Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Tilly & The Buttons Freya Top & Bibi Skirt

I'm a bit late to the party when it comes to Stretch! - the second book by Tilly Walnes of Tilly and the Buttons fame. When the book was first released, I thought the patterns looked nice but I had other things I wanted to be sewing so I didn't immediately buy it. As I saw more and more people sewing up the projects from the book, I decided that I'd like to make some myself so I got it as a Christmas present to myself.

The project that was top of my list to sew was definitely the Freya top. I knew that the mock neckline would be lovely and cosy at this time of year, and that it would work well with all of the my much-loved pinafores (I'm wearing it here with my Freja dress, and a pretty brooch from Layla Amber).

The Freya top is a nice simple sewing project and, as you'd expect, Tilly's instructions are very detailed. Truth be told, I actually just skimmed through the instructions and was mainly guided by the photos because I've sewn a few jersey tops now so know what to expect. From what I saw though, I think you'd be fine with Freya even if you haven't used knits much before.

The fabric that I used for this one is a lovely mint glitter stripe jersey from Sew Me Sunshine (just to be entirely transparent, I bought this fabric using the voucher that I got for winning the #sewingsunshine competition in November). It's a lovely jersey - nice and opaque and with just the right amount of sparkle in the glitter. And the glitter isn't at all scratchy on the skin as some glitter fabrics can be.

I was so happy with how my first Freya turned out that I went straight on to make a second version - this time using the cowl neck variation. I love cowl necks but don't have many so this is a welcome addition to my wardrobe.

The fabric for this one is from Sew Crafty and is an arrow print cotton jersey. Again, it's lovely and comfy to wear. I like the fact that it's black and white so will go with lots of colours, but the arrow print keeps it from being boring.

The pattern sizing puts me in a size 5 at the bust and waist and between a 5 and 6 for the hips (for reference, my measurements are bust 38", waist 32", hips 42"), but I wasn't sure whether I wanted quite as much negative ease (2 inches) as is built into the pattern so I compared the pattern pieces with my traced pieces from Tilly's Agnes top (which I know I like the fit on), and based on that I cut a straight size 6. I like the fit that has given me - close-fitting enough to be flattering, without being too tight.

After I'd finished my Freya tops, I was tidying up my leftover bits of stretch fabrics and found a sizeable chunk of ponte roma from my Gable dress. I realised that it was probably just enough for a Bibi skirt, so I thought I'd give that a try too.

I'll be honest and say that Bibi was probably the pattern that appealed to me least from the book because I don't generally wear straight skirts but, being as I already had the pattern and fabric, I didn't have much to lose!

The Bibi skirt is the first project in the book, and the most simple, so I had this whipped up from start to finish in just a couple of hours. I made a size 5 at the waist, blending out to a 6 at the hips as recommended for my measurements and I'm pleasantly surprised by how much I like it! It is, unsurprisingly, fabulously comfortable to wear, yet could look quite smart if you wanted it to.

My only slightly criticism is that my waistband was starting to feel a little loose by the end of a day wearing the skirt, so if I make another (a definite possibility as I might have some more leftover fabric I could use) I'd probably add some elastic inside the waistband - not to gather the waistband at all, just to add some extra stretchy reinforcement.

All in all, I may be late to the Stretch! party, but I think I'm making up for lost time with three projects completed already. I can see myself making all of the projects at some point, so I'm glad I finally got on the bandwagon for this book. Have you made any of the patterns? Which one's your favourite?

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Simplicity 8014 Pattern Review

How's January been treating you so far? It's not been too bad for me! I've made a successful start on a couple of my Make Nine projects, and today I have the first one completed and ready to show you. Here's my Simplicity 8014 shirt dress...

Simplicity 8014 is a vintage shirt dress pattern featuring a full length dress with collar and long sleeves, knee length dress with slim or flared skirt, and mini dress with collar and shirt tail hem, and a tie belt for all options. If you're a fan of shirt dresses, with all those different options to mix and match this is a pretty good value pattern (particularly if you get it on sale as I did!).

I basically made view C, but with the long sleeves and collar from view A. I also omitted the patch pockets on the chest, because this dress already has in-seam pockets and I much prefer them.

In terms of sizing, I used a size 16 at the bust, blending out to an 18 at the waist and hips. Those are the sizes recommended for my measurements, and they worked out quite nicely. There is a bit of ease built into the pattern, and this straighter version does look a little boxy on me if I don't have the belt on, but I think you need some ease in this style of dress - without it personally I'd constantly be worrying about pulling on the buttons.

The only adjustments I made were to add length to the pattern pieces - an inch above the waist and two inches at the hemline. These are fairly standard adjustments for me because I'm slightly taller (around 5' 8") than most patterns are drafted for. Because I'd lengthened the pattern, I also altered the button placement and I think I've possibly used an extra button or two compared to what's called for in the pattern.

The fabric I used is some lovely needlecord from Seasalt - sadly it's no longer available because this is one of their prints from autumn/winter 2017/8 that I was lucky enough to pick up for a bargain price in a sale last summer. (Side note: does anyone else now walk round Seasalt shops looking for clothes made in the fabrics they have for sale so you can see/feel what they're like, or is that just me?!).

The instructions were clear and easy to follow. With all the options in this pattern, for the version that I was making the instructions do frequently refer back to the instructions for other versions rather than write them all out repeatedly, but that's not too much hassle. As this is a commercial pattern, it doesn't hold your hand quite as much as some indie patterns would, but the instructions are still perfectly thorough.

I really enjoy making shirt dresses. I find that the precision needed when sewing collars and sleeve plackets makes me slow down a bit and enjoy the sewing process. And I actually like sewing buttonholes (assuming that my machine is cooperating - which luckily for me, it usually is!) and buttons.

I'm pleased with the finish that I got on this dress - it feels neat. I'm particularly happy with the collar and the sleeve plackets. The pattern uses continuous lap/bound plackets instead of traditional shirt plackets, and I like that - I've sewn a couple of both types of placket now, and I think I've got better finishes with the continuous lap.

All in all, I'm pleased with how this dress turned out. While I said in my Make Nine post that my handmade wardrobe is fairly well stocked, if there's one area that's not quite as replete as others then it's wintery dresses so this is a welcome addition to my collection. And it's great to tick a project off the Make Nine list already!

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?