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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.

Kitty Pinafore dresses

November 16, 2019

When I originally got my hands on a Kitty pinafore dress pattern, free with Simply Sewing mag, my little girl was already too big for me to make it for her, so it got added to the stash for a possible future gift.  Its time to shine came in October, when a friend’s daughter celebrated a birthday at the beginning of the month, and her sister at the end of the same month.  In the meantime I had picked up an extra copy of the pattern in a charity shop for 50p, so I didn’t even need to trace two different sizes!

The pattern design is brilliant, but the practicalities of making the dress were a bit challenging.  First of all, you have to add your own seam allowance to the pattern.  I know this isn’t a huge deal, but when you are used to cutting from commercial paper patterns, usually the seam allowance is included already, so it’s very easy to forget at the last minute.  Even though I did remember to add seam allowance, I later discovered I should have added an extra 3cm to the back waistband seam allowance.  I missed this, and so had to cut a separate waistband.  It mustn’t be very clear that you need to do this at the cutting stage, because I did the exact same thing when I came to cut out the second dress!

The cat face is very cute but does take a while to get it looking perfect.  I used the blanket stitch setting on my machine at the slowest possible speed for the eyes and nose, and then I hand stitched the whiskers using embroidery floss.  The result is great though, and I enjoyed choosing scraps of contrasting fabric for the cat’s features.

The straps are attached at the back by a button which I chose to fasten to the outer waistband rather than the inner.  That way I could showcase a pretty button and I thought it would be more comfortable to wear.  In the end, both girls had to have a supplementary button hole added into the straps to make them shorter.

As you can see I made the dresses slightly different to reflect their different personalities.  The older girl’s dress is made from denim, and her younger sister’s is made from red twill (red is her favourite colour!).  Both girls loved the dresses and I believe the pockets went down well too!

The Light Party dress – B6332

October 20, 2019

Whilst lurking the creations of my fellow Minerva Makers, I discovered the range of Timeless Treasures panels that Minerva stock.  I felt immediately compelled to make a dress with one of these panels, and chose this beautiful tree design.  Who doesn’t love trees, right?  And really pretty colours to boot.  I knew that this design would make a really eye-catching dress.

Because of the high contrast design of the black silhouette of the tree with the bright, rainbow colours, I figured I could wear the dress to a Light Party I am organising at work.  I am a children’s and family worker at a church and this will be the second year I have organised this type of party.  Don’t get me wrong, I personally love Hallowe’en, but the Light Party is an alternative way to celebrate.  It takes place on All Saints Day, November 1st, and instead of being focused on scary and evil things, it celebrates the positive power of light, the triumph of good over evil, etc.  This year the kids are coming dressed as superheros, but I will be my own sewing superhero wearing this dress!

The pattern I chose – B6332 – was in my stash, and must have been free with a magazine as I don’t think I’d have ever bought it otherwise.  However, I’m extremely glad it was there, because it is just perfect for panels (and would be great for colour blocked dresses too).

I was a bit unsure about how the dress would fit and whether or not it would be a) flattering and b) comfortable.  In the past I’ve not always like wearing this style of dress because I feel self-conscious about my tummy ☹ With these thoughts in my mind, I erred on the side of caution and graded the pattern to a size 18 (it only went up to a 16).  In the end this was the right fit for my lower half but not at all for my upper body.  I kept on basting, trying on and pinning until I arrived at this:

The result is still a loose fit, but this is exactly what I want as it doesn’t cling and it is comfy for what will be a busy day at work.  I gave it a road test by wearing it to work the week I finished making it, and my colleagues gave me many compliments and I felt like I looked nice all day, which is certainly a good way to feel!

I used one panel for the front of the dress, and one for the back.  The back has a centre back zip and I did wonder about changing it to a side zip so that I wouldn’t spoil the panel with a seam through the middle of it, but as comfort was one of my main objectives, I kept the centre back zip.  I find that side zips have a habit of rubbing under your arm because there is lots of movement there.

The side panels are plain black cotton poplin.  The dress is fully lined as well, so when I wear it with tights there will be no need to worry about it riding up, and it hangs nicely.  I’m really pleased with it considering I never thought I’d actually use this pattern!

Thank you Minerva for providing the lovely fabrics and zip!

Threadcount ‘Ultimate’ tshirts!

September 16, 2019

I’ve had two pieces of stripy jersey in my stash for ages, just waiting to be made into tshirts to wear under dungarees and dungaree dresses, and finally, once the kids were back to school in September, I found the motivation to get cracking.  I used the ‘Ultimate Tshirts’ pattern from Threadcount, free with Love Sewing.

I made one of the tshirts short sleeved, and one with three quarter length sleeves, but both with a scoop neck.  They were so easy to make that I made them both the same day, which made me feel very accomplished and pleased with myself after a long spell of not doing much sewing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s not much more to say really, other than I would definitely recommend the pattern, and please excuse my shoddy camera work!

The Freja Pinafore Dress

September 8, 2019

I’m a big fan of dungaree/pinafore dresses, and I’ve nearly always got another one in my head ‘needing’ to be made.  This time I took a break from the Cleo dungaree dress to try out the Freja dress instead, a pattern that came free with Simply Sewing magazine.  The denim I used is Lady McElroy stretch denim and it was a dream to sew with and really comfortable to wear!

Once I began making the dress, I got caught up in a whirlwind of excitement and wanted to get it finished asap.  Unfortunately this meant that I did not have any dungaree clips at the time, so I thought I’d do buttons for the straps instead.  Instead of sewing the straps into the bodice, I wanted more of a traditional pinafore vibe so I sewed the straps separately and then attached them by button at the end, but, shhhh!  The buttons are really only there for effect, as I ended up sewing the straps down!!!

I drafted my own hip pockets, inspired by a Boden pinafore dress I had seen in their catalogue.  I’m pleased with how the pockets turned out, they certainly look the part.  I also drafted my own curved patch pocket for the top bodice.  The more pockets, the better, in my opinion!  I opted for an exposed chunky metal zip at the back, and I really like it.  I could definitely have done with adjusting the fit at the back – as you can see it rides up and creates a big wrinkle.  It does bother me when I think about it (or see it), but most of the time when I’m wearing the dress I forget all about it, and generally I feel pretty awesome in the dress.

I would definitely make another of these dresses, but next time I’d lengthen the straps as they only just fit.  After a few wears, I moved the buttons on the back waistband in slightly more towards the centre, which gave an extra bit of ease in the length of the straps.

The only problem is – and I’m not sure it’s really a ‘problem’ – with this top underneath it I definitely feel like Mario!  I just need a huge moustache! 🙂

Unicorn dress

August 1, 2019

One of my daughter’s closest friends turned 9 at the end of July and to celebrate we all went camping together.  My daughter made her friend a birthday cake, and I made her a unicorn dress!  I had been hanging onto this fabric for ages.  I had originally planned to use it to make myself some pyjama bottoms, but when I decided to make a girl’s dress this seemed the obvious choice.  Plus, I knew it would co-ordinate nicely with the unicorn dress I made for my daughter last year sometime.

I used Burda 9379 for the pattern as it looked like it would be a simple make and it wouldn’t need lining.  The arm holes and neckline are bound with bias binding, which makes for a pretty finish as well as being easy to do.  I chose pink gingham and I love how it looks!

The birthday girl loved her dress and I was so pleased with the fit which I basically had to guess.  Here she is, in the tent, having just tried it on:

Doesn’t she look great?  And here’s a pic of her with my daughter wearing the unicorn dress I made her:

Awww.  They are so cute 🙂

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