It’s About Time…..

Oh it has been a long time! I’ve had the craziest few months and my blog just moved further and further down my priorities list- but now that changes!!

My life has changed quite a lot this year. I finished my degree, graduating with a first in July. At the same time I turned 21. My beautiful big sister got married and I also was fortunate to be offered a place to study for my masters in knitted textiles at the Royal College of Art in London, (#1 art school in the world!) starting this September. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind to be honest, and I am only now, after a few weeks holiday, managing to get my head around everything.

Because of all of this, sewing has taken a backseat. I’ve also been knitting a lot in order to improve my skills before term starts! I’ll post more of my knitting adventures soon after I’ve finished my current sweater, which I have affectionately named ‘cable hell’.

I have a ‘to-sew’ list as long as my arm, however my summer was dominated by making two of this year’s most special dresses. One for my graduation and one to wear to my sister’s wedding. Graduation came first, so this dress helped iron out any faults before I made the dress for the wedding. I decided almost a year ago, when my sister announced her engagement, that I wanted to use the Sew Over It Betty Dress pattern to make my dress (and also my graduation dress). However I also wanted to use Liberty and because of the cost, I decided to switch out the Betty’s circle skirt and replace with my go-to gathered skirt, from the By Hand London Kim Dress. I could easily get the whole dress out of 2m of Liberty Tana Lawn this way.

Although I love the Betty pattern and the design, and I really enjoyed wearing these dresses, I hope this post will explain the problems I had making them, and although I am happy with the fix I managed, any advice on altering it would be great!

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My *little* brother and I before the ceremony.

My Graduation dress took a long while to make. I started with a calico toile, then made a version from a cheap IKEA bedspread before attempting the Liberty version. I am a 32″ chest and 27″ waist so I cut an 8 on top grading to a 10 at the waist. However when sewn up I found that there was a crazy excess of fabric over the bust which I just could not get rid off. There was no way of pinching out so I ended up taking in side seams, moving darts up and changing the waist darts to make them really angular to pinch some fabric from under the bust. This helped a little but I still had more than 2″ excess fabric that just sat on the bust with no way to move it. I fiddled with the pattern more, however due to timescale I ended up sewing my Liberty version hoping for the best. I hoped that by adding the skirt and lining, it would pull down and move some of the fabric. I was wrong but I had no choice as the day was looming.

Overall I am pleased with the dress, it served it’s purpose and looked nice on the day however the baggy bust was just annoying. It’s currently in my to-fix pile as the pretty Liberty is too good to waste, however I just cannot wear it as it is.

The Liberty was the saving grace of this dress. It’s Wonderment Tana Lawn (not sure which colour way) and it is now out of stock on the Liberty website, although probably available from other places. It was designed for the anniversary of Alice in Wonderland and I fell in love right away, and was certain that it had to be my graduation fabric.

I don't have any individual pictures of the dress from the day, but I love this one of my beautiful sister, my two brothers and I.

I don’t have any individual pictures of the dress from the day, but I love this one of my beautiful sister, my two brothers and I.

My dress for the wedding was a little different. After the disappointment of the Graduation dress, I had a re-think. I attempted a SBA on the Betty bodice, however I had to take so much out that the darts actually inverted so I had to give up. My next experiment was to trace my own self-drafted bodice block, then lay the Betty bodice over and copy the neckline. That was all I copied and I just made appropriate adjustments to my bodice block (side seams/armholes). I still used the back pieces of the Betty bodice, as they always fitted nicely, however the front had to be drastically changed. I also wanted to change my dress a little to make it different to the Graduation dress. This meant that I made a v-neck by lovering the CF by about 4″ and drawing a line up to the start of the original shoulder. Although in the pictures it looks as though it gapes, I think that is caused by my posture as the dress is fine when I am standing straight. I fully lined the bodice and skirt to add volume on both dresses, and this made it move beautifully. Although this dress is not perfect, I am really happy with it and it was perfect for the day.

I think this is my favourite picture of me in the dress from the day - an after-meal chat with the blushing bride!

I think this is my favourite picture of me in the dress from the day – an after-meal chat with the blushing bride!

The Liberty lawn for this dress might be my favourite. It is called Victoria Virginia A and was just so beautiful to sew and wear. It is currently out of stock on the Liberty website however I hope it comes back in stock soon!

These dresses were a bit of an indulgence so are not really in keeping with my ‘student sewing’ budget, however I will be returning to bargain sewing (and a bit of knitting) soon once I am officially a post-grad student – scary stuff! Thank you all for putting up with my sewing/blogging drought – I’ve got lots up my sleeve for the next few months!

The Fairytale of New York

OH. MY. GOD!

A month or so ago, my ‘New York Dreams’ fabric design was announced as the winner of By Hand London’s ‘Once Upon a Dream’ fabric competition which they ran following the launch of their custom and designer fabric printing service. Thank you so much to everyone who voted for me – it means so much and I am SO excited to have my building drawings on fabric!

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My design was influenced by my love of NYC architecture and, in particular, the iconic brownstone houses. I had originally designed it to be black on white, however I fell in love with the blue/white nighttime variation and knew it would look really cool as a garment. The blue had to be lightened a bit to make the white houses stand out but I love the new blue and think it’s such a lovely shade.

Part of the prize from BHL was a few metres of my own printed fabric, which is also for sale on their website with some of the other awesome designs for the competition. I was so excited when it arrived and put it straight into the wash ready to sew up!

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The fabric is cotton poplin so is stiffer than I’m used to, and it has practically no drape. Also, as warned on the BHL website, due to the inks they use to print, sometimes the colours can be prone to fading with multiple washes. Mine did a teeny bit but I am sure that is due to the dark background on my print. I’ve  only washed it once and I have made it into a fairly formal dress so I doubt it’ll need to go through the wash too much anyway and I may even get it dry-cleaned instead as it is one of my favourite garments ever!

I decided to make a Kim Dress with my fabric as it is my favourite BHL pattern ever and I have made all the adjustments so it fits pretty perfectly now. I chose the full skirted option as it has always been my favourite and it also hides side seam pockets well which is always a benefit! I was concerned about the lack of drape in the fabric, however I think the Kim pattern really benefits from a heavier fabric as it gives the full skirt some structure.

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It’s so twirly!

I’ve been calling this dress my ‘cinderella’ dress – it might be the shade of blue or the fact it makes me feel like a princess. Either way, I’m in love. Sewing this up, I made all the same adjustments as my last kim dresses, size 10 with 4cm out of bust and 5 cm out of the top of the cb seam. I also added pockets so I can carry around the essentials.

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I really took my time with this dress and it has definitely paid off! It is easily one of the best garments I’ve ever made and it’s even more exciting because it’s made from my own fabric! I think I’ll be designing more once my degree work is out of the way! Maybe I’ll even wear this to my degree show in June?

I just want to say a massive thank you to By Hand London for running the competition and all the awesome people who voted for me! Thank you!!!

A Couple of Kim Dresses and a THANK YOU!

Woah it has been a long time and there is so much to catch up on!  I have been seriously under the thumb with uni work and after a emotional breakdown (or three) I decided to take some time off and get my head together. However I did manage to fit in some sewing for myself before I got stuck into knitting, drawing and fundraising for uni.

Since I made my first kim dress after New Year, I have been dreaming about making more! The bodice just fits so perfectly and I love the size of the gathered skirt – just enough gathering for me!

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I bought this Liberty London ‘Queue For The Zoo’ C Tana Lawn print fabric on eBay from Katsfabrics for £22 for 2m! I was completely in love with the print as it’s a bit different to traditional floral liberty designs!

I made no changes to the pattern this time (as I made all my adjustments to the bust etc last time), making the sweetheart neckline and gathered skirt variation and adding pockets. I ignored the pin tucks on the pattern as the print was super busy and I thought they’d get lost. I also wanted to try out the skirt at full length as I am considering using the kim skirt as the base for two very important dresses I will be making to wear this summer.

I love this kim version and am sure I’ll get a lot of wear our of it this summer! Although it’s perhaps not the best for wearing to dinner (when will I learn that my favourite indian restaurant always gives me the biggest and best food baby/ food coma ever!)

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My third kim dress was really an experiment. Originally I intended to make just a skirt of version 1 and finish it with a waistband. However I had more than enough fabric to make the full dress and I hate wasting fabric so I thought I would make version 1 whole. I love the neckline of this one – more formal and less flirty – and the skirt is stunning (although perhaps a little tight around the tummy area for me!) My only thought was that I might dip the back hem of the skirt next time to match the flow of the front as it is maybe a bit boxy?

I bought my fabric from myfabrics.co.uk. It was discontinued so is probably unavailable now although they have a lot of similar prints. This was a woven pattern so the inside of the back skirt looks just as good as the outer. It has less stretch than other fabrics I use though, and it is a bit thicker so the dress was a bit tighter.

I can see myself making both of these versions again (and I may have bought some new liberty to do so once uni work is out of the way!)

Garment details:

Pattern: By Hand London Kim Dress

Material: Liberty ‘Queue For The Zoo’ Tana Lawn from Katsfabrics. Cotton plaid from my fabrics.co.uk.

Sizing/ Adjustments: Cut size 10. Took in 4cm bust and 2″ cb.

Cost: Liberty version – £24. Plaid version – £8.50

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P.s. I want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who voted for my design in the By Hand London ‘Once Upon a Dream’ fabric design competition – I WON! I am over the moon and my design, ‘New York Dreams’, inspired by NYC brownstone houses is available to buy now here! I am really looking forward to making myself something. Maybe even another kim dress!

Pattern Testing – Sew DIY Lou Box Top

Before Christmas, Beth of Sew DIY put out a call for pattern testers for her first pattern, the ‘Lou Box Top’ and I volunteered. Beth is working on the final edits of the pattern now and I am unsure when it will be released, however I thought I would show mine now so you could get an idea of what she has in store!

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To give you a basic sense of the pattern, Beth gave this description on her pattern tester call –

The pattern is a very basic top that I think will be great for beginners and experienced sewists alike. It’s very loose fitting, yet still flattering and very versatile. There are two different necklines and three hem shapes that can be mixed and matched for a total of 6 different designs. I’ve made about a gazillion of these tops and have been wearing them almost every day. Oh yeah, and there are instructions for knit and woven fabrics! So you can go super casual or super fancy just depending on what fabric you choose.

This was the first time I had ever pattern tested, however I loved the process and really had very few comments for Beth. The instructions were great and possibly some of the most comprehensive I have ever used. They also included different instructions for using both woven and knits so would be great for those new to sewing knits. The pattern also has the unique feature of having bodice pieces for the two neckline options, then interchangeable hem pieces, to cut down on printing. The top features a keyhole back with button and loop and I love that detail.

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I chose the scoop neck option for my version, with the curved hem variation. I made it in a very strange poly from regency rags on eBay. The print is lovely and the poly was really heavy and textured so was great to sew, however it creases worse than linen! This means it requires ironing ALL the time, however it only cost £1.99 for the metre I needed. I cut a size small, however with the easy-fit nature and the large amount of ease built in, I could easily make an extra small if I wanted a top that was closer-fitting.

This pattern is one of the simpler ones I’ve sewn so I had a lot of fun making it and it as incredibly quick to sew up. I can imagine it in a range of other woven with more drape! Overall I really enjoyed sewing this pattern and Beth’s instructions were fantastic.

 

HOWEVER……

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I thought it would be a bit of a waste to sew up a version in woven and not in knit too, when there were instructions provided, right?! I ordered this knit from eBay – I can’t remember where from (sorry!) – for about £4 for the metre I needed. However when it turned up it had stretch in both directions which allowed me to make a dress version when I turned the fabric the other way. I just added 25cm between the bodice and hem pieces when cutting.

Because of the extra stretch, this fabric has the most fantastic drape and is amazingly comfy! The only real differences in the pattern are the neck band, the lack of side-seam vents and no CB seam. From cutting to finished took me under an hour and, once the weather gets better, I hope to wear this dress a lot more!

 

Just to say, I was not in any way sponsored to do this post and I wanted to pattern test purely due to my crazy obsession with sewing! 

50s High School Sweetheart/ Space Cadet!

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

My new year started out with a sewing challenge! When I was buying the fabric for my brother’s Negroni shirt, I noticed that my teeny tiny local haberdashery have started stocking By Hand London sewing patterns! This is so exciting as although I love the patterns and the packaging and the costs  are not too high, the postage on top means I am not usually able to afford their patterns. BHL’s newest pattern is the Kim Dress. I love the tulip skirt option and have fabric set aside for one but my inner 50s high school sweetheart squealed at the pintucked skirt and sweetheart neck version! It is just stunning!

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For the first time ever I decided to make a toile of the bodice. Since I got back into dressmaking in May, I have stuck to mostly loose-fitting garments as I am not usually comfortable having anything around my waist. However when I saw the Kim pattern I knew I had to make it. I cut the size 10, which fitted perfectly around the waist, but I removed 1cm out of each bust seam, and about an inch and a half out of the top of the back seam to counteract the gaping.

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The fabric is a polyester peachskin from thetextilecentre on eBay. I talked about my search for the perfect galaxy print here and this was the replacement they sent when the purple was out of stock. Actually I am over the moon with this monochrome version as it is so much easier to wear and was actually fantastic to sew as it had a really lovely weight to it. I think it cost £3.49 a metre and I bought 2 metres which was all I needed. The lining was £1 and was a horribly cheap poly lining from Fabric Land but it did the job. The zip was £2.50. This was my first time sewing a full bodice lining and sewing in an invisible zip and now I want to sew an invisible zip in everything! It was so much fun!

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The only other change I made was to add side seam pockets as I like to have the option of not carrying a handbag or being able to keep my phone on me. It was easy as the skirt is so full that it hides the pockets. The pintucks are also really useful as they give the hem of the skirt a bit more structure and volume.  I am totally in love with this dress and am seriously considering it for my graduation dress! I keep dancing around the house in it! I can’t wait to make another Kim dress/skirt ASAP- just need to find the perfect fabric!

Garment details:

Pattern: By Hand London Kim Dress– £14

Materials: Galaxy Peachskin Polyester £3.49pm x 2m, zip £2.50, Lining £1.

Sizing/Adjustments: 1.5″ out of top of back seam, 1cm out of each bust seam. Cut size 10.

Cost: £10.48 without pattern

Christmas Negroni

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So I can finally share the very little secret sewing I did this Christmas now the big day is out of the way! My little brother (at 15 and almost 6ft he’s not so little any more!) is a pain to buy for and although I had got him something already, I didn’t feel like it was enough so I thought I would have a go at sewing up a Colette/Walden Patterns Negroni shirt, the pattern for which I got in the black friday sale for about £5. I had planned to use this pattern for some shirts for Uni but it was good to be able to sew one up as a practice but also as a gift.

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Now my brother is SUPER picky about what he wears so I never anticipated he would ever wear it. I chose this medium grey polycotton from my local haberdashery for £11.97 for 3 metres, at £3.99pm. The buttons and interfacing were from my stash and I also bought a big reel of grey thread for multiple future projects.

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Sewing the Negroni itself was a learning curve. I’ve made 15 shirts over the last year but the construction of this one completely confused me. The facing/yoke/collar is difficult to comprehend and, although it looks great finished, it seemed so complicated for something which I know to be easy from other patterns. Also the flat-felled seams were another reason I was keen to delay starting this project. I’ve only sewn them once (by accident) and the thought of a flat-felled armhole scared me, however it was so easy, more sturdy and they are possibly some of the neatest seams I’ve ever sewn! I am so pleased, especially as this plain fabric shows up every flaw in the stitching.

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It only took a day and a half to sew this up and entertainingly I was sewing this in the kitchen with my little brother walking past every five minutes! His face when he opened his present and realised I’d been waving it in his face for two days was a picture! He is notoriously picky so I was fully expecting for it not to be worn but he loved it! I’m so excited and he wore it all of christmas day! Next step is to look for some fabric for my Dad who has put in his order! haha!

 

Garment details:

Pattern: Walden Negroni Shirt – £5

Materials: Grey polycotton – £3.99pm, 3m (only needed 2.5)

Adjustments: Cut size S. Perfect fit which was lucky!

Cost: One off pattern- £7, Fabric – £11.97, buttons – 40p.

Overall cost – £12.37.

Lace Linden

Ever since making my first Linden Sweatshirts a few weeks ago, I have been desperate to make more, however I have struggled to find some suitable fabric. I bought this lace from Joann’s over the summer and wasn’t sure what to use it for, however after seeing a lace raglan on pintrest (I am so annoyed I didn’t save the pin!) I thought it would be great to use my lace for a Linden.

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Pattern matching – YAY!

 

 

I bought this grey fleece-backed sweatshirt fabric from eBay and my grey ribbing from Fabric Land. Unfortunately my fabric didn’t match the ribbing but this is something that was hard to tell on eBay. Also the fleece-backing on the fabric meant that it has practically no drape and it barely stretches, however this wasn’t too much of an issue as I cut a size 2 which fits me well with room so the lack of stretch isn’t noticeable. This did help however with using lace, as the lace is nylon and not stretchy so I was worried about attaching non-stretch to stretch fabric. Also, as a happy accident, the lace over the dark grey fabric gives the impression lightening the fabric to almost the colour of the ribbing, so in the end it didn’t seem as much of a clash as I had anticipated.

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The construction was really simple. I stuck to Jen’s instructions however had two exceptions. Before construction began I cut the lace front and back layers and tacked them to the base fabric within the seam allowances all around the edges. This made the top easier to assemble on my overlocker and although there were some parts where it still didn’t catch, it was mostly successful. I also omitted the ribbed cuffs as my ribbing was too much of a contrast for the sleeves which didn’t have any overlay. I wish I had decided this beforehand so I could compensate by making the sleeves longer, however instead I turned up the sleeve hem by 1/2″ and stitched with a twin needle. I didn’t use a twin needle around the neckline as I was worried the 6 layers (including seam allowances) would be too thick.

The extra layer and the fleece-backing has made this jumper really warm which is great with Christmas fast approaching and I already love it! I see more in my future!

*Oh and we FINALLY put up our Christmas tree today! Better late than never!*