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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.

Sewing for twins again!

June 1, 2021

The twins turned one year old! For their birthday I made them each a new set of bibbed trousers. This is my favourite thing to sew for babies because they are practical and cute and easy to sew and unisex and there are so many options to customise them! This time I used a new pattern called ‘The Play Set’ pattern which was free with Simply Sewing. I think the designer might be the same one who designed the Kitty Pinafore dress which I’ve made a couple of times. It has a lovely applique boat design, but that part didn’t really complement the dinosaur fabric I had chosen, so I didn’t do any applique.

To make the suits look like a pair, but not exactly the same, I used an Indigo denim and some Art Gallery dinosaur canvas and made each with both fabrics, but the opposite of each other. I used yellow topstitching on both suits and found two matching buttons for the backs. The design of the pattern at the back suggested making a loop on the back waistband for the straps to tie onto, but I didn’t like this idea at all as I thought that would make an uncomfortable knot on the babies’ backs.

I love how the pockets match the straps and the facings! At first I was a little put out that I didn’t have enough of the dinosaur fabric to get a dino dead-centre on the pocket, but in the end I think the off-centre dinosaur looks as though it’s just wandered into the picture!

I made these in a 18-24 month size even though the twins only just turned one. It’s always better to have growing room and with the lockdown I wasn’t exactly able to measure them. As usual I did a couple of buttonholes on each strap in case adjustments are needed.

I’m really pleased with how these turned out, and they’ve already been worn and I can confirm the twins were excellent models.

I would definitely use this pattern again!

The Kitty Pinafore Dress

May 25, 2021

A few years ago I made two little sisters a Kitty Pinafore dress each for their birthdays. They wore them quite a bit so when the elder sister’s birthday rolled around again I made her the next size up. The pattern was free with Simply Sewing magazine, and was designed by ‘Wild Things’. I made this dress with a medium weight navy blue twill, and for the ears I used a canvas ticking stripe, and so chose to do ivory topstitching on the straps and the pocket to coordinate.

As I probably mentioned before when I posted about making my first two Kitty Pinafore dresses, the pattern confused me a bit with the waistband, as you are asked to add 3 inches to the pattern I think for a foldover channel for the elastic. I did not notice this until the fabric was already cut, and so had to cut a separate piece and add it in. Luckily it makes no difference to the appearance or fit of the dress!

I remembered that last time I made the girls these dresses, the buttonhole placement was a little too low and I had to add some extra in, so this time I sewed a couple of extra buttonholes on each strap before giving it away! I love the button! I got this at a sewing exhibition somewhere. I bought three, and two of them are on a Tilly & the Buttons Cleo pinafore I made for myself. I’m glad they have all been used now.

I hand sewed the whiskers with embroidery floss, and used the blanket stitch on my machine for the applique eyes and nose. It’s such a cute little cat face!

Birthday dress for a 4 year old

May 18, 2021

Don’t you just love it when you can use a sewing pattern over and over again? I have used New Look 6309 many times before to make pretty dresses for little girls. My daughter is too big for the pattern now, but it still comes in handy for making dresses for daughters of my friends. This dress was a very satisfying make because I was able to use up some fabric left over from a previous project, and I knew the bold, bright floral design would be popular with the recipient!

This time I sewed my label into the skirt side seam rather than into the back bodice lining.

The collar was an added bonus to the dress (you can make it without if you like). I had bought some fat quarter solid colours for making rainbow bunting a while back and had just enough of the turquoise to make the collar (but sadly not a matching sash). I also had enough scraps of white poplin to line the bodice. Perfect!

Back view, centred zip fastening

The dress is just as happy as the little girl who wears it 🙂

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!

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