It’s all about the fabric

12 Feb 2017-01-21

My friend Candice got married yesterday in a beautiful ceremony – and almost as important – in a beautiful dress. It was really stunning. Later in the evening as the reception really got swinging she changed into something special. A little dress I made for her. When she asked last summer if I’d make her evening attire for the wedding, I was thrilled and we went through lots of ideas but eventually settled on the one you’ll see below. It’s been so hard to keep it secret as it was so challenging yet fun making it. So today I thought I’d do a post about  actually making her dress. And let me tell you: it is all about the fabric.

The design of the dress is relatively simple, bringing together the yoke from Deer & Doe’s Datura blouse, combined with a main body  drawing on Colette’s Laurel. The exquisite fabric is what truly does it (I’m not sure I’ve ever used exquisite in a sentence before): pale gold silk satin, matching lining and a silver lace.The fabric was so delicate I felt I should be wearing little gloves to handle it. But that’s not terribly practical is it? So I made sure that my nails were nicely filed and my fingers as smooth as a baby’s bum.

bits-and-bobsIn terms of haberdashery, I’ve used my large washer-cum-pattern weights for cutting out, Merchant & Mills entomology pins for holding pieces together, silk thread for most of the sewing, complimented by metallic thread used to hand stitch the lace on the yoke and on the machine I’m using a Microtextil Sharp needle 60/8 and the three sole walking foot.

I started with the yoke. Instead of cutting the pieces on the fold, I first cut half of the pattern piece, then carefully flipped it over to cut the other half. I did this for the yoke’s main fabric, lining and lace. Then I very carefully  hand stitched the lace onto the fabric  (about 35 stitches on both the front and the back), and then basted around the edges. You’ll see the on the back, the lace is about 1/2″ shorter than the  yoke fabric. As the seam allowance joining the yoke to the dress is 5/8″ I want the edge of the lace to be just over the seam. At a later step I’ll hand stitch it over the seam.

I joined the yoke and lining together , and the back to front as the Datura blouse instructed. But that’s when I went off on my own. Once they were joined at the shoulder seams, I then sewed the front and back together at the side with the lining and yoke open and pressed the seam open. This means that this seam will be totally hidden when the yoke and skirt are joined. I also then sewed a lining of basting stitches in  5/8″ from the bottom of the lining, making it easier at a later stage to fold the  up.

Moving onto the skirt portion of the dress, I cut each piece of fabric as I needed it. Time consuming but it reduced the exposure of this gorgeous fabrics to the elements in my living room: dog, dog hair, coffee, the giant mud puddle monster waiting to jump on me (I do love my Robert Munch). You get the drift. The skirt came together beautifully – I made sure to use the iron on the silk setting, with no steam, and all the ironing was done through a large piece of lawn I had in my stash. While it was particularly time consuming, especially for the french seams, the fabric remained unmarked and looked great when finished. The skirt lining however was more tricky than the silk. It wanted even less heat, but less heat was ineffective. As a result there are a few iron marks on the lining, much to my horror. Once both pieces were done, I  was gratified to find that they fit together perfectly and I basted them together at the top, wrong sides together.

Then came the fiddly bit. I joined the skirt to the yoke, making sure that the lining was free. Having pressed the seams of the yoke open, it created less bulk under the arms where the pieces were joined. I had to be extra careful not to catch the lace on the back into this seam. And I must confess that my first attempt I attached beautifully but back to front! In my defense I have quite the cold at the time. So I spent an hour unpicking and then doing it correctly. Phew. Once the skirt was attached, I then hand stitched the lace on the back over the seam, so it wasn’t visible. I then set about hand sewing the lining down, along the fold line I had previously based.

Candice came round and we checked the length before I did the hem. On the lining (which was cut 1.5″ shorter anyway, I simply folded it up half an inch, then folded it up again. On the main dress, I used an invisible stitch, and took it up about 1 1/4″.

I must say it make out quite beautifully and I’m rather proud of it! It fit Candice perfectly and really suits her and she was happy with it! I’ll post photos in a few weeks when the wedding photos are back so you can see it in action.


A very cute tote bag

4 Feb 2017-02-04

Yesterday I found this fantastic fabric in the remnant’s section of Ray Stitch and I quickly snatched it up. I loved the subtle coloring and  figured it would make a perfect tote bag for my niece. So this evening I quickly whipped one up. It’s a pretty descent size and I reckon it’ll be great for carting her art supplies around.


The Cabernet Cardigan

11 Jan 2017-01-11

This year I ended up making most of my Christmas presents. Or at least gave people little ‘gift cards’ indicating what I would make for them when they chose their fabric (with my advice of course) and submitted themselves for measuring.

First up was my mother-in-law. I decided to make her  the Cabernet Cardigan from SBCC – version A (long and box). I love this pattern and after showing her some fabric options, she chose this lovely Garden Tale Jeans Blue – a soft and stretchy Organic sweatshirt fabric by Majapuu Oy. As she often wears white trousers, we both thought it would look just lovely.

I hummed and hawed in deciding the size (and had to remember to look online as the measurements included in my pattern are for the finished deal). In the end I decided to err on the side of caution and went with large. I’m pretty pleased with the final result, especially my pattern matching for the front pockets. I finished all the seams with the double over-lock stitch on my machine and used my pinking shears to trim. As a result the insides look pretty nice too.

However I’ve found it a bit nerve racking having let her choose the fabric, as I worry that it won’t meet her expectations. Fingers crossed she’ll be happy with it!

Getting organised AKA procrastination

7 Jan 2017-01-04

I have a fair amount of free time on my hands these days as I was made redundant just before Christmas. As a result I’ve been busy making sewing plans (it proves a wonderful distraction from job applications). Before I dive into the new projects, I decided it was time to get serious about organising my sewing corner.

First up was what the hell to do with assembled PDF pattern pieces.  I have been storing these on clothes hangers and hanging them off the book case, img_6505but for the last year these have been slowly creeping further and further out of my corner. Before I knew it half the wall had disappeared behind them. Solution? Large board backed envelopes! I pasted the picture of the pattern on the front and  now they are much easier to find and I have the whole of the book case back. How do you store your PDF pattern pieces?

Second was storage of bobbins and thread. I’ve been using an old Golden Virginia tobacco tin to store my bobbins but it can get pretty tangled up sometimes. And a large Ferraro Roche chocolate container (they make excellent containers for sewing gadgets) but again they can get pretty messy when they roll about. I was perusing round on Minerva Crafts doing a bit of procrastination before starting a new application when I stumbled across the The Gutermann storage  organiser boxes for sewing thread bobbins (holds 25) and for sewing thread spools (holds 27)! I decided in the interests of getting organised they were a must have! Of course I have much more than 27 spools of threads and I hit upon an ingenious idea. Super gluing upside down screws into one of the Ferraro Roche boxes, thus ensuring I have ample space for all my threads (custom placed of course to accommodate the larger spools).

I got round to hanging my everyday scissors etc from little hooks on the shelves and putting all the random things like knitting needles, pencils and old scissors in my fabulous giant thimble.

img_6509Finally was purchasing some new gadgetry! Namely some heavy duty washers.  Perhaps not the most obvious of sewing toys but I’m going to use them as pattern weights. I’m about to embark on a seriously big scary project with very delicate fabric and I want to avoid  and distortion caused by pins when cutting out my pieces. Plus they can be stored in an old Ferraro Roche chocolate container (I think I’ll need some  more chocolates now)!

Now then, I can really get on with my sewing! Err I mean another job application of course.


4 Jan 2017-01-03

Back in October Karen over on Did you make that? posted about making her dog a bandanna and I thought it looked so brilliant I’d copy the idea. I used the same tutorial  and one for Poppy as well as my BFF’s dogs, Stompy and Mae. I actually got a kick out of choose fabric from my scraps that matching the dogs personalities and looked nice against their coloring. Plus being reversible is extra fun.

Alas Mae got a lovely new collar for Christmas and the bandana can’t go on it. So I just have photos of Poppy and Stompy sporting their new look.

New Year’s Resolutions

1 Jan IMG_9083

Over the last few weeks you may have seen my posts on the #Top5Hits and #Top5Misses from my sewing this year. And I have to say I’m really pleased with what I’ve done this year.  And looking back at my New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve done pretty good against them too.  I set myself 5 things to try: 1) Bras √ 2) Coats 3) Jeans √ 4) Cardigans √  5)Sportswear √. I didn’t get around to a coat , nor did I use up my fabric stash (in fact it’s grown so much I had to get more shelving) and I haven’t touched my knitting. But I’m still really happy to have ticked off the other things to try. So for 2017 my goals are:

  1. Make a coat: Seeing as I didn’t get to this while it was on my list last year and I’m really keen to learn some skills in this area, I decided that this should be at the top of my list. I’m dying to make myself a little tweed version of the Manteau Ernest from Republique du Chiffon, and of course  the Robson Coat pattern from Sewaholic remains on the list.
  2. Make a blazer: Similar to a coat I know – but because I’ve wanted to make myself one for ages and it would meet a different wardrobe need* I decided to make it a goal in its own right. I’m thinking of the Bellatrix blazer from Papercut – with a faux leather collar (which may prove totally incompatible with the pattern). Or the Gabby Woven Jacket from Sew Arc.
  3. Make more menswear! I’ve made G. a few shirts in this year (as well as in the past). And he love’s wearing things I’ve made him, so I decided to up my game and expand into other menswear, such as trousers and sweatshirts. I really love the look of Thread Theory’s patterns and plan to make the Jedediah Pants and Finlayson Sweater.
  4. Slowly replace all my store bought clothes (as they wear out) with Me-Made items. I bought myself very few things this year and did a great job replacing much of my very old and holey underwear with new Me-Made underwear. So over the next year any new clothes I might need* will be Me-Made (aside from socks, tights, shoes and rain gear).
  5. Try new things, learn new techniques and focus on improving my skills!

Bring on the New Year and plenty of sewing adventures!

*First world problems I know as I really don’t need any of these things. But it makes me happy so I’ll claim a mental health need.

A good dress

29 Dec img_6473-1

When I was a kid I always had one good dress. It came out for birthday parties and special occasions. I got to choose the fabric myself for most of them as as I got older the pattern too: one was white with print of little pink bows and it had matching pink bow buttons; another was rose pink crinkly satin like fabric with the collar and sash trimmed with a bit of lace (I loved pink when I was little and bless my ma, despite hating it, she would make up the dress in my chosen fabric).

As an adult however I don’t seem to have any good dresses. For the last few years I’ve really concentrated on sewing things that were practical and got a lot of wear. And as I have generally worn all my dresses to work on a regular basis they don’t have that special feel. But that is all about to change.

I found this beautiful gold on black (surprisingly a very difficult color combination to photograph) – ‘Modern Backgrounds *Luster* by Briditte Heitland for moda’   at Ray Stitch a few weeks back. Initially I was restrained, how often would I get up in the morning and reach for a black and gold dress. But that night I got thinking, that was exactly what I wanted, something special, not an every day dress, a good dress. So I went back and got myself some, its 100% cotton and feels lovely. And I underlined it with a dark charcoal, anti-static lining so that it doesn’t get stuck on my tights. Though it was quite hard to photograph and truly show it’s razzle dazzle.

I decided that that fabric was perfect for another Laurel. It’s a great pattern to show off your fabric and I’ve made myself 4 already (version 12, 3 & 4). Each time I’ve experimented with merging sizes based on my measurements at the time. For this version I’ve gone with a straight up size 6 although I have dropped the darts by an inch.

I really took my time with this dress,  and I probably spent as long perfecting the attachment of the underlining as I did sewing the whole dress up. But as as result the dress came out fantastically. The invisible zip is truly invisible (no small feat for me). The darts are perfectly position. And the insides nice and tidy  – all done with French Seams, bar one sleeve which I forgot to first sew wrong sides together (oops).  And just in time with New Years eve just 2 days away and a night out at the ballet with my BFF! I’ve got me a good dress.

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