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Alder shirtdress

7 Jul

I’ve been humming it’s the most, wonderful time of the year….. and not because its Christmas in 171 days. But because it is Indie Pattern Month! Woop woop. And week’s theme is ‘dresses’. Cause I’ve already prattled on and on about this over on the Monthly Stitch blog, I’ll spare you further rambling other than the bare necessities.

Pattern: Alder Shirtdress from Grainline Studios

Fabric: Chambray from Higgs & Higgs

Sizing and alterations: Made size 10 which corresponds to my measurements but in future would make size 8 with a FBA. No alterations per se but a used a few different techniques like the ‘burrito’ technique for attaching the yoke so the insides are beautifully clean.





5 May

This month I am participating in a little sewing competition hosted by Tools by Hollie. Essentially the competition is to sew an outfit to go with a set of accessories. You get to choose either ‘Bright’ or ‘Black and White’. While normally you’d never catch me dead in the ‘Bright’ accessories, I immediately knew what outfit I wanted to make to go with them. Plus there are some AMAZING prizes to be won.


Last summer I picked up some beautiful yellow Harris Tweed with the intention to make myself a skirt.  Well, this  competition has finally provided the impetus to make it up using Grainline’s Moss skirt pattern. I figure the yellow contrasts nicely with all the pink in the accessories.  For the top, I wanted something bright but abstract and was so happy to find this cotton lawn ‘Artisan Splash’ by Lady McElroy. With such a vibrant print I wanted to use a simple design to show it off and the Biscayne blouse seemed to be the obvious choice.

I made the blouse first. Having used this pattern several times already I was pretty confident with the fit  (I make size small grading out to medium at the hips) and directions (which are supper easy by the way).  Because I didn’t want the print showing through, I decided to skip the breast pocket.. I really took my time ensuring the finishing was just perfect and am so pleased with the final result.

I’ve  used the moss skirt  pattern once before – making a jean skirt in size 6.  For this version however I didn’t want it quite as fitted so I made size 8 and lengthened it about an inch. I spent a long time preparing the tweed – laying it out on the floor and steaming it with my iron.  This is incredibly time consuming as the fabric can stretch when damp so I would steam a section then wait for it to dry before moving it to get to the next section (and then repeating on the other side of the fabric).

The benefit of making the top first was I had plenty of scraps left over to use for the skirt’s pockets, waistband facing and to make bias bind for Hong Kong seams!  It was actually the first time I have ever used Hong Kong seams and I found this Colette tutorial really helpful. So the inside of my skirt is just beautiful!

Because of the weight of the fabric I used the lining for the fly facing and fly shied and on the hem zig-zagged the edge before turning it up just once. I am so pleased with the final look of the outfit!


A new skirt for all my tights

16 Mar

I really love tights. Particularly hose. screen-printed tights. I’ve got about 6 pairs. But very few things to wear with them. The other day I realised what I really needed was a nice little jean skirt. The moss skirt from Grainline Studios seemed like the perfect pattern.

While I was trying to make room in my fabric stash for the fabric I purchased at the Knitting and Stitching show the other week, I found a denim I had bought several years ago and deemed that it is the exact perfect color for the skirt I had in mind. The pattern itself was really lovely and the instructions super easy to follow. I made a size 6 which seemed to match my body measurements. I however made some aesthetic changes and a few additions to make it more like a jean skirt:

  • Flat fell seams and dark blue top stitching thread
  • Rear pockets and belt loops (borrowed from the Ginger jeans pattern)
  • Top stitching around the waist band and slightly on the back of the skirt along the side seams to just below the pockets – secured with a bar tack
  •  Jeans button and rivets

All in all I’m really pleased with how it turned out. I struggled a little with the button hole because of the thickness. In the end (after unpicking the failed button hole three times!) I had to abandon the idea of a  vertical button hole in favor of a horizontal one. It is also a wee bit snug across my belly but not uncomfortably so.

Best of all it looks great with all my favorite tights. And seeing as the weather doesn’t seem to know whether it is coming or going, I suspect they’ll be in use for a few more months anyway!

It’s all about the fabric

12 Feb

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 good dress

29 Dec

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.

Understated elegance

26 Nov

Having made myself a previous version of the Pleated Pencil Skirt from Delia Creates, I was ready venture into the land of sewing with tweed. I knew as soon as I found this fabric on my trip to Edinburgh that I wanted a pencil skirt out of it. It’s a light weight wool from Moon Yorkshire Tweed and I think is’s an ‘Overcheck Twill Tweed’.


Steaming my fabric

Of course it can’t be put in the washing machine, the finished deal will be a dry cleaned. I diligently looked up tips for working with wool in my Great British Sewing Bee book. First thing it noted was the wool fabric can shrink. It advised steaming fabric well before cutting but warned that because it is elastic when damp it should be steamed in sections and allowed to cool before moving. So I laid my fabric out on the floor and with the iron set on high with full steam hovered it a few inches above the fabric, letting it dry before turning it over to do the other side.
Having spent so much money and time on the main fabric, I wanted to get myself some decent lining.  I’ve normally only used the cheap anti-static lining that is so readily available but figured this skirt deserved a little better. After much research and brain ache reading about polyester, taffeta, bemberg (which I cant find anywhere in the UK), acetate,  and bremsilk , I stumbled across this beautiful 100% silk crepe de chine  (which my Colette sewing  handbook makes a lovely lining) from AmmaRoma on etsy. I initially ordered one meter and only realized my mistake after I cut out my first piece. Because the crepe de chine is only 45″ wide there wasn’t enough for both the front and back! So I had to put my project on hold while I waited for another meter to be shipped. I used scraps of some Liberty print for the waistband facing. So the insides if you sneak a peak are very pretty!

I spent ages trying to work out the ‘right’ side of my fabric and in the end (based on nothing in particular)  just chose one. I made the size 10 again and slightly trimming off  the hip curve  as I did last time.  The pattern is so easy to follow and sewing with posh fabrics felt like a dream.

There are a few niggling details I’m not happy with. First is the pattern matching. It was a difficult design to pattern match the waistband to the skirt because the distance between the checks wasn’t the same as the amount for the kick pleat line.  The matching on the side seams are slightly out of kilter – not terribly noticable but they niggle anyway. Also when I was inserting the invisible zip in the side, the fabric gathered ever so slightly and doesn’t lie flat (visible in the photo below). But as it has proved very difficult to unpick stitches on this tweed I decided I’d be better off with it as it was than risk gouging the fabric.

Despite the expense of my lining, I love the color and it feels luxurious against my legs. I used  my ‘Three Sole Walking Foot’ for the first time when sewing the lining. It certainly made sewing with the slippery silk much easier.

I love the fit  and look of the this skirt, it feels like understated elegance. Plus it looks fantastic with my new shoes.


A pleated pencil skirt

2 Oct

I really loved the look of this pattern, the pleated pencil skirt from Delia Creates. I liked its length and while tapered didn’t appear too tight at the knees. After printing out my pattern I was pleased to see that there were only a few A4 pages that needed to be taped together before tracing. I diligently pulled out my measuring tape to take my measurements and was a little shocked to discover that my two months of comfort eating (work has been stressful to say the least) has added two inches to my waist. But the nice thing about making my own clothes is making things that actually fit my body   just the way it is. So I proceeded to trace out the size 10. If I loose the extra two inches, well I’ll take in the sides then.  My fabric, if I remember correctly, is a cotton/linen blend  combined with some cheap canary yellow acetate lining.

The instructions were really clear and easy to follow and the skirt came together really well. However after step 7 (when I had attached the waistbands to the skirt and lining) and was able to try it on, I realised that the curve of the hip was much more prominent than I needed. So I shaved off the harshest angle of the hip curve from 4″ below the waistband, for 5 3/4″.  Size wise it is just perfect. I think it looks really flattering across my stomach and waist and it feels like a nice fit too.  I struggled a little with my zipper and getting the waist bands to line up on either side – it took me three attempts. But I’m really happy with the result.

And the yellow lining is soo fun, I’m really pleased with how the insides look!


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