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?

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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An ensemble from Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing

I swear, you wait weeks for a project and then two come at once – my first two projects of the year are the blouse and pencil skirt from Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing.

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Suffering from some wonky tripod syndrome…

In all, these two were a breeze to sew up – which is just as well considering how low my sewing productivity has been of late. As many reviewers have pointed out before me, Gertie’s book is a dream and full of classic and easily customisable patterns.

I put far more effort into the skirt than I did the blouse, which is refashioned out of a floor-length lace skirt I bought second-hand months ago. In the end, I decided to bother with neither a lining nor facings, instead finishing the raw edges with bias tape. The whole thing was stitched together using my overlocker, getting trustier by the minute now I’ve got the hang of it. A few adjustments were made to account for the scant fabric I actually had, as the original skirt was constructed out of four rectangles rather than the two.

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I had to fudge the sleeves a bit in the end because, lacking a muslin, the bust darts somehow ended up closer to my waist. Oops! To remedy the sagginess, I just did two tucks which I sewed on the outside of the fabric – you can barely notice really. I also widened the darts on the back of the neck, again due to some unnecessary sagging. The top’s too short to wear with anything other than a pencil skirt, but I love it.

Speaking of pencil skirts – this bad boy took a lot more effort. It was all about the muslin-making, meaning the whole thing took twice as long as it would have normally. Definitely worth it with such a form-fitting garment.

The only adjustments I really needed to make were to take in the skirt at the sides and to shorten it. I’m a petite one at 5″3, so this is a standard procedure for me by now. While I was reticent about the double darts at the front of the skirt, I actually really like them now.

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As suggested by Gertie in the book, the high waistband is boned. But instead of using Rigilene or steel boning, I opted for plastic cable ties. I know, I know, I promised I wouldn’t cut corners – but they really have worked a treat. I’ll let you know how they hold up after multiple washes, but I’ve heard good things. To give it extra strength, I ended up using the muslin’s waistband instead of iron-on interfacing.

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Then there’s the buttonhole. Er, the less said about this, the better. We all know I hate buttonholes. For some bizarre reason I thought things would turn out better if I did it by hand. It looks like it’s been sewn by a child. Perhaps these things get better with time…

I opted for a more expensive lining than usual – I forget what kind of fabric it is, but it’s so smooth and keeps static away a treat. The main body of the fabric is a floral cotton poplin, the kind which sticks to your tights if you don’t line it!

Excuse the crinkles!

Excuse the crinkles!

While it’s by no means the tidiest, for the first time, I’m not ashamed to show you how this garment looks on the inside. My new favourite toy has to be my pinking shears – you wouldn’t think it to look at them, but these bad boys are unbelievable at keeping unravelling fabric at bay. All that was left to do by the end was to cover the raw edge on the hemline with a matching pink ribbon.

As I said before, my aim was to make a perfectly fitting pencil skirt and I think I’ve achieved that. The only change I would make would be to taper the lower half of the skirt in just a touch.

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Next up on the sewing block are two sewing challenges – the first being Sew For Victory (which began yesterday, but I shall post my plans later this week!) and the second the Mad Men challenge. Woo!

Mission: Create my perfect pencil skirt

I flipping love a good pencil skirt, me.

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By far the most worn item in my wardrobe is a jersey double-knit black pencil skirt – bought from H&M for my 19th birthday.  If I were to lose anything in my wardrobe, I’d probably be most upset about this – things you can just throw on in the morning for an early start at work really are priceless.

Pencil skirts are one of those great wardrobe staples. But I can’t say I’ve yet made the “perfect” pencil skirt. Oh, but I have tried – even made one of those wearable muslin things.

Gertie's New Book For Better Sewing

Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing

As a little treat to myself, I bought Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing, which has reams of glorious patterns plus plenty of room for alterations. I traced out the pencil skirt pattern last night with every intention of cutting the cheap-ish floral poplin I’d bought for a wearable muslin.

But, to date, I haven’t had the best of luck when it comes to pencil skirts. They may be my favourite item to wear, but not to make – odd, really, as you would have thought two straight seams and a few darts make for some easy-peasy sewing. But get some measurements slightly off and you can end up with the dreaded wrinkles, which just ruin the whole effect if you ask me.

So, before trying what will be my third pencil skirt pattern in recent years, I’ve decided to put the breaks on and maybe, actually, do a PROPER muslin this time. As in, one I will take apart and keep for future pencil skirtness.

For one thing, in Gertie’s book, the patterns are adjusted to take into account that most women are bigger size in the hips than they are in the waist. Not me!

But if I nail this with a decent muslin, then there’s nothing stopping me from creating pencil skirts in every colour of the rainbow… not to mention the other garments which build upon the foundation of this skirt block in the book.

So that was a very roundabout way of saying that I had planned to sew loads tonight, but actually, I’ve decided to put the brakes on.

Or I may have just sat and watched the Comic Relief Great British Bake Off and left the sewing too late…