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…)

The Twitter Dress – finally!

Well, wasn’t this just a project that went on and on and on and on?

Pattern: Colette Patterns‘ Pastille (adapted)
Time taken: TOO BLOODY LONG
Fabric: Turquoise cotton fabric plus quilting cotton for bodice
Details: Wonky embroidered bird, lapped zipper, princess seams.

As I mentioned in my last post, setting myself a deadline really helped me get this project done eventually. It was a dress which started out with the best of intentions, inspired by a pair of earrings resembling the Twitter logo. The original dress used a vintage pattern I gave away earlier this year and I thought it would all be so easy because there were so few pattern pieces.

Except that didn’t quite work out and I was left wondering what on earth I should do with a dress which wouldn’t look out of place on the operating table. Enter Pastille, a pattern I’d originally pictured in this colour.

Because of the way the original bodice was cut, I had to make some adjustments to the front bodice, namely changing darts on the front to princess seams so I’d have separate pieces to work with. I also did a swayback adjustment because I knew my muslin of this pattern gaped a lot at the zipper.

Then it was a seemingly endless process of basting and unpicking as I tried to get the fit just right on the bodice. At first, the front stuck out at the armpits because I hadn’t taken enough out to accommodate the extra seams. I remedied this by taking half an inch off the shoulders and a little extra off the princess seams. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s the best fit I’ve managed in a garment yet.

Well, you all know how I feel about the embroidery, but I don’t think it was too shabby for a first attempt.

Unfortunately I didn’t have enough fabric to create the cool pleated effect on the skirt. I initially thought of adding a black band, but I thought it would a bit naff.

To finish, I added a lapped centre zipper because, while they’re certainly extra effort, I’m a big fan of how it keeps everything nicely hidden. Especially useful when you don’t actually have the right colour zipper to hand…

All that was left to add was a snippet of a ribbon I got free with Mollie Makes magazine a couple of months ago. I think it adds a nice touch, no?

This pattern, by the way, save for the back piece, is absolutely fantastic. I’ve honestly never made anything where all the darts lined up so perfectly and everything (save for the bits I had to change because of fabric limitations) went very smoothly. It’s a testament to how well-designed the Colette Patterns’ range is.

But, more than anything… I’M SO GLAD IT’S OVER. Finally, I can move on to something else! I’m planning to do a bit of experimentation with dye this weekend, but my next proper project will be part of the Peony sewalong.

In fact, I have another deadline for this one. Oh, and it’s a biggie.

In November, I’ll actually be in the Guardian’s offices for the Guardian Student Media Awards, because I only went and got nominated!!! (I’ve been keeping this under my hat for what feels like an eternity…) I can’t think of anything better than to show up in something I’ve made myself as part of a digital sewalong.

Who else is taking part? I’m properly excited!

GUEST POST: Thread Carefully’s 10 Sewing Commandments

Part 2

Earlier this week, Tabatha and Julia of Thread Carefully shared Sewing Commandment one to five. Now, as promised, here are commandments six to ten. Enjoy!

Tabatha's rendition of New Look 6000

6. Thou shalt always mark your fabric

Sure, it’s tempting to skip over those markings – they can be a right pain in the backside. We all know, deep down if nothing else, that they are there to help us make something beautiful, and correctly lined up in all the right places. Even the smallest deviation may mean a misplaced buttonhole, a wonky seam or pockets that don’t match it. It’s always worth taking your time to do it properly: you’ll appreciate it in the end, trust us!

7. Thou shalt not sew whilst drinking

Over to Julia for this one…Thankfully, I learned this lesson for both of us, and possibly all of us.  Yes, I confess I once had a few glasses of vino tinto whilst sewing (I should point out that I don’t drink very often.  It’s for the best) and I may have tried to see what happens if I just removed the blades from my overlocker and I may then have then been unable to get it to work.  Our friend Carys’s husband even had a look at it for me to see if he could fix it.  I couldn’t have done something THAT bad, right?  Wrong.  Unfixable.  Hello new overlocker!  (At this point, I will refer you back to our very first commandment).

8. Thou shalt finish your garments nicely every time.

We both know that we haven’t always done this.  We both know that we should.  The reason?  Every time we don’t, we regret not doing it.  There’s something really nice about knowing that the inside of your outfit is finished properly and that you won’t be embarrassed if someone sees the inside seams.  It also means that the item you have slaved and probably sworn over isn’t going to let you down in a spectacular way if, say, you’re out and about and the seam bursts.  The beauty of it is that you don’t have to have an overlocker to do it – the zig-zag stitch on your machine or pinking shears are perfectly adequate.  In addition, there are loads of other ways to finish seams or edges.  Pick the one that matches you and you’re off!

Julia's tattoo print Vogue 2958 Dress

9. Thou shalt continue to learn new techniques.

Sarai over at Colette Patterns puts this very well in her book and it is something that we both not only agree with but try and do regularly. She said:

There’s only one trait I think every sewer should possess: curiosity. Learning to sew is an ongoing process; in fact, the learning never really stops. Each project has the potential to teach you something new. Even seamstresses who have been sewing for thirty years or more will tell you that they learn new things all the time.

10. Thou shalt enjoy creating your own garments.

If something is irritating you or making you angry – put it down and have a brew.  Remember, you are (probably) sewing because you enjoy it and you love to have something nice at the end of it that you are proud of.  Yes, you may get it done tomorrow instead of next week if you plough on through, but if you rush and cut corners you will regret it later on.  I, certainly, can attest to this.  Sure, I got wearable garments even whilst being majorly annoyed throughout the process but there are things that I know about the construction of that garment that I can’t forget when wearing it.

Take, for example, my Peony dress.  I was in such a hurry to finish I didn’t obey commandment 7 for the shoulder seams and attempted to do them at the end, chopping out a chunk of the shoulder.  Now, the dress is amazing to wear (I love that it has rows and rows of Elvi all over – yes, Elvi is the plural) but I am always aware of the patch job I had to do on the shoulder which isn’t noticeable to everyone else.  The thing is, I know it’s there and I’m conscious of it and every time I see it I think “If only I’d taken my time… “. Remember, sewing is a hobby, not a race.

Thanks again to Tabatha and Julia for the guest posts! If you want to check out their blog then head over to Thread Carefully pronto! You can also follow Tabatha and Julia on Twitter. Interested in guest blogging on Seamless? Get in touch.