Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Character Costume Day

It's book week again at school this week and on Thursday my son will need to dress up as a character from a book that he likes and wear his costume to school. As we have been thinking about who to choose and planning the costume I have been thinking back over all of the outfits I made for his older brothers in the past. They are both at university now but we have lots of good memories of past character costume days and looking back I was quite surprised at the detail in some of the costumes I made for them.

I hope that this blog post will inspire and encourage you to have a go and be adventurous, but there isn't much time left so at the end I have included some of the ideas we had which were easier and didn't involve so much sewing in case you are still looking for inspiration.

The tiger who came to tea
Lots of my patterns have been self drafted but I have relied on two vintage children's patterns as a good starting point. This tiger outfit was made from Butterick 5104. A vintage pattern which my mother used to make a costume for my sister when I was about 6 years old.

I used the pattern again to make a tin man costume the same year,

Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz
Daniel is wearing his heart in his pocket, has a foil covered funnel on his head and I was really pleased to be able to buy a bright red oil can to match.

The following year we were asked to provide our children with victorian costumes to go to a victorian activity day. These are the ones I made

Victorian school days

These costumes were more complicated. Granny lent us the hats, the breeches were cut off trousers which had become a bit short. The long socks were standard football socks. I used old white school shirts and cut of the collars to make granddad shirts and gave each of the boys a scarf from their Dad's collection. The jackets I drafted myself. I used Simplicity 4924 size 6 as a guide for the size and shape of the jacket.

The dress opened down the back and my jackets open at the front so I placed the centre back seam on the fold and added a facing and an overlap for buttons at the front. I ended up with too much fullness in the back of the jacket and that is why there is a short waistband gathering in the extra. I lengthened the dress sleeve pattern to make the jacket sleeves. Each jacket was made out of an old pair of their Dad's trousers. I was able to cut the front and back out of one leg and the sleeves out of another.

The following year both boys were really enjoying reading Harry Potter. I think everyone has a Harry Potter costume at some time. This time I bought a pattern to make the wizard robes. I can't remember which pattern I used and I don't have it any more. I made the robes in crushed velvet each with a different sparkly trim and a contrasting lining. These costumes have been used a lot for playing in and we still have them. The boys loved them too much to part with them although they no longer fit. I made the sorting hat from curtain lining and brown paint, the glasses came from the dressing up box and we used chopsticks as wands.

Harry Potter

Dumbledore looked amazing in his hair and long beard but it was so itchy that it had to come off as soon as he got to school.

I don't know whether you have wondered but my older sons are identical twins. We couldn't resist taking advantage of them begin in the same class, so one year they dressed up as a pantomime horse from the book "Pongwiffy and the Pantomime" by Kaye Umansky. I didn't have a pattern for this costume. I used the jump suit pattern again as a guide for some dungarees and made black frills around the bottom to look like hooves. The horse's head was sized up from a toy horse pattern and the body was just draped over them and cut to size before being attached to the head. The boy in the front looked out through a gauze square. The horse in the book is red with white spots but I ran out of time so my horse was the colour of the original curtain lining with some patchwork squares sewn on.

The last costume I thought you might like to see is Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The trouser pattern was made using a pair of shorts as a guide. They pull on with an elasticated waist so were easy to make and the pockets are patch pockets which blend in because the checks match. The waistcoat and purple tailcoat were drafted using the dress pattern Simplicity 4924 as a guide for the size and this time I took in the back so that it fitted better. The cane is a length of black plastic pipe with a plastic Christmas bauble tied to the end. I made the hat from layers of newspaper covered in black jersey and sewn round and round to hold all of the layers together. This lasted several years in the dressing up box until last year when my youngest son wore this costume again to Character Costume Day. I splashed out on a top hat for him from the local dancing shop. I couldn't face making another one.

This year I am making a costume for Seismic Sid, The boy in the Horrible Geography book about earthquakes. This is a quick fix. He just needs a scientist's white coat made from a cut down shirt and a box of tools. If like me you want an easy project this year then here are some I have tried before:

Harry and the Bucket full of Dinosaurs, by Ian Whybrow
- Jeans and a jumper, spiky jelled hair and a seaside bucket from holiday filled with plastic dinosaurs.

Tom's Midnight Garden, by Phillipa Pearce
- Your pyjamas, dressing gown and slippers

The Saga of Eric the Viking, by Terry Jones
- Track suit bottoms with tape tied round the legs, a large dull coloured T-shirt borrowed from Dad tied with a belt, a fabric rectangle to use as a cloak pinned to the shoulder with a broach and a plastic viking hat and axe from the local museum shop.

The Boy in the Dress, by David Walliams
- You need a very brave boy for this one who has good friends for support, but he only needs his sister's dress to wear.

I have had fun making these costumes over the years and my sons have had fun wearing them. I hope that you feel inspired. I would love to hear your ideas if you make a costume or if you have any ideas for next year. I have been wondering whether Aslan would be possible...

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Calvin Klein cotton blouse, Vogue 1878

After all of the slippery, stretchy and sheer things I have been making lately it was pure pleasure to cut out and make this cotton blouse. (Vogue 1878 by Calvin Klein)

The fabric is a fine cotton lawn in a very pale minty green with tiny white flowers all over. I'm afraid that the photos don't really do justice to the subtle shade of green.

This is a straight blouse without shaping and I didn't want to have the same fitting issues as I had with the pussy bow blouse so I made a toile first and was glad that I did. The pattern fits well on the shoulders but was a bit tight everywhere else so I added extra ease on the centre and side seams. The disadvantage with using a vintage pattern is that they only come in one size so I had to add extra to the side and centre back seams.

As I said in my last post this pattern only had one sheet of instructions for cutting out and starting view A. After that it has been mainly guesswork using the diagram for guidance.

I have made view B. It was quite straightforward in the end. I used straight seams for the shoulders, neatened them with an overlocking stitch and top stitched towards the front. This has given me a nice flat finish.

The next step was to attach the facing. I used a fine iron-on interfacing. This was the only real glitch I had. I set the iron too hot and suddenly a section of interfacing shrivelled up, but luckily the fabric was OK so I just pealed it off and cut another piece of interfacing. I will need to be more careful in future.

Next I set in the sleeves. I didn't widen the sleeves at all when I sized up the pattern. By keeping the shape of the arm hole the same the sleeves fitted in easily, I did stitch a row of easing stitches along the seam line but I don't think I really needed them. The cotton frays a lot so I have trimmed and overlocked the sleeve seams on my sewing machine. Having discovered the overlocking stitch I find that I am using it all the time now and I don't know how I managed without it.

I decided to use a flat fell seam for the side and sleeve seams. I stitched this all in one, sewing from the bottom up. This has given me a smooth finish with all of the raw edges inside and I think this is my go-to finish for cotton shirts and blouses.

One feature I especially like is the finish at the bottom of the button band. This is often a tricky area on a blouse but in this case the diagram showed a continuous line of stitching running all the way around, 1 inch away from the edge, and there were a few instructions at the end of the first sheet.

I stitched my facing one inch from the edge, trimmed the facing seam allowance and turned it out. Then I pressed the hem up by one inch all the way round. When I stitched the facing to the blouse I turned a right angle at the neck and the hem giving one continuous line of stitching all round. I admit that I didn't manage this all in one go on this blouse because I was making it up as I went along but if I make this blouse again I will know what to do. It is so neat and so satisfyingly regular. I am one of these people who likes to line up the table legs with the stripes on the tiles or carpet and wants the spots on the table cloth to line up with the mats so this pattern was made for me!

Last but not least I made six buttonholes down the front and sewed on 6 buttons from my collection. I love these shell buttons. I have several sizes and I used the smallest. They shine in the light and pick up the colours in whatever you sew them on to.

So there we are. I feel quite pleased with the end result but if any one has this pattern I would be very interested to know how closely mine resembles the actual instructions. Please leave a comment and let me know.
It was a very cold day for prancing about in the garden in a thin summer blouse taking photos but here we are!

Friday, 17 February 2017

Vintage Vogue Patterns to add to my Collection

Five years ago we moved house as a family. To begin with we moved to a much smaller home and it was necessary to get rid of lots of things we didn't need. At the time I wasn't sewing much because I had a busy full time job and a family to look after, which didn't leave much time for hobbies. I was ruthless and sent all of my dressmaking patterns to the charity shop because I couldn't imagine that I would need them again. How wrong I was, I am now sewing more than ever and I really miss some of those patterns. The collection included my wedding dress, going away outfit and some old friends that I had used over and again.

In the last 3 years life has changed and I am back sewing and making my own clothes. I have been gradually building up my pattern collection again. This week I visited my local Sue Rider shop where they often have vintage dressmaking patterns for sale. I found two lovely vintage Vogue patterns and snapped them up.

Vintage paterns from the '70s and '80s

I am now the happy owner of Vogue pattern 1878. This pattern is by Calvin Klein and dates back to 1978. I have some lovely satin fabric in my stash and am looking forward to trying the pattern. There is always a risk with second hand patterns that there will be pieces missing and true to form this pattern only has one of the instruction sheets, which is a shame because I think that the instructions on a Vogue pattern are usually very good. But, all of the pattern pieces are there so I will use my initiative and see how I get on. I think I might make the first blouse in cotton which will be easier to handle while I try to figure out how the pieces go together for the first time. You can see it here.

Vogue pattern number 1981, designed by Calvin Klein, was in my pattern collection that I gave away and it is one of the ones that I regret parting with most. Hopefully this pattern, by the same designer, will take its place for me.

I also bought Vogue 2361, designed by Albert Nipon in 1980. I love the pin-tucks and tiny buttons up the front. I expect that this will be quite a challenging make. Both patterns look as though they feature plunging necklines, which are not really my style, so I may need to make some adjustments. This pattern is complete and has never been cut so it was quite a bargain.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

My Favourite Shift Dress, New Look 6145

I bought this dress pattern in the same lot from eBay as the New Look pattern in my last blog. I would have to say that this is the best everyday dress pattern that I have come across recently. I like the A-line shape, which is comfortable and flattering to my figure, and the french darts in the front give the dress just enough shape  This dress has proved easy to make and easy to wear.

I have made two versions so far which I wear all the time for work. The first was in red and black checked velvety material with silver flecks.

At first I wasn't sure about this fabric. I thought it might even be a furnishing fabric. It was very firm, but I think this pattern needs a firm fabric to help the dress to keep its shape. A soft, draping fabric would be inclined to cling and wouldn't keep the A-Line shape so well.

I chose to make version B. I especially like the 3/4 length sleeves. The set in sleeves fitted in easily. The pleated sleeves are not to my taste at all but I do like the sleeveless version with the collar. I was very careful to match the checks on the centre back and side seams. The sleeves don't match quite so well but at least they do line up with each other. I really don't like to see mismatched checks or stripes on RTW garments.

As I put the dress together it seemed to me that I might not need a long zip down the back. I tacked along the centre back seam and found that the dress pulled on easily without a back opening so I stitched up the centre back seam and have substituted the zip with a keyhole opening using a short piece of bias binding to make a loop for a small button. I think this works well and is an attractive feature on the back.

Another thing I like about this pattern  is the kick pleat/vent on the back hem. The skirt is wide enough to move around freely so you could leave this out, but I like this detail and often include one in the back of my skirts. I think it makes a skirt look well made and I like the way the vent flicks open as you walk.

I used seam tape to take up the hem to reduce the bulk. This red seam tape was given to me by my grandmother when I was a child. I have a small roll left and whenever I use it I think of her. This makes my red dress just a bit special.

The neck line is quite wide. It just covers my bra straps but if you have narrow shoulders you might need to make some adjustments. I keep meaning to put some tapes in to secure my straps and perhaps one day I will get around to it, or perhaps not!

I was so pleased with the first dress that I made another one almost straight away. I bought this navy blue sweatshirt jersey with the intention of making a tunic top but I had enough for a dress.

When I washed  this dress a few times I was really disappointed to find that it faded badly. At first I thought it looked shabby. However, other people seemed to like it and the more it has faded the more positive comments I have received. I really like it when friends ask me where I bought the clothes that I have made myself (and sometimes I keep it to myself that they are home made). Now that I have blogged this I think that the secret is out!

This time instead of a button fastening at the back I sewed up the back seam all the way to the top. I have attached a short metal zip on the outside but as I don't need to open it this is just for decoration and not functional.

I am sure that I will use this pattern again. I like the dress with the collar cut on the bias. The sleeveless dress with the collar, view E, is very reminiscent of the 1960s and I would like to try that next.

Monday, 6 February 2017

New Look 6217, Top with Short Kimono Sleeves

When I had my new tablet for Christmas I was busy reading other people's blogs and getting inspired when I came across this pattern. I had this pattern in my collection but I had never looked twice at it. It came in a job lot I bought from eBay but it didn't look like my style, I haven't got those legs! Anyway, there it was on Handmade Jane and Jane was describing it as "a hidden gem" and "without doubt, the biggest hit of her sewing year". I always like the things that Jane makes, she is a bit of a role model for me, so I have had another look at this pattern and here is my version of the top.

Apologies for the garden bins, my photographer is in training!

I made a size 12, but I think I could have taken it in a bit on the hips and I might taper the side-seams if I make another one. Otherwise it is a really nice fit.

This fabric has been in my stash since last year. It is a deep salmon pink crepe that drapes beautifully. I had just one metre but it was 60" wide. This was enough to cut out the blouse and to make bias binding for the neck facing.

Here are some photos of the blouse in construction. It was really important to stay stitch the neck to stop it from stretching out. I pinned the bias binding in place on my dress form to ensure that it would lie flat and not gape.

There is a single button closure at the back of the neck. I suspect that I will never undo this button but will just pull the top on and off over my head, but it is a nice little detail on the back. (I noticed the little threads around the loop after I took this photo so I have trimmed them off now)

I haven't made a thread loop for years but it was quick and I enjoyed doing it.

Finally, it was a lovely sunny afternoon so we went out into the garden to take some photographs. The skirt is one of my old favourites. In the photographs the pinks don't quite seem to match but I think they look better in real life where the salmon pink is echoed in some of the pink shades in the roses.

And last but not least, the back.

I really like this top and think I will wear it a lot, especially as the weather gets warmer. So, thank you very much to Jane for trying it out, posting it on her blog and sharing it with the rest of us. Now I need to hurry down to Leicester market to buy some more remnants in all my favourite colours. Then I might need to try the skirt!

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Pussybow pattern hack

Here is the blouse that I have put together from Burda Style 6/2013 pattern 118 and the bow collar from the October 2016 issue of Dressmaker magazine.  Making this blouse has been a labour of love. The fabric is sheer, slippery and just a little stretchy and it frays like mad. I have taken each step slowly and carefully because I really wanted this to be successful. Here are some of the tips that helped me.

I used plenty of pins whilst cutting out to stop the fabric from slipping.

I sewed a trial seam and found that I needed a size 60 universal needle. If I used a larger size it pulled threads in the fabric. Sharps and ballpoint needles had the same effect, pulling at the threads. I used a brand new needle to be sure that it had a good point on it. I also bought a new reel of Gutterman thread, which was the finest and smoothest that my local shop had in stock.

I have used French seams for the side seams and sleeves to ensure that all of the raw edges are neatly enclosed and won't fray.

French seam

Because this blouse is made from a sheer fabric and is a dark colour, interfacing would show through and spoil the finished look. I was worried that an iron on facing would stiffen the blouse front. However, the fabric was so soft that it needed reinforcing for the buttons and buttonholes. I made fabric interfacing using the leftover material and  had just enough  to cut out the interfacings for both centre fronts. This is the first time that I have faced a garment with fabric interfacing. I sewed the interfacing in along the seam lines and everything is held in place by the button and buttonhole stitching.

I found very useful advice on sewing with sheer fabrics on the Sabrina-Student Designer website with clear photos, which was a great help. However there is lots of advice out there when you start looking. 

I know from experience that buttonholes made with my automatic buttonholer are rather thick and chunky. I chose a buttonhole setting on my machine and then followed the instructions in the manual to make small, fine buttonholes. 

close-up of buttonholes

This time I did put a layer of tissue paper under the fabric to ensure that it fed evenly under the presser foot. The tissue paper tore away easily without leaving any trace once the buttonholes were finished. I keep a supply of tissue paper from packaging for this purpose but I noticed that Sabrina was using the off-cuts from dressmaking patterns and I thought what a good idea this was. I usually throw this away once the pattern is cut out but now I am going to keep the bigger pieces.

This blouse is a much better fit than the last one. The darts and shaped side seams mean that it falls better and is comfortable to wear. 

While I have been sitting writing this blog I have noticed that the snowdrops have just started to come out in the garden, They are really late this year but perhaps spring is on its way!