Thursday, 25 June 2015

Sleeveless Emery dress - a stamp collector's dream

How do you get out of a sewing slump? For me, the answer usually involves an Emery dress and some fun fabric, because it's a combination that I know is going to be successful. So when I was annoyed that a pattern I'd ordered had been lost in the post the other week, that's just what I set about sewing. Unsurprisingly, I'm pretty pleased with the results!

I've made quite a few Emery dresses now (the last one's here), so it's a pattern I'm familiar with and doesn't cause me any stress. This time though, I decided mid-way through that I'd change things up a bit.

The dress was hanging up just waiting for sleeves and a hem, and I couldn't shake the feeling that it looked great without sleeves, and that adding them might be a bit too much with this busy print. I tried it on and decided that the armholes wouldn't be too big to be left sleeveless as long as I used a 1 cm seam allowance instead of 1.5 cm (which doesn't sound much, but it did seem to make a difference!). As I'd already lined the rest of the bodice, I cut some bias strips from my fabric and used them to finish the armholes - and it seems to have worked a treat as far as I'm concerned.

I love the fabric I used for this version, a lovely cotton poplin from Textile Express with a whole rainbow of colours. I called it a stamp collector's dream in the subject of this post, but I suspect it may actually be more like a nightmare - I'm not particularly knowledgeable about the ways of stamp collectors but I think they probably wouldn't appreciate the pretty floral and dotty "stamps" that intermingle with the more genuine items. For me, they definitely add to the fun though so it's all good.

OK, time for some honest opinions now! The observant among you may have noticed that the headband I'm wearing here matches my dress - is that just a little bit too twee or is it OK? Personally, I think I can just about get away with it here because it's a print with a relatively large repeat and until you look at it closely, the headband sort of just looks multicoloured, but with a more obvious fabric pattern it would definitely be too twee to be matching.

I have become slight obsessed with making these headbands recently though - they're really quick, a great way of using up scraps and something that I wear regularly. I'm a bit disappointed that none of my family or friends would really wear them, because if they would then that would be birthday and Christmas presents sorted! They're pretty simple, but I was thinking of doing a tutorial if anyone's interested?

So there we go - a pretty new dress and headband! They did just what they were meant to in terms of inspiring me to sew again. I'm also pleased that I tried leaving this version of the Emery sleeveless - I'd definitely do that again, which is nice because it gives me more options for my most reliable pattern. All in all, three cheers for TNTs!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Astoria, online fabric shopping & block printing

After the success of my first version of the Seamwork Astoria sweater, I knew I wanted to make a couple more. The style works really well with my many full-skirted dresses and having layering options means that I'll get even more wear out of my lovely dresses than I already do. Combine that with the fact that the Astoria is a really simple and quick pattern to make, and really making more was just sensible!

This first one is made using some really lovely cream flecked cotton fleece from Guthrie & Ghani. It really is great fabric, super soft, nice to work with and perfect for the Astoria. They have it in a few different colours, and I'm slightly gutted that the navy is now out of stock but I'm definitely tempted by both the turquoise and the fuchsia.

This version is cosy enough that I know it'll be great for next autumn/winter, but at the same time it was also perfect for throwing on over my blue roses Emery dress (one of my favourites) on a sunny but very windy (hence the state of my hair) afternoon on the beach. On that note, excuse the wrinkles in the sweater - my dress was a bit ruckled up underneath and I didn't realise until after we'd taken the photos.

I'm really pleased with this Astoria. As it's a neutral colour, it'll go with pretty much everything. Now, onto my next version....

I buy most of my fabric online, and usually that's fine, but I wasn't so impressed when this jersey arrived. I bought it from UK Fabrics Online, who describe it as turquoise heavy jersey. I was a bit dubious about the colour when I ordered it, because it didn't look anything like what I would think of as turquoise but I went ahead and bought it anyway because it was a good price I wanted to use it for a bit of an experiment.

The colour of the fabric in the photo above is pretty accurate, and I don't think it's either turquoise or the colour shown on the website. I also wouldn't describe the fabric as heavy jersey, I'd say it's medium weight at best.

On the bright side, given my gravitation towards all things blue, it's still a colour I like and it's a decent fabric, even if it's a lighter weight than I thought it would be, so I went ahead and used it anyway - it just means that this Astoria is much more of a t-shirt than a sweater. Still perfectly wearable though!

By now you may have guessed that my experiment with this Astoria was giving block printing a go. Have you ever tried it?

I bought the tea cup block from The Arty Crafty Place when Outlaw craft fair came to Bristol at the start of May. They were demonstrating block printing and selling starter packs - it looked fun and I thought it would be a good way to make garments even more unique. I did a couple of practice prints on scrap fabric to get the hang of how much paint to use, and then decided to go very basic and just use one single tea cup print on my first "real" attempt.

I love how it turned out and I think the one single tea cup is really effective on a top like this. This won't be the last you'll be seeing of this tea cup print though - I've got definite plans to use it to create my own border print round the hem of a skirt/dress which I hope will work out as well as it does in my head!

So there we have it - two nice new tops for my wardrobe! I realise now that I've mainly been waffling on about fabric and printing and barely mentioned the actual sewing, but that's because the Astoria is so simple that there's not a lot to say about the construction (and what there is to say, I said last time). The cream version in particular will be a great basic piece for me and I suspect that they won't be the last Astorias that I make! What are your go-to wardrobe staple patterns?