!), and I knew that it would definitely be very comfy if nothing else. And I thought I might as well give it a try given that I had perfect fabric already - I'm firmly of the opinion that it's better to use fabric than leave it sitting on a shelf.

Making the Ebony dress was a breeze. There were only four pattern pieces (front, back, sleeves and neckband), so it was a fairly speedy project to sew, and the instructions were very clear and thorough so there was no risk of getting things wrong.

I made a straight size 12 based on my bust measurement as instructed in the pattern, and that worked out nicely. The shoulders and sleeves fit me well, and they're the only part of the Ebony dress that really need to fit. I did lengthen the dress by 1.5 inches (fairy standard for me), and if I make it again I'd probably lengthen the sleeves just a touch as well but they're fine as they are for this version.

So what's the verdict on the finished dress? Pretty positive! In terms of the Ebony pattern itself, I've got no criticisms. It's definitely a good one if you're looking to make a dress/top/tunic of this style. As for the dress on me, I'm surprised by how much I like it, especially with a roll neck top underneath it like I'm wearing in these photos. It's fair to say that it's not the most conventionally "flattering" dress on me (i.e. it definitely isn't particularly slimming), and I probably wouldn't want a whole wardrobe of them. As expected though, it is extremely comfortable and quite cosy when layered up so I'll definitely be wearing it this winter. Plus the red colour and general roominess will make it perfect to wear at Christmas! All in all, a successful experiment - wouldn't you say?

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Astoria & Toaster Sweaters

Recently I've made a couple of simple, speedy projects. They're both repeats of patterns I've made before, meaning I might not have as much to say about them as a completely new project, so I thought I'd combine the two into a quick post to share with you today.

The first is a Seamwork Astoria top. This project was really inspired by the fabric. It's a very colourful (as you can see!) French terry from Flamingo Fabrics, which sadly no longer seems to be in stock. I thought it would be good for brightening up the duller days of autumn and winter so I treated myself to a piece without knowing quite what pattern I was going to use it for.

When the fabric arrived, I decided it would be perfect for the Astoria. I made a few versions of the pattern not long after it was released (here and here) a couple of years ago, and they're all still in fairly regular wardrobe rotation. It's a style that works well with lots of my dresses and skirts/culottes so I knew that it would get a lot of wear.

The Astoria is a simple and quick pattern to make, so after a couple of hours of sewing I had a nice new top to wear - and it definitely brightens up my day when I put it on!

The second top I have to share today is a Sew House Seven Toaster sweater (version 1). This is another pattern that I first made not long after it was released, and thankfully it's another one that has been a success for me.

This time I bought the fabric specifically with the Toaster pattern in mind. It's a quilted cloqué jersey from The Textile Centre. It's also no longer in stock (sorry, I'm not being a very good fabric buying enabler today!) but they do have other similar fabrics available. I'm slightly in two minds about the fabric - I really like the textured pattern and I think it looks good as a Toaster, but it does get a bit bulky at some of the seams and it definitely feels fairly synthetic to me when I'm wearing it. I tend to lean more towards natural, more breathable fibres and this definitely doesn't feel very breathable, but on the plus side it does keep me warm.

In case anyone's wondering about the pin I'm wearing in these photos - it's a super sparkly glitter heart that I bought from Claireabellemakes not long ago. I'm wondering if I can justify gradually adding a whole rainbow of them to my brooch collection!

Overall, I'm calling both of the tops a success and I know I'll definitely be wearing them over the coming months. I've paired both of them with needlecord Winslow culottes in these photos (navy pair blogged here and teal pair here). I wear these culottes loads at this time of year - definitely more than I would have expected when I first made them. Hopefully my new Astoria and Toaster tops will be just as well loved!

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Jennifer Lauren Pippi Pinafore

What's your opinion of pinafore/dunagree dresses? Personally, I love them! I wear both my denim Lilou dress (still going strong four years after I made it!) and last year's Freja dress loads, and for a long time now I've been meaning to add another pinafore or two to my collection. I was very tempted to make another Freja dress, but then decided that it would be good to try something a bit different so opted for a Jennifer Lauren Pippi pinafore instead.

The Pippi pinafore has a fitted bib, deep patch pockets and a side button fastening. The skirt has pleats in the front and darts in the back to give it a little bit of shaping. The straps cross over at the back, and the instructions include directions for using either buttons or traditional metal overall hardware for attaching them to the bib. 

The fabric I chose for my Pippi pinafore is a lovely magenta stretch denim from Sew Me Sunshine. As the fabric description says, it really is a perfect weight for a dunagree/pinafore dress and the small amount of spandex in the fabric makes it super comfortable to wear.

You're actually getting a double dose of Jennifer Lauren patterns and Sew Me Sunshine fabrics in this post, because the top I'm wearing under the Pippi is a Gable top that I made earlier this year using some Cotton & Steel jersey from Sew Me Sunshine (sadly no longer in stock, but it is available in a different colourway).

I really enjoyed sewing the Pippi pinafore. As with the other patterns of Jen's that I've sewn (my Raine dress, my Gable tops and dresses, Bronte top, and Enid sweaters), the instructions were really clear and detailed. I particularly liked the way that the skirt notches are labelled with letters that are referenced in the instructions so that you know exactly what notches you're meant to be using for each step. 

One thing to note so you don't make the same silly mistake I did - make sure you cut the button band and buttonhole facing the right way up! I'm a fan of pattern piece tetris and often flip pattern pieces over to cut them out if it means I can be more economical with my use of fabric, but you only cut out one of the button band/buttonhole facing so they do need to be cut the right way as indicated by the pattern piece. 

The Pippi pattern gives you a really nice finish on the pinafore. The lined bib and waistband give you neat insides (I used some lawn left over from my Susie blouse for the lining), and I really like the side button closure.

I chose to use buttons instead of hardware for securing the straps to the bib, mainly just because I like buttons better than hardware. While I was tempted to use some pretty buttons, I decided to be sensible and go for buttons that stood out whilst being neutral enough to allow me to wear the pinafore with as many tops as possible.

In terms of sizing, I made a size 14 and used the A cup bib (the pattern includes cup sizes A to D). That's the size recommended for my measurements, and it worked out nicely. The only adjustments I made were to lengthen both the bib and skirt by an inch, which is fairly standard for me. The finished pinafore has just enough ease to be comfortable whilst still being fitted enough to give it a bit of shape. 

All in all, I liked my finished Pippi pinafore as soon as I tried it on, and now that I've worn it properly I really love it. I'm already dreaming up more versions of the Pippi that I'd like to make in the future which is always a fairly good sign that a project has been a success, don't you think?