Thursday, 26 June 2014

Sewaholic Belcarra Blouse: Take 2

I mentioned in my post about my first Sewaholic Belcarra blouse that my second blouse was already cut out, and as it's a nice, easy pattern to sew up, it didn't take long for it to get from being cut out to a finished blouse and slotting perfectly into my summer wardrobe. Here it is...

This time I didn't have to worry about reusing oddly shaped bits of material, so I stuck to the pattern straight out of the envelope. Like last time, I cut a straight size 12, and I'm happy with the fit. The neckline seems to have turned out a little wider than in my first version (maybe I was a bit too enthusiastic in my cutting or something!), and I do sometimes end up with a bra strap peeping out at the shoulder when I'm wearing it, which I don't with my first version, but it's not much of a problem.

I chose to sew view B as I thought that being as I was using a plain fabric the cute tucks along the shoulders would stand out well and add a bit of interest, and avoid the risk of a plain top being a boring. 

The tucks were the only bit of the construction that I hadn't already tested out on my first version but, like the rest of the blouse, they're simple to sew - you just need to take a bit of time and care to make sure that they're all nice and even. 

The fabric that I used this time is a pretty pink cotton lawn from Croft Mill. I was a little bit worried when it arrived that it would be too sheer and that it would need underlining, or that I'd need to wear an extra layer under it, but it's actually turned out just fine for this top. I think you'd need a lining of some kind for a more fitted top or a skirt though.

There are a whole load of different materials that I've got my eye on to buy at the moment, but I was good with this one and stuck to a plain material for a change instead of being seduced by all the fun prints that I usually go for. Like a lot of the online sewing community, I've realised that while all the pretty patterned materials are great (and don't worry, I'll definitely still be using them), I do also need some plain separates here and there to make sure that I'm not wearing a complete mess of different prints. This fits that bill well, as it goes nicely with a couple of my skirts - and as an added bonus is a perfect match for the flowers on the necklace I'm wearing here which I treated myself to recently!

I'm keeping my eye out for a nice fabric to make a slightly smarter Belcarra with as I think it's the kind of style that could easily be dressed up with nice accessories if you made it in the right fabric, but having been sensible with this project, I might allow myself to make another pretty patterned dress or two now! What's everyone else working on this week?

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Off to market with the Emery dress

Things are a bit quiet on the sewing front around these parts this week - my machine is booked in for a service so I'm focussing on the knitting part of the outfit I'm planning for the Outfit Along instead. I had a bit of a disaster with it at the weekend and I'm not the speediest knitter in the world, so not sure if I'm going to get it done in time, but I'm giving it a go! In the meantime, I've got a dress that I finished last week to show you. Here's a shiny new Christine Haynes Emery dress...

This is my third version (version one here, and two here), so I don't have too much new to say about this one. Like my last Emery, this is view A without the bow. I'll get round to making one with the bow at some point, because I do love a bow, but I didn't think it would look quite right on this busy print.

Speaking of the print, this is Alexander Henry Market Stalls - I managed to snap up the last 3 metres at a bargain price from Fabric Yard (they're having a sale at the moment if you fancy a bit of fabric shopping...)!

It might not surprise you to know that I bought this a couple of months ago, just as Sew Dolly Clackett was coming to an end and my blog reader was full of beautifully bright and patterned dresses, which made me want to buy all the colourful fabric, and this fit the bill completely. I'm glad I snapped it up when I did, it's really fun and cheery, the market stalls are cute (there's tiny bunting in there!) and it's perfect for a nice summer dress.

I used the same alterations as in my previous versions (an inch added to the bodice length, and a smaller hem than in the instructions), and it feels fine when I'm wearing it, but looking at these photos it doesn't seem to fit quite as well as my other versions as there are a few wrinkles around the bodice. I think this might just be down to the fabric - this is a quilting cotton and it is a bit crisper and not quite as soft as the beach huts fabric I used last time, and obviously the Liberty lawn I used for my first version was even softer than that. Or it may just be that my posture isn't as good here - entirely possible! I'm pretty sure it's not that I've shrunk (I'm too fond of food to do that!), because I took my measurements again recently, and my other Emerys still fit nicely. I'm not going to loose sleep over it though, it feels fine when I'm wearing it and I've been told it looks nice, so it's all good as far as I'm concerned.

You might have spotted that I used a normal zip instead of an invisible zip again on this one - I've got a bit of a love/hate thing going on with invisible zips at the moment, which is currently more on the side of hate due to one breaking on me recently (more on that another time). I'll get back to loving them again soon, but I think in some ways I prefer normal zips on a casual dress like this.

I didn't have enough material to do any proper pattern matching, other than across the back of the bodice, but I tried to make sure that the horizontal lines matched up at each of the seams so that things didn't look too messy.

I think that's all I've got to say about this one - it's a happy dress to wear, and luckily I finished it just in time to wear in this lovely sun that we're enjoying at the moment. What's everyone else working on this week?

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Sewaholic Belcarra - refashioning a dress into a blouse

Has everyone seen the new Sewaholic Belcarra blouse? I was instantly drawn to the pattern when it was released; not only is it meant to go with the Gabriola skirt, which I love, but it's also a very similar shape to an old favourite RTW top of mine. I snapped it up as soon as it was released, and here's my first version....

This is essentially view A of the blouse, with the one difference that you may have noticed that I split the front and back sections in two to use two different materials. This was entirely down to an old dress that I'd bought second hand and then never worn, and which I'd decided needed to be refashioned into something else. I stupidly forgot to take a photo of it before I hacked it to pieces, but it was a pretty short, strapless, white cotton eyelet lace empire line dress - there aren't many days a year when it's hot enough here in the UK to wear something like that and to be honest, it didn't do much for me! I think I only bought it because the material was so pretty....

This is a close-up of the material - something like that really shouldn't be left unloved in a wardrobe should it? Then the Belcarra came along, and I thought it would be a perfect match given that the pattern doesn't have any darts or anything to break up the material. The only problem? It turned out the skirt of the dress was a good few inches shorter than the Belcarra pattern pieces (this possibly gives you an idea of quite how short the dress was!). I considered shortening the Belcarra, but when I measured my RTW top it was exactly the same length as the finished measurements for the Belcarra, and I knew I didn't want it shorter. By now though, I had my heart set on using this material, so I came up with the idea of making the arms and top of the front/back pieces from some plain white cotton and using the eyelet material for the rest of the front and back. Problem solved!

I made a quick muslin and measured where I wanted the join between the two materials to be (in my case 17 inches up from the bottom), marked a line across the front and back sections at that point (the red line on the front section shown on the right above), then used that to cut two new pieces for both the front and back with an extra 5/8" added to each piece for the seam allowance - hopefully you can see where my two new front pieces cross over on the photo above.

Once I'd cut out all my pieces, I underlined the eyelet material using the lining of the original dress (a very lightweight cotton), basting the two materials together within the seam allowance and then treating them as one piece of material. I then joined the top and bottom sections of the front together, and did the same for the back, and from then on I followed the original instructions for view A (the plainest version; view B has tucks on the sleeves, and view C has different cuffs and a patch pocket).

Don't worry, I don't make a habit of hanging my clothes in random trees (especially not after the odd looks I got from a passerby when I was taking this photo! The things we do in the name of blogging!), but it seemed like a good way of making the pattern stand out more - getting detail to show up properly in the photos when I was wearing the top wasn't easy!

So, onto the Belcarra itself! This is a really great, simple pattern and doesn't eat up too much fabric. As I mentioned above, it doesn't have any darts which means it's a super speedy project if you've got a bit of experience - I had mine finished in an evening, including the time messing about with cutting my different sections. Obviously it would also be great for beginners, or for trying out new materials. I haven't sewed using silk yet so maybe I'll have to try that and make myself a more fancy Belcarra.

The fact that there's no darts does mean that you need a light weight material with a nice drape to avoid it looking too boxy. My white cotton I used for the sleeves/yoke is leaning more towards medium weight, but the eyelet is still pretty light weight even when underlined so I think I just about get away with it!

I cut a straight size 12 and didn't need to make any alterations to the fit - after all I am definitely pear-shaped so pretty much Sewaholic's target audience! It's quite a relaxed style though, so I think in general it's not going to cause as many fitting issues as more structured or closely fitting garments.

It's really comfy and easy to wear, but I think it looks a bit more dressed up and put together than an ordinary t-shirt. It also looks great either tucked into a skirt or untucked with trousers - I'm wearing mine here with my denim Hollyburn skirt and the only pair of trousers I own that can be worn outside of the house (I pretty much don't wear trousers, but it's nice to know I now have a new top for the odd occasions when I do!).

All in all, another successful creation as far as I'm concerned. Like the other Sewaholic patterns I've used, this came together really easily and the instructions were great. Version 2 is already cut out and waiting to be sewn up, and I'll definitely wear this top much more that I would have worn it as a dress! What does everyone else think of the Belcarra? And has anyone else had any refashioning successes lately?

Monday, 2 June 2014

Love At First Stitch Clémence Skirt

There's been a lot of love in the online sewing community recently for Tilly's new book Love At First Stitch, and rightly so - it's gorgeous! The book itself is wonderfully colourful and inspiring, and I can honestly say that I can see myself making all of the patterns, which is rare as in most books there's usually at least one pattern that I know that I'll never make. Anyway, I started off with the Clémence skirt...

(Excuse the slightly crumpled waistband in most of these pics, I'd been happily wearing the skirt for a whole day by the time they were taken)

This is one of the two projects in the book that include instructions for drafting your own pattern instead of tracing off the paper patterns included with the book. As it's a dirndl skirt so only the waistband really needs to fit, this is a simple process, and even simpler with Tilly's instructions to help you along. Each new technique (for this skirt drafting the pattern, French seams, gathering and stitch in the ditch) is explained in detail as you get to it, but presented on a different background to the instructions for the project itself so it's easy to skip sections for techniques you're familiar with, or to refer back to techniques from previous projects (invisible zips in my case, I should know what I'm doing with them by now but I'll always welcome extra tips - and this one turned out well!). 

The instructions are really clear and easy to follow, and are just the right level of chatty to make you feel like there's a real person helping you out, without being overly-friendly and annoying if that makes sense?! 

I drew out the pattern pieces in my lunch break (one of the benefits of working from home!) and sewed the whole skirt up that evening, which included hand sewing the hem (which I did mainly because I couldn't decide what colour would work best for topstitching!), so a nice quick sewing project, and definitely beginner-friendly.

The fabric I used for this is a lovely seersucker-type cotton, which is quite lightweight and therefore on the floaty side, but perfect for a summer skirt. Even if the weather this weekend wasn't quite summery enough for me to ditch the leggings, hopefully it will be soon!

The material has been in my stash for quite a while now (I got it at the same time that I bought the material I used for my Sureau dress, and weirdly like that dress, this skirt also had its first outing on a trip to Lyme Regis. I don't go there that often honestly, although I do love it there!). It had been sitting there neglected because, although I love all the colours in the material, I had come to the realisation that they don't all love me. There's a yellowy green in there that would look lovely on some people but just makes me look ill. So that scuppered my original plan of turning it into a dress, but I think it works fine as a skirt as I can wear a top in a colour that does suit me as a barrier between the yellowy green and my face! And having lots of colours in the material means that it'll go with lots of different tops. 

(and here's what the waistband looks like when it's nicely ironed!)

I cut the waistband on the bias partly because I like the way that checks look when cut on the bias, and partly to avoid giving myself a headache about whether I should try to do any kind of pattern matching between the waistband and the gathered skirt. To avoid stretching it too much, I applied the interfacing to the material first and then cut the front waistband piece from that, which seemed to work well. 

I did a bit of pattern matching down the side seams and centre back seam, but I didn't stress too much about it. I basically made sure that the horizontal lines all matched up, and that I wasn't going to end up with a massively obvious double line of one of the vertical colours down one seam. I think because the skirt is gathered and quite floaty I can get away with that level of pattern matching here (and it also meant that I've got enough of the material left that I'll probably be able to squeeze a pair of summery pyjama trousers out of it - always good!). 

I'm really pleased with how this one turned out and, thanks to Tilly's "Make it your own" tips on variations in the book, and some pretty chambray that I spotted the other day, I'm already plotting future versions. Although I might have to give some of the other patterns in the book a try first - the Lilou dress in particular will definitely have to be sewn soon!