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The Tree of War

September 29, 2015

Unusual title for a sewing post, right?  Today I want to show you a dress I was asked to make for a stage production called The Tree of War – a new musical which premiered in September 2015 in Manchester.  The protagonist, Bert, tells his granddaughter the story of his time as a soldier in the great war of 1914, and the main story is reconstructed through these memories, with some amazing music and lyrics.

Eilidh Pollard - musician, dancer and actor - wearing the costume I made for The Tree of War

Eilidh Pollard – musician, dancer and actor – wearing the costume I made for The Tree of War

The brief I was given for the costume was a basic dirndl cotton dress, similar to one worn by Julie Andrews in The Sound Of Music, in a forest green colour.  The By Hand London Kim pattern seemed to tick all the boxes, so that’s the pattern I used (not for profit, as I will explain later).

By Hand London Kim dress

By Hand London Kim dress

I bought a plain, medium weight 100% cotton for the dress.  The sewing was pretty simple.  I cut a size 2, and lengthened the skirt considerably as I was asked to make it 31″ below the waist.  I lined it in black satin so that it would slip on easily over the white underblouse (which I didn’t make!).  I used a concealed zip, which possibly wasn’t the best choice for a WW1 costume, but in any case the zip was hidden from view by the Eilidh’s long hair.

Back view

Back view

The scene in which the dress appears is in the memory of one of Bert’s comrades in the trench: the formidable Scottish soldier Dougie McBride (Jamie Rahman).  He is remembering dancing with his girlfriend before the war started.

Dougie McBride (Jamie Rahman) with his girlfriend (Eilidh Pollard)

Dougie McBride (Jamie Rahman) with his girlfriend (Eilidh Pollard)

I attended the penultimate show of the run and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Photography was not permitted during the show, but Eilidh was kind enough to let me take a few photographs afterwards and to post them here.

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The dress was an unpaid commission.  I was reimbursed for the cost of the fabric and postage, but my labour was a donation.  It was the producer who commissioned me to make the dress, and she is a good friend of mine, so I was more than happy to do it.  It was fun to be involved, albeit it in a pretty minor way!  I would have loved to be in the choir (I have belonged to a church choir and a professional choir in the past), but unfortunately although Manchester will always be ‘home’ in the sense that it is where I come from, it isn’t my real home at the moment.

It was lovely to see something I made being used in a musical!

My September Minerva make – The Megan dress

September 22, 2015

Wow, September came around quickly, didn’t it?!  This month for my Minerva Crafts Blogger Network project I chose some gorgeous Michael Miller fabric, and used a pattern from Tilly’s book ‘Love at First Stitch’ – the Megan dress pattern.

The Megan dress

The Megan dress

I’m still not friends with gathered skirts, and have been trying other styles recently that feel more practical.  The Megan pattern reminds me in some ways of the Colette Peony pattern, and I wear my Peony dresses a lot because I really like the shape.  Like the Peony, the Megan is a simple, relaxed fit design, easy to sew, and not too fabric-hungry.  I needed just under 2.5m for this dress.

This might have been the last warm day of 2015

This might have been the last warm day of 2015. It was a little windy though!!

The fabric is gorgeous.  Michael Miller fabrics are really good quality fabrics that stand the test of time.  The print is really pretty and unusual, and I love the navy background with the really bright colours of all the birds.  The design is called ‘Flock’ and it’s a poplin.  It also comes with a white background.

Megan dress - back view

Megan dress – back view

I was a bit hesitant about trying another of Tilly’s patterns after my fitting nightmare with the Francoise dress, but to my relief, this dress required no major alterations.  The one thing I’m not happy with is the sleeves.  The pattern calls for pretty tight gathering around the sleeve head, resulting in quite a puffed out shoulder.  Next time I make this dress, I will almost certainly be using a different sleeve pattern.  I much prefer a flat sleeve head!

Megan dress on the dummy

Megan dress on the dummy

The dress isn’t lined, so when I wear it with tights I wear a slip underneath.  It would be pretty simple to line – but unlined dresses are cheaper and faster to make, and sometimes you just need a quick and dirty project!

Concealed zip

Concealed zip

I’ve been wearing this dress a lot since I made it and I’ve had a lot of compliments.  I wasn’t sure about the fit at first as it’s quite loose, but the dress is a good shape so it hangs nicely.  Also it’s a winner because it can be accessorized with so many different colours!  The short sleeves means it goes well with a cardigan, so I’ll be able to wear it through the rest of autumn and some of the milder days of winter, too.

New dress squee!

New dress squee!

As always, many thanks to Minerva for sending me the fabric and the zip for this project.  Opinions are, always have been, and always will be, my own!

My fourth White Tree Fabrics make – Floral Anna dress

September 15, 2015

Hello there.  Today I’m going to show you a dress that I made back in July using products kindly sent to me by White Tree Fabrics.  I chose this pretty printed cotton, which at first I thought was a border print, but in fact it’s more of a wide, repeating strip of floral detail on an ivory background.  The print reminds me of a Cath Kidston design, actually, with its colourful, vintage style.

By Hand London Anna dress

By Hand London Anna dress

I wanted to use the By Hand London Anna pattern because it’s ideal for showing off fabrics with interesting borders or large designs.  I spent hours cutting out the fabric, choosing exactly where I wanted my floral stripes to be, and matching up the lines across all of the skirt panels, the sides, the centre back, etc.  I’m pretty pleased with how it has turned out across the bodice – I definitely wanted flowers along the neck and shoulders and then again at the waist.

Back view

Back view

I’m not sure about the skirt, though.  Although I deliberately spaced it so that there would be alternating strips of flowers and plain, I wonder if it might have looked better to have flowers at the very top of the skirt – giving a very wide band of flowers around the waist.  I think the reason I wonder about this is because I feel the dress is just that bit too figure-hugging after a summer of picnics, and having a strip of plain cream fabric across my tummy feels weirdly revealing.

Oh hai belly

Oh hai belly

For greater opacity on this pale background print, I chose to fully line the dress.  I have never fully lined an Anna dress before, but it was pretty straightforward.  I followed the instructions from the By Hand London blog when they did an Anna dress sewalong.  Basically it involved cutting the whole dress again in lining fabric, minus the facings, and hand sewing the kimono sleeves together.  The invisible slip-stitching was time consuming and annoying, but that’s because I’m massively impatient when it comes to hand sewing.  It took me about as long to do the hand sewing as it did to make the rest of the dress!

(Maybe not quite) 'invisible' slip stitching

(Maybe not quite) ‘invisible’ slip stitching

The lining fabric is anti-static formaldehyde-free lining made of nylon.  Lisa from White Tree Fabrics told me that lots of nets and linings used to have this chemical in them but it’s now really frowned upon, and any decent fabric won’t have this chemical in it nowadays.  I was really impressed with it.  I had seen it before in some RTW clothing and I never knew what it was until now.  It perhaps wasn’t quite as opaque as I was wanting for this specific project, but it worked well enough and it feels gorgeously soft.  I’d definitely use it again for lining other dresses.  It comes in a range of colours, too.

Anti-static formaldehyde-free lining

Anti-static formaldehyde-free lining

I was also sent matching thread for my project and a transparent concealed zip.  I tried one of these ‘transparent’ zips when I made my red lace dress, and wasn’t so impressed with it because it’s more white than transparent, but for this project that wasn’t a problem.  I like how the zipper pull is silver too – it’s a nice little detail.

Transparent concealed zip

Transparent concealed zip

Overall I am pleased with the dress.  I think once I’ve gotten rid of the half stone I put on over summer it will look even better!  I’m going to have to put it aside until next spring now though: winter is coming :-(

Sunshine!

Sunshine!

 

 

 

My August Minerva Make – Gertie Sews Vintage Casual outfit

August 25, 2015

This month for my Minerva Crafts Blogger Network project I chose to try something a little different – instead of a dress, a skirt and a top!  WHOAH THERE.  It’s mind-blowing stuff, isn’t it?!

Gertie Sews Vintage Casual outfit

Gertie Sews Vintage Casual outfit

I have quite a collection of sewing books and many of them contain patterns within them that I have wanted to try for a while.  This month’s project is two patterns from ‘Gertie Sews Vintage Casual’ book which my good friend and co-blogger Aileen bought for me as a birthday gift last year.  The patterns are for the ‘Knit Sweetheart Top’ and the ‘Easy Knit Pencil Skirt’.  This combination of fitted but mega-comfortable clothing seemed like the best thing ever to sew right now, after putting on about half a stone over summer due to having a picnic lunch with the children almost every day.  You always need more food than normal for a picnic – it’s the picnic law.  I’ve eaten a lot of bread and a lot of cheese and a lot of crisps and a lot of biscuits and a lot of chocolate and a lot of cake and a lot of pies.  It’s been pretty awesome.

Knit Sweetheart Top and Easy Knit Pencil Skirt

Knit Sweetheart Top and Easy Knit Pencil Skirt

Let’s start by talking about the top, then.  For the top I chose ‘black and beige wide stripe viscose jersey‘.  I really like the width of the stripes of this fabric, and I was really pleased with the quality of it.  Viscose jersey which I have used in the past has been slippery and drapey, but this one seems slightly thicker and more sturdy, which as far as I am concerned is a good thing.  The top was simple to construct.  I used my overlocker for most of the sewing.  I used clear elastic to stabilise the shoulder seams and I used a twin ballpoint needle for the first time ever to hem the top and also to sew down the neckline and armhole binding.  Having never used a twin needle before I was wondering how it would turn out, but it was great!  It helps that the fabric was really easy to handle.

At the park

At the park

The skirt – well.  IT IS SO EASY TO MAKE.  It’s just one pattern piece – front and back – cut on the fold.  An elastic waistband at the top, twin needle hem at the bottom, and Bob’s your uncle!  But the wonder of this skirt is not only to do with the ease of construction, oh no.  It’s the fabric: Ponte Roma heavy jersey – it’s the actual bomb.  Thick, proper, no-nonsense fabric, absolutely perfect for a pencil skirt.  It has enough body in it not to reveal every lump and bump of the ‘body’ in it.  AND SO COMFORTABLE.  I never want to wear anything else ever again.  I don’t even want to make more because this one is just THE ONE.  If you haven’t made one of these skirts then I’m telling you now if you can sew a straight line you can make this skirt in under an hour and then WEAR IT FOREVER.

A label sewn in the back so I wear it the right way around - and the twin needle hem.

A label sewn in the back so I wear it the right way around – and the twin needle hem.

The waistband elastic also deserves a special mention.  I chose ‘32mm non-roll Peterstretch waistband elastic‘ and it’s great.  Having recently made some pyjama bottoms with cheapo waistband elastic that rolls and folds and twists despite being strategically stitched down, this stuff is like the Rolls Royce of waistband elastic.  Excellent stuff.

Hiyaaaaa

Hiyaaaaa. I’ve got heels on for these photos but sandals for the park. Practicality won out.

Thanks to Minerva for sending me the supplies for these two garments – opinions as always are completely my own!

The back!

The back!

 

My first Liberty make – The Alice in Wonderland dress

August 2, 2015

I’ve been sewing for just over five years now, and this is the first time I have ever bought Liberty fabric.  I have heard its praises sung time and time again but I’ve never been drawn to it.  There are two reasons I’ve never been interested in Liberty fabric, the primary one being, of course, the price.  This particular fabric from the Liberty website is £22.50 per metre.  I ordered mine from White Tree Fabrics using a discount code they had when the Great British Sewing Bee was on, so I got it a little cheaper.  Plus, to avoid breaking the bank, I only ordered 1.5m, so that I could make a dress for my daughter.  The other reason I’ve never bought Liberty before, though, is that I’ve never really fallen in love with any of their prints.  Sure, I like some of them – but not enough – until I saw this amazing Liberty Art Fabric from the SS15 collection called Gallymoggers Reynard.  The Editor’s notes from the Liberty website describe it as ‘a modern interpretation of the Charles Voysey ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ print and an illustrative representation of the wonderful characters featured in the novels’.  I’ve always loved Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass, and the Disney film was (and still is) a favourite.  The characters are part of my childhood.  So when I saw this fabric, I just had to have it!

Liberty Gallymoggers Reynard B Tana Lawn

Liberty Gallymoggers Reynard B Tana Lawn

When I was researching a bit more into this fabric, I found out that Charles Voysey, an architect and designer, was born in Hessle: a small town in the East Riding of Yorkshire which is surrounded by, but not part of, the city of Kingston upon Hull, where I live.  Voysey (1857-1941) designed some Alice in Wonderland furnishing fabric around 1920, and this ‘Gallymoggers Reynard’ print is inspired by that.  So where does the term ‘Gallymoggers’ come from?  Well, apparently it comes from the Tim Burton film of 2010, and it means ‘crazy’.  Lewis Carroll did have a flair for creating nonsense words, and it seems that Linda Woolverton, the screenplay writer for the film, added several nonsense words of her own for the film!

Alice in Wonderland dress

New Look 6205 Alice in Wonderland dress

Anyway, back to sewing!  You won’t be surprised to hear I used New Look 6205 for this dress.  I’ve made six variations of the dress now, so I know how to construct it exactly how I like.  I fully lined the dress, and, as is customary for me whenever I line pleated skirts, I sewed the pleats of the lining and the main fabric together, but sewed the side seams separately and hemmed each skirt separately.  It’s a bit of a faff doing it that way, but it makes the pleats look great, so I think it’s worth it.

I chose to do a lapped zip this time, and it’s the first one I’ve done in AGES, and I’m really pleased with it.  I might start doing lapped zips more often again now.  I also blind-hemmed the dress by machine – which is my new favourite technique.

Lapped Zip

Lapped Zip

I love the finished dress, and so does my daughter.  She wore it to a wedding: a traditional hand-fasting ceremony in a beautiful garden which was very magical – it was the perfect dress for the surroundings!

At the wedding - worn with cardigan and leggings

At the wedding – worn with cardigan and leggings

I’ve still got a small bit of this fabric leftover… I will definitely be hoarding it until I find the perfect use for it!  But until then I can admire it on my daughter.

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And if you’re wondering if I’m now going to join the masses who sing the praises of Liberty fabric…well, no.  Yes, it is nice, and yes, it is good quality, but as usual I am primarily led by prints rather than fabric itself.  I only bought this fabric because of the print.  In fact, the high thread count of the Tana Lawn meant that even with a brand new sewing machine needle, the fabric was so finely woven that at times it was hard to penetrate!  Still, it produced a lovely dress and after I washed it, it didn’t need ironing at all.  Which is good, because I don’t do ironing, even if something is really creased!

My July Minerva Make – Anchor print summer dress

July 28, 2015

Ahoy there shipmates!  Here’s my latest dress for the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network:

By Hand London Kim/New Look 6776

By Hand London Kim/New Look 6776

Minerva kindly sent me the By Hand London Kim pattern for this dress, but I only used the pattern pieces for the bodice as neither of the skirt options appealed to me.  For the skirt I used New Look 6776, which was sent to me by Minerva in April 2014 for my tape measure dress.  It’s similar to the By Hand London Flora skirt, but better in that your fabric doesn’t need to be 60″ wide.  My main fabric was 60″ wide, actually, but I also fully lined the dress with 45″ wide fabric.

The anchor print fabric is a very pale blue with narrow white vertical stripes and large royal blue anchors printed on.  I just couldn’t resist it!  However, because it is so pale and also because it’s an extremely light and floaty cotton, I had to fully line the dress rather than just lining the bodice.  Minerva sent me half a metre of polycotton lining fabric which was fine for lining the bodice, but I had to buy extra in order to line the skirt as well.

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The By Hand London Kim bodice pattern turned out to be a great fit.  It’s rather low cut, so if you’re not into revealing a bit of cleavage then it may not be to your taste.  It shows a tiny bit of my bra but I’m not really bothered by that!  It has a lovely low-scoop back, too.  I love how it looks.

I think the New Look skirt works really well with the Kim bodice.  I matched the pleats to the princess seams at the front to make it look proper.  I sewed the lining and main fabric pleats together as one, but sewed the side seams separately so I could hem both skirts separately too.  I recently gave a sewing lesson on blind-hemming by machine, and having practised my technique before teaching I’m now a big fan of it!  I blind hemmed my Cherry Macaron dress and I blind hemmed this dress too (although I just serged the lining).

The dress got its first outing when I wore it to a Gin Festival in Leeds!  When I got on the train, a fellow passenger asked me where I had bought it, and when I told her I made it, she exclaimed “Oh my god, it’s gorgeous!” – so that was a nice thing to hear so early in the morning!  I wore it with a separate belt for most of the day, but removed the belt later on.  I’m not sure which I prefer: with or without belt.

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I’m so pleased with the dress, and the pairing of the Kim bodice with New Look skirt.  I will definitely be making more of these.  I think the style would work in a more formal, dressy fabric, too.  I could imagine it in a plain duchess satin – lovely!

I had a bit of fabric leftover from this make, and also from last month’s zig zag dress, so I used the leftovers to make two very simple envelope-style cushion covers.

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I think they go really well with the two shop-bought nautical-themed cushions I already have, and the co-ordinating bedding:

Nautical pin-ups!

Nautical pin-ups!

Thanks to Minerva for sending me the supplies – I am continually grateful!

Cherry Macaron

July 13, 2015

Mmmm.  Cherry Macaron…

Photo courtesy of confessionsdunegourmande.com

Photo courtesy of confessionsdunegourmande.com

WAIT A MINUTE. I’m talking about the Colette Macaron dress pattern, which I made in a cherry print fabric, not the cake! Let’s try again…

Colette Macaron Dress

I bought this fabric a few years ago at Sewing For Pleasure, but it wasn’t until a few months ago I was able to pair it with the perfect shade of contrast fabric, and then I just knew it had to be a Macaron dress.

Colette Macaron

Colette Macaron

The last Macaron dress I made for Valentine’s Day 2014 is too big now, so I wanted a new one.  I seem to be on a never-ending quest to find my ideal skirt style and I thought this might tick all the boxes: pockets, nice shape, not too tight, not likely to blow up in the wind, no gathered waistline.  The instructions for making the skirt with pockets seem a bit mad at first, but the design is very clever as you end up with pockets at the side front which are set into the outer pleats.

Pockets

Pockets

The thing that I found the most frustrating about this dress was setting in the sleeves.  I spent a good while scrutinising pictures of other people’s Macaron dresses to see whether or not their sleeves were puckered/slightly gathered/puffed or smooth.  There was a mixture of all types, to be honest, although completely smooth, pucker-free sleeve heads were rare.  The pattern tells you to ease the sleeve cap in by sewing a few rows of gathering stitches around the sleeve head. I wanted a very smooth sleeve cap but I just couldn’t get it.  OH WELL.  I’m sure I can live with it!

Paddling!  I forgot to get a back view but here's a side view instead, with bonus child!

Paddling! I forgot to get a back view but here’s a side view instead.

I like the combination of fabrics in this dress, and obviously the red and navy blue colours are right up my street.  I don’t envisage making loads of dresses with this pattern as I think it’s tricky to find two fabrics that work really well together, but I am very happy to have this one Macaron.  Plus, it matches my earrings which my daughter frequently asks me to wear!

Cherry earrings!

Cherry earrings!

Have you seen the twitter account called ‘Get In The Sea’ (@getinthesea)?  Its bio: ‘Highlighting people and things that need to get in the fucking sea’.  My photo shoot for this blog post really made me laugh when I thought about it.  If you find me annoying, then here you are:  I GOT IN THE FUCKING SEA.  What more could you ask for?! :-)

GET IN THE FUCKING SEA

GET IN THE FUCKING SEA

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