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Red Boiler Suit from the film ‘Us’

May 11, 2021

A few years ago I was commissioned to make some dressing up outfits for a museum, and one of my designs was a boiler suit. These were supposed to be proper overalls for working in, and I was asked to make them in red.

I don’t know if any of you have seen the horror film ‘Us’ (2019) directed by Jordan Peele, but the premise of that film, in a nutshell, is that every person (in the US, at least) has a doppelganger, living in an underground network of tunnels, and ‘tethered’ to their above-ground counterpart by a mysterious psychological connection. When ‘the tethered’ come up above ground as part of a co-ordinated uprising, they are all wearing red boiler suits.

For Halloween 2020, I used the same pattern as I had for the commission with a few minor length adjustments, and actually ordered some of the same fabric too: a heavy red twill from Minerva. The non-fitted, unisex style of the boiler meant that the finished garment actually fitted both of us (but not at the same time, haha).

On the night of Halloween, all my husband needed was a pair of sandals and a large pair of gold scissors, but we forgot about the scissors and had to make do with a less scary-looking pair!

The boiler suit is now tucked away in the loft with other dressing-up items. I did consider just wearing it on a day-to-basis after Halloween, but thought better of it in the end!

Sewing for twins!

May 4, 2021

A friend of mine brought two beautiful babies into the world in 2020. The various lockdowns and tiers and restrictions meant that, sadly, we didn’t get to see much of them, but I was able to at least crack out some mix and match twin-clothes for them for Christmas. The first set I want to show you was made with Burda 9372, and two different colourways of Christmas fabric from Minerva.

I chose the bibbed trousers for both babies so that either twin could wear either garment (they are boy and girl twins). I was spoilt for choice with Christmas-themed fabric to choose from, but really happy with my final choice. I especially like how the design on each fabric is perpendicular to the other.

My favourite view of these though is the back view. I just love the crossover straps, the metal buttons, and patch pockets on the bum! So cute! I can just imagine the twins getting up to all sorts of mischief in these!

I think these may have been the only Christmas sewing I did in 2020. Covid definitely killed off my time to sew and my desire to sew!

As I wasn’t able to get the babies measurements or try them on, I did a couple of buttonhole fastenings on the straps in case the fit needed adjusting. I also made mum and dad a set of coordinating face coverings, just for that extra special Covid-safe vibe!

I’d definitely recommend this pattern. It was easy to sew and is really cute!

Dinosaur wedding attire!

May 2, 2021

Several years ago my best friend had a humanist wedding ceremony, and her husband used to always joke that on his wedding day he would dress up as dinosaur. He didn’t, but as a nod to his idea I made a dinosaur dress for me to wear to the celebration. Several years on the happy couple decided to make their marriage legally binding by having another ceremony at the registry office. This ceremony was during the day, the Saturday before Christmas, and this time the kids were able to come too.

I was hoping that the dress I made for the first wedding would still fit, but alas it did not! Undeterred, I ordered two coordinating dinosaur fabrics from Minerva to use for the kids, and figured I’d work on my outfit after I’d made theirs, and I might get around to making my husband a dinosaur tie or something. As it happened, I only made the kids clothes and nothing for us. I wore my Tilly & the Buttons blue velvet Joni dress which felt suitably fancy and also winter-appropriate.

For my daughter, I made a simple dress using a pattern from a Prima magazine from July 2014 – just a very straightforward sleeveless dress with a lined bodice, gathered skirt and centre back zip.

For my son, I made a shirt using Burda 5366, a pattern for both men and boys. I think I had used this pattern previously to make my husband a shirt.

I seem to remember I was sewing the shirt at the very last minute the night before the wedding, and to save time I sewed the buttons on by machine and not very securely, and a couple of them popped off at the reception! Ooops!

Here’s a pic of the dinosaur dress I made for myself last time:

The Dinosaur Dress

I do love this dress! Hope I can wear it again one day!

Luna Lapin bunny rabbit!

December 28, 2020

A good few years ago at my WI’s subsidiary craft club, our host Pauline arranged with Sarah from CoolCrafting for us to all get kits to make the Luna Lapin rabbit. I am not naturally inclined to hand sew, as I am too impatient, so although I was rather enamoured with Luna, she was always going to be a project on the backburner for me. I started her that night, and packed her up, unfinished, into a bag, which I took on various holidays without looking at, took on other holidays where I would maybe spend half an hour making her, and one holiday where I forgot about her completely and actually left her behind! (Thankfully she was returned to me months later).

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Luna with her favourite gin and a carrot

Last night when I was trying to decide what to do, I decided I’d get her out and see where I was up to. After an hour or so I was pleasantly surprised to be able to finish making her. My daughter and I spent this morning looking through hundreds of Instagram posts of all the different Luna Lapins out there, as well as some of Luna’s friends, and we were inspired to make her a dress today.

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Luna in her new dress

My daughter chose the fabric and traced the pattern from the book, then I helped her cut the fabric and we did the sewing together. I did the more fiddly bits (such as the collar) but she did quite a bit of the pinning and sewing too. She has already picked out some fabric for pyjamas for Luna, some denim dungarees and we want to make her some silly frilly lacy underwear, because it’s funny and cute 🙂 I am desperate to make Luna the coat from the book, which is totally adorable!

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Luna in the mirror

Our day of sewing was great and Luna very much enjoyed her photo shoot afterwards! My daughter would like to make her own Luna Lapin and we also have the other book of Luna Lapin’s friends. They are all so cute.

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Luna with her ears sticking up!

There are a few things I’d do differently next time I make a Luna Lapin. The main thing is that I wouldn’t attach her arms until the body is stuffed, sewn up and the head is attached. I’m not totally satisfied with her arm placement, although it makes no difference when she has her clothes on!

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Luna Lapin

The other thing is that at first I sewed with such a teeny seam allowance, that by the time I had stuffed her legs, the felt started to pull apart at the seams. Having looked at hundreds of other Lunas online, I see that she looks just as beautiful with quite sturdy, noticeable seams, and must be much more hard-wearing that way. I don’t want to give my first Luna to anyone else because I’m not sure she’d withstand being played with and cuddled by a child, so she is going to live in my sewing room where I can admire her.

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All the fabric, stuffing and notions for Luna came with the kits we bought at the WI craft club. The dress was made with fabric kindly passed on to me by someone else from the WI!

Luna’s dress fastens at the back with what looks like buttons, but is actually snap fasteners – clever eh! It meant I didn’t have to sew teeny tiny buttonholes!

Juno Pyjamas

October 12, 2020

Back in the time before lockdown, I went to London for the weekend to see my friend and go to The Stitch Festival at the Business Design Centre, Islington. It was a brilliant, carefree weekend, the memory of which I’ll always treasure. We had a fabulous time at the Stitch Festival, had burritos for lunch in Islington, and treated ourselves to Champagne at Searcy’s St Pancras on the way back to my friend’s flat. It was a total over-indulgence and I was blissfully unaware at the time that it would be the last of its kind for, well, I don’t even know how long. I’m SO glad we did it!

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At the Stitch Festival I was pretty restrained with my purchases, having been through a period of little-to-no-sewing, and having acquired a bit of a stash of unused fabrics at home. I did really fancy making the new Tilly and the Buttons pattern though for the ‘Juno’ pyjamas, and was after some nice jersey as that is one thing I don’t tend to stash. There were lots of nice jerseys on offer at the show, but none hit the sweet spot until we went to Sew Me Sunshine’s stall, pretty much our last stop before leaving. There I found some amazing space print jersey, at a price I was willing to pay. I then got some ready made cuff ribbing from another stall to coordinate.

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After several weeks of procrastination, I finally traced the pattern and cut my fabric. Then lockdown struck. Throughout lockdown and all over summer, my sewing output was solely concentrated on sewing face coverings, apart from sewing with my children as part of their home education! My daughter wanted to make a dress and a nightcap for the doll she had sewn from scratch, and wanted to use some of the leftover fabric from my space pyjamas. I tried not to be slightly put out that the doll got her sleepwear before I did 😉

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It wasn’t until the children went back to school in September that I finally felt like sewing for myself, and first on my list was to get the Juno space pyjamas sewn up. I did that and then straight after went on to also sew a pair of Carolyn pyjama shorts that I had cut out whenever it was that I made the Carolyn Pyjamas…

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I am happy with the Juno pyjamas and would make them again for sure. They are the kind of pyjamas I’m most comfortable in these days. Everything in stretch fabric forever and ever…!

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These two were good projects to help me rediscover the joys of sewing!

My interview at Love Sewing

September 24, 2020

In December 2019, when Love Sewing magazine were advertising the job of editor to replace Amy, I decided to apply for the job.  When Amy got the job five years previous, I was more than a little bit jealous!  What a great job!  I didn’t think I had much chance of even getting an interview, but seeing as this was basically my dream job, I applied at the last minute, encouraged by Amy herself to submit my application.

Within a few days, I was invited to interview.  I could not believe it.  I had an interview for my dream job!! Getting this job would have involved lots of changes and sacrifices, but it was beyond doubt what I wanted.  I felt as though my life was about to change dramatically, that I was about to reclaim my sense of self, my independence, my education, my career.  I was so excited about my potential new future, so nervous, so terrified.

Because this job was my dream job, and I couldn’t imagine how gutted I would be to not get it, I barely told anyone I had an interview.  I didn’t tell my closest friends or my children or my family.  I already could not bear the idea of having to tell everyone I did not get this job that I so desperately wanted.

I went to the interview.  The interview went really well.  I left feeling amazing, happy, nervous, but quietly confident.  I waited 4 days before finding out that I had not got the job.  The job had been given to someone who had publishing experience, something which I myself lacked.

This was the week before Christmas.  I had been imagining all the changes 2020 might bring my way, but it wasn’t to be.  Christmas and New Year came and went.  I remember obsessively checking Love Sewing’s social media output to find out who the new editor was.  I was so fed up.  I told a few people, and they said that it was great that I had gotten that far in the first place, and that I should be proud that I was interviewed, but it was hard to think positively.  People also said ‘something better will be around the corner’, but how could it be?  There is no job the same.  I had an affinity with Love Sewing since it first started.  I didn’t want to look for a different job.  There was no other job I wanted to do.

Nine months later, in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, I am starting to get over it.  With what has happened this year, I cannot imagine how me being the editor of Love Sewing would have worked.  Would I have been able to work from home?  Or commute to Stockport as I had been planning originally?  Or would I have rented a place to live there during the week?  One thing is for sure – I would probably have spent a lot less time with my children, and that time is something I can’t ever get back, so in many ways I am truly thankful that my current employer has kept me on furlough since April and I haven’t had to worry about trying to balance work with home schooling.

Now that my furlough period is coming to an end, I find myself wondering what my future holds.  I’m not sure I can continue working 16 hours a week in my current job, which is based on organising community events for families and groups to attend, seeing as all of the groups have stopped meeting.  I was running a weekly after-school cafe, a monthly after-school family event, a fortnightly club for the elderly, helping out at the weekly babies and toddlers group and organising special events for half terms and school holidays.  All that has stopped due to Coronavirus, and I’m so uncertain about what lies ahead.

The only positive thing I can focus on right now is that, for the brief time that my children are back at school, and I am working restricted hours on a part-furlough basis, I have the time for sewing again.  From March to September, the only sewing I did was making face coverings.  I made something like 80-100 for free for my friends, family, neighbours, acquaintances.  I didn’t have the energy for anything more until the kids went back to school and suddenly my days opened up with possibility.

This week, I finished sewing a pair of pyjamas that I started in February.  I also made a pair of pyjama shorts that I cut out a couple of years ago, and I fixed a dress that has been in my mending pile for a few years.  I found a baby dress that I had cut out but not sewn, so I’m going to sew that up too, and give it to a new baby girl (the intended recipient has grown too big).  It feels like I’m starting again.

Mexican outfit!

January 28, 2020

For the past few years my family and I have been taking it in turns with some friends of ours to host a New Year’s Eve dinner party.  In 2019 it was our turn to host, and we had decided earlier in the year that we were going to cook Mexican food.  Our guests enquired if we were going to dress up, and I laughingly said no.  But the seed had been planted.

A few months later, I was idly searching through the ‘Mexican fancy dress outfits’ online, and I came across a hilariously bad ‘Mexican Wrestler’ outfit.  I screenshotted it and sent it to my husband for a laugh, and was rather taken aback when he replied with ‘Order it!’.

Once his costume was delivered in all its polyester glory, I decided I would also make some kind of effort towards a Mexican outfit for myself.  The online options did not appeal to me, so I started dreaming up more of a Frida Kahlo villager-style outfit (sorry for the terribly vague description – Mexican historical costume is not my speciality).  It all had to start with a skirt, and I was imagining a three-tiered gathered country-style full length skirt, in black.

I had about 6m of cotton/poly mix drill or twill or something in my stash that would do the job, but no pattern.  But how hard could it be, right?  I just wanted a three-tiered skirt, and an elasticated waistband.  Easy!  I chopped the first tier: one complete width of fabric.  I made a channel at the top and inserted wide elastic for the waistband.  For the second tier, I cut two widths of fabric and joined them together, then gathered the top to make it fit the bottom of the first tier.  Finally, for the bottom tier of the skirt, I cut four widths of fabric, joined them all together, gathered them to fit the two of the middle tier, and then hemmed the skirt.  By the time I’d got to this point, I had a six metre hem!  Obviously I then painstakingly hand-stitched the hem because I’m so zen.  NOT.  Even machine sewing it took too long!!

I tried the skirt on and LOVED it.  So swishy!  But I thought it did need something more to make it just slightly more costume-like, so I added a row of red ricrac and a row of green.  I would have added white as well, but I didn’t have any.  True story.

Next, I looked up some pictures of Frida Kahlo.  I decided against drawing a monobrow on my pasty white face with my grey/blonde hair, and instead decided I’d make myself a red scarf to artfully drape across my shoulders, like Frida has in several pictures.  Problem – I only had 1m of red crepe.  Oh well.  I hemmed it (badly – I blame the machine’s roll hemming foot – although really it was my impatience), and then twisted the fabric over once before French-seaming the ends together, to create a kind of triangley shaped ‘thing’.  It was not brilliant, but it worked ok.

I had neither the fabric nor the time to make a frilly peasant-style blouse, so I went rummaging in a few local charity shops, and picked up this awful lacey off-the-shoulder-mega-frill thing for a couple of quid.  Luckily, it looked just right with the skirt and scarf!  Add a sombrero, some Tequila, and hey presto!  This chica is ready for the fiesta!

I so love the skirt!  I may remove the ricrac and wear it normally.  Success!

Girl’s Red Corduroy Dungaree Dress

January 19, 2020

Hi, my name is Louise and I’m addicted to making dungarees.  Dungarees, pinafores, jumpers, overalls, bibbed trousers… call them what you will… they are just so nice to make and wear.  I made my first Tilly and the Buttons Cleo pinafore dress in January 2017, and since then I’ve been hooked on dungaree dresses and trousers.

My latest creation in my little production line is this McCall’s junior pattern M7459, for girls aged 7-14.  A few months ago I made some super cute Kitty Pinafore dresses using a Wild Things pattern free with Simply Sewing, as gifts for two sisters I know, and I would have liked to make one for my daughter too, except the pattern only went up to age 7, so it wasn’t really suitable.  That’s what prompted me to find a dungaree pattern for older girls, and this pattern has more variations than I realised at first, making it a worthwhile investment if you fancy making lots of different styles of dungarees!

With this pattern there are two ‘bib’ styles; the one I chose is the most typical dungaree style, the other is more like a vest or tabard top.  The pattern also lets you choose the options of a gathered skirt or a circle skirt, or trousers.  I went for the circle skirt as I recently completed a project which involved gathering extremely long lengths of fabric, so I had had enough of gathering for a while!

I chose red corduroy for the dress.  Originally it was supposed to be for Christmas, but other things got in the way and I had to postpone.  As far as I am concerned red is a neutral colour so it’s all good, this dress will go with everything!  Corduroy is probably not most people’s first choice for a circle skirt as it is heavyweight and doesn’t drape well, but it works ok in this context.  This one is a great ‘bottom-weight’ fabric and I’m tempted to order some more for myself.  I love the red but there are loads of other sumptuous colours.  It isn’t a stretch fabric, so I’d probably stick to making dresses with it rather than trousers.  I prefer to have stretch in my trousers to make the fitting easier and to make them more comfortable to wear.

The pattern was great, easy to sew and nothing too complicated.  I’d recommend it for adventurous beginners.  I cut the pattern and the fabric in one evening, and got the sewing done in the space of an afternoon and evening, and that was with a school run and dinner prep thrown in!

Thank you to Minerva for the pattern, the corduroy and the zip!  My daughter loves her new dress.

McCall’s M7091 – Bridesmaid’s dress

January 13, 2020

Back in October 2018, I was asked to make a bridesmaid’s dress for a friend’s daughter to wear to her uncle’s wedding.  The pattern that the bride and groom chose was McCall’s M7091, which is a special occasion dress which includes the option for a skirt flounce overlay which can be asymmetrical or short at the front and low at the back.  The couple’s colour theme was a beautiful violet colour, so they chose a rich purple satin dupion for the bodice and overlay flounce, and lilac for the the underskirt, with coordinating satin lining.

 

Making this dress was such a lot of hard work.  Even just tracing the correct size and cutting the pattern took an entire day!  Not only is the dress is made up of so many panels (12, I think?!), but also if you’re making the asymmetrical overlay like I did, then each piece has to be cut single layer, so even before you start sewing, you’ll have invested a couple of days in this project already.

The bridesmaid’s first fitting of the calico toile I made revealed that the back needed some alteration.  The one advantage of a panelled dress is that you have plenty of options to customise the fit!

Once the alterations were all sorted, I really enjoyed making the dress.  Almost every seam is a French seam.  I’m so happy with how it turned out.  The bridesmaid looked beautiful on the day, and not long after her mum got some studio shots of her wearing the dress.

 

Closet Case Patterns Jenny Overalls

November 17, 2019

Over the past few years I have acquired a decent collection of dungarees: mostly dungaree dresses, and mostly made by me, with the odd shop bought pair to bulk out the collection.  The dungaree trousers/jumpsuit/overalls were all shop bought (except one pair of dungaree shorts I made) but one by one they’ve ended up in the reject pile.  The dungarees I bought that had a slim fit leg shrunk over time so they became too short and too tight, the dungarees I bought with a straight leg ended up feeling baggy and unflattering, the dungarees I bought that had the right legs had a bib that did not come up high enough – I don’t want a nipple-grazing top any more than I want ankle-grazing trousers – I’m too old for all that and I highly value warmth.

The Jenny overalls seemed worth a try if I was going to make my own.  The wide leg is unapologetically wide, and I like that.  It feels much more ‘me’, probably because in my teens (in ye olde 1990s) bootcut and flared trousers were the fashion.  They were comfortable, you could wear long boots and socks under them, they were flattering.  They were not glorified leggings like the jeans of today.  1997 – I left school, started my A levels, Tony Blair became the Prime Minister, we wore flared jeans.  OK Computer and The Colour and The Shape came out.  What a time to be alive!

I will, reluctantly, put my feelings of nostalgia aside now, and get to the sewing nitty gritty.  This project took time.  At first it seemed to me that it was going to be straightforward, and in a way, it was, but it was time consuming, and an exercise in precision (one of the things that I like about sewing).  I’ve been feeling low recently, and tired, and is if my brain has melted into a pool of treacle, so it seemed to take a lot of effort to read and make sense of the instructions, to execute them and to do it well.  Just to be clear, this is due to my current mood, and is not a reflection on the quality of the pattern.  It felt like every step was a problem, but I’m a methodical sewer, and I plodded on, and every successful seam or top-stitch became a tiny win.

Although denim seems to be the obvious choice for this pattern, to keep the cost down I chose a medium weight stretch cotton twill at £4.99/m, which handles very similarly to denim, but is a solid colour and has a smoother surface.  I’ve made a few dungaree dresses out of fabrics like this (gabardine, gaberchino, twill) and they wash and wear very well so I was confident in my choice, and I would recommend it if you’re looking for an alternative to denim.  The instructions for this pattern say that if you are choosing a lighter weight fabric, you may want to line the bib front and the straps with the main fabric for reinforcement.  I did not need to do this with this fabric, it is plenty sturdy enough – besides – the straps are interfaced for extra stability anyway.  The pattern does not call for stretch fabrics, but I wanted the extra bit of ease that a stretch fabric will provide.  I wanted to feel, when I put these dungarees on, like I could live in them.  I’m happy to report that is exactly how I feel about them.

So, pattern details: I went for the lazy option of a single zip at the right side, rather than a zip each side.  No regrets.  I love the metal zip, it feels very proper and substantial, I love the way the instructions have you do a lapped zipper that disappears into the pocket, and the fly guard was the best I’ve done.  It all looks so neat and it works well.  All my shop bought dungarees have been button fastenings only, which have a tendency to be bulky, so I’m very much enjoying the zip feature on these.  I didn’t bother with the faux fly, as from previous projects I’ve found it to be one hell of a faff for absolutely no practical gain.  There’s not much else to say, really.  When cutting I lengthened the legs by 1 inch, but needn’t have bothered because at 5’10” I still took the hem up by 3 ½”!

I absolutely love my new dungarees, and I might make more in the future if I can face it!  Thanks to Minerva for the fabric, thread and pattern.

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