My 2015 in sewing

Ok: so I didn’t blog that much last year. It happens! And 2015 has been kind of weird.

And I have to say, I’m pretty happy to be leaving 2015 behind. That said, 2015 wasn’t all bad. As those  of you who follow me on Instagram will know, I’ve definitely been sewing plenty. Given I’m so completely behind on blogging these, here’s a rundown of some of my favourite projects from this year.

Sew Over It 1940s tea dress

Sew Over It 1940s tea dress

I’m never not going to love a dress which makes me feel like Agent Peggy Carter. This was mostly an easy sew, save for the point in the centre connecting the bust and the skirt – which I don’t think I got completely perfect anyway. The fabric, also from Sew Over It, was a dream to sew. My only complaint is I sometimes feel this one’s just a touch too fancy for work… but who cares, I’m still going to wear it.

Patterns by Gertie: Butterick B5814

Patterns by Gertie B5814 dress

What do you do when you’re off to a wedding you know your ex is going to attend? You make the best goddamn wiggle dress of your life. Mind you, I wouldn’t want to give an ex any credit for this one, because it is goddamn glorious. It looks a lot more complicated than it actually is, thanks to the pleats and the draping. I think perhaps the bust is maybe a little big and I didn’t quite nail the sleeves, but who cares. The fabric is a drapey synthetic of some sort, lined with a cotton blend. This dress also requires the wearing of the funkiest bra I have ever owned. So now you know.

The red tulip Audrey dress

As I’ve said before, I love, love, love sewing books with loads of patterns for me to choose from. Famous Frocks: the Little Black Dress has a really lovely Audrey Hepburn-style pattern with a high neckline, which can either be paired with a circle or a pencil skirt. I made one with a gathered skirt in red tulip-patterned cotton. It’s so easy to put together, I think I may make another version with a slim skirt. I’ve got my eye on the Joan pattern from

The little black Georgia dress

This dress by By Hand London is sexy as hell. I sewed it in a black knit, so I didn’t need a zipper. I feel happy every time I wear this dress – so much so I made two this year, another in a glittery knit with wide straps.

Colette Patterns Macaron

I’ve had this pattern in my stash for years, ever since I lived in Germany. I don’t know why it took me so long to make it, but I’m glad I finally have. It’s deceptively easy to sew. For some reason I thought the top part would be difficult, but it was relatively simple in the end. The blue fabric is not the best quality – it even melted at one point when I was ironing it – but HEY what does it matter, no one can tell so I won’t tell if you won’t.

Colette Patterns Macaron

Comfy as hell Simplicity 2591

This one’s a re-do of a pattern I last used about four years ago. You can read more about it here because it’s one of the few I actually blogged about last year.

And what for 2016? Well I’ve got some plans, of course. Stay tuned for more. Happy New Year!

Stop what you’re doing and look at this new Vintage Vogue pattern

WOULD. YOU. JUST. LOOK. AT. THIS. GODDAMN. PATTERN.

PicMonkey Collage

Photo: Vogue Patterns

I think I may be in love. Is it possible to get married to a sewing pattern? If so, you can call me Mrs V9127 from now on.

V9127 (1)

Photo: Vogue Patterns

I’ve felt the big four are a little hit and miss lately, so it was an absolute joy to see this pop up in my Twitter timeline today. Naturally, the appropriate freakout commenced. Would you just LOOK at that collar? And how about those scalloped pockets?

V9127 (2)

Photo: Vogue Patterns

The triangular stitched details on the points are a delightful touch, though I have no idea how you’d recreate that without some fancy-pants embroidery machine. And I have to say, Vogue has just nailed the fabric choice here. Looks like a crepe to me, and the colour is just exquisite. Those buttonholes could do with being bound, but that’s me splitting hairs.

V9127 (3)

Photo: Vogue Patterns

And can we talk about the back? The belt buckle, the heart-shaped lines, what look like elbow darts but I genuinely have no idea… sigh. That’s it, I’m in love.

Photo: Vogue Patterns

Photo: Vogue Patterns

Vogue rates it as an “average” pattern in terms of difficulty, so definitely not one for beginners. I do wonder if I’ll struggle with it, given my slapdash nature. This is a pattern which calls for the most precise execution.

I see a short-sleeved version in an autumnal purple, and I’d definitely need to take up the hem a tad. Honestly, I would wear this to work. They’re used to me coming in looking like an extra from Call the Midwife anyway.

We’re truly being a spoilt for new pattern releases, by the way. As well as the rest of Vogue’s Autumn releases (Lladybird has a great run down of them, good and bad) both Tilly of Tilly and the Buttons and Tasia of Sewaholic have released two new patterns each. Then there’s Sew Over It’s vintage shirt dress, which I’ve already bought some fabric for. I’ve got a feeling this summer is going to be a busy one for sewing…

 

 

Simplicity 2591 in knit: why it pays to go back to tried and tested sewing patterns


Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 22.03.43

First things first, I’ve got some thank yous to dole out. I was incredibly nervous about my last post. Unfortunately it’s still a bit intimidating to admit you’ve been teary-eyed at your desk because hormones are playing funny business with your brain. But, thanks to commenters here, on Twitter, Facebook and in real life, I’m really pleased I did it. Sounds cliche, but it really does feel like a weight off my shoulders. I can’t expect to be 100% just yet, but I feel miles better just a week after coming off the pill, so I have high hopes for the months ahead.

As well as Me Made May, there are also some sewing dares afoot. Gillian challenged me on Twitter to not only blog at least once a week but also be positive about myself in some way or another. Killing two birds with one stone here with a speedy make I’m pretty proud of.

Simplicity 2591

Simplicity 2591 the first

The first time I made Simplicity 2591, a cap-sleeved dress with the kind of in-seam pockets your hands dream of, I was still a novice sewer. As proof of how long ago it was, I present exhibit A: this picture of me on a rock wall with red hair.

Making it out of fabric with flocked velvet hearts (sourced via eBay, of course), I thought it was one of the best things I’d ever made. It’s undergone a few changes since then – I got rid of the cap sleeves (too puffy) and, er, broke the zip. When I found some sweet stone-coloured jersey fabric from I forget where now, I immediately thought I should go back to the pattern I last attempted around 3 years ago. It’s the kind of fabric which just screams to be worn as a the comfiest dress in the world.

It ended up being just that – it was also one of the quickest sews I’ve ever attempted. Granted, I was on a bit of a roll (I made another, more complicated dress, in the same fortnight) but HOLY CRAP jersey is the best stuff to sew even if my overlocker is back in Cardiff. I just used a zig-zag stitch and we were away! No seam finishing. nothing. I even attempted some top-stitching along the neckline and sleeves to attach the facings in the place – though I cheated because I couldn’t find a twin needle. Seems to be holding up alright so far.

dress

Because I was using knit fabric, I made a few changes to the sizing – I could have probably saved a bit of time and gone a size down with the amount I ended up taking in at the seams, but it was nice to have a lot of allowance to play with. I haven’t gone up a size in Simplicity patterns either. Meaning no toiles for me, hurrah!

I also used a different sleeve pattern, the curvy tulip sleeve from the Colette Patterns Macaron. I seem to have a real problem with puff sleeves – if I don’t take a wedge out of most puff pattern sleeves, I end up looking like an extra from a Wham video. The ’80s would not have been my kind of era. I much prefer this cap sleeve. The Macaron calls for you to make two and sew them together but I ended up drafting a facing instead so it was less bulky.

Also also also – knit fabric means NO ZIP. Hurrah! But because I’m dim and forgot to take a picture of the back, you can’t see that. I didn’t cut the back on the fold, just had a centre back seam.

As you can probably tell, I’m really pleased with the outcome. AND DID I MENTION HOW COMFORTABLE THIS DRESS IS? I could sleep in it. I won’t, because it’s too nice for that, but I COULD. And what more could you really ask from the comfiest dress in the world?

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Had a pin in my dress all morning #sewingproblems

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Bonus: the first day I wore it to work, I went around with a pin still attached to the neckline. Sewing accessories are the next big thing, I hear.

Nevermind the wonky pockets: 9 things I learnt making my first coat

I have wanted to make a coat for absolutely ages.

coat1

Much like trousers, they’re one of those garments which seem hella daunting. It’s taken me years to finally brave it. But just before Christmas, I got there! Hurrah! Made from a fuzzy wool tweed and a satin lining, it’s the perfect slouchy coat and has certainly got me through the Winter months. The pattern is the Gerard by Republique du Chiffon. Marketed as a ‘boyfriend’ coat, the slouchiness makes it the perfect beginner coat. (Sadly the instructions don’t, but more on that later)

coat 4

Basically even though I’ve just noticed the pockets are wonky (I MEASURED AND EVERYTHING WHYYYYY) and I had a minor social media meltdown over the pattern pieces, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve achieved.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter and Instagram will have seen all the ups and downs already, but here’s a little more about what I learned:

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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…

In progress: the maid of honour dress

Every now and then, you get to sew something a bit special.

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Tonight's progress #sewing

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A couple of weeks ago I got a text from my buddy Tom telling me that he and his fiance Karl had set a date for their wedding. I did a little dance, told him I’d definitely be there and that I couldn’t wait to make a dress for it. To which he answered: “Well, you might have to think about coordinating colours because I was wondering if you would be my maid of honour?”

I did a little scream, scared my housemates, danced up and down the stairs… and then told him OF COURSE I BLOODY WOULD.

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Soon to be on my sewing table

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Said wedding is now just under a month away, so it’s been full-speed ahead on the dress. It took me the longest time to decide what I wanted to do. I had hoped to do something akin to Gertie’s recital dress or   , especially when I found the perfect burgundy polka dot flocked tulle. In the end, I’ve stuck with a strapless number, using the strapless party dress from Gertie’s book.

Strapless dresses being what they are, I wanted to make sure the bodice would fit me so I used it as an excuse to make ANOTHER dress from the pattern with a slimmer skirt. Hey, you can’t have enough floral numbers in your wardrobe right? I wore it out the other night and I can confirm: it fits. And it stays up. Hurrah! I’ll post more details about the construction in a later post.

I’m working on the circle skirt right now and will be sure to update you once it’s all done. In the mean time, I wrote about sewing for the Guardian’s Live Better network today! It’s been a sewing-heavy month for us – earlier this month, I got to write about Me Made May. Yay sewing!

What’s on your sewing table right now?