The Great British Sewing Bee: Fashion with Fabric review

Ever watch the Great British Sewing Bee and think: I could TOTALLY do this. I definitely could speed sew as though my life depended on it on national television.

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Well, you know what, I never have. Even my mum agreed I’d be pretty bad at sewing quickly. Yet what did I do in the course of preparing my review of the Great British Sewing Bee: Fashion with Fabric? I challenged myself to the GBSB experience at home. And it was messy.

Long story short, my room now looks like a thread-filled hurricane hit it. It’s made me wonder just how many helpers the GBSB crew have to help keep the sewing room clean and if I can possibly borrow some to clean this mess up.

Before I get to the project which unleashed such chaos on my room, let’s have a little nose at the book, shall we?

OBLIG NOTE THAT YOU SHOULD NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU DON’T WANT ANY GBSB SPOILERS

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Making my first coat

Oh crikey – I’m not entirely sure what I’ve let myself in for with this one.

I’ve wanted to make a coat for forever, but have never quite had the guts to actually go ahead and do it. Sometimes I feel like my sewing techniques are a little too slapdash for the more complicated projects. But how do you get better if you don’t try and stretch yourself every now and then.

Luckily for me, the “in” shape (basically the coat everyone in London seems to be wearing) is a slouchy, boxy boyfriend coat, usually in varying shades of pastel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to follow trends usually, but it makes it a lot easier to find inspiration when you see it on the Tube every morning.

I had a look at a few boxy-type patterns and ended up going for Republique du Chiffon’s Gerard coat and I think I’ve found a great black and white tweed fabric in a shop near me . I had thought about going for some ridiculous colour, but I think I’d rather something a bit more neutral for my first coat.

That said, I’m not overly encouraged by this pattern so far. It’s been quite a bumpy ride, and I’m not even halfway through the toile. Being a French company, all of RDC’s patterns are, of course, in French. But some of them are also available in English PDF versions. I thought: great!

Unfortunately, all the pattern pieces are still labelled in handwritten French, so you’ve got the job of deciphering the handwriting as well as matching the pieces to the English in the instructions. They do have a key, but a couple of the pieces aren’t numbered, which makes it a bit confusing. Also, I really wasn’t keen on having to tape the pattern pieces together and also trace them afterward. I’m told this is common with French patterns, but I’m a firm believer in not having to trace if you spend an indordinate time taping the pieces together.

On top of this, because I’m a bit thick when it comes to instructions anyway and keep getting confused, the toile keeps going wrong. I’ve sewn wrong bits together, got confused by which pieces they mean (I really wish they’d referred to the numbers in the instructions) and just made a bit of a mess of the whole thing so far.

I wish this was a more positive update of the coat-making! But I’ve had a super-frustrating evening and I haven’t even begun fitting the damn thing yet. I’m kind of worried the shape is going to look awful on me and I’ll have to scrap the entire thing.

*sigh*

If anyone’s made this pattern and has any tips, they’d be much appreciated…

The three year blouse

I think I can safely say this is the longest it’s taken me to finish a sewing project – ever.

red peplum blouse 1

In the midst of my big “I’m moving out” clearout, I came across a project I started way back in 2010 – while I was still living in Germany. I discovered it scrunched into a plastic envelope tucked amongst my sewing patterns.

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The Refashion Checklist – ’80s peplum blouse

80s blouse 1I love it when a refashion comes together.

What once was a monstrosity of an ’80s blouse, complete with shoulder pads which made me look eligible for the Lions, is now a cute peplum blouse with a touch of the ’50s about it. Much better.

blouse backTo begin with, the blouse was fairly shapeless. Rather than darts, it had some tucks gathering it at the waist, where it was attached to the peplum. On Instagram, Clare suggested sleeves off and sides taken in to take the blouse back 30 years to the ’50s.

In the end, I decided to rip the whole thing apart, taking off the peplum and ironing out the tucks. Using a bodice block pattern, I turned the top back to front, adding waist and bust darts, as well as a pair of darts at the back. I kept the buttons at the back as well as part of the collar, enclosing the raw edges around the sleeves and the neckline with black bias binding.

I ended up sewing most of the seams with my overlocker, as the fabric was pretty bad for fraying. It’s not a tool I use as often as I’d like – I forgot how satisfying it can be to have a seam stitched, trimmed and finished in one fell swoop!

80s peplum blouse refashion

One reattached peplum later, et voila! A blouse I will actually wear. Please excuse the unflattering jeans/jeggings I’m sporting in the pics – they’re the only “jeans” I actually own, but fit horribly because they’ve got an elasticated waist. Fit.

DSC00076I hope the nice pictures make up for the lack of Me Made May posts this year. Truth be told, for the latter part of May at least, I absolutely did not want to take pictures of myself at all.

On the plus side, things are on the up – not least due to a fancy pants new camera! I had lots of fun having a play with it this weekend.

That’s one item off the refashion checklist. Huzzah!

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Sew For Victory – Rosie the Riveter shirt dress

Happy days – I managed to finish my Sew For Victory wartime-inspired dress!

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A little more than a week ago, I told you about my last-minute change for this project, opting to take inspiration from women working in WW2 rather than the post-war pattern I had originally planned on making. I couldn’t resist getting my friend Martha, who designed this blog’s header and logo, to make me a Rosie the Riveter-style poster as well as taking some snaps of the dress for me. She’s a talented cookie, that one!

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As you may have already guessed, I used yet another pattern from Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing. Man, oh man am I in love with this book. The patterns are beautiful and the instructions even more so. Due to lack of time, I just winged it with this one and went muslin-free. Daunting! But it’s turned out quite well.

The only major alteration I made was the length – I lopped off a whopping eight inches from the skirt. EIGHT INCHES. In case you hadn’t guessed, I am pretty much a hobbit. Gertie must be ridiculously tall. I crave her power.

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The only other adjustment made was to the sleeves. Originally, the puffiness looked absolutely ridiculous on me, so I fudged it a bit and managed to make them a bit more conservative. I think I needed to take a bit off at the top of the armhole because the shoulders were a little wide for me. Everything else worked like a dream. The elastic shirring at the back makes the dress fit beautifully without making you feel constricted. Thumbs up on the design.

I would tell you what kind of fabric I used, but I’ve completely forgotten…

Those of you who have followed the blog for a while may notice one little milestone here…

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Bound buttonholes! ALL SEVEN OF THEM! One’s a little bit wonky but I don’t actually care because I finally managed to do more than one vaguely presentable buttonhole. There is something rather therapeutic yet distinctly horrifying about making bound buttonholes, but it’s the best feeling ever when it all comes together.

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In all, not half bad considering I only started a little more than a week ago. Now I can look forward to perusing all of the other lovely creations on the Sew for Victory Flickr group. Exciting!

Hopefully, I can pull it out of the bag for the Mad Men challenge and all…

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