Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Colour-blocked Françoise dress

I mentioned in my last post that I'd been trying to stick to my own sewing plan instead of getting distracted by challenges and sewalongs, well here I am again failing to do that and jumping on the sewing bandwagon of a shiny new pattern! Here's my Tilly & The Buttons Françoise dress...

I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't instantly convinced that Françoise would be for me when Tilly released it - I generally prefer fit and flare styles and I'm never really sure whether shift dresses particularly suit me and my pear-shaped frame. But then I saw versions start to pop up around the blogosphere and I realised that the French darts gave the dress a flattering shape around the waist that would probably work for me, and it's always good to step out of your comfort zone every now and then (and, let's face it, Tilly's contest was also quite a good incentive!) so I decided to give it a go. Spoiler alert: I'm really glad I did!

In terms of size, I used a size 5 for the bust and waist, and graded out to a 6 at the hips. I also added quite a bit of length - about 1.5 inches in the bodice section (a standard adjustment for me) and 4 inches in the skirt because I don't feel massively comfortable in mini dresses and prefer skirts to hit nearer to knee length.

There's also the obvious slight change I made of adding the colour-blocked sections at the hem and cuffs. For the skirt hem, I just decided how big I wanted the contrast section to be (4 inches plus the hem allowance in case you're wondering) and marked that onto my pattern piece, cut the main colour at this length and used the bottom section of the pattern piece to draw out the piece for the contrast hem (with seam allowances added to both the main and contrast colour sections).

For the cuffs, I drafted pieces that extended from the sleeve, cut 2 for each sleeve which I then joined together along the bottom edge to form the bottom of the cuff, before joining the cuffs on to the sleeve. I'm probably not doing a very good job of explaining that am I? It's essentially the same method that I was familiar with from making my Cami dress, which you can see in a tutorial here, but omitting the extra opening on the cuff. Hopefully that makes more sense now, if not let me know!

In terms of fabric, as one of Tilly's suggestions was double knit, I decided to use two different colours (navy and turquoise) of Romanit jersey (which I'm pretty sure is also known as ponte) from myfabrics. I think it was a good choice to make, as it's given me a dress that's super comfy and nice and cosy for this time of year, and there's the added bonus that you might have noticed in the photo above that I didn't need to put the zip in because it pulls on easily as it is - never a bad thing! And that helped to make this a pretty speedy dress to put together.

The fabric feels nice to wear and was generally OK to sew with, but it doesn't press that well so it did cause a couple of problems in some areas, mainly in the collar. I originally intended to swap the collar for a Peter Pan one (just because I love Peter Pan collars), but the fact that the fabric didn't press well meant that it just came out looking a mess. Thankfully the pointed collar from the pattern turned out much nicer!

All the layers of fabric that I ended up with around the neckline after adding the collar and facings were also quite bulky and the facing didn't want to turn in and lie flat even after understitching - I should possibly have used a thinner fabric for the facing really but I didn't have anything suitable. Steaming solved some of the problem, and after I'd done that, I secured the facing in place by stitching in the ditch down the sleeve and shoulder seams for a centimetre or two under the collar. Possibly not technically the right solution, but it worked so it's fine by me.

Overall, Françoise is a really great little dress. As you'd expect from Tilly's patterns, the instructions seem really clear and thorough (I say seem, because I mainly used the photos to see what I should be doing and just skim read the instructions), so it would be a good option for beginners but is still a fun pattern if you've got a bit more experience. I'm really pleased I chose to make it in a knit, because I feel like it looks quite smart but at the same time it's SO comfy. Being honest, it's never going to completely cure me of my love for fitted bodies and twirly skirts, but I can definitely see myself making more versions of the Françoise in the future. I'm on the lookout for a pretty patterned double knit for my next version - has anyone seen any? Although that will have to wait until after I've finished quite a few secret projects - is anyone else up to their elbows in making Christmas presents at the moment or it is just me?!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Pauline Alice Cami & the Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses

While I love a sewing challenge or sewalong, I've been trying to stick to my own (admittedly very vague) sewing plan recently without getting distracted by other temptations, but when I saw that Mary from Idle Fancy was hosting the Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses I knew I wanted to join in as I'd been thinking of sewing myself a shirtdress for a while. I'd been admiring Mary's various iterations of McCall's 6696, but you'll probably notice that what I have to show you today is not that pattern. You see, I'd had my eye on the Pauline Alice Cami dress for a while, and I thought I'd prefer a shirtdress that only buttons halfway, so that's what I went with.

The Cami is a lovely pattern featuring a fitted button-front bodice (which also has a side zip) with a classic shirt collar, full gathered skirt, pockets and two different sleeve options (the 3/4 cuffed sleeve that I made or short sleeves).

Cami is rated 2 out of 3 for difficulty, which I think is probably accurate. Obviously a shirtdress has certain features such as a button band and collar which make it a little more tricky than a basic dress, but the most complicated bit about sewing Cami for me was entirely self-inflicted - my fabric choice. Not that there's anything wrong with the fabric itself, quite the contrary (it's a lovely cosy brushed cotton from Calico Laine), but trying to match up the tartan/plaid/check pattern on all the various pieces that a shirtdress entails did cause me a bit of a headache, and I think it probably took me about three times longer than usual to cut this dress out because I was being so careful about what I cut where! I also found that the layers of material where shifting a bit as I sewed, so I quickly hand basted most of the seams before sewing them, which helped keep things lined up nicely.

I'm glad I took the extra time to make sure everything lined up as I think it makes a massive difference on a project like this and I'm really happy with the end result. On that note, excuse any wrinkles in the photo above - I realised I'd forgotten to take any back shots when taking the rest of the photos but I'm pretty pleased with how the back collar lines up with the back bodice so I had to take this photo when I'd already been wearing the dress for most of the day.

In terms of fit, I made a straight size 44, which is the largest size in the pattern - so not it's not the biggest size range. It fits me nicely, with just the right amount of ease in the bodice for my liking. I don't like shirts or shirtdresses to be too tight or I get paranoid about gaping between the buttons, but I have no worries about that here.

I did add quite a bit of length to the pattern - about 1.5 inches in the bodice and 3 inches in the skirt, which isn't a massive surprise because Pauline Alice patterns are designed for an average height of 5 ft 5, and I'm 3-4 inches taller than that and have to lengthen almost all bodices. As I'd added extra length in the bodice, I also needed to adjust the button placement, and actually ended up adding in an extra button as that was the spacing that seemed best for me.

I toyed with various different button ideas, and spent quite a while one Saturday afternoon sat on the floor of my local wool shop comparing how different blue, red, white and green buttons of varying sizes looked on an offcut of my material, but in the end I opted for some small, plain navy buttons from my stash - sometimes simple is best, don't you think?

I really enjoyed sewing Cami - yes, I may have regretted my fabric choice slightly when I was in the middle of all the pattern matching, but the dress itself sewed up really nicely and the instructions are thorough, clear and easy to follow - and there's a great sewalong if you need a helping hand with any of the steps (I got a bit confused about how the collar was meant to be attached, but a quick consultation of the sewalong soon cleared that up). I think the finished result looks quite professional too, which is always nice!

I'm really pleased with how this one turned out, it was definitely worth the effort I put into the pattern-matching and the dress feels lovely to wear. Plus as an added bonus, it seems that there's a lot of tartan/plaid in the shops at the moment so I may have accidentally sewn something 'fashionable' as well as it being something I like! Now that Mary's extended the Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses until January, I'm quite tempted to try to sew another Cami. Will you be joining in with the challenge?

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Simplicity 1325 V-neck pinafore dress

I was wandering aimlessly around Fabricland in Bristol a month or two ago not feeling inspired by any of the fabrics. I always find that place to be a bit hit and miss, and on that particular Saturday nothing seemed to be quite right for the projects that I had in mind. So I was feeling a bit despondent, but then thankfully a random unknown stranger came to my rescue by helpfully leaving one of the pattern catalogues open on the page for Simplicity 1325.

The pinafore dress (or jumper to the Americans) on the pattern cover really caught my eye. It's a bit different to any of the dresses I've made so far, whilst keeping to my general preference for fit and flare styles. Plus I love a bit of layering when the weather gets a bit colder, so a flattering pinafore-style dress was always going to appeal to me. Especially when it was combined with a good basic t-shirt pattern, a jacket that I like the look of (and trousers too, but I probably won't be making them any time soon given my whole not wearing trousers thing) and, best of all, a half price Simplicity sale.

The dress has a flared skirt with pockets, and a lined bodice with a plunging V-neck. As you can see from the photos, this is definitely a pinafore and would be a bit indecent if you didn't have the t-shirt underneath! I'm wearing it with a basic RTW t-shirt here, but I'm planning to try out the t-shirt that comes in the pattern at some point soon.

I made a size 14, with the only alteration being to add 1 inch to the length of the bodice, which is a standard alteration for me. I was a bit worried before making the dress that the deep V neck might make fitting a bit of a pain, but I got lucky and it fit me really nicely straight out of the packet. I think the photos don't entirely do it justice on that front, as they seem to show up every possible tiny little crease which doesn't seem to be there in real life, but I promise it does fit nicely really!

Sewing up the dress was pretty straightforward. The instructions were all nice and clear and fairly well illustrated. I was already familiar with almost all of the techniques, but I sewed my first lapped zip (I'm pretty confident with centered zips, and growing to love invisible zips after a bit of a wobbly start, but I'd somehow unintentionally avoided lapped zips until now!), and that went relatively well. There's room for improvement there, but I'm happy with it for a first attempt.

If you've followed my blog for a little while, you may have noticed that the fabric I used is a different colourway (indigo) of the same chambray that I used for my latest Mortmain dress. I still think it doesn't photograph brilliantly as a finished garment, but really is beautiful fabric - in terms of both how it looks and feels. Here it is in all it's glory when it arrived...

I love how fabric comes tied up with pretty ribbon from Dragonfly Fabrics - it makes it feel like Christmas has come early!

The only thing I might change about this dress would be to think about leaving out the pockets. This is odd for me because I generally prefer dresses/skirts with pockets, but in this case the combination of the skirt being cut on the bias and the chambray I used means that I have to be really careful about keeping the pockets completely smooth under the skirt, otherwise they don't sit particularly nicely and aren't very flattering for my hips. This means I probably won't really be using these pockets, so they might as well not be there really!

That's a fairly minor point though, and other than that I'm pretty pleased with this dress. I'm not sure I'll make another one again instantly, not because I don't like this one but because, compared to most of my other dresses, it's quite a distinctive shape so I think even if you made it in a totally different fabric it would quite obviously be the same dress (if that makes any sense?!), and it's always good to have a bit of variety, don't you think?

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Bronte & Delphine: saved by the buttons

Things have been a bit quiet around here recently - I've been busy making presents for family birthdays and then forgetting to get decent pictures of them, or being too distracted by reading other people's blog posts to actually get round to writing posts of my own. I'm putting that right today though and have a whole handmade outfit to share with you - a Jennifer Lauren Bronte top and a Love at First Stitch Delphine Skirt.

This may be a whole me-made outfit, but both Bronte and Delphine are fairly simple patterns so I finished both projects pretty quickly. I think they took me about one evening each, and I'm not a particularly speedy sewer.

I didn't necessarily intend for them to be worn as an outfit - Delphine was the answer to my yearning for a red skirt to wear with my first Bellini blouse, and I decided to sew the Bronte to boost up the numbers of long-sleeved tops in my wardrobe ready for the cooler weather - but they work well together and I figured that as they're both fairly simple projects I might not have too much to say about them so I might as well put them together in one post.

So, Bronte...I really like the short-sleeved Bronte that I made in the summer, so it was the obvious pattern to choose when I wanted to make a long-sleeved t-shirt. As I'd already made the pattern before, this time it was a nice and speedy project. I made a size 14, with no alterations at all. I mentioned in my post about my first Bronte that I might lower the neckline on future versions, but having worn the top more I actually like the neckline as it is so no changes needed.

The fabric is a cotton/spandex jersey from myfabrics. It's lovely and soft, and I'm definitely tempted to order more jersey from there - they have so many prints! It's the kind of jersey where the print is applied to a white base, so the colour does fade slightly if the material is overstretched but it really has to be stretched a LOT to do that, and it isn't a problem at all for me.

Confession time! I came very close to ruining this project. It was all nicely sewn up, and all I had left to do was stitch down the shoulder overlap. I was trimming the neckband seam allowance and somehow managed to cut a hole into the main fabric of the top - aaaargh! Usually this would send me into a fit of melodrama, but for some reason I was remarkably calm about the situation this time. The hole wasn't that big so I stitched it up, leaving it hardly visible but still far too visible for my liking. Inspiration for a solution suddenly came in the form of my button jar. I had been planning to leave the shoulders plain for this version instead of adding buttons, but I had these oversized buttons that were just the right colour and the perfect size to cover the sewn-up hole. Problem solved, disaster averted, happy Ruth!

Now, Delphine. As this point I should point out that this post could also have been entitled "Red is really difficult to photograph". No matter what I tried, the skirt came out looking almost like a luminous block, but I promise it's not like that in real life. It's actually a nice red corduroy from Calico Lane, and it's lovely to wear.

Delphine is one of the earlier projects in Love at First Stitch, and is a nice simple pattern aimed at beginners, so makes a speedy but very wearable project if you've got a bit of sewing experience. As I'll mainly be wearing this with tights I added a lining using the method in Tilly's tutorial, but even with the extra steps which that involved, this was still finished really quickly. It would have been even quicker if I hadn't, for some inexplicable reason, initially traced and cut the waistband two sizes smaller than I intended to!

As with the other projects I've made from Love at First Stitch, the instructions were all really clear and super easy to follow. I made a size 5 at the waist, grading to a 6 at the hips. Other than that, I made no changes to the pattern - there's no need to!

All in all, I'm pleased with how both of these turned out and they're both really great wearable basics. I've realised I've got some material in my stash that could make a fantastic second Delphine (you only need 1 metre if you've got wide fabric - always good!) so keep an eye out for that at some point this winter, and I'll be making more incarnations of Bronte in the future for sure - but hopefully without nearly destroying them next time. Have you averted any sewing disasters recently?

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Schnittchen Malu Jacket

I knew once summer was coming to an end that I needed to get to work on a new jacket - my old one only just made it through last autumn/winter, and I wanted to try to make a replacement so I started looking around for inspiration. I was almost set to make a winter version of the Anise jacket, but then within a couple of days of each other I spotted the Schnittchen Malu and some lovely coating fabric that I seemed like a brilliant match for the pattern, so I took it as a sign that they were meant to go together and here's the result...

The Malu is a fully-lined coat or jacket (I made the shorter jacket version) with kimono sleeves and welt pockets, and the options of either a collar or hood, and zip or buttons (obviously I went for the hood and buttons), so there are plenty of variations to choose from. 

The pattern is also designed to have hem bands, but when I made up my toile the extra length that the hem bands added made the jacket a bit of a strange length on me, so I left the hem bands off, which gave me a jacket just the length I wanted. 

As I was going to leave the hem bands off, sewing the rest of the pattern as drafted would have meant that the lining might have ended up visible around the hem, so I shortened the lining pieces slightly and drafted hem facings to make sure the lining stays hidden away.

I was surprised by how quickly the jacket came together, but then I realised that I'd been basing my expectations on my experience making my Anise jacket, whereas this is a much simpler pattern. The fit is quite relaxed, so there are no darts or princess seams. The kimono sleeves also mean that there are no sleeves to set in, and finally the lining is bagged and turned through a small hole in the arm seam, so there's not a lot of hand stitching involved (I do quite like a bit of hand stitching, but there's no denying that it does take longer!). I did take my time with the welt pockets to make sure that they turned out nicely, but then I managed to sew up almost all of the rest of the jacket on a Sunday afternoon (and it would have been even quicker if I hadn't had an incident with a broken needle colliding with my finger!).

The instructions were fairly easy to follow, although they are just written instructions without any diagrams to illustrate the steps which might not be great if you like to see things visually instead of doing lots of reading. There is a tutorial online with photos though, so that definitely helps (it's in German, but even if you didn't speak German I think it would be pretty easy to work out which photo goes with which step). 

I had the instructions in English and German, which was interesting for me because I work as a German-English translator so it gave my inner language geek and sewing nerd the opportunity to work together for a change! In general, the translation was fine and it all made sense, although there were odd little things like using "sewing allowance" instead of "seam allowance" which were a bit strange. That's me being a picky translator though, it probably wouldn't bother a normal person!

The fabric is a poly/viscose/wool blend coating from Guthrie & Ghani. I fell slightly in love with it as soon as I saw it online and it didn't disappoint in real life! It's a nice weight for autumn, and it's a lovely shade of blue (it's also actually reversible, and the blue flowers on a grey background look great too, if that's more your style), and I like the fact that the pattern makes it a bit different from normal coats. I thought it would be a good match for the Malu because the lack of darts and everything means that the flower pattern doesn't get broken up too much. 

I did attempt some pattern matching down the centre back seam, but that failed spectacularly - obviously my brain wasn't working properly when I was cutting out my fabric. I got a bit annoyed with myself when I realised it didn't match, but then I told myself that nobody who doesn't sew would ever even think twice about the fact that the pattern doesn't quite match down the back of my jacket so it doesn't matter too much. I succeeded in making sure the lines of flowers matched up across the front, so that's something at least!

For the lining, I used some "superior lining" from Truro Fabrics in silver. It's an acetate and polyamide mix, and it is a lot more expensive than a standard poly lining, but it's breathable, really soft and feels so much nicer so I definitely think it was worth the extra that I paid for it. I wouldn't necessarily start using it to line all of my garments - skirts that I've lined with normal poly lining have seemed fine to me, but I think it's worth paying that bit extra for more special (and hopefully long-lasting!) projects.

I wasn't sure what to do about pre-treating the coating fabric, but in the end I did what the Colette Anise Companion refers to as the "London shrink" - you wash a bed sheet and then lay out the damp sheet and roll the fabric up inside it, then leave it overnight, before unwrapping and leaving to dry completely. I'm not really sure if that's the right thing to do, but I feel better that I've pre-treated it in some way at least!

It took me a while to decide what buttons I wanted to use - I initially had it in my head that it would be good to use some self-cover buttons, but the print was the wrong size for that to work well, then I wanted matching blue, but eventually I found these grey ones in a local wool shop. I really like the fact that they're a bit different but without distracting from the main fabric, if that makes any sense?!

I don't think I'll be rushing to make another Malu, but that's mainly because I can't justify having multiple versions of the same coat in the same way that I can with dresses! As I mentioned before though, the Malu does have a couple of options to choose from so you could make versions that were a bit different. I'm kind of tempted to try an unlined version of the longer coat in fleece and use it more like a long cardigan than a coat, but it's just an idea that's floating around in my head at the moment - it may not go anywhere.

Overall, I'm really happy with how this turned out, and it's the perfect weight for this time of year. The Malu is a nice pattern, and I think it would be a good option to choose if you fancy having a go at making a coat or jacket, but aren't quite ready to commit to lots of tailoring or a more complicated pattern (as long as you're OK with the lack of diagrams in the instructions). Has anybody else been sewing a coat or jacket recently?

Friday, 17 October 2014

Mastering the art of intarsia: polka dot knitted cushion

Yay, it's the weekend! How's your week been? I've had a bit of an odd one involving masses of work, my washing machine nearly catching fire and getting part of my sewing machine needle stuck in my finger (still don't know quite how that happened, as you can imagine it was pretty painful at the time but nothing too serious and thankfully my machine, needles and hands have been getting on again nicely since then!), so I'm glad it's time for a couple of days off. This will probably be a fairly quick post, but I wanted to share my latest knitting project with you.

One of my aims for this year was to try out some sort of colour work in knitting. I've got a couple of Fair Isle and intarsia cardigan and jumper patterns that I want to knit, but I thought I'd start with something a bit more low key so I gave this cushion cover pattern a try. Knitting a cushion cover might seem like a lot of work when I could sew one in next to no time, but I thought it would be a good practice project because I wouldn't mind if the results were less than perfect, whereas if I made a slightly dodgy jumper or cardigan, I probably wouldn't wear it much so all the work would go to waste.

For anyone who isn't familiar with it, intarsia involves knitting one colour at a time, with separate mini balls of wool for each individual patch of colour, which are then twisted around each other to prevent holes where the colours join. I'm probably not explaining it very well, and it all sounded a bit scary to me before I tried it, but it's actually fairly easy to get used to. I'm glad I did use this as a practice project though, because you can definitely see my technique getting better as I went through the cushion. The spot above is one of the later ones that I knitted, and it's not perfect still as the tension's a bit off on the left-hand side, but it's not too bad and definitely better than the earlier spots.

If you're thinking of giving intarsia a go, I'd definitely recommend getting some bobbins for winding the individual yarn colours around (I used these). I started off just winding little "butterflies" of yarn but I found that they just got into a tangled mess. There was still a bit of tangling when I used the bobbins, but much less, and it was much easier to sort out.

The pattern is from a random knitting magazine I got a while ago that's just full of cushion patterns - it was part of one of those magazine series where the first one is 99p and you get loads of free stuff and then the others are all massively more expensive. This was the first one in the series and for 99p it was a pretty good deal!

It's a straightforward pattern - just one long rectangle in stocking stitch with the intarsia polka dots in the middle and 3 buttonholes at one end, then when you've finished knitting you just fold the rectangle back on itself and sew up the sides to make an envelope, then add the buttons. Simple!

So there we go, that's my cushion. It's by no means perfect, but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. It's in its new home next to the rainbow crochet cushion I made last year, so I have a chair full of colourful yarny fun! I'm now getting started on one of my intarsia jumper patterns - hopefully I'll manage to get it finished in time to get a bit of wear out of it this winter. Has anyone else got any good winter knitting projects on the go?

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Mortmain dress & an ode to chambray

I mentioned in my post about my denim Lilou that using the remains of my first Mortmain dress for the lining had reminded me that I should make another version of this pattern. I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to be honest as I really like my first version and I had definite plans for making a sleeveless version this summer but they never quite became reality, but I've now got a second sleeved version at least - better late than never!

There are a couple of differences between this version and my first one. Firstly, I decided to reverse the pleats in the skirt - this is one of the suggestions included in the pattern instructions and there's also a really helpful tutorial on the Gather website if you're not familiar with sewing pleats. I'm pleased that I reversed the pleats on this one, in some ways it's a small change but I think it makes a surprisingly big difference to how the dress looks and, much though I like Mortmain no. 1, I think I prefer the pleats in this one.

I also used a regular centred zip this time instead of using an exposed zip as the pattern suggests. I quite like the exposed zip on my first version because it's a bit of a contrast with the extreme girliness of the rest of the dress, but as a general rule I'm not a massive fan of exposed zips. Plus, in places where I've seen them for sale anyway, they cost about five times as much as regular zips!

My first version uses ribbon ties on the sleeves, and I really do love this feature, but it's not massively practical for wearing under cardigans, so this time I used buttons on the sleeve cuffs instead. The pattern has instructions for adding a small elastic loop to one end of the cuff to secure the button, but I found that I had enough space in the cuff to sew in a buttonhole, and I thought that would be more secure, so that's what I did.

OK, so the material. It's a gorgeous dot chambray by Robert Kaufmann that I got from Dragonfly Fabrics and I LOVE it. As you may have guessed from the title of this post, if I had any poetic talent I might even be inclined to start writing sonnets about it, that's how much I love it. The only thing I don't love about it is that it seems to be some kind of shy wallflower and doesn't want to show off how lovely it is to you because it doesn't photograph brilliantly so you might not appreciate it in all its glory, but trust me that the glory is there. I do love spots and dots, so that definitely helps, but aside from that the colour is gorgeous, it was lovely to sew and it feels so nice to wear. I'm seriously tempted to get some of the indigo for another dress. And as a bonus, the material came so beautifully wrapped that it felt like Christmas had come early!

Sorry if I sound like I'm going a bit over the top there, I possibly may be getting a bit carried away with myself, but it really is lovely fabric. I've also become aware recently that the difference between me just liking a finished garment or really loving it tends to be the fabric that I've used, and not so much the obvious aspects like the colour or the print, but the the quality of the fabric, the way it sews up and how it feels to wear. Does anyone else find that? It's not a particularly earth-shattering realisation, and probably one that that I have been a bit slow to arrive at, but I'm glad I got there all the same.

On a not-particularly-related subject, the photos for this post were taken in the grounds of the American Museum in Bath. My Mum and I popped over there last Saturday mainly because they have a Kaffe Fassett exhibition on at the moment, which was so inspiring. It's on until 2 November, so if you're in the area and you're a fan of colour I'd definitely recommend it. The only problem was that I came away from it wanting to buy huge amounts of rainbow-coloured material and yarn to make massive quilts and blankets to brighten up my flat (which is rented, therefore entirely painted in magnolia). I'd always been intimidated about quilting, and not really sure if I wanted to give it a go, but after seeing some of his work, I definitely feel like I should try it some time. I'm still slightly intimidated by the idea though! Any tips on how to get started?

Even once the Kaffe Fassett exhibition is over, the museum would still be worth a visit if you're interested in quilting at all, because they have a lovely collection of quilts and textiles. Plus, as you can see from these photos, the grounds are beautiful. Although I don't think there'll always be yarn-bombed lampposts to greet you, I think they're in honour of the exhibition!

To cut a long story short, I love this dress and I had a great day wearing it for its first outing. I still really like the idea of a colour-blocked Mortmain, so number 3 may be appearing at some point this autumn/winter. And there will probably have to be some more dot chambray in my life - it's OK to use the same fabric multiple times, isn't it?!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Bellini & bunnies

If I really like a finished garment, it's fairly common for me to then dream up an infinite number of different versions in my head that I could possibly create. Most of these don't happen because I don't have endless amounts of time on my hands, or enough money to be able to afford all the fabric that I'd need, but sometimes the perfect fabric is just sitting there already patiently waiting to be used, and that's just what happened for this project, my second version of the Capital Chic Bellini blouse!

I quite like making second (or third, or forth....) versions of a pattern. I know some people might prefer to always use different patterns so you're potentially using new skills and not just doing the same thing, but the way I see it, a second version of a pattern means that you don't have to worry about muslins and possible fitting issues, and you can just get on with the fun of sewing - always a good thing as far as I'm concerned. Plus you can be fairly confident that you're going to like the end result if you liked your first one. I also figure it's fine to have multiple versions of the same pattern as long as they're all a little bit different and you're going to wear all of them. And that's definitely true in this case!

In some ways, there are similarities between my two Bellinis; they're both made of fabric with a small-scale print on a blue background (albeit different shades of blue), but they feel very different. I made my first Bellini using a nice crisp cotton, whereas the fabric for this version is viscose, which has much more drape to it so feels very different to wear. Plus the prints are different - this one may look like slightly odd blobs from a distance, but look at it up close....

....and you see it's actually BUNNIES! Yes, I have a whole herd (is that the right collective noun?!) of rabbits jumping about all over my blouse. It's probably meant for children, but I like it so it's all good. I bought it from Fabric Rehab, at the same time as I bought the fabric for my Cambie and first Lilou - that was a good fabric haul!

I used the same buttons as I did for my first Bellini, but this time in pink to match the pink bunnies. I realised that I actually also used the same buttons in blue on my Sureau dress last autumn! Obviously I like little flower buttons, and the people that make them have a strange ability to produce them in exactly the right colours to match my fabrics.

In terms of the pattern itself, I stand by everything I said in my post about my first Bellini - the instructions are nice and clear and I really like the finish of the blouse, it's all so neat and tidy and professional-looking. This one was slightly less of a joy to sew than my first one, but that's entirely down to the viscose not behaving as nicely as the cotton did. It didn't slip about too much though and was totally manageable, just not quite as cooperative as cotton!

I possibly like this one slightly less than my first one too. That's not to say that I don't like it, I definitely do, but the way that the viscose hangs means that I can sometimes get a bit of gaping between the buttons if I'm not standing quite right, which doesn't happen with my cotton one. It's a minor problem though, and I should probably just use it as an incentive to have better posture - it definitely won't stop me wearing the blouse anyway.

So there we go, that's my second Bellini for you! I'd like to try another version with the scalloped collar, or possibly some collar embellishments at some point, but it might have to wait for a while because I've got so many other ideas buzzing round my head at the moment! Do you like making multiple versions of the same pattern too?

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Little Red in the City Cria Cardigan

If you saw my OWOP post, you'll have already caught a sneak peek of this project (and the photos of it will look very similar to my OWOP day 1 outfit!). I'm taking a little break from talking about sewing today, and switching to knitting and more specifically my Cria cardigan.

The pattern is by Ysolda Teague, and is the first one that I've tackled from the lovely book Little Red in the City. All of the patterns in the book are gorgeous, but I chose to be sensible and knit this pattern first because I'm still a relatively inexperienced knitter, and I'd never knit anything using the top down seamless method on circular needles, and this seemed like it would probably be the simplest of the patterns for trying out those skills and getting used to them. There's some lovely cabling and colourwork in the other patterns in the book, which I'll definitely be trying out at some point, but I thought the simpler details of the Cria would be more within my reach at the moment.

The Cria has a garter stitch yoke and edgings, with stocking stitch sleeves and main body. The book features long and short sleeved versions - obviously I went for the short sleeves as I wanted this to be a light summery cardigan. My version is also a couple of inches shorter than the version in the pattern because I wanted it to be waist length to go over my summer dresses. To get the shorter length, I just measured the length of that I wanted it to be down my back and stopped knitting at that point - a definite advantage of the top down method! The pattern in the book also has front pockets, but I chose to leave them off because of having a shorter length, and also because I didn't think I'd use them, and by the time I got to the point where I'd have to add them in, getting it finished quicker seemed more appealing than adding the pockets if they were really only going to be decorative. Possibly a bit lazy, but I don't miss the pockets at all so I'm happy I made that decision.

The knitting didn't go completely smoothly, and this is actually my third attempt! The first attempt was pulled apart fairly quickly after I'd been a bit uneven when picking up stitches along the shoulder pieces during the yoke setup. The second attempt got quite a bit further, probably further than it should have done to be honest! I was almost finished the yoke section when I realised that I hadn't been doing the make one stitches quite right (entirely due to my own stupidity rather than anything wrong with the pattern or instructions), and that was why I had holes forming at the edge of the sleeves. I considered soldiering on and just darning the holes closed, but I knew I wouldn't be happy with that, so I ripped the whole thing apart (not a happy process!) and started again. Thankfully it was third time lucky (apart from hurting my wrist at one point meaning I couldn't knit for a week or two), but all this did mean that I finished it much later than I originally wanted to. Never mind, better to take my time and do a good job than rush to get things finished by my self-imposed deadlines!

I used Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk 4 ply in Vanilla, which I got from Black Sheep Wools - yes, I realise it's meant for babies, which I clearly am not, but it's a super soft yarn and the finished cardigan feels lovely to wear.

I originally wanted to use some pearly buttons, but I couldn't find any in a colour that looked quite right with the yarn so I decided to go with wooden buttons instead to keep things neutral. I did have to laugh when I was looking at buttons, and was briefly wondering about going down a completely different route and using strawberry buttons and a lady standing next to me told me not to because "if you use those, they try to eat them", obviously thinking I was going to use the buttons on something for a child - I didn't like to tell her they were for me, and hopefully I can be trusted not to eat buttons by now!

So there we go, that's my Cria cardigan! It's not faultless, there are little imperfections here and there, but they're not very noticeable if you don't know where they are. And even though I know where they are, I really don't mind them - I'm definitely still learning and knitting this cardigan taught me a lot, which is always good. I'm glad I persevered and ended up with a very wearable cardi at the end of the day. I'm now trying to master the art of intarsia for a jumper I want to make this winter, but I'm looking forward to trying some of the other Little Red in the City patterns at some point, if nothing else, I NEED a Chickadee in my life! Have you been doing any knitting lately?