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!

Chunky Knitted Snood Action

Finished Purple Knitted Snood

I did it! Say hello to my first ever knitted creation! After much unravelling, swearing at the knitting needles and wrestling the yarn from the cat (true story), it’s DONE.

It wouldn’t be a first-ever knitting project if it didn’t have its flaws mind you. The yarn I bought specifically said it was enough for a chunky snood, so I just kept knitting until I ran out of wool and sewed a seam at the back.

Cheeeeeeeeeeeeese

The only problem is, it’s a bit of an awkward length – not quite cosying up to my neck like Karen’s but also not nearly long enough to wrap around twice as hoped. Oops! Never mind though – at least this way I can layer it up with an extra snood or a scarf if it’s bitterly cold.

That’s my last project of 2011 right there! It’s hardly inspirational like the ones a few of you have been sending me, but I’m happy enough. New skills ahoy!

Tomorrow I’ll be posting up the inspirational makes I’ve been sent – there’s still a bit of time left for you to send a couple in, so get to it!

Cutting it fine…

We’ve all been there. That deadline is looming and yet somehow your project is nowhere near done. There’s no question of my being able to meet deadlines; I may have been working right up until the deadline in some cases, but I’ve not yet had an instance of turning in an essay or a piece of work late just yet, and I don’t plan on starting anytime soon!

Where self imposed deadlines are concerned however, I’m a little more fickle. Unfortunately, this has been the bane of my sewing output for some time now, and I’m not the only one. Instead of rushing to finish whatever project I have on the go, I’ll more often than not leave it unfinished for weeks after my proposed deadline.

I was determined this wouldn’t happen with the latest item, the Grad Ball dress, and my work on it set off to a fantastic start. Now that I’m living at home, I’ve decided my brother’s room is to become my sewing room – that is, just as soon as he buggers back off to university. Luckily for me, he was off visiting his girlfriend the weekend before last, giving me plenty of space for cutting out my pattern pieces. Things were going swimmingly.


Then disaster struck. I woke up a day or so later nursing the most horrendous sore throat I’ve yet experienced, and thus began feeling well and truly sorry for myself. How I’ve managed to be running here there and everywhere while at Swansea without getting ill, I don’t know, but it seemed like it had caught up with me a week before graduation. Talk about crummy timing.


Turns out I had a nasty case of tonsillitis, thus followed more days of my feeling sorry for myself and looking pathetic in my fluffy pink dressing gown, nursing cooling cups of tea I couldn’t quite face drinking due to the pain in my throat. Cutting it fine is an understatement; I was up against the clock anyway with just over a week until Grad Ball and the dress nowhere near finished, and now I had wasted a few days being poorly, it looked even less likely I’d have a me-made creation to wear as planned.

Thank god my procrastination gland stopped working, because a few nights sewing like my life depended on it and I’ve just got some finishing bits and bobs left on the dress. In a way, I have a bit more confidence now in my ability to get things done. With so few projects completed of late, it’s nice to have pulled this one out of the bag against the odds.


On top of that, I somehow managed to also finish the scallop waist skirt for graduation as well. I guess when you’re up, you’re up! I’ve been in touch with my lovely photographer friend Martha to sort out some sort of photoshoot for the garments, so I’ll have a proper post for both up as soon as we’ve done that!

The Wannabe Hack Skirt

Photo by Martha Moreno

This academic year hasn’t been completely devoid of sewing activity. Sure, this skirt may have been progressing on and off for a couple of months, but I eventually managed to get it done in time for my interview for my postgraduate course in journalism, hence why this skirt will always be ‘the wannabe hack’ skirt to me – a nod to the Wannabe Hacks website, which publishes tips and advice for wannabe journos such as myself. I’ve even had an article featured on there before!

It was important to me to wear at least one garment I had made to the interview for several reasons. I’m sure any fellow seamstresses will agree, there’s a degree of confidence which comes hand in hand with wearing an item of clothing you’ve hand-crafted. Even if the outside world won’t necessarily notice, there’s something different about what you’re wearing, especially as you haven’t picked it out from a sea of different sized versions of the same shirt/skirt/dress/insert garment here. After such a long period of sewing abandonment, actually wearing something I’d made to such an important interview gave me a bit of a buzz.

Most importantly though, sewing has proven to be a large part of the reason I began blogging as extensively as I do now. Arguably, The Siren (a commentary blog about life at Swansea University) would never have happened had I not been blogging every seam sewn during my time in Germany. So I felt it would be more than appropriate to wear a self-sewn skirt to an interview I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for sewing.


Maybe it’s good luck to wear your self sewn items to interviews, because I got in! I can tell this skirt will get a lot of wear during the Winter months at the course, as it’s made from fairly thick woven fabric. A few months after my interview, I asked my friend Martha to help me out in taking some photos of the skirt. Our setting? Brangwyn Hall in Swansea, where I’ll be graduating in a matter of weeks! We took my ‘shoe-case’ (the suitcase I kept all of my shoes) for fun and popped out one late afternoon in May for some photo-fun!

Martha said all good modelling includes triangles... so I became a teapot

Using the Jenny pencil skirt pattern available on BurdaStyle, I created a black and white houndstooth skirt, fully lined with purple silky fabric I had in my stash. The skirt itself is comfortable to wear but a few problems have come up – namely, the fit. I’ve come to the conclusion I’m a weird size, with hips only marginally bigger than my waist, creating some bugbears in how the skirt sits. It rides up quite a lot when I’m walking, and the lining insists on peeking out.


I think I’ve also shortened the skirt just a tad too much; a crime I’m often committing. This won’t be as much of a problem when wearing the skirt in Winter, as a pair of tights make an almost-too-short skirt somewhat more appropriate. I’m planning to create another pencil skirt in the style of Gertie’s orange bow skirt, but this time I plan on drafting my own pattern in the hopes it will improve the fit of the garment. Here’s hoping!

Want to see more photos from the day? Check out the photo set over on my Flickr!