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Birthday dresses for birthday girls!

January 28, 2022

Today I want to show you two dresses I made for two sisters who have October birthdays. I didn’t make them matching or coordinating dresses like I have done in the past when I made their Kitty Pinafore dresses. I used different patterns and different fabrics for each dress. The first dress is made with Simplicity 2265 in a fabric which was given to me and which I find hard to identify. It has a twill weave and is a bit like sateen but not as thick. The print is ditsy floral and is reminiscent of Liberty.

The fabric also has an embellished border of white ribbon stitched down to make large flower shapes.

The first dress has some beautiful design features such as the two-part, tulip style overlapping sleeves, the pleats at the centre of the bodice and the back button closure.

This dress took quite a lot of work compared with your average kid’s dress. I am pleased with the border print fabric on this dress, but I think the bodice pleat detail gets lost in the print, which is a shame, but it is still pretty!

It’s pretty from the back too and you can see the sleeve detail a bit better from this angle.

The second dress is made with New Look pattern 6205, and is made with a pink vintage-style floral polycotton. The print reminds me of a floral sofa cover my grandma had! I know that the 5 year old who would be wearing this dress loves wearing reds and pinks so I hoped she would like the print.

The second dress is a simpler pattern, although I opted to add a skirt lining rather than only lining the bodice because the polycotton was fairly lightweight and I wanted the pale pink background to really pop. Although the pattern for this dress is more straightforward than the other dress, I still think the design is really beautiful. I used the pattern for a bridesmaid’s dress some years ago and then made my daughter a couple of other versions of it. I love the full pleats in the skirt and the neckline/sleeve design.

This one fastens at the back with a zip and I decided to use a standard dress zip as I find them kinder on the skin as well as being a more traditional style.

I had trouble deciding on whether or not to include a sash, and which colour to go for! The dark green is a good contrast.

Both girls love their dresses!

Rainbow Straps Dungaree Dress & Macrame Necklace

December 29, 2021

At least a year ago, maybe longer, I was in the haberdashery of Boyes and saw this wide rainbow webbing tape, and had the idea to make a Tilly and the Buttons Cleo pinafore dress using the tape as dungaree straps. I have made lots of different versions of this dress but I had always fancied a plain denim one, so I ordered some Lady McElroy 11oz organic denim and some Hemline dungaree clips from Minerva.

When I finally got the urge to actually sew the dress, I had a last minute wobble about whether or not to make the dress with rainbow straps. Part of the appeal of the plain denim dress was that it was utilitarian. However, I also knew that rainbow straps would be really fun, and make the dress more unique, and what is the point of being able to make your own clothes if you make things that look just like everybody else’s? Might as well put a design spin on it!

The straps that Tilly drafted are quite narrow, and in the past when I have made this dress with standard dungaree clips I have found them a little too wide for the straps. The rainbow straps are even more narrow than the straps should be according to the pattern, but it’s hard to source the narrower clips (I did manage it for my Art Gallery Dinosaur Canvas version of the dress, though, so they are out there somewhere!).

I fully lined the dress so that it doesn’t cling to my clothes underneath. I tucked the hem of the lining into the hem of the denim and topstitched it down, which actually makes the dress wrinkle a bit when the denim stretches but the lining doesn’t. I could unpick it and hem them separately if it starts to get really noticeable but so far it’s ok. These photos were taken on Christmas Day after sitting down for many hours, so it was bound to look wrinkled at this point!

I made the longer length version of the pattern as I am 5’10” and find the shorter version too short now. I didn’t include the front split that you are supposed to have with the longer version, because I found with a previous version I made of the dress where I included the split as directed, there is a lot of strain on the top of the split when you sit down, and I’m always worried it’s going to rip!

I also made a different pocket than the one that comes with pattern, as I wanted it bigger and curved rather than angular. I didn’t add hip pockets but I wish I had as I miss having them. I guess the beauty of patch pockets though is that I could add some on later if I want to.

I’m also wearing a necklace I made! I bought a 2m length of Bobbiny 9mm macrame cord from Stitching Me Softly at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate in November. I didn’t buy the ‘kit’ because Emma said I could find a tutorial online, and although I didn’t find one on her Instagram account, I found one on YouTube about how to make a macrame rope necklace.

I didn’t buy the magnetic clasps from Stitching Me Softly, either. Instead I bought a batch lot off eBay which was cheaper. The 10mm wide magnetic clasps were absolutely perfect for the 9mm cord (you don’t need 9mm clasps, and will find it hard to buy these from anywhere except Stitching Me Softly). I bought 2 more not-quite-10-metre bundles of Bobbiny cord from an eBay seller for £6.99 each and with the clasps I was able to make 7 necklaces to give as presents to friends this Christmas. I’d estimate I spent £35 on eBay to make these 7 necklaces which is not bad.

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas. Were you wearing anything handmade? Did you receive any sewing-related presents? I got the Tilly and the Buttons Indigo pattern from my sister-in-law, and some fabric to make the dress with from my husband, so that will probably be my next project!

Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian Dress

October 26, 2021

Earlier this year my children took part in a ‘Time Travel Week’ at school where each year group learnt about a different decade in recent history. They learnt about the fashions, music and popular culture of the decade in question as well as notable events. My daughter’s class was learning about the 60s, and so they were invited to dress up in something related to the 60s. My mind went straight to the 1965 Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian inspired dress. I have a hardback set of Taschen ‘Fashion’ books that now seem difficult to get hold of, and as I opened Volume 1 to find the dress I had in mind, it ACTUALLY OPENED ON THAT VERY PAGE!!!! I took that as a sign, and committed to the idea!

My daughter was actually not that keen on the dress at first. I think she was hoping for something more flower power and hippy, but I managed to talk her into letting me make this dress instead by showing her loads of images of it and reading about it with her, so that she began to appreciate the importance of this YSL collection in fashion history, and that it really is one of the most standout fashion moments of the 60s.

I am aware that there is a Vogue pattern available that is inspired by this design, but I didn’t really feel the need to track it down. Instead I used a pattern for a basic shift dress and adapted it.

The pattern was an adult pattern so I cut the smallest possible size, made a toile, and then redrafted it to fit my daughter. She didn’t need the bust darts, so I removed those by rotating them to the centre front neckline, which is cleverly hidden by the central black dividing line on the finished dress front.

I have to confess I didn’t piece together the fabrics – I cheated! I chose various sections of primary-coloured cottons, placed them on in my own design, and sewed black wide ribbon over the edges to join it all together.

I kept the back of the dress plain white and inserted a lapped zipper. Because the fabric was quite heavy white cotton twill, I didn’t need to line it, and it held its A-line shape really well.

My daughter was absolutely over the moon with the dress, and I was really pleased with how well it turned out, and also slightly jealous that she had this amazing dress that fitted her so beautifully and was inspired by the wonderful artist Piet Mondrian, and the amazing designer Yves Saint Laurent.

I think it’s one of my favourite things I have ever made.

Closet Core Patterns Jenny Overalls

October 19, 2021

In January 2020 whilst on a work trip to Leeds, I picked up some stretch denim fabric from Samuel Taylor’s to make myself a second pair of Jenny Overalls, as I have loved my black ones and worn them loads. The fabric sat for well over a year, thanks to Covid, before I finally found the motivation and time to sew. Thankfully, I didn’t need to trace a new size, so I could get straight onto cutting out the denim, which saved me a lot of time and effort!

There’s probably not much more to say about this pattern that I didn’t say last time. It’s quite labour-intensive as there are lots of pattern pieces, but it comes together nicely and both times I have made dungarees with this pattern I’ve ended up with a very neat and precise finish, which is good. I love how the side zip turned out. I wish I had used more exciting pocket fabric!

I didn’t topstitch in a contrasting colour because I just wanted it to be plain, and therefore extremely versatile.

I really love the wide legs of these dungarees, they are just soooo comfy! I can wear knee high boots underneath! They look good with lots of my t-shirts, but this rainbow stripe Threadcount Patterns ‘Ultimate t-shirt’ is one of my favourites.

I ordered the dungaree clips from eBay I think, and went for classic bronze with matching jeans buttons – the kind that you have to hammer into place, which is always fun!

These clips also came with the extenders which I’ve not used before. They were quite fiddly to sew in but definitely worth the effort for the ability to adjust the strap length.

I’m super pleased with these and have worn them loads. Having a black pair as well is just great and they are both really comfy and cool and I feel good in them. Hurray!

Colette Moneta dress, a t-shirt and Ernest Wright shears!

October 12, 2021

It’s autumn! The kids are back at school and we’ve had a few weeks to get back to a kind of normal(ish) routine of kids at school and me at work. Luckily for me my work has also involved some sewing commissions and some sewing tuition, which is great, and I’ve still got a backlog of completed projects to share with some great photos taken by my husband who has become a photography enthusiast!

Today I want to show you a new Colette Moneta dress I made during Me Made May earlier this year. I have had the fabric in my stash for ages, and I think it may have been from Abakhan in Manchester, although I can’t be 100% sure. It’s a printed single jersey with a good drape, and in classic navy and white. When I bought it I obviously didn’t pay much attention to the print direction, as it was only when I came to cut it out I realised the stripes were vertical instead of horizontal! Nevermind!

Colette Moneta dress and Threadcount Patterns Ultimate T-shirt

I hadn’t bought this fabric with a particular pattern in mind, so had erred on the side of caution and bought more than I probably needed. This worked out well because it meant I had enough fabric left over to make a t-shirt using the Threadcount patterns ‘Ultimate t-shirt’ pattern that came free with Love Sewing. Although I liked the vertical print of the dress, I really wanted horizontal stripes on the t-shirt so I cut it on the cross grain, and it worked out just fine.

Worn under a Tilly Buttons Cleo dress. Excuse the sad face, I think I had a migraine and was about to get in bed!

I love the swishyness of the dress, but the t-shirt has probably gotten slightly more wear overall as it looked good with my white jeans in summer and under all of my dungarees and dungaree dresses!

Around the time that I made these, my amazing shears arrived from Ernest Wright. I ordered them in October 2020 but because of the pandemic they took months and months to be made, and I finally got them around May 2021. Still, better late than never! I ordered the 10″ shears which I can just about handle – any larger and my hands would not be able to physically open the blades fully!

Tilly Agnes meets Orla Kiely

July 6, 2021

My latest sponsored make as a Minerva Brand Ambassador is a Tilly and the Buttons Agnes tshirt in a fabric that is not designed by Orla Kiely but which is certainly very similar to one of her more famous designs. I was drawn to the fabric simply because of this connection, although I’ll admit that I hadn’t paid much attention to the scale of the print when I ordered it, and expected it to be larger than it is.

I want to increase my collection of me-made tshirts and slowly weed out the RTW tshirts that I don’t love as much (not my David Bowie tshirts, though, they are here to stay). My other go-to tshirt pattern is the Threadcount Ultimate tshirt pattern but this time I wanted a closer fit rather than a relaxed fit. The shape of the Agnes tshirt seems to be such an exaggerated hourglass shape but it works really well for me.

The fabric is lovely quality and I would recommend it. It’s medium weight so it behaves itself when you’re sewing it, and it isn’t too thin or too sheer. It seems to have good stretch recovery too. I used my sewing machine and my overlocker and it was so quick to make that I made it in one evening. It helped that I had already traced the pattern pieces as I’ve used this pattern before!

Thanks to Minerva for sending me the fabric free of charge in exchange for a review on their site here.

McCall’s M7094 top

June 29, 2021

This pattern came free with Love Sewing a few years ago, and I was reminded of it during Me Made May 2021 when Amy of Almond Rock Sews wore the one she made with gorgeous Liberty fabric. As a Minerva ‘Brand Ambassador’ I can choose some fabric free of charge in exchange for a review post with photos on their website, an arrangement I am more than happy with!

This top is described as a ‘very loose fitting, pullover top’ and based on my current measurements I cut a large. It did seem to be extremely voluminous when I was making it, and I worried that I would be drowned by the finished garment. In the end, though, it turned out to be wearable, although I reckon if I made it again, I would make the medium size instead, and possibly use a lighter fabric. I hesitated whether or not to choose the dipped hem as it is not something I tend to go for normally, but I thought I’d give it a go. I’m still not 100% sure I like it, and I haven’t yet ruled out straightening it off, but my family and friends seem to like it. It kind of reminds me of when in primary school we were asked to bring in an old shirt of your parents to wear backwards with the sleeves rolled up as a painting apron!

Rain, rain, go away!

I was imagining wearing this top with white jeans, but on photo day it was raining and I opted for a navy corduroy skirt, tights and boots instead. Not quite the nautical summer vibe I was going for! I really wanted the overlapping back as I do like an interesting back detail, but I wasn’t sure how it would hang in this woven fabric which doesn’t have as much drape as the fabrics shown on the pattern envelope. I think it works ok, it certainly adds to the billowy nature of the top!

The pattern was quite fiddly really so it took me longer than average to make this top. I found the front placket attachment quite difficult to follow, it felt as though there wasn’t quite enough explanation given. I had to do a bit of guesswork and I think it’s probably not exactly how it should be, but it looks OK. Slip stitching the placket in place took quite a while, and when it came to slip stitching the yoke and neckband in place, I cheated and stitched in the ditch using my machine instead.

A bit splattered with rain!

There is no prompting to finish the seams in the instructions, but most of them are neatly enclosed, with the exception of the side seams and the sleeve seams, which I overlocked. However, I wish I had chosen a different seam finish for the sleeves, as the rolled up part shows the inside/wrong side, so you can see the overlocked edge. I mean, it’s neat and everything, but might have been nicer as a French seam!

The fabric is a lovely quality and comes in different colours (red, navy and grey). I don’t have much yellow in my wardrobe but I liked this mustard yellow shade with the white anchor print and thought it was a bit more unusual. I can see this fabric working well for most projects that require woven, non stretch fabrics, such as tops and dresses and skirts. It doesn’t necessarily require lining, either. In these photos I am wearing a black crop top underneath but you can’t really tell. Thank you to Minerva who sent me the fabric in exchange for me posting on their site! The thread, interfacing and two little buttons were from my stash.

Teeny tiny baby dress!

June 25, 2021

Recently some friends of mine had their first baby, and when I found this fabric at Minerva I knew I had to make a teeny little baby dress with it 💗. Usually when I make baby dresses I always use the same pattern – Burda 9750 – but this time I fancied a more interesting design, so I decided to use this cute New Look pattern 6768, which comes in size New Born – Large. This pattern is not as quick and easy to make as some, but it really is worth the effort as it’s super cute, and I still got it done within a day. You can make a pinafore dress or a romper suit (which was handy when I was making clothes for another friend’s twins as she has a boy and a girl). For this baby girl I went with the dress design, simply because changing nappies with a dress on is far easier than with trousers.

The pattern recommends using eight 1″ buttons (2.5cm), but I didn’t have any this size in my stash, so I went with smaller ones and I think they work ok. In fact I actually had nine of them, so I added the extra one onto the front pocket as a spare. I tried very hard with my pattern matching for the pocket and think I did a fairly good job of it.

The pattern also suggests half a yard of 1″ wide elastic, which again I didn’t have in my stash so instead I used two lengths of thinner elastic.

Usually when I make garments I like to sew in my ‘Handmade by Tabatha Tweedie’ label onto the back waistband or facing or whatever, which I dutifully did this time, only to find I had sewn it on upside down! I unpicked it and sewed it the correct way up, but then when I came to sew on the straps, I realised that the straps would be sewn over the top of the label, so I had to unpick it a second time and find somewhere else for it to go! I opted for the inside of one of the straps at the back.

The fabric is lovely quality, not too thin. I ordered 1m of it which was plenty because it’s a 60″ wide fabric. I am happy to have some scraps leftover to either incorporate into another project or make bunting with!

I made the dress in the small size rather than new born size, and I know that it is currently too big for the recipient, but it’s great that she will be able to grow into it and hopefully get lots of wear out of it. I will look forward to future photos of her in it!

Thanks to Minerva for providing the fabric as part of their Brand Ambassador program. It’s great to be sewing again after the slump of the pandemic!

Book Review: Lorna Knight’s ‘Overlockers and Overlocking: A Practical Guide’

June 15, 2021

In January 2021 I was sent a recently published book by Crowood Press in exchange for a review on my blog. I have had an overlocker for many years, but I’ll admit that I mainly use it for two things:

  1. to finish seam allowances of woven fabric
  2. to sew knit fabric seams

These are the two functions that are the most useful and important to me as a dressmaker. It is not an essential tool as I could finish my seams in different ways, and sew knit fabrics with a zig zag stitch on a basic sewing machine, but I like the neat finish and the speed. I have dresses I made using an overlocker ten years ago that have been washed and worn over and over again, so I know it creates a sturdy finish.

Lorna Knight’s book ‘Overlockers and Overlocking: A Practical Guide’ (2020) is a comprehensive guide to overlockers and I think it would definitely appeal to sewers who are new to this machine. However, the book serves as a useful guide to others who may already be familiar with an overlocker’s basic functions. The tone of the book is never patronising or simplistic. Knight’s friendly introduction is interesting, informative and encouraging:

In this book, using photographs and simple explanations, I hope to demystify an often maligned machine and demonstrate how it can take your creativity to a new level. By understanding how your overlocker works it will become a more useful tool and you will learn how to get the most from it. Above all, I want to share my enthusiasm and encourage everyone to have a go.

(Knight: 7)

The book is well organised. Knight begins by explaining what the overlocker is, what the different parts are, and things to consider when buying an overlocker. She also mentions related machines such as a coverstitch machine and a blind hemming machine, which I found very interesting as I have never used either but I am intrigued by both. Knight then goes over the accessories that often come with an overlocker, and what they are for, and other handy tools that may help you, from things you might have already in the house (such as using masking tape or washi tape to mark the seam allowance, or using a glass or cup to hold thread that will not sit on the spool holders), to more specialist attachments. I had not realised that you can get so many different types of presser foot attachments for the overlocker, for example you can get a ‘beading foot’ for sewing on a strip of beading: how clever is that?!

Knight moves on to the subject of threading, which overlockers are notoriously hard to do, with the heading ‘Threading up – Don’t Be Put Off!’ which is encouraging for those whose minds melt at the thought of having to thread four threads through a series of dials, clips and holders in a very specific order without getting them tangled up!

The rest of the book goes through the different stitches as you would expect, some construction techniques and hem finishes, and gives examples of different threads being used to achieve different effects. The final chapter on troubleshooting answers twenty FAQs that users might have regarding the operation of the machine and guides the reader in identifying problems and solving them.

The last 30 pages of the book are the icing on the cake: Appendix 1 focuses on how different fabrics can be handled successfully by the overlocker by adjusting settings such as the differential feed, the tension, the stitch length, needle type and thread type. Appendix 2 is an at-a-glance reference chart to help identify different stitch types and adjust the settings for each one. Following the appendices is some information regarding overlocker manufacturers and suppliers, a glossary and an index. Quite simply, Knight has thought of everything.

My only criticism of the book is that the photographs are quite small. Obviously there are limitations due to the physical size of the book (24cm x 17cm, if you’re interested!), but there are some photographs and diagrams which would merit being enlarged, especially when multiple things are being depicted. For example, on page 22 and 23, we are given an artful full page close up of a tool with a soft focus background. It doesn’t indicate what the tool is. There is then a second flat lay image of eight different tools and gadgets, numbered and accompanied by a list to identify each tool, but this image is so small that it is hard to see the tools clearly. Shame!

Overall, I think the book lives up to its title: it is indeed a practical guide that I would buy for myself or anyone with an interest in getting more use out of their overlockers. Well done Lorna Knigh, and thank you to The Crowood Press for asking me to review this book.

Dottie Angel Tunic Dress

June 11, 2021

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaggggges ago, a friend who I met through the WI gave me all her sewing stuff. She said she goes from hobby to hobby, buys everything, but then wants to try something new! I was very pleased to take a load of lovely patterns and fabrics off her hands. By way of thanks, I made her a tunic dress that she had envisioned making for herself but she hadn’t got around to it. It was a Simplicity ‘Dottie Angel’ dress, pattern number 1080A, and she already had the 3 contrasting fabrics ready to make view C of the dress, quite similar to the ones on the pattern envelope!

There’s not much to report really about the actual sewing of it, it was fairly straightforward as far as I remember (I probably made this in 2019 – I’m just catching up with blogging!). The dress fitted ok. I obviously had the measurements but it’s designed as a semi fitted tunic anyway, with straps that tie at the back to cinch in the waist as the wearer desires.

This is the second time I’ve made a Dottie Angel apron – the first one was for myself for work and it’s still going strong (especially as it has had a year’s rest due to Covid!).

My favourite thing about these Dottie Angel patterns is the contrasting fabrics, and the pockets, which are big and practical.

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