Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Peacock (D)ruyere

Well I did it – I have completed the thing I always wanted to do but never have previously managed – I made something that fit, kept the pattern in a useable and understandable state and then made another thing using it without faffing about! Yeah! Unprecedented. Which is very silly given the dramas I have fitting things.

I took my Bruyere shirt pattern and made it into a dress! (Apologies for the creases -I had been wearing it!) The dress part was easy enough –I just lengthened the bottom section and added in extra width to the skirt so that it would fit over my hips properly. To make it a bit different on top I lowered the front and back neckline into deep scoops and took off the sleeves. I again dodged the buttonholes (my machine has been playing up and also, I just hate doing buttonholes!) and instead added on my new bright blue snaps.

It’s very comfortable dress to wear, I again used some lovely eBay rayon, this time from here, in this fabulous peacock print. I made no attempt to match as the pattern is massive and a sort of border print with a repeat so giant I couldn’t really spot it.  I did try and avoid any massive peacock print mishaps with pattern placement but I didn’t quite manage it –though the massive print across the bust is much less obvious in person.

In fact, that’s basically the story of the whole dress – I foresaw several problems and took steps to avoid them, and yet they all still seem to have snuck in anyway (though presumably less than they would otherwise have! So close! Just like the print issue however they all look way worse in the photos than in real life! (Oh unforgiving cameras! Anyone else like a project less once they’d photographed it?

I know from previous experience that if you drastically scoop out a neckline you get massive neckline/armpit gaping (not entirely sure why.. but is a definitely a general principle). I therefore rotated the straps in a bit on the front and back to stop this – I clearly did not do this enough though so at some point I’ll put in some darts which will hopefully help reduce the gap and strap slippage.

I feared that the skirt might hang a bit flat with the inverted box pleats. It does. I ironed the pleats quite a long way down and I don’t think this helped. It will probably look better when they've relaxed a bit. It looks much better in real life though as it moves quite nicely.

I also feared that my press on snaps wouldn’t go through the extra thick bits of the placket, and they didn’t, but I bodged that by sewing large snaps on the inside (with extras at the key gap spots) and then glued snap parts onto the front at those places so it looks like each one is a normal snap. This worked well.

Overall I like it – it’s very cool and comfy to wear and though the neckline is a bit gapey it’s also very flattering. I see myself getting a lot of wear out of this in the summer. I am also very pleased that for the first time ever I sewed up a bodice from a pattern and it fit perfectly (neckline aside obs!). I shall adjust the strappy pattern and put it aside carefully!

(In other news - I obviously didn’t have my lovely paparazzi sister to take these pictures and I couldn’t find my camera or tripod so I did it myself using my phone and a complex web of tape and pins stuck to the shoulder of my dress form! Worked pretty well! I am especially pleased with the burst function on my new phone camera app that I can set to take 10 pictures in a row, one every 2 seconds – really takes the stress out of photos without a remote). 

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Fitting clues

One of the hardest things about sewing is working out how to fit yourself- but it's also the most rewarding -and often the reason we started in the first place! As a beginner though it is very hard to know where to start. There is a wealth of tutorials out there for every fitting dilemma, but without knowing what you are googling its harder to find them.

I have therefore made a diagram with many of the common fitting changes on it. Obviously I haven't included everything - but I hope I've got most of them (let me know if you think any obvious ones are missing!). I have also not included any links (except to the insanely thorough pants fitting guide by Colette patterns which is amazingly detailed and I know nothing about pant fitting myself!) as everyone finds different resources helpful and I certainly haven't seen the whole internet!

I've done it by body area, and generally stuck to things which wouldn't automatically require you to just make a different size -though I have pointed this out as an option in some places. For each problem I have just listed possible solutions -obviously you need to look at your body and google stuff and see which one is likely to help you.

I hope this is helpful!

(EDIT -for some reason the image isn't coming up on mobiles-probably too big, so click through to the full page if you want to see it or here.)

Monday, 4 April 2016

Check out the "pins" on this lady!

It's only been a bajillion years since I made Agentha (my dressmakers dummy) (see here and here for the how to) and since then she's been attached to an extremely wobbly lamp stand. This meant that she kept falling over backwards and sideways - not entirely helpful! She also had stuffing falling out from having to wedge her on the lamp (which led to some impertinent remarks from my mother!). In addition -she was a good 5 inches shorter than me - not helpful for hems.

So I finally got round to giving her legs! (Well one leg!) It's a simple metal coatstand - only I attached the hooky bits upside down.  Somewhat magically it's exactly the right height and hooked perfectly into her neck so she needs no stuffing at all! She's now super stable, very light and perfect! She looks somewhat wonky in the picture - sadly that's because I am! Nothing like blog photos to show you how uneven your shoulders are!

Friday, 25 March 2016

First Swallows of Summer Bruyere shirt

Attention all -  I LOVE this shirt! It is by far my favourite thing I have ever made! It makes me feel super summery (especially combined with the fact the sun shone today) and also slightly like a waitress in a 50s beach bar, which I like.

As I said in an earlier post, I never find shirts that fit, and yet am too chicken to make them. Enter the Bruyere by Deer and Doe, a shirt with slightly more curves and character than your average work wear staple and hopefully easier to fit with less emphasis on bajillions of perfect button holes. 

Now some places call this pattern intermediate, and some advanced... eek! However I can safely say that the vast a majority of it is perfectly straightforward. I cheated a little as I skipped the long sleeves and cuffs, instead going for short sleeves with cut on cuffs. I have never made a shirt before, and collars and stuff are new, but it all worked out ok luckily! 

First up - the absolute star of this shirt is the fabric. I had a revelation a while ago that if I made shirts out of viscose (rayon to you yanks) I wouldn't immediately sweat straight through them. I therefore did some internet searching, and came across this stunning blue, cream and pink swallow fabric on Ebay (still some available here if anyone wants any). It's very drapey and was a little fiddly to cut but hangs and presses be-au-tifully. I bought it and was so keen to have a shirt made of it I used it for the first go at the pattern which I felt was bold -but successful! I only bought 2m rather than the 2.5/3 they suggest but as I shortened the sleeves this was fine. I made no attempt whatsoever to pattern match as it was such a bit and complex pattern but I did make sure I wasn't going to have any weird combinations/placement. 

I'm trying to stick to the theory about not being negative in these posts and its surprisingly hard, as there are a lot of flaws- but amazingly basically none are visible! yay! 

I did a "me" FBA, basically cutting it a bit big and then pinning it on Agnetha. I did however use this excellent post in the Curvy Sewing Collective about how to rotate bulk out of darts into different places so the darts are much smoother than usual. I added an extra dart into the armscye which was very effective. I was very worried when I was making the shirt as I couldn't really try it on until the very end and I was terrified it wouldn't fit -but then it did! LIKE A GLOVE !

There were a few hiccups during construction but mainly due to me skipping through the instructions and missing bits! The button band was a little narrow for my buttons and I liked the way it looked when I pinned it up so I instead just sewed giant snaps to the inside for a cleaner and less "pully" look. Buttons and the larger bust can be a bit tricky so I just avoided it. 

Main pattern adjustments  - short sleeves (I just cut them off square about the right length plus a bit and then turned them up),  FBA and I lengthened the bodice about an inch. I also put the sleeves in on the flat (partly by preference and partly as I missed the instruction to sew up the sides!) and no buttons. 

Again- I just LOVE this! The photoshoot was masterminded by my sister who enjoyed herself immensely being photographer! (EDIT - I've just noticed my collar is rucked up - it sits fine usually!)

Friday, 11 March 2016


I had a bit of a revelation the other day. Not perhaps that ground breaking but surprising to me. I own quite a lot of patterns, and I rarely use any of them. Similarly I have a lot of fabric to make those patterns up, and I rarely sew with it. Now up to this point I had just assumed I was lazy. All those projects just waiting and me not being organised enough to bother. It niggled at me, made me feel a bit of a failure. Which is obviously ridiculous as I haven't failed and this is meant to be a hobby!

But perhaps its not entirely that. Perhaps it's more that I also own about a bajillion bits of clothing already. Most of which look uncannily like the patterns. I haven't made 10 extra pencil skirts because there is just no need for me to do so. Not that's not so say that making stuff you don't need isn't an excellent thing to do, but there certainly isn't much pressure.

So that's half my stash explained. I don't need it and I don't want it enough to bother making it. Not sure what I do with that knowledge now but I shall think on it.

So what about the other half?

That's mainly fear (with a decent wedge of actual laziness this time!). This is all the fabric and patterns I bought for projects that I don't feel confident to start and/or are worried will become an endless fitting nightmare that I shan't finish. This is mainly two categories: difficult fabrics, and bodice fitting.

So what should I actually be trying to sew? Clearly my hungry fabric hoarder instincts are completely off.

As I am going through a hating everything in my wardrobe phase, this seems like a good moment to re-assess. I currently feel a bit dumpy and frumpy in my clothes. I know this is just my own silliness but it happens to us all! I have no desire to be generally fashionable, I'm happy to have my own style but I think I could do with a bit of updating. Having said that a lot of current fashion seems to be even more boring than my current wardrobe so clearly I shall have to be selective!


I decided to get systematic. Which aspects of my wardrobe make me feel most like a big unfashionable lump, and what can I do to spice them up?

  • Old tired T-shirts.

PROBLEM - A lot of my tops are at least 5 if not 10 years old. They look it. They are also all the same.
SOLUTION - make more, some using my flutter sleeve t-shirt sloper that makes me feel a bit more dressed up than a standard T.
 It looks generally like this.

  • Tops bunching around the waist/leaving lines under pencil skirts

PROBLEM a lot of the aforementioned T-shirts aren't quite the right length, they ride up and bunch, or make me less sleek under clothes.
SOLUTION Make some Nettie bodysuits. This has the advantage that I already have the pattern.

Nettie Dress & bodysuit pattern // Closet Case Patterns

  • I only have T-shirts

PROBLEM: I have a large bust, so nothing fits me in a woven without substantial alterations. Which we have established puts me off. In an attempt to get round this I have previously bought very simple patterns to get the hang of it without bothering with the additional drama of sleeves, collars, buttons etc. These however aren't actually things I want to wear or make. So I didn't.
SOLUTION: just bite the bullet and make a proper shirt I actually fancy wearing. I often find simple shirts a bit dull/officey so I have selected the Bruyere from Deer and Doe. It's got enough detail that it looks like it should be fitted without being too extremely tight.

Bruyère shirt

  • Cardigans

PROBLEM I wear cardigans with everything. I am often unconvinced by how they look (a bit middle aged on my figure) and the ones I have all seem to be wrong colours somehow. But I need layers - my body temp goes all over the place all day!
SOLUTION:  this was a bit harder and required some internet research (ie looking at some high street websites to see what the cool kids are wearing).

Option a) cropped jumper / sweatshirt. I quite like these, good length on me but do lack the warmth middle ground option of an open cardigan.

I also already own Astoria from Collette's Seamwork magazine. I shall drop the neckline a bit.


Option b) kimono tops. I love this - particularity when they are either made in plain colours, or still jazzy but simplified, like these examples.

(Dorothy Perkins)

(also Dorothy Perkins)

Again, luckily! I already own the Asaka kimono from Named. The sleeves are a little wild for everyday buts it's a good pattern (I'll save the sleeves for a dressing gown or something!

So that's the plan - we shall see if it works out!

Monday, 7 March 2016

I'm in the mood, for disco..

So this weekend we were invited to a 70s party. Now regular readers know I love a costume opportunity, and at halloween I was exhausted and didn't end up enjoying the costuming process as much as I normally do, so I was ready for a success! 

I  did a fair bit of research online, as the 70s had a great variety of styles to choose from- a lot of which are currently back in style at the moment.

There was boho/hippy (a lot of representation of this at the party), chic day wear, suburban party wear and charlie's angels glam.

Then there is disco. Now 70s parties often tend more to the naff end of this - Abba inspired day-glo metallics and huge platforms.  

I however wanted a more subtle look, that was less costumy. I looked a lot at Studio 54, Saturday Night Fever and American Hustle. I wanted something luxurious and big impact,  but with the loose flowing casualness that seems to be a big part of 70s clothes.

I generated a plan,; a slinky, flippy satin dress in gold. 

Even in my now stupendously oversized stash I din't have anything remotely suitable so I toddled along to Leeds market to look at the fabric stalls. My efforts costuming Midsummer Night's Dream recently meant that I knew just what I wanted -one of the stalls has lots of really lovely fabric that's some sort of super lining fabric. It's really thin but enormously drapey and ripply and it doesn't really fray (my previous experiences with lining fabric have taught me the hard way about lining and fraying!). Me and the stall owner agreed it looks and feels and behaves a bit like silk - only at £4 a meter. Perfect for a costume party potential fiasco! Here it is on my floor as I tried to work out how to fold it so it would all fit! You can see it's really soft and lustrous. 

Now I haven't really done any slippery fabrics before, and I had been warned by others that this would be a colossal pain. I now see what they mean. It was impossible to cut straight or evenly, and I ended up swearing a great deal as the pieces distorted so much as I held them that I couldn't tell which way round them went and kept sewing the wrong bits together! 

I cut out a 4 gored skirt about mid calf (I later cut a high-lo hem into it) on the bias, with a yoke. Now with the benefit of hindsight I could have interfaced the yoke pieces. But I did not. I'm just crazy/lazy like that. I then draped the top on my dressform. I was aiming for a loose wrap top with knotted shoulder straps (which cheeringly turned out to be extremely easy). I wanted the back to be non fitted with floaty bits. I draped away and somewhat disconcertingly it worked pretty well first time. I couldn't then think how to get it off without getting horribly muddled so I just hand sewed it (very badly) on the dressform. 

I had planned to sew the top and the bottom together, but the swearing that accompanied the skirt section taught me better! I instead just zigzagged the yoke onto a piece of elastic and turned it under and tucked the top in. This worked 90% perfectly, as it was extremely easy and very effective but it did end up wrinkling the front of the yoke, which I clearly should have taken in about an inch in advance. Oh well. The back yoke sat very well though and barring my inability to notice that the thread kept snapping the zip went in beautifully. I decided to not hem the skirt (or anything else) as it didn't fray and so that was super easy and resulted in a very flippy skirt!

Overall I kinda love it! I had worried it might be a bit se through but it was fine! I swooshed and danced very happily in it and felt very glamorous! the only draw back was that it was rather chilly wearing it, so I teamed it with my massive Cruella deVille faux fur coat!

I don't know if I will be sewing anything difficult in silky fabrics any time soon but they are fun to wear!