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My March Minerva Make – The Lady Skater dress

March 24, 2015

I have been meaning to buy the Kitschy Coo Lady Skater dress pattern for sooooooo long, after admiring it on so many other sewing bloggers.  I don’t quite know why it took me so long to get around to it, but I’m glad I finally did as I love my new dress.  The pattern comes as a PDF, which made me think twice before buying, but I was relieved to find it’s very simple to assemble and doesn’t use tons of paper.  It’s also a quick project to sew up: once I had assembled the paper pattern, I was able to cut and sew up my toile in just over two hours.

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The fabric is Ponte Roma stretch jersey in red and black dogtooth.  It is LOVELY and I want MORE.  It’s quite a sturdy knit, which I like, and it feels so smooth and soft.  It also comes in grey and black, tan brown and black, and a rather lovely royal blue and black, too, but of course I had to have red ;-)

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Before I used the fabric, I made a toile in a size 5, using some plain purple jersey I got from The Man Outside Sainsburys (TM).  This is just regular single jersey – actually from the handle, drape and finish I’d say it was viscose jersey.  The dress turned out ok, but I wanted it to be a bit tighter.  It didn’t seem to hug my waist in the way that I would expect this style of dress to do.  I know that last sentence may make you think I’ve been replaced by an imposter, as I usually complain about things being too tight, but to me the bodice of this dress needs to be a snug fit.

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I think the dress looks nice with this jacket (the jacket was not made by me, unfortunately).  I have worn it a few times, and it’s ok, but I definitely prefer my dogtooth version, for which I retraced and made a size 4.  I think it’s miles better on me, but I’m open to other opinions if you have them!

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I don’t know if you can tell, but I haven’t hemmed either of these dresses.  I know you don’t technically need to finish the raw edges of knits because they don’t fray, although there’s still part of me that feels a bit naughty for not ‘finishing’.  But then I saw jersey skirts for sale in H&M the other day and they weren’t hemmed either!  Not that H&M is the pinnacle of high quality, of course.

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Perhaps I ought to get a twin needle and give that a try.  As it happens, I didn’t really want to take anything off the length of these dresses so that was another reason to not bother.

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I love the simplicity of this pattern.  I would recommend it to others although I’m pretty sure that I’m the last person on earth to buy it anyway?!  I’m sure I’ll be making more versions once I get my hands on some more nice fabric.  Thanks to Minerva for the supplies – they sent me the fabric, thread and some clear elastic for stabilising the shoulder and waist seams.  It’s the first time I’ve used clear elastic and I really liked it because it’s less bulky than other elastics.

And now I’m off to drink a cup of tea and maybe start a new book.  Bye for now!

My February Minerva Make – Burda 6931 Men’s Shirt

February 24, 2015

It’s been a while since I made a shirt for my husband.  Like, two years.  The first three shirts I made him using the Colette Negroni pattern were fine (each an improvement on the preceding one), but when I tried a Simplicity pattern for a Western style shirt, it all went a bit wrong (my fault) and scared me off sewing shirts.  It was way too big, and to top it off I accidentally sewed the buttonholes on the wrong side.  Ooops.

Finally I felt ready to tackle a shirt again but I wanted a different style this time, more in keeping with what my husband likes wearing – a fitted shirt with a regular collar (not a camp collar like the Negroni) that could be worn with a tie if desired.  I found Burda 6931, and was at first put off by the contrast sleeves, collar and pocket of view A, but the line drawing showed potential so I ordered it, along with some really lovely quality cotton poplin which is perfect for making shirts with.  My husband chose the colour, Claret, and I think it’s lovely.  I neglected to see that the fabric recommendations are for fabrics with elastane, and having made the shirt I can now see why – it is very fitted!

Burda 6931 pattern

Burda 6931 pattern

After the disastrously big shirt I made last time, I wanted to make sure I didn’t get it wrong this time.  I measured him and after consulting the size charts and the finished garment measurements, I opted to cut a size 36 for the chest but to grade down to a 34 at the waist.

Burda 6931 in Claret Red poplin

Burda 6931 in Claret Red poplin

I wanted this shirt to be beautifully finished, so I chose to sew flat fell seams for most of the seams, but when I was attaching one of the sleeves, I accidentally snipped into the seam allowance of the fabric (which when sewing a flat fell seam is on the right side of the garment).  I was very, very annoyed with myself and I just couldn’t think what to do to fix it.  I left it a whole two days before it suddenly occurred to me that I could unpick the sleeve and sew it the other way around, so that the snipped bit would at least be on the inside of the shirt!  So it’s still a flat-fell seam, just that the overlapped part is on the inside – but you still get the second row of stitching showing on the right side parallel to the seam, so it looks good from the outside, too.  Phew!

Burda 6931 - ignore the girly coat hanger!

Burda 6931 – ignore the girly coat hanger!

After having made several shirts before, and two shirt dresses, I was mentally prepared for the task of sewing the collar.  Good job, too.  Burda instructions are a bit sparse, to be honest – there’s none of the hand-holding that you might get in patterns from other companies.  I remembered to ensure that the interfaced sides of the collar and collar band would be facing out when the collar is turned down, and when I was attaching the collarband piece to the neck edge, I clipped a scant 1/4″ into the neck edge of the shirt to help with the curve and avoid puckering.  Incidentally, this is the first time I’ve ever sewn a shirt without a back yoke!

This is no yoke.

This is no yoke.

The sleeve vent instructions were extremely basic, and my previous experience means I’ve only ever made sleeve plackets rather than simple vents, so I had to consult one of my sewing books instead to get my head around what to do.  They turned out ok to look at, but my husband did say that the vent seems to want to sit too far to the front, so perhaps the position of the vent needs to be further to the back next time.

Sleeve vent, cuff, buttons and collar

Sleeve vent, cuff, buttons and collar

I’d pretty much got this shirt all sewn up when I did a fit check.  I basted the side seams together and, when husband returned home from the gym, I asked him to try it on.  I was mortified to see it was too tight!  I measured him again and he did seem to have grown a bit since I first measured, but I couldn’t understand how the ease built into the pattern didn’t cater for this!  He claimed that he was bound to be a bit bigger directly after lifting weights, so all I could do was just wait and see if he’d shrunk again by the next day.  I was sooooo disappointed – I felt like the shirt was looking perfect, but what good is a shirt that is too tight?  He looked as though he’d been vacuum-packed into it!

Between this trying on session and the next, I undid the side seams and sewed them up again with a seam allowance of 1/4″ – which would give an extra 3/4″ width each side.  In hindsight, I should have only done this at the side seams and not the underarm seams as well, as the sleeves didn’t need any extra width and now I think they look a bit billowy in comparison with the fit of the rest of the shirt.  Decreasing the seam allowance to such an extent meant that I was unable to do flat fell seams at the sides – very disappointing.  I didn’t want to overlock it, so I sewed a reinforcing extra line of stitching and then pinked the raw edges.

It fits!

It fits!

Because of the extra width in the sleeves, I had to increase the depth of the pleats in order to fit the cuffs.  This could perhaps be a contributing factor to the not-quite-perfect fit of the sleeves.  I wanted to create as much extra room as possible in the shirt, so the final change I made was to move all of the buttons over so that they were nearer the edge of the centre front.  When my husband returned home from work, he tried the shirt on, and due to a magical combination of him shrinking and me making the shirt bigger, it fitted him!

It is very fitted, although I wonder if I’m hyper-sensitive to it because I made it.  I think next time I’d like to sew a size larger and see how that turns out.  Anyway, my husband likes it and demanded to wear it for an applicant day at work, and he said it was nice to wear and didn’t feel too tight.  There isn’t any straining at the buttons, which I think would be the most obvious sign of it being too small.

Ready for work

Ready for work

Overall I really enjoyed making the shirt, despite the problems I encountered.  I like the precision of shirt-making, and I take great pride in making something to the best of my ability, and solving problems when they occur.  I’ll definitely be using this pattern again!  I think I’d sew a size bigger and then I know I’d be fine to use a regular, non-stretch cotton.  I’d definitely want to use the same interfacing, too.  The woven interfacing from Minerva is THE BEST.  Seriously.  It’s my favourite.  Love it.

Right, I’m off to sew some pretty dresses.  It can’t all be selfless sewing around here, after all! ;-)

The Francoise toile

February 19, 2015
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Hi there!  Today I’m just going to quickly show you the first toile of the Tilly Francoise dress, which I deliberately made in a nice fabric and hoped it would turn out to be wearable.  The fabric is Amy Butler, and I got it in a fabric swap when I met up with some sewing bloggers in Leeds last year.  The print is pretty big and it just seemed perfect for a 60s style shift dress.

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I had 2.2m of the fabric so I decided to also toile the sleeves.  When tracing the pattern, I knew it was going to come up pretty short on me so I added in an inch of length at each ‘Increase/Decrease Length Here’ line, so 2″ in total.  The first of these lines bisects the waist dart, so I had to redraw those to fit the amended pattern.

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Foolishly using the ‘finished garment measurements’ as a guide, I cut a size 4, but I realise now that you don’t want the finished garment measurements to match your actual measurements in this style of shift dress, because it isn’t meant to fit your waist or hips closely!

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I basted the dress together, tried it on and came to two conclusions: first, it was too tight for my liking, second, the sleeves had to go.  The print plus the style of the dress just demanded to be sleeveless.

Too close-fitting and the sleeves don't look right in this fabric!

Too close-fitting and the sleeves don’t look right in this fabric!

I unpicked it all, cut yokes instead of sleeves, and sewed it up again with a 1/4″ side seam allowance!  Luckily, this made all the difference and I feel a lot more comfortable in it now.  I still traced the larger size for my Valentine’s dress though, and will use the size 5 again for the version I’m making for White Tree Fabrics – perhaps with a swayback adjustment as suggested by some commenters on my last post!

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Annoyingly, although I’ve pressed and steamed and ironed a billion times, I can’t get rid of that centre front crease!  Any tips of how to get rid of it?

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I love the finished dress, anyway, even though it’s a little tighter at the top than my ideal fit.  It’s so 60s, I couldn’t resist pairing it with some knee high boots!  I was bloody freezing getting these photos taken though so for now it will be worn with tights, but it’s going to be great for the two days of summer we might get in August.

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Also I have new hair!  I cut a fringe mid-January and I’m loving it!  It seems to complete the 60s look!  The next photo is a bit overexposed but I still like it so I’m adding it in just for the hell of it.  Indulge me.

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Valentine’s Dress 2015

February 15, 2015

Greetings.  Today I want to show you the dress I made for this Valentine’s Day.

Francoise dress

The Colette Macaron that I made for last year, with Alexander Henry fabric and red silk contrast, is now too big, so I wanted to make a new one.

For my birthday in 2013, Aileen bought me a gift pack from Spoonflower.  It included a book about fabric design, some swatches of the different types of fabric, and a gift certificate which would cover the cost of at least 2 yards of fabric.  I looked into designing my own fabric, but not having the right computer software made that a bit tricky, and when I found red and navy heart print fabric designed by somebody else, I wanted that one immediately.  Not having much spare cash at the time, I simply opted for 2 yards (I was also fearing a possible customs charge!).  The fabric arrived and I was very disappointed to find that instead of sending me a continuous length of 2 yards, they sent me two separate yards!  What is that all about?!  So, I had two separate pieces, each 90cm in length.  Being primarily a dress-wearer, I couldn’t really think of a use for the fabric, so I set it aside and waited for the right pattern to come along.

The pattern that finally came along was Tilly’s Francoise pattern, sent to me by White Tree Fabrics for a project for them (which I haven’t made yet).  I’d always fancied the idea of getting a shift dress pattern, and after making and loving the Coco pattern, I knew that the simple A-line silhouette suited me and made me feel good, so I was keen to try this pattern for woven fabrics.

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I was quite worried about washing the fabric, to be honest, after hearing bad reviews of the print quality and colour retention of fabrics printed by Spoonflower, but, fearing shrinkage as well, I dutifully pre-washed the fabric and waited with baited breath to see if it was going to instantly shrink and fade.  It did neither of those things, I am happy to say!
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The Valentine’s dress I made for this year is actually my second Francoise dress – I will be showing you the first one in a separate blog post!  The Valentine’s version is sleeveless, and the only alteration I made was to cut the back on the fold instead of inserting a zipper, as I found that my first version went over my head easily.  I just got the pattern to fit onto the fabric, so, for reference, if you’re making this sleeveless version you can get it out of a mere 1.8m of fabric!  That includes the arm facings and everything.  WINNER.
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This dress is pretty short, but the style suits the length and I feel confident enough to wear it.
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Now let’s talk about the fit.  This is a size 5, and the only change I made was to cut the back on the fold.  My first version is a size 4, and I had to reduce the side seam allowance to get it to fit, or, to be precise, I had to reduce the side seam allowance to get it to look how it’s meant to.  It did fit, but it was too ‘fitted’.  Correct me if I’m wrong, please, but this dress is designed to be fitted at the neck, shoulders and bust but skimming out below that over your curves, right? Not tummy or hip hugging, and not coming in too much at the waist.  I appreciate that ‘fit’ is a very personal thing, and we all have our own preferences, but I am interested to know: what do you think of the fit?  I think I’ve definitely avoided the tummy and hip-hugging, but at the back, even with the size 5, I’m still getting a bit of wrinkling above my bum.  Any comments/constructive criticism is welcome – just leave me a comment below!
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I’ll be back to show you my first version of this dress soon, meanwhile I am planning another one with the lovely Tilda fabric sent to me by White Tree Fabrics.  Watch this space!
Although I cut the back dress on the fold, I forgot to cut the back facing on the fold as well!  Oh well!  It still looks nice and neat on the inside :-)

Although I cut the back dress on the fold, I forgot to cut the back facing on the fold as well! Oh well! It still looks nice and neat on the inside :-)

Congratulations Vicki-Kate!

January 22, 2015

Here’s for something a bit different!  As many of you will know, our fellow sewcialist and spoolette Vicki-Kate is expecting a baby.  She’s already started her maternity leave, so there’s not long to go now.  However, unbeknownst to her, since the end of September 2014, a group of us have been plotting a surprise for her – an online baby-shower!

We have each made her a gift, and today we’re all revealing them.  It took me a while to decide what to make for Vicki-Kate as we didn’t know the baby’s gender, but in the end I settled on baby trousers using a pattern called ‘Mr. Two-Face Pants’ from the book ‘Sewing For Boys’.  Despite the pattern’s provenance, these are unisex trousers as the design is basically the same as a pair of pyjama bottoms with an elasticated waist.

Mr. Two-Face Pants

Mr. Two-Face Pants

The fabric choice will look familiar to anyone who has been reading this blog this month, as it is the same fabric as I used for my Foxy Cambie dress.  I looked through my (quite sizeable) fabric stash to find a unisex fabric, and with the exception of plain green, I found nothing that would be suitable for a girl or a boy, except this.  But I think this is a brilliant print for kids’ clothing, and I hope Vicki-Kate likes it!

I made these for a 12 month old baby, so they won’t get worn straight away, but the growth rate of the baby starts to slow down a bit after the first year anyway, so that means that when the baby is big enough for them, they will last much longer!  Also, having had two kids myself, I noticed that people love giving teeny-tiny baby clothes because they are so cute, which is brilliant of course but it’s good to have some bigger sizes ready and waiting.

The trousers have a patch pocket on the back right, which is a really cute detail.  I sewed the inside leg seams with flat-felled seams, which is a hard-wearing finish often used for childrenswear.  The crotch seam was too curved for a flat-fell seam so I did a French seam instead.

Pocket detail at the back

Pocket detail at the back

I really hope you like them, Vicki-Kate, and I wish you all the best with the birth and everything after.  I will be posting these to you in the next few days.

Finally, thank you to Ann, who organised this – such a kind and thoughtful thing to do – I’m really pleased I was able to be part of it.

Hand-made by Tabatha Tweedie

Hand-made by Tabatha Tweedie

‘A skirt that spins out’

January 17, 2015
Dirndl tiered skirt

Dirndl tiered skirt

Recently my daughter has started to express a preference for skirts or dresses that ‘spin out’.  If they don’t spin out when she twirls around, she’s not interested in wearing them!

Turn, turn, turn again...

Turn, turn, turn again…

Sometime last year I bought the book ‘Sewn With Love’ by Fiona Bell, which is full of vintage-inspired sewing patterns for children’s clothing.  There are loads of sweet dress patterns in the book but I was quite taken by the idea of making the ‘Dirndl Skirt’ for my daughter.

A carefully-arranged sitting down pose

A carefully-arranged sitting down pose

I was very disappointed with the quality of the pattern, its markings and its ease of assembly.  The patterns come on a CD so you can print them and stick the pages together, but there were no numbers or markings to help you match them up.  This skirt pattern was basically a series of longer and longer rectangles, so it was pretty difficult to work out the order.  It would have been much more helpful to give the measurements of the rectangles to cut.

Look at the giant hand shadow!  This made us laugh for ages afterwards!

Look at the giant hand shadow! This made us laugh for ages afterwards!

Once I had finally assembled the ‘pattern’, I thought I’d be able to whip the skirt up in no time, but I had forgotten just how long gathering can take, and there is a lot of gathering in this skirt!  The bottom tier alone was 5.5m long.  For the third tier I had to split the gathering into eight sections to help control it and spread it evenly, and the bottom tier I split into sixteen sections.  Although it was fiddly and took longer than I planned, I did enjoy making it a lot.  I kept on imagining my daughter’s reaction when I showed it to her and imagining her twirling around in it.

Laughing at the hand shadow in the previous picture

Laughing at the hand shadow in the previous picture

The fabric is City Weekend by Liesl Gibson for Oliver+S by Moda.  I bought it a couple of years ago so I’m glad to have finally used it up.  It lingered in my stash so long because I only bought 1.5m – not quite sure why!  I added extra fouff to the skirt (completely unnecessary, but it adds to the fun) by adding in a yellow crystal organza tiered underskirt, which I had made for a previous project but not used.  I added it into the second tier so that it would hang a little below the final tier.  There’s no point in having it if you can’t see a little peek of it, after all.

Just a little peek of the underskirt, hahaha.  Here we have an example of someone literally ROFL-ing.

Just a little peek of the underskirt, hahaha. Here we have an example of someone literally ROFL-ing.

I had originally intended to give this to my daughter for her birthday, but I was too impatient to wait and I know she’s got tons of other things to open on her birthday.  Of course, she loves it!  It’s pretty long on her, and the elastic is pretty tight at the back, so I think this will last a couple of years actually if I added in a bit of extra elastic when it becomes too tight.

I need to strike a pose like this in my next blog post.

I need to strike a pose like this in my next blog post.

I’m not sure I’d use this book again.  I love the finished skirt, and I still really like some of the other designs in the book, but assembling paper patterns with no markings or numbers is a big fat pain in the ass.  Oh well, at least I got some use out of it!

Tilly and the Buttons Coco – Dress and Top

January 15, 2015

In November 2014 I made a Coco dress for the White Tree Fabrics blogging network.  Before I cut into the fabric they sent me, I made a test version with some other fabric I picked up at Leicester market.  The fabric was black, and I think the best way to describe it is as a heavy, textured double-knit jersey.  The texture is like a raised fish-net pattern, but it’s all solid black.  I wanted 2m, but the seller only had 1.75m.  Anyway, I went ahead as I felt sure I could make it work.

I did manage to squeeze the dress out of the 1.75m, but I broke all the rules of fabric cutting!  The front is cut on the grain as it should be, but the back is cut cross grain.  And I can’t even remember how I squeezed the sleeves out of it, but they had to be cut shorter than prescribed.  I did have enough odds and ends of fabric leftover to make the funnel-neck collar, which I was quite pleased about!

Anyway, I sewed it up and when I tried it on, I fell a little bit in-love!  I so rarely make garments in a solid colour, and especially not black, but this dress just felt effortlessly chic and flattering.

The Coco funnel-neck black dress

The Coco funnel-neck black dress

This dress is one of my most serviceable makes as it probably gets worn weekly.  It feels like an easy option to wear because it’s comfy and practical, but with the added bonus that it makes me feel good when I wear it.

Making the purple Coco dress for White Tree Fabrics only increased my love for this pattern.  Yes, it’s simple, but I just love the fit, and it’s so easy to make!

I decided to try out the top version with some leftover double-knit jersey.  I’ve been wearing jeans a lot more recently, but I always feel as though I am very much lacking in tops, especially tops I actually want to wear!  My leftover jersey was just plain brown, but I thought I might as well sew it up into a Coco top rather than leave it languishing in my fabric stash.

The Coco top

The Coco top

I love it!  I know it isn’t wildly exciting to anyone else, but it is to me because I really, really like the shape and fit of this top.

It feels odd to dedicate an entire blog post to these two garments, but I’m just revelling in the joy of making of some absolutely basic garments – life isn’t all lace dresses, after all!

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