Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Seaside Roller Blind and Philip the Seagull

Now that the weather is warmer and the schools have broken up for the summer we are using our new caravan to get away. The new caravan is great but lacks the personal touch that the old one had after many years of family holidays. This presents the perfect opportunity, however, for me to sew something.

I have already made a small pair of curtains to cover a cupboard opening here. My next project has been a blind to brighten up the shower room. The original blind was made from a grey, satin fabric which, although it was functional, wasn't very attractive to look at. I save most of my sewing magazines and found instructions for a roll-up blind in the October 2015 issue of Sew, Style & Home.

This is a very simple pattern which rolls up and is held in place with two ribbons. I wanted a seaside theme for the shower room and had two pieces of contrasting fabric left over from previous projects. I measured the window and cut a rectangle from each of the contrasting fabrics adding 1.5cm seam allowance on each side and 6.5 cm to the drop. Then I stitched the rectangles right sides together along the sides and bottom edge, trimmed the corners and turned the blind right sides out. My striped fabric is quite firm so I didn't need any interfacing to stiffen my blind but I would have added this layer if I had used two soft cotton fabrics. 

The original blind was held in place above the window with Velcro. I saved this before I threw the old blind away. I folded over a 5cm hem at the top edge, positioned long grossgrain ribbons to hang down the same length at the front and back and then sewed the Velcro strip to the top of the blind sewing over the top of the ribbons to hold them in place. 

The blind drops down when you untie the ribbons.

Being a small blind it is easy to roll up again. It gives the shower room a real holiday feel. 

Just for a bit of fun I knitted a woolly seagull. On holiday in St Davids one year my middle son, who was about 7 at the time, was mesmerised watching the seagulls wheeling overhead. This started a fascination with sea birds for him. He picked out a favourite on that day and named him "Philip". At each summer holiday he would look out for "Philip" and this remarkable bird followed us around the coast, always turning up at the beach we were visiting. Sometimes Philip was a Herring Gull, on other occasions he was a Kittiwake or a Black-Backed Gull, but he was always there for us. When my son was 11 he had to imagine he was an animal for an English essay and he was Philip the Albatross circling the globe, riding the thermals. Now I have my own little "Philip the Seagull" to bring back these happy memories.

I doubt that we will ever use the shower in the caravan for its intended purpose, but it is a very useful storage space and somewhere to get dressed in comfort. I like a site with a purpose-built toilet and shower block, with central heating if possible! The effort of carrying all of the water for a shower to the caravan and taking all of the waste water away afterwards removes the pleasure from a long, hot shower. But the shower room is now much brighter, more cheerful and a very useful space. 

Happy holidays....

Monday, 31 July 2017

Kwik sew 6391 again, a summer top

With all the hot weather we have been having, in between the rain showers, I have noticed the lack of summer tops in my wardrobe and thought I should do something to rectify this. I had just one metre of this beautiful floaty fabric. It was the end of the roll and only the first metre of the fabric was printed the rest was plain. I couldn't resist buying it and hoping that it would be enough to make something nice

This design is so interesting. It was a pleasure to sew because I kept seeing new things in the pattern. At first I was drawn to the button boots and roses but as I looked more closely I saw jewellery, lace, butterflies, a fan and so much more.

I needed a pattern for a sleeveless top which would not take too much fabric and I chose Kwik Sew 6391. I had used this pattern before to make a winter tunic dress in a much thicker knit fabric but the pattern is designed for light weight woven fabrics like this one. View B can be made from just one metre of fabric and I had just enough.

This fabric has a lovely drape but does not stretch at all. It was easy to sew because it didn't slide or slip. I am pleased with the finished top which is very cool to wear. 

The pleats sit nicely at the neck and it doesn't gape at the back.

I chose the medium size again. This blouse is quite roomy but because the fabric is so soft and drapes well this isn't a problem (I had to take the tunic in quite a lot because it was too big).

Although I am very pleased with both of the garments I made using this pattern there is one thing I don't like about it. The neck and armholes are finished with separate facings, which have a real tendency to poke out. I much prefer an all in one facing or bias binding and I will alter the pattern if I use it again. Here you can see the inside. I top-stitched all of the facings but they just don't want to lie flat. I have also neatened all of the raw edges with a narrow zig-zag to stop them fraying. 

All in all this is a nice blouse which is going to get plenty of wear if the weather stays nice.

For my next project I am looking for a sleeveless blouse to make in a cotton fabric with an all-in-one facing. Watch this space...

Bye for now, Rosemary.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Flutter Sleeve Blouse from a Vintage Pattern

At the end of May I cut out three new projects ready to sew, which is unusual for me because I normally limit myself to one thing at a time. I completed the first one here but life gets busy. OFSTED turned up at work, and some of you will have an understanding of what this means for any free time that you might have planned. 

Anyway, I have been looking at blouses with gathered cuffs for some time and wanted to make one for myself. I had a vintage pattern with just the sleeve I was looking for and the fabric to make it in my stash. I just needed to bring them both together. I loved this fabric as soon as I saw it. It is covered in passion flowers and lilies. I bought 2 one-yard pieces from the remnant stall on Leicester market.

I haven't been disappointed. The blouse is so pretty and makes me feel very feminine. The sleeves are comfortable to wear. They are short enough for the ruffles not to get in the way when you have a busy lifestyle.

I used a vintage pattern that I have made before here and this time I chose view D.

I didn't have enough fabric for the ruffles round the neck and down the front but I also thought these would be impractical for everyday. 

The fabric was very challenging. It is slippery,  springy and frays like mad. I sewed everything together as far as making the ruffles quite quickly. I used french seams throughout which has made the inside very neat and dealt with the fraying issues. I found that everything needed to be tacked first. Pins just didn't keep the layers together in the right place. 

A french seam and the last few tacking stitches still in place
The sleeve ruffles are circular and lined. I took a long time over these because I needed to stop and think at every stage. All of the seams wanted to spring flat and didn't hold a crease well.

Edge stitching around the ruffle edge

After sewing the top layer to the lining I added an extra row of stitching near to the edge to keep the facing in place just like I had around the neck, and this really helped. I then pinned and tacked the two layers together about half way up and close to the sleeve seam before slashing the seam allowance and stitching the facing in place by hand. All this extra care has paid off because the ruffles do hang really nicely.

The underside of the ruffle showing facing
I have made this pattern before so I didn't think I needed a toille. I was wrong. If you look closely at the photos you will see that the bust darts are about 2 inches too high. I don't remember altering the darts on the blouse last time and they are a much better fit. I'm not sure that I can do anything about this now, but because I put so much work into the ruffles and I like the fabric so much that I am going to wear my blouse. My none sewing friends don't seem to notice. 

You can see how the blouse pulls across the front on this photo. 

Most of the time it looks fine...

The back fastening lies flat when I put my arm back down again.

We have passion flowers growing just outside our bedroom window at the moment spilling over the fence from next door. They really are amazing

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Another Milestone, Another Giveaway

I have now been writing my blog since January and I am still going. I know that lots of you have been blogging for years but I really wasn't sure that I could keep it up. My life as a working Mum gets very busy and I had two worries. The first was that I was taking on a challenge that would take up too much time to be practical and the second was my lack of confidence. I worried that no-one would look at what I was writing and the whole point was to try to make contact with other people like me who love to sew.

This week I am very surprised to say that I have topped 3,000 hits! So a really big thank you to everyone who has had a look at this blog and reassured me that other people are as interested in reading about sewing as I am.

To celebrate this milestone I have two patterns to give away. They are both brand new and haven't been cut.

First is a copy of the Cynthia Rowley pattern that I have used to make my latest dress, Simplicity 1873.

Don't be put off by the pattern photograph like I was initially. This is a good standard dress pattern that I think is very versatile. There are loads of versions of this dress on other blogs and you can see mine here. The pattern is in sizes 6-14. It is designed for woven fabrics but I adapted mine for a fine jersey with 4 way stretch and it worked out well.

Second I have a spare copy of Butterick B5785, size 8-16
I haven't made this yet. It doesn't seem so popular with other bloggers but I do like the simple elegant lines and I will definitely try it at some point. The collar is really interesting. I imagine it made up in a linen fabric or something else quite crisp. If you are the successful winner perhaps you will make your version before I do and could pass on some advice or handy tips.

If you would like to be in with a chance to win these patterns just leave a comment at the bottom letting me know which of my posts is your favourite one so far. You can see a round up of all of the outfits I have made here.

I will be drawing the winner at midnight on Friday 14th July. I am happy to post worldwide to the lucky winner.

Monday, 3 July 2017

A Real Dress at last! Simplicity 1873

When I took part in Me Made May a month or so ago it gave me the opportunity to review my wardrobe and also to look at what other people were making. One thing I realised was that I had a nice collection of dresses but nothing with a waist and a full skirt. One reason for this, I think, is that I often make my clothes from remnants, so I can't always choose how much fabric I buy. I find myself drawn in by a nice pattern not worrying about how much there is to work with.  I have become an expert at squeezing a dress out of not-quite-enough material. I vowed this time to make myself a "proper dress" and looked out for a larger piece of fabric and the right pattern. I made a list of my requirements

1. I wanted a full skirt, perhaps even pleats
2. I planned to make the dress out of jersey so that it had a bit of stretch and would be nice and comfortable to wear.
3. I did not want any pleats or gathers around the neck. 

I was very tempted by the Moneta Dress in all of its versions made for the recent Moneta party. I even went to my local dressmaking shop to treat myself, but they had sold out!

I had this pattern in my stash already, but I had never liked it. I was affected by the photograph on the pattern envelope of a young girl in an ill-fitting party dress which was much too short for me.

But I was looking for a dress pattern so I had a second look and, learning from my experience with the wiggle skirt, I also searched the blogosphere to see whether any one else had made this dress before. 

Although the pattern photograph was discouraging the line drawings seemed to be just want I was looking for. 

A quick search of other people's blogs brought up more versions than any other pattern I have made before, which was very encouraging because there were lots of lovely dresses out there and several people used this pattern more than once, which is always a good recommendation. 

I found a 4 metre length of daisy print jersey with 4 way stretch that I liked. As usual it cost me £1 a metre. It is so soft on the inside and so summery with a really good drape. I also bought a small piece of navy blue jersey lining. This pattern isn't designed for a jersey fabric but I like to experiment and I thought that this fabric would look and feel great made up into a dress.  I decided to make view C but with the longer skirt length. 

Since the pattern wasn't designed for jersey I had to use my initiative and techniques that I had learnt for other jersey projects. I used stay tape to stabilise the armholes and  neck to prevent them from stretching out and this seemed to work well. I decided against overlocked the bodice seams because it is quite closely fitted so flat seams pressed open and were less bulky. I sewed the bodice pieces together with a narrow zigzag stitch then used an over-lock stitch for the skirt seams. The fabric doesn't fray so I didn't need to neaten the seams. 

The lining was stitched to the bodice around the neck and armholes and then pulled right side out through the shoulder seams. This is my preferred was of attaching lining because it gives such a neat finish and avoids fiddly bits of hand sewing. Jersey is always more bulky and doesn't press so sharply. With my choice of fabric I ended up with bulky seams that I trimmed with my pinking shears. I had never tried this before and found that it was a very good technique for trimming and snipping curved seams. What I also discovered was that my family had used my pinking shears for craft work and they were completely blunt. I will need to get a new pair!

In order to get a good finish around the neck and armholes I top-stitched near to the edge. 

The feature of this pattern that I really like is the pleated full skirt. By using pleats instead of gathers the fullness of the skirt lies nice and smooth around the waist. I didn't have any trouble lining up the pleats using the markings and instructions on the tissue paper pattern. 

I inserted an invisible zip down the centre back seam. The instructions tell you to trim the zipper tape level with the neck seam. I am a bit worried about this. I would usually fold the excess zipper tape in to the seam but in this dress there isn't room and it wouldn't lie flat, so I took  deep breath and cut it off. I will have to see whether the zip lasts or whether it unravels, it looks OK so far.  I like the way that the lining is machine stitched right sides together down the centre back along the zip stitching and then turned out. It gives such a neat finish. 

The inside of this dress looks as neat as the right side. The really soft jersey feels lovely against your skin and this dress is very comfortable because of the stretch. 

If I was asked to review this pattern I would say:

Pattern Description
Summer dress in two lengths with or without sleeves. I made view C in the longer length.

Pattern sizing
I made size 14

Does it look like the photographs on the pattern envelope?
No. Absolutely not, but that is a good thing as far as I am concerned. 

Were the instructions easy to follow?
Yes. And there were some really good techniques to learn.
- the pleated skirt
- a lined bodice with invisible zip

Did you like or dislike this pattern
I like this pattern in the view that I made. I am not sure whether I would make View A with the higher neckline.
I love the smooth lines of the pleated skirt. 
I like the high waist but have read other reviewers who say they lengthened the bodice. I think it feels very comfortable and gives more swing to the skirt, but it is down to personal preference. 

I don't like the instruction to cut off the top of the zipper tape and will think about how to fit the zip differently if I make this again.

Pattern alterations
I made my dress in a jersey fabric which is not one of the recommended fabrics. I needed experience using jersey to adapt some of the instructions but I figured that this pattern was not so different from lots of patterns made for stretch fabrics and it I should be OK. I was prepared to put in a waist stay but in the end I don't seem to need it. 

So now for a photograph of me posing in my new dress. 

If you have made this pattern let me know how you found it and if you have any tips to share. 

Happy sewing...

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

A-Line Summer Dress, New Look K6263

We are having some really hot weather for the UK at the moment and summer dresses are my favourite thing to wear to work in the hot weather. Paired with a light cardigan, I can manage the heat outside and the cool of the air conditioning in the office. 

I have had this beautiful fabric in my stash for a while. It is a soft, lightweight jersey and I love the way that the red and pink go together. It has a strong 60's vibe, which seems to be a theme in my sewing at the moment, so I wanted a pattern that would compliment this. The remnant that I bought was just 1 1/2 metres long which also limited my choice of pattern.

Among my patterns I had New Look K6263 and that seemed the ideal choice.

The pattern isn't designed for stretch fabrics but I think it needs something with a bit of body that drapes well so decided to take a risk. I chose to make view A because I liked the keyhole neck detail, but the bow was much too fussy for me. It is a loose, flowing dress without a fitted waist so I cut a size 12, which is my RTW size, when I often make a size 14. The pattern has 11.5cm ease or 4 1/2 inches which does seem a lot and isn't necessary with a stretch fabric. In the end I was very glad that I didn't make a larger size because I think my dress is a good fit. My bra straps lie comfortably under the neck band and I think that the arm holes would have gaped if I had made a larger size.

I cut a contrasting neck band from some of the fabric left over from the collar of my summer shift dress. I think the contrasting colour highlights the construction features nicely.

I found the neckband quite challenging to put together. The first step was to apply facing to the V

I use a light weight, fusible interfacing which I neatened around the edge with a simple zigzag stitch to avoid it becoming bulky. The pattern suggested under-stitching around the V but my fabric pressed well and this didn't seem necessary. I trimmed the seam allowance close to the seam and I haven't had any problems with it lying flat.   

The armholes were trimmed with bias binding. The back opening was just turned in and hemmed by machine. This was all quite straightforward. I used traditional 5/8th inch seams using a narrow zigzag to allow for the stretch

From that point on things began to get more challenging. The neckband is made up of 6 pieces of fabric plus 3 pieces of interfacing. It was very important to mark the dots and notches accurately because these were key to stitching the band in the right places before attaching it to the dress. There were 13 steps altogether to make the neckband and sew it to the dress. The instructions were clear and the diagrams were very helpful, but this definitely isn't a pattern I could have put together without reading to instruction sheet. In the end it all fell neatly into place and it looks deceptively simple, just a plain white band on a simple shift dress!!

I am very pleased with the details at the back of the neck. I made narrow rouleau loops from the white jersey fabric and used two vintage buttons from a collection my great aunt gave me, so this dress holds some extra family memories for me. 

The fabric is soft, light and drapes well. I especially like the A-Line shape, which skims my figure in all the right places, and it is very comfortable to wear. I think I would consider making it again some time but the next thing I want to make is a "real dress". I have made lots of straight shift dresses and am really looking forward to making a bodice, a fitted waist and a full skirt. 

So for now here are a few more photos of a dress that makes me want to twirl!

Bye for now,  

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Simple Sew, Wiggle Skirt

Taking part in Me Made May '17 last month identified one gap in my wardrobe which I addressed straight way. I needed more separates to wear for work during the week. I had a number of tops with purple in the design which I was wearing with a black M&S skirt that had seen better days and was a bit tight, so I decided to make a new skirt. My go-to skirt pattern has been the pencil skirt from the Great British Sewing Bee book, series one. I have made three variations of this skirt pattern, all in stretch jersey, and I fancied a change. I was looking for something a bit more shapely and a bit smarter.

In my pattern collection I have the Two-in-One skirt pattern from Simple Sew. This looked like just what I needed.

I chose the Wiggle Skirt version and bought 1.5 metres of light weight purple suiting with 1 metre of lining because I wanted to line my skirt to stop it from clinging.

My measurements coincided with size 10 on the hips and I graded up to size 14 at the waist. As I have got older I have found that my waist has filled out and I no longer have an hour glass shape but I am more of a rectangle now. I often have to let out patterns at the waist. I have heard lots of other dressmakers say the same thing and I think we just change shape with age. We start life as a D shape with straight back and rounded tummy, develop curves in our teens and then later on in life everything changes again.

This skirt was easy to make and came together quickly. Just like the pattern suggests, it was a simple sew. The fabric I  chose frayed badly so I used the overlock stitch on my machine to neaten all of the raw edges as the pattern advised.

I cut the lining from the same pattern pieces as the skirt and made it up in exactly the same way, except that I only wanted the lining to come down as far as the top of the back slit. I measured the required length, added 2 inches for a hem allowance and cut the acetate lining fabric to the right length.

When both the skirt and lining pieces were sewn together I matched up the lining and skirt wrong sides together and tacked them at the waist seam. Then I sewed them both to the waist band and continued to follow the pattern instructions. Stitching in the ditch from the right side has left a slightly uneven finish on the inside where no-one can see it.

I slip stitched the lining to the zip tape to neaten the opening and prevent the lining from getting caught in the zip when I pull it up.

I am pleased with the fit of this skirt, although it doesn't have quite such a curvy silhouette as I expected. I think I will make it a little bit tighter round the waist if I make it again.  Mine does seem more of a pencil skirt shape than a wiggle skirt, but this may be due to me not having a very slim waist.

This side view shows the slight gaping at the waist

My invisible zip was very stiff at the top so it wasn't possible to line it up with the top of the waist band. I have added a hook and loop to bring the top together neatly and that seems to have solved the problem.

I love the slit at the back and the way it lets me walk freely. Despite the slim silhouette I can still walk easily, which is very important.

After finishing the skirt I looked on line and found the tutorial by Gabby from Gabberdashery here and I wish I had seen this before I made my version. It was an easy skirt to make, but Gabby made a few improvements that I wish I had thought of, and seeing someone else make the skirt would have made the instructions so much clearer to follow. For example, Gabby used french seams for her side seams. This would have solved my fraying issues and given a much neater finish. I also like the way that Gabby doubled over the wide allowance by the back split. I just neatened mine and folded it back.

I am still experimenting to find tops that compliment this colour. This RTW butterfly top seems to look good and plain white or black are also OK. The tops I tried during May were less successful, mainly because they were loose fitting. I plan to make more fitted tops and to pay more attention to the fit as a result of seeing so many photographs of myself in my day to day wear.

My husband is very pleased with his refurbished pond surround which features in these photographs. Our garden is another work in progress which is being documented as the backdrop to my sewing projects. It will be good to look back on these pictures in the future and be reminded of the changes.