Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Cocktail (Shirt) Dress - #sewtogetherforsummer

When I made my first Vintage Shirt Dress nearly two years ago, shortly after Sew Over It had released the pattern, I ended my blog post by asking what fabric I should use to make version number two. Well, it's taken me a while to get round to it, but now I can answer that question - better late than never hey?!


The fabric in question is a fun cotton poplin print which features multi-coloured cocktails, interspersed with little hearts and stars. It came from Backstitch, but I picked it up back in the January sales so unsurprisingly it doesn't seem to be available any more. When I bought it, I did have in the back of my mind that it might become my second Vintage Shirt Dress, but I put it away until the weather was slightly more suitable for a sleeveless dress.


I was given the incentive that I needed to dig the fabric out of the stash and get sewing by the #sewtogetherforsummer challenge that's being hosted by Sarah, Monika, and Suzy on Instagram. It's a very simple challenge - just sew any shirt dress that takes your fancy and post a photo on Instagram before 21 June to be in with a chance of winning some lovely prizes! And if you're pondering sewing a shirt dress but aren't sure of what pattern to use, browsing through the beautiful dresses already posted using the challenge hashtag will give you lots of inspiration.


I was really happy with how my first Vintage Shirt Dress turned out, so I kept things pretty much the same for this version, cutting a size 14, but with 2 inches added to both the bodice and the skirt. Like last time, I again had to take a bit of width out of the side seams at the underarms - I really should make that adjustment on the pattern pieces.


The only thing I did slightly differently was to use a couple of extra buttons. If I had any complaints about my apple print version, it would be that the neckline sometimes gapes open a bit more than is ideal. It's not so bad that I've felt the need to go back and alter it, and I still happily wear it, but it's noticeable enough that I made a mental note to add another button higher up when I sewed the pattern again. It's only slightly visible in most of these photos, but my top button is right at the bottom of the lapel - when I'm wearing it, it's actually mostly hidden by the lapel.


The buttons I used are some fairly basic plain bluey green ones that are a perfect match for one of the colours in the print. I had an ambitious idea that I'd somehow manage to find a range of plain buttons which were available in all the four main colours of the cocktails on the fabric, but sadly that wasn't to be. The shop where I bought these bluey green ones also had some perfect red ones in the same range, but just the green and red together had a slightly Christmassy appearance which wasn't really what I was after. So I let go of the multi-coloured buttons vision, but I'm not at all disappointed - the greeny buttons look great!


I'm very glad that I finally got around to making a second Vintage Shirt Dress, and I think I might possibly like this one even more than my first one. This summer could become my own little season of shirt dresses because I have ideas for a couple of others that I've been mulling over - Vogue 8577 or another Pauline Alice Cami dress are currently top of the list. Have you got any other favourite shirt dress patterns to recommend to me? Are you joining in with #sewtogetherforsummer?

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Sew Over It Ella Blouse

The Sew Over It Ella blouse instantly appealed to me when it was released because, as a waist-length top, it's perfect for combining with the waisted dreses and skirts that make up the majority of my wardrobe. So I didn't waste too much time in buying it and sewing it up.


The Ella blouse is a wrap top with 3/4 kimono sleeves, and it's secured with long waist ties. The side seams pleat into the tie at the waist, which I think is a really pretty detail.

I treated this version as a wearable toile; while I usually make actual toiles, I think this top really needs a drapey fabric and my normal toile fabric is cotton with little drape, which I thought wouldn't really produce a good representation of what this pattern should look like. Instead, for this first version I used a viscose print that I bought on a recent Bristol sewists trip to the rag market in Birmingham. It's just the right weight for the Ella blouse and, while I really like the print, I wasn't too attached to it so I was happy to use it for a new pattern that wasn't guaranteed to be a success.


I went ahead and cut a straight size 14 with no alterations. I was tempted to lengthen the blouse because, as regular readers may know, that's an adjustment that I almost always make, but the finished garment measurements looked like it might turn out just about OK so I decided to risk it. As it turns out, it is definitely wearable but I would lengthen it by an inch or two for the next version. Other than that, the fit is fairly good as it is.


Sewing the blouse was a fairly stress free process. The instructions are detailed and clear, and they produce a nicely finished garment. I particularly like the way the facings are sewn because, in my version at least, it makes them keep to the inside of the blouse really well. I think that's particularly crucial for this pattern, because the long cross-over front edges could be susceptible to facings popping out, but thankfully that doesn't seem to be a problem.


The Ella pattern claims to be perfect for beginner, intermediate or advanced dressmakers, but I'm not sure I'd have wanted to make it when I was a true beginner. Or if I had made it as a beginner, I think I'd have used a cotton lawn instead of viscose. There's nothing particularly complicated about the pattern itself, but I think you'd want to have used a drapey fabric for a slightly more simple top before trying this. Unless you're feeling adventurous of course!


I'm wearing the blouse here with a little vest top underneath because I wasn't sure whether it would gape a bit while I was wearing it, but that wasn't much of a problem apart from when bending down.

You can probably see that it comes up a little bit short for wearing with a skirt (it sits just above the waistband of my skirt), but it is definitely wearable, and would be OK with a dress I think.


All in all, I really like the Ella blouse and can definitely see myself sewing more versions in the future. I think a plain one would make a nice cover-up over dresses as an alternative to cardigans. I'm not sure when I'm ever going to get time to make any though because my sewing list is already massive. I'm sure I'm not the only one with that problem, am I?!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Pauline Alice Seda Dress

I've been interested in sewing the Pauline Alice Seda dress pretty much since it was released, but for some reason other patterns kept beating it to the top of my sewing queue. The sleeveless version of Seda was one of my options for a dress to wear to my brother's wedding last year, but it got pipped to the post by Simplicity 1418 instead. The Seda kept hovering in the background of my sewing plans though, so I decided to include it in my 2017 Make Nine list.


It's not really surprising that I was attracted to the Seda pattern; it's my favoured fit and flare silhouette, with the added interest of off-the-shoulder short sleeves, a hip yoke and gathered skirt in view A, and a contrast bodice yoke, elbow length sleeves and a simple gathered skirt in view B. You've probably already guessed from those descriptions and the photos that I chose to make view B.


At this point I should say that this isn't entirely a Seda dress - I actually ended up using the skirt pieces from the Emery dress. I did that because the Seda skirt pieces are wider and I was ever-so-slightly short of my main fabric and couldn't quite fit everything in with those wider pieces. Rather than mess about with the Seda pattern pieces, I decided to use the Emery skirt pattern - it's just that bit slimmer that it made it possible for me to get everything out of the fabric that I had. The final look of the two skirts is very similar though, so this isn't too far from a true Seda.


Another change I made was to extend the centre back zip up into the yoke section, whereas the pattern intends for the zip to finish at the top of the main bodice section and for the centre back of the yoke to be open, closing with a small button and loop/hook and eye set at the neckline. That's just a personal preference, mainly because I find neckline buttons/hooks & eyes slightly fiddly to do up.


In terms of sizing, I used a size 44 at the bust, grading out to a 46 at the waist (with my standard addition of 1 inch to the bodice length). In each case, that's a size up from the sizes that my measurements put me in, but when I made up a toile in my actual size it came out just-about-fitting but a bit too tight to be comfortable. In hindsight, this may or may not have been due to the fact that I made the toile on Easter Monday and it had been a bit of an indulgent weekend! As it turns out, the final dress is a little looser than most of my woven dresses, but I quite like the slightly relaxed fit so it's all good.


The main fabric is a very cute origami boat print chambray that I got from Guthrie & Ghani on a recent trip to Birmingham with some lovely fellow Bristol sewists. It's out of stock now (I got the last of it - hence having slightly less than I really needed!), but they have some other lovely chambrays. The yoke section is some white Swiss dot cotton left over from making my Granville shirt, and I underlined it with some plain white cotton lawn to reduce the sheerness. I really love the combination of the two fabrics together.


The pattern was fun to sew - the instructions are clear and easy to follow, and I'm pleased with the end result, so I'm glad that I finally got around to making the Seda dress. The fact that the print is slightly more muted than some of my other dresses also gives me a nice opportunity to wear my lovely Isa Duval brooch. I treated myself to it a couple of weeks ago and I love how it brightens up plainer outfits.

I'm also happy to be able to tick another item off my Make Nine list - I'm now 3 down (my Aldaia and needlecord dresses are the other two), with another 2 well underway. Have you got a Make Nine list? If you have, how's your progress going?

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Jaeger Handknits Turin Cardigan (and a bonus Emery dress)

As has become fairly standard for me, I've just finished knitting what was meant to be a winter cardigan right in time for a rise in temperatures which means it'll probably mostly sit in a drawer until autumn. I'm not the only one that does that am I?! You'd have thought that I might have got better at estimating how long a project will take me more accurately by now, but apparently not!


Anyway, the pattern I used is the Turin cardigan by Martin Storey which is part of a Jaeger Handknits pattern booklet that I found a while ago in a charity shop. There are 20 patterns in the book and, while some are definitely a bit dated, there are a number of others that I'd like to knit at some point so it was well worth whatever I paid for it (I can't remember how much that was, but it may even have been as little as 49p given the shop I got it from!).


The Turin is a relatively short cardigan - slightly longer than cropped, but shorter than most others still - which is a good length for me. It features stripes of a pretty lace pattern, which is also intended to have a bead in the middle of each lace diamond but I didn't like the idea of beads (I know what I'm like - I'd get them caught on everything!) so I left them out.

The sleeves are also meant to use the same lace pattern but, as I mentioned in my post about my previous cardigan, I'm not much of a fan of lace sleeves so I just knit these in plain stocking stitch.


The pattern was simple and easy to follow, and uses my preferred construction method of knitting the individual pieces and then seaming them. The lace pattern is worked over 10 rows and needed a bit of concentration to start off with, but it gradually worked its way into my memory so I could relax into the knitting a bit more.


The yarn that I used is Stylecraft Special 4-ply in the shade Lipstick. It's definitely not the most luxurious yarn in the world, but it's very budget friendly and I've liked using it for crochet so I wanted to see how it would fare when it came to knitting. On balance, I like it less for knitting but it's OK still. I also wanted to try using an acrylic yarn because I find my wool cardigans very itchy unless I've got long sleeves under them so they don't get worn unless it's really cold. I definitely don't have that problem with this yarn, but I'm not sure I'd use it for a whole garment again. We'll wait and see how it wears until I make a final decision on that though.


The dress that I'm wearing with the cardigan in these photos is the latest in my collection of Emery dresses. It probably doesn't warrant a blog post of its own because at this point I don't really have anything new to say about this pattern, but I thought it still deserved to be documented. The fabric for this one is from the Melody Miller Jubilee collection for Cotton & Steel, and I got it from The Village Haberdashery. Unsurprisingly, I love how it turned out - the combination of a pretty print and a trusted pattern was always going to be a winner for me!


It's a happy coincidence that I happened to finish these two projects at pretty much the same time because they look great together. For once, the slowness of my knitting actually resulted in something good! Next up on my knitting needles will be a short-sleeved cotton cardigan. Let's see if I can finish it before summer's over!

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Pauline Alice Aldaia Dress

How are you this week? I'll admit, I've been better! Don't worry, there's nothing too horrendous happening but life has definitely been a little annoying recently. Thankfully a little bit of creativity will always cheer me up, and this project did just that. It's the latest instalment of my quest to make more knit dresses this year, and this time it's the turn of the Pauline Alice Aldaia dress.


The Aldaia pattern is for knit dresses and offers three options each for the bodice, sleeves and skirt which can all be mixed together giving a total of 27 possible combinations. Just to prove how well the different options work together, for this dress I used the bodice from view B (wrap style bodice), sleeves from view A (elbow length with bands) and skirt from view C (6 gore skirt).


I decided to make a size 44 - my bust should actually put me in a 42, but there's only an inch between the bust sizes for 44 and 42 and the 44 still gives me negative ease so I thought it would be fine. I made a toile of the bodice in some leftover jersey from my Christmas pyjama making marathon just to check, and it fitted nicely.


As usual, I had to lengthen the bodice by an inch - fairly standard for me. I also had to lengthen the skirt a lot to get the length I wanted, and in the end I added 5 inches (for reference, I'm somewhere around 5' 8"). Because I was lengthening it quite so much, I added the extra length to the bottom of the skirt pieces and continued the outward flare rather than using the lengthen/shorten line, because I think if I'd done that then I'd have lost a lot of the fullness (and you probably know by now that I love a twirly skirt).


Sewing the dress was a really enjoyable process. The instructions are perfectly clear, but aren't too hand-holdy. Obviously I had to skip around between the instructions for the three different views, but that was no problem. Part of me is still apprehensive about sewing knits in a way that I'm not with wovens, but there was no need to worry about sewing the Aldaia. Even my twin needle behaved perfectly (redeeming itself for playing up the other week).

My only slight quibble about how the dress turned out is that it seems to sit slightly oddly at the seam between the centre front piece and the front side piece where the lower layer of the 'wrap' is under the top one. I wonder whether that's because both the upper and bottom wrap pieces are pleated at the side, and whether it might be better to try to eliminate the pleats from the bottom wrap to reduce bulk a bit.


The fabric I used is a turquoise marl cotton/Lycra jersey from Maud's Fabric Finds - unfortunately it no longer seems to be in stock but there are lots of other lovely (non-marl) colours available. It's a really nice quality, was great to work with and I think is just the right weight to give the skirt enough body to twirl nicely without being too heavy.


Overall, I'm really happy with how my Aldaia dress turned out - it was a pleasure to sew and it's a joy to wear. I'll definitely be making more versions in the future, after all I have to try out some of the different combinations, don't I?!

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Simply Sewing Freja Dress

If you've paid even the slightest bit of attention to the online sewing community in the last few months, then there's a certain pinafore/dunagree dress pattern that you'll be very familiar with. Part of me wanted to jump on that bandwagon, but the sensible part of me knows that I prefer dresses with more waist shaping, so I resisted temptation and kept an eye out for other pinafores instead. In fact, it may have become something of an obsession! Nothing seemed quite right though, until the Freja dress was included with issue 26 of Simply Sewing - the answer to my pinafore prayers!


The Freja dress was designed by Kirsty Hartley and was inspired by simple Scandi style. It has a bib bodice with waist darts (yay for waist shaping!), cross-back straps, wide waistband, knee-length A-line skirt and large curved patch pockets. It can also easily be made as a skirt by omitting the bib and straps.


For my version, I graded between sizes and used a 14 at the bust and 16 at the waist. The 16 would have also fitted me fine in the hips, but I chose to grade the skirt out from the 16 waist to the biggest size at the hem just to give the skirt that little bit of extra fullness.


I made a toile of the bib and waistband and the 14/16 combination worked pretty well, but the waistband didn't leave much room for tucking in a top. Because of that, for the final version I sewed the centre back zip with a slightly smaller seam allowance to give a bit of breathing space.

I also added an inch and a half to the straps because they weren't quite long enough for me. I usually need to lengthen bodices, but I didn't this time. The waistband possibly hits slightly higher on me than might be intended, but it looks and feels fine.


The instructions included with the pattern have accompanying photos and are very detailed and easy to follow. It's a fairly simple pattern too, so would be good for beginners, or it's a relatively speedy project if you've got a bit more experience.


The only thing I did differently from the instructions was to stitch the buttons straight through the straps onto the waistband rather than making buttonholes in the straps. That was initially intended to be a temporary measure to check that I had the buttons in the right position for me, but there's actually no need to undo the straps (as long as you don't mind putting the pinafore on over your head) so I'm going to be lazy and leave them as they are.

If I make another one, I'd think about using a regular lapped/centred zip in the centre back seam instead of an invisible zip. Generally, I prefer invisible zips but in my version of the Freja dress, it definitely feels like the zip has trouble getting over the bulk of the waistband seam. We'll see how it goes though!


The fabric I used is some turquoise stretch denim from Higgs and Higgs. It's excellent quality and a lovely colour, and I think it's the perfect match for this pattern - the slight stretch helps to make the pinafore really comfy.

The fabric looks great in real life but I feel I should apologise for the less-than-pristine state of it in some of these photos - apparently my camera managed to pick up creases that weren't visible to the human eye! And any marks you can see are the result of having been recently dripped on by a rain-drenched tree. I debated taking some new photos, but then I thought it would be better to show what it looks like in real life wear.


As you may have guessed by now, I really love how my Freja dress turned out, and I'd definitely make another.  I'm actually very tempted to order one of the other coloured denims from Higgs & Higgs for a second version - which one would you go for?

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Jennifer Lauren Gable Dress

Welcome to the second installment of my mission to make more knit dresses this year. I really love the Gable top that I made towards the end of last year, so when Jennifer Lauren released an expansion pack to turn the top into a dress, I snapped it up fairly quickly.


The expansion pack contains instructions for a gathered or a pleated skirt with pockets (yay for pockets!) - obviously I opted for the pleats, mainly because I wasn't sure how well this fabric would gather. It also includes different bodice pieces which are drafted to have slightly less ease around the waist than in the top, and are obviously shortened. All that, and the expansion pack is only a couple of pounds so, while I could possibly have drafted a skirt myself, I was more than happy to pay to have all the work done for me.


As I was happy with the size of my top, but knew there was a little bit of room in it to cope with the reduced waist ease, I stuck with the same size 14. I added half an inch to the bodice length and an inch and a quarter to the skirt length, which are both fairly standard adjustments for me (I'm about 5'9"). The bodice length is now just right, and the skirt length is great for this version but I'd possibly add a little more if I make a more summery version (i.e. one that would be worn without tights).


I did wonder along the way whether the pockets would be a bit small as they looked noticeably smaller than other pockets I've sewn. Maybe they're smaller than average because bigger pockets wouldn't hang as nicely in knits? As it turns out, they are definitely smaller but they are still perfectly big enough for me. If you like your pockets particularly deep though, then you might want to think about altering them.


Just like the Gable top, sewing the dress was a nice simple project. It was slightly tricky to get the pleats pristine because this fabric didn't press quite as crisply as some, but it wasn't much hassle.

Unfortunately my twin needle decided that it didn't like this fabric for some reason - I tried everything I could think of but it would only sew with the left-hand needle. Has anyone else had that happen? I tested other fabrics, and it sewed two beautiful lines on them, but it just didn't want to behave with this one. Odd!


Anyway, the fabric in question is some lovely royal blue ponte roma from Fabric Godmother. Thankfully I like it a lot more than my twin needle did! Based on sewing and its inaugural outing, it seems like a really good quality and was comfy and cosy to wear. I think it's the perfect option for a knit dress for the autumn/winter/early spring.


All in all, I really love this dress. I kind of feel like I might need to make myself a mini-rainbow of them. Although there are quite a few other knit dresses still on my sewing list, so maybe I should give one or two of them a try first!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Sew Over It Molly Top

When I started sewing I didn't intend that I would make all my clothes but, aside from underwear and the odd cardigan/jumper here and there, it's been ages since I bought clothes from a shop. I'd just rather spend the money on fabric. That's all well and good, but my love of pretty prints and twirly dresses means that the basics in my wardrobe have become somewhat neglected. I'm sure I'm not the only one with that problem, am I? Top spot on the list of things that could do with replacing for me definitely goes to plain t-shirts, which is what led me to make this version of the Sew Over It Molly top.


When Sew Over It released the City Break capsule wardrobe e-book, I liked the look of the Molly top but wasn't really interested in the rest of the patterns (I've seen many other people making lovely versions, but they're just not my style), so I wasn't keen on buying the whole e-book for one t-shirt. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to find that the Molly top/dress pattern is one of the projects included in this year's Mollie Makes Comic Relief Crafternoon magazine (I ordered my copy online from here, but it currently says it's sold out unfortunately).


Serendipitously, I happened to have a t-shirt sized length of lovely jersey from a recent trip to Sewn in Bristol which was originally intended to be another Gable top, but was swiftly reassigned to become a Molly top.

The Molly top is a good staple t-shirt with some nice details (batwing sleeves, curved hem and a flattering neckline finished with a band), which keep it from being boring whilst still not making it overly fussy.


I made a straight size 14, which is the size that matches my measurements. The fit is more relaxed than some t-shirt patterns and there's definitely positive ease around the waist in particular, but it's still fitted enough around the shoulders and bust to keep it from just being baggy. If you like your t-shirts skin-tight though, then Molly probably isn't the one for you.


The pattern was simple to sew thanks to nicely detailed, clear instructions. I had no problems during construction, and for this version I just stuck to the directions in the pattern, apart from using a twin needle instead of a zigzag stitch for topstitching the neckband down and for the hems.


For my next version, I'd make a couple of slight changes. firstly I'd lengthen the sleeves just a touch - probably an inch I think. The sleeves on this one don't look stupidly short, but they are noticeably shorter than my other long-sleeved t-shirts.

I'd also probably remove the curve on the hem and just have a straight bottom edge instead. While the curved hem is a nice feature, I know I'll always wear the top tucked in (it's untucked in some of these photos purely for show-and-tell purposes) so it'll never be seen, making it a bit pointless for me personally.


The jersey I used really is a delight - easy to work with and beautifully comfy to wear. It's Robert Kaufman Laguna jersey, and Sewn currently have it on sale if you're interested in treating yourself. In fact, I like it so much that I've already got my hands on the same fabric in blue. It may also become a Molly top, we'll see!


So there we go! I think you'll have guessed by now that I really like this Molly top, and I can definitely see myself making more in the future. I think this was a good start along the way to rejuvenating some of the previously neglected wardrobe basics. Where do you stand on sewing/buying wardrobe staples?