Sew Colette: A finished Peony

Peony looks like such an easy dress to sew, doesn’t it?

Pattern: Colette Patterns‘ Peony
Time taken: About a month, give or take
Fabric: Dyed cotton fabric plus some scraps for the facings
Details: Velvet ricrac

As other sewists taking part in this round of Sew Colette have found, Peony is not as easy as it seems. Despite making a muslin and sewing with extra-large seam allowances, I’ve ended up with a bodice which isn’t as comfortable as I’d like it yet has some unfortunate sagging around the neckline. So, while I can barely lift my arms (see below), the top part still looks as though it’s just a bit too big.

Hence I found myself nervously tugging at the bodice as I sweated profusely in the Scott Room at the Guardian’s offices – and it wasn’t just because I was up for an award. (I’d also been stuck on the Tube for half an hour AND had to run from work to catch my train… sweaty is probably an understatement)

But it’s funny how you can forget absolutely all of this when Charlie Stayt off of BBC Breakfast announces you as the Guardian’s Digital Student Journalist of the Year. It’s been a bit more than a week now, but I still can’t quite believe it happened!

I swear, the almighty roar my buddy Tom (pictured above) gave when the winner was announced is STILL ringing in my ear. Other souvniers include a lovely sign Tom acquired, which he managed to lug into the bar for the after party before he handed it to me to make its way back to Guildford. I got some funny looks on the last train home from those not snoozin’ from Thursday night debauchery.

All said, it’s hard to write off a dress with such obvious problems when it has that kind of memory AS WELL AS velvet ric rac attached to it. Sweatiness be damned!

On the sewing front, I really would like to get these terrible fitting issues sorted. Inspired by Sarah’s Peony, I was rather hoping to make a green lace version in time for Christmas. Does anyone have any suggestions what I could do to improve the fit?

Those of you who have entered the giveaway… the winners will be announced later this week! I still need to get one part of the package, so keep your eyes peeled for that…

Oh, and on a final note. THANK YOU for being lovely readers. I wouldn’t have won this award without you!

Sew Colette : Speed Sewing

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True to form, I may have left my Peony right until the very end…

To be fair, I don’t have a long way to go, it’s just unfortunate it’s all hand sewing from here, eek! Despite the muslin, it’s by no means perfect, but I’m still fairly happy with it.

I lost a weekend of sewing because I popped back home for a bit, so while I’m behind on the Peony parade, technically I would have finished in time if not for the unplanned visit!

I’m excited to be heading to the Guardian offices tomorrow for the Student Media Awards and, with any luck, in a dress made with my own two hands.

Now, to get home from the office… It’s been a long day!

Here’s another sneak peek I took this morning:

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Sew Colette – Fabulous (dyed) fabric

While sorting out the fit on my Peony, I’ve also been learning a fair bit about dyeing fabric.

Do you ever buy fabric on a whim only later to decide it’s not really the right colour for you? Well, when I bought this lilac number, while lovely, I forgot pastels don’t tend to be a wardrobe favourite of mine. Not to worry, I thought, easily solved with a packet of fabric dye, right?

The only thing I’ve ever dyed was my Jiu-Jitsu belt when I got my light blue belt. As soon as you grade to light blue, you dye your white belt. It means there are some really interesting and varied colours on the mat, that’s for sure. So, I bought some Dylon dye in “burlesque red” and got to work.

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Lesson learnt when it comes to dyeing fabric : make sure you have enough dye for your desired effect. A packet of 50g Dylon hand dye wasn’t enough to get the deep purple/red colour I was after. I imagine it would have been just fine for the dip-dye effect I was originally considering.

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After going back to the drawing board, I gave the machine-dye in the same colour a go, albeit with some trepidation as I was pretty worried it would end up staining my washing machine. You can imagine the nerves as I snapped the above photo, thinking I might have a purple washing machine as well as aubergine-coloured fabric.

Fortunately, I can say for certain the dye didn’t stain the washing machine (phew) and the colour came out a treat!

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The first image is with flash and the second without. I’m pretty happy with the result – the colour is much closer to the second than the first. I think it works great as an autumnal colour and goes really well with the handmade earrings pictured, which I bought from Camden this weekend.

I’m looking forward to starting to put this project together now. Working with the muslin fabric was very frustrating as it was so thin, but hopefully this sturdier cotton will work out much better.

If, like me, you’ve been having some fitting issues, check out Sew Colette organiser Sarah’s blog over at Rhinestones and Telephones, where she’s listed some great tutorials to help make sewing your Peonies that much easier. This post in particular works well if you’ve been having some issues with fitting the bodice.

How are your Peonies coming along?

Instagramming my way through Sew Colette

A month into my job meant two things. One: my first payslip. Two: the end of my 24-month contract on my despised Blackberry.

Obviously, the first thing I did was jump headfirst into another 2-year contract… except this time with a half-decent iPhone. So far, I’m very happy, because at least now my phone has an alright camera – being cameraless doesn’t make blogging about sewing any easier.

Naturally, I’ve jumped on the Instagram bandwagon and while I’ve managed to restrain myself from snapping vintage-themed shots of my food to show off to the world, I’ve started documenting my Peony step-by-step. As per, I’m taking my sweet time. I’m just about finishing up the muslin, only to notice I may have forgotten to buy a zipper. Oops!

This week is all about Fabulous Fit – which is the very bit I haven’t really got to, not having a zipper and all. But I have a hunch this won’t be too difficult a project to nail the fit, unlike last time around when I was slashing and adjusting like there was no tomorrow. Gathers on the skirt are just a bit more forgiving when it comes to my signature slapdash sewing.

I’m using some fabric from my stash, but being as fabric week isn’t until next week, I’ll keep that under wraps. What I will say is I’m thinking of experimenting a little with either dyeing or embellishments once more with this project. Check out Sarah’s post this week with her very royal Peony inspiration – wish I’d thought to nab some lace for this one!

If you want to follow my progress (or lack of if last week was anything to go by!) then check me out on Instagram under the oh-so original handle elenacresci. For non-Instagrammers, would you be interested in some sort of weekly sewing roundup either on the blog or via Flickr?

ALSO: keep your eyes peeled for something exciting this month because both the blog and the Seamless Pledge are turning the grand old age of ONE. I won’t lie, I haven’t quite decided what this exciting something will be, but I’m sure it’ll be grand. (suggestions on a postcard please…)

Finished Meringue – making the best out of a bad situation

After much in the way of seam-ripping, frustration and snipping of scallops, my Meringue skirt is done, but it looks a little different from how I’d originally intended.

Grainy image is grainy – I need Martha!

First of all, I’d like to say a HUGE thanks to everyone who offered their tips and sympathies in my last post.

I’ve shyed away from blogging about sewing mistakes before, because you lot are so bloody talented I don’t want to show myself up! All joking aside, I think it’s better to admit to mistakes, move on and make the best of such things.

In this case, it meant doing away with the scallops. Despite the Colette book explicitly saying I should choose a fabric which holds shape well, I was swayed by the lovely bottle-green colour and drape of this swishy crepe from a fabric shop down the road from my new place in Cardiff. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a bit of swish!

When it came to ironing the scallops, it became clear they wouldn’t set. They were all puffy and bulky in the wrong places. Then there was the fit of the skirt itself – it was so, so loose! It looks a bit too tight in the above photo because I’d just cooked an epic meal for some friends, so you’ll have to trust me on the fit being a lot better now!

Obviously I’m way, way behind on the Sew Colette challenge, but nevertheless I’m going to move on from this one and get on with the Parfait dress. This time, I’m definitely making a muslin!

Apologies for being really behind on catching up on blogs of late, I promise I’ll be back commenting soon!

Meringue disaster! Or, why I should have made a muslin

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There’s trouble in sewing paradise… that is to say, my Meringue skirt has gone horribly, horribly wrong.
Not only am I month behind, but the end product looks AWFUL. So awful, I couldn’t bring myself to photograph it.
This is a classic example of when I’m really, really rubbish at sewing. As you know, I’m quite behind on the Sew Colette Project (I’m nowhere near starting my whatever it’s called dress!) so I was really hoping I could get this done this weekend.

Sadly, it wasn’t to be. My lovely Meringue looks a bit like, er, well, a potato sack for lack of a better phrase. I’ve made a number of rookie errors here.

The fabric I’ve used just isn’t stiff enough for starters, making it awfully fiddly to get the scallops to work. I also did what I vowed not to do at the beginning of this year and cut corners – I didn’t mark the stitchline clearly enough on the scallops, meaning it’s turned out awfully on the hem.

As for the sizing, it’s actually a touch too big. I say a touch… I can actually fit my whole hand in the waistband when I’m wearing it. This does absolutely nothing for me, as you can see, I’ve got quite a small hip to waist ratio, so this just isn’t working out.

Sometimes I get projects like this and I feel like I want to just throw the towel in altogether! But I think I’m going to try and make this one work. Sadly, the scallops are probably going to have to go, and I’m going to resize the damn thing. I’ll probably keep it as an a-line skirt, but I’m a bit gutted it’s going to be quite a boring a-line rather than with the fun hem detail.

Tune in next time for home-sewing gone horribly, horribly wrong…

Sew Colette : When life gets in the way

sew colette meringue sewalong

The Meringue skirts for the Sew Colette sewalong look absolutely amazing! Hats off to those of you who got them finished because the ones I’ve seen on the Flickr group are amazing. One of my favourites so far is Lucille’s two-tone beauty, which you can read about here.

Sadly, this is what mine looks like at the moment. (excuse the crappy phone-camera shot, my camera is broken) Hopefully I’ll get it done this week so I can get involved with the Pastille dress, but for now, I’m a little behind.

Life gets in the way of sewing sometimes. It’s a topic I’ve touched on before – the course I’m doing is pretty demanding and while 2012 has been much better in terms of sewing than the beginning of 2011 was, sometimes I get home and don’t much feel like sewing at all.

The logo for our in-house paper. 

Let’s take yesterday for example. Far from being entirely unproductive, yesterday our team put together our very first newspaper in the first of our 18 production days.

These are part of our assessment – basically, we all take different roles within the newsroom and work together to create the paper by our deadline of 4.30. So yesterday, instead of being a student, seamstress or a blogger I had to put on a Chief-Sub hat and hope for the best.

Basically, I was the one in charge of the layout of the paper, what went where and assigning stories to people who checked them over and made sure they fit into boxes on the page.

…it’s alright, we got the paper out, we survived!

I have a tendency to match up new experiences to various hobbies I have. My first production day as a whole was a lot like the very first time I had a full-contact fight in Karate – I certainly felt like I’d had the wind knocked out of me after both days and I’ll let you guess which one had me sat with a bag of frozen peas on my head for the evening…

In some ways, when we saw the entire paper up on the board completely finished, it reminded me a bit of the first time I ever sewed a piece of clothing.

By my sewing standards now, it was utter crap – the seams weren’t finished, pretty sure the waistband didn’t match up and the invisible zipper was definitely on show. It’s also made from a quilting cotton which creases really easily (huh, sounds familiar…) and I’m pretty sure it’s falling to pieces.

We’ll probably look back on what we’ve done in our first paper and cringe at  the mistakes we made – but there’s still this sense of accomplishment (and relief!) at creating the product itself.

My first ever skirt is hidden somewhere at the bottom of my drawer… what about you? Any first sewing memories? I’ll try and dig out some pictures so I can show you, but I’d love to have a look at any of yours – the good, the bad and the ugly!