Wednesday 23 November 2016's me....

So. Um. Wow. It's been a very long time. Maybe my longest hiatus ever. I'm sorry for being such a bad blogger. I really hate that I am. It's been (and in fact, still is) so so busy at work since late September - I've hardly even been on Instagram (and I miss it!). I had a sudden trip home to NZ mid-September, and have been basically running at full speed since I got back. Working most weekends has also majorly eaten into my sewing time, which is the main reason for the lack of posts. That and my inability to take photos of what I've sewn....

Anyway. Enough self-flagellation. Let's get to the sewing. I've made 3 dresses since September, and I'm finally getting around to blogging about my favourite of the lot. The Wardrobe by Me Akinori Dress! This is her:
Pretty, huh?

I'm not sure how I found this pattern. Some weird, roundabout online searching must have gotten me there, but it's not a pattern company I'd heard of. And when I searched for reviews etc of the dress itself, I didn't find many. Someone on the Curvy Sewing Collective had done a review I think. But I really just loved the shape. I wanted something that had the look and comfort of a wrap dress, but is not actually a wrap dress. This one just intrigued me...

I made it up in some beautiful stretch crepe I got for a total bargain at the Birmingham Rag Market when I went to Sew Brum in late September. It was £2 a metre! I've since seen Lisa from Sew Over it wearing a dress in the same, and if they were selling it at Sew Over It, then it was a whole lot more than £2 a metre, so I'm feeling a bit smug! Nowt like a bargain to make a girl smile!

Since it was so cheap, I didn't bother doing a toile - just figured if it was a disaster, then it wouldn't have cost me much. I think I had 2 metres, which is a little bit less than recommended. Because the top is cut on the bias, you do need close to the right amount though and certainly the right width (60"), just FYI. I didn't have quite enough for a tie the length recommended - I basically just cut the longest I could manage and that's fine. I think I was about 10 inches short of the recommendation, but it is still plenty long.

I made an 8, even though that was slightly on the small side of some of my measurements, but it's got loads of ease and is a drapey fit, so I thought it would be ok - and it is. Yay! The only alteration I made was to hack a chunk off the bottom...but I did that at the hemming stage, not at the cutting stage. Oh, and I added pockets. Because, well, pockets! (the skirt looked roomy enough to handle them. I used the pockets from the Staple Dress and I will definitely be adding these to any future versions. They work really well in this shape, and yay pockets!).

I was a bit intimidated by the pattern, to be honest, because the bodice is a slightly odd shape, and that always scares me. Plus the instructions are not as detailed as other indy companies. I wouldn't recommend it if you're still very much a beginner. It went together really easily though, despite my fears. The only bit I had trouble with was the waist-band anchoring. My overly tired brain could not work out the written instructions for this, so in the end I just followed the diagram images and hoped for the best. I very nearly unpicked at one point when I was sure I'd got it wrong, but instead I just persevered, sewing the various bits right sides together and hoping it would work out. It did! I am honestly still not sure what I did, or how it worked, but it did and that's the main thing! Apart from that fiddly bit, the rest of the construction is super easy, and as a faux wrap dress, it doesn't really have fit issues.

I've worn this dress a lot since finishing it. It's come out looking a lot more Japanese kimono than I intended, but that's only because I inadvertently picked fabric that looks like actual kimono fabric! This was an accident - I used the fabric that I had, rather than thinking it would be good. So it does feel a bit dressy, but I think that's the fabric choice and it doesn't bother me. I'd love to make one in black crepe for a proper evening dress, and then try it in a more casual fabric - the instructions say it can work in woven or jersey fabric. I also think it will look pretty in a plain fabric, as you'll be able to see all the pattern details. It's super comfortable to wear, there's never any boob flash (always a risk with a faux wrap style!), and really, this is just my new favourite dress! Two big thumbs up from me - I wholly recommend it!

I also love that I've discovered another indy designer. There are some big players in this indy field, as we know - and I love many of them too - but it's nice to find a lesser known person who is making great patterns. Wardrobe by Me is also great because many of their designs have a curvy option too, so if you often have to make FBAs or grade up on a pattern, I'm thinking this would be a good choice.

The real reason I'm finally blogging this dress, though, is because I finally have a decent picture of it! I wore it at a week long research 'festival' I hosted at my work (on 'Craft Cultures'. My job is so cool sometimes), and we had a professional photographer. Bless her and her magical camera ways. Finally some great pics on my blog!

My colleague and I introducing our guest speakers

Me in full work-talk mode (mouth open, naturally. I'm talking in almost every photo ever taken of me)

Hope you are all well and sewing happily. Thanks for sticking with me through my quiet times!!


P.S - full credit for the proper pictures goes to our fabulous photographer Patricia Routh - her website is here! 

Tuesday 30 August 2016

Bank Holiday stitching

Oh, I do love a long weekend. Even when you don't really go anywhere, or do anything in particular, it's just so nice having 3 days in a row with no alarm waking you up. Bliss. It'd be ever-so nice if every Monday was a bank holiday, wouldn't it? *yawns*

So. I think I did an excellent job of being lazy this weekend, all in all (this was deliberate as I'm going to likely need to work every other weekend from now until Christmas), but I did also manage to do a wee bit of sewing. 

Having realised that the Sew Over It Shift Dress requires only 1m of fabric (if it's 140cm wide...if it's narrower than that, you'll be shit out of luck. Which is really goddamn annoying if you happen to have some gorgeous double gauze with a directional pattern that you had been hoping to turn into a shift dress. Just sayin'), I thought I'd whip up another one or two using the various odd bits of crepe or polysomethings I had lying around. And so, I present to you my Upside Down Owl Dress (complete with terrified cat who refused to leave my side during Saturday's epic thunderstorms #hatesthunder):

I changed the armholes on this by using the lines intended for the sleeved version (the pattern has a slightly different shape for the sleeveless version) - this gives me a tiny bit more width to go under the arm, which I like. It's more comfortable when I sit down or lean forward. I still think the shoulders might be too wide or something though - the next one I make, I'll hack into the arm/shoulder hole at the front and lose 1-2cm. But I like this and again, I think it works belted or not. 

I checked carefully before cutting it out that the owls were non-directional - and I am sure there are just as many upside down as there are right way up. And yet...I'm convinced it looks upside down! Grr. Maybe they are special Bat Owls that hang from trees upside down?? Let's go with that. In any case, this feels like pretty cheap fabric, so it's unlikely to have a long life-span, so the bat-owls probably won't bother me for too long. 

Now, the bigger bit of sewing I did was a merino cardigan. This is version 2 of my test versions of the Muse Patterns Jenna Cardigan. I made one in a thicker grey fabric the other week (sorry, no photos/post about that) and liked it enough to try it out in thinner merino jersey that my aunt in NZ sent to me last winter. This was a sort of dark fuscia/cerise type colour (which tbh, isn't really 'me', but I thought it would be a good wearable toile. It also - totally coincidentally - goes really well with the colours of the owl fabric). When I made this a couple of weekends ago in the thicker grey stuff, I liked the fit across the front and shoulders, but needed to take a good inch off either side seam, and close to that in the arms as well. This seems to me like I should go down a size, but then I'm worried about the whole boob/front fit thing. It's not such a big deal to hack up the sides, and besides, since every jersey does stretch differently, it's probably sensible to leave plenty of room for adjustment. 2 inches overall in the side seams seems a lot though. 

But. What these sorts of adjustments-on-the-hoof always mean, is that there is plenty of room for error. Like (hypothetically) cutting off too much in certain areas and making the damn thing too tight in the arms. For example... 

Extreme close-up...sorry about that. But - see what I mean about the arm snugness? Pretty gathering detail tho!

It's not unbearable, but this is pretty tight under the arms and on my pudgy upper arms. Possibly also in the waist, although probably with buttons that'd be ok. I haven't bothered with buttons or buttonholes, partly because I'm not really a button-up cardy person anyway (so they'd mostly be decorative and it's quite a lot of work for decoration and I'm lazy), but also because since this is a bit small, I'm not sure how much wear it'll get (and so again, lazy). So. Next version I might take a couple of incremental passes at the side-seam avoid the irreversible error of taking off too much. Ah well. You live and learn. 

Anyway. I made variation B (which has gathers and a yoke), waist length with 3/4 sleeves. There are a bunch of variations with this pattern (and I bought the 'expansion pack' version which means even more options) which is great  - we like options! I want to be able to wear these cardigans with dresses, so the cropped waist length made sense, and while I plan to wear the cardigan in winter, I always end up pushing my sleeves up, so I just figured 3/4 sleeve-length was sensible. Hurrah, the advantages to making your own clothes and getting to decide these things in the design phase!  

The pattern itself is great value for money because of all the variations (if you're buying it, just buy the bundle version. There's about 20 combos with that!). You can also just print off the pages that you need for your version, because the lovely Kat of Muse Patterns has designed the pdf layout sensibly to allow for such things. Bless her. The instructions aren't massively detailed so if you were sewing with knit/jersey for the first time, it might be a bit of a leap, but if you've made a few things on the over-locker or with this type of fabric, you'd be totally fine. Bar my fit issues, it all comes together really quickly. 

There will be more of these cardigans in my future I think. Just hopefully with a bit more room for my wings next time! 

How were your weekends? Make anything nice? Did you give yourself plenty of arm-room??

Monday 22 August 2016

I'm back! With palm trees...

I know I probably say this ALL the time (because I am a terrible blogger), but wow - hi! it's been ages! Sorry for being such an absent blogger, but life/work/summer got in the way. 

Shortly after my last post, we had to take a trip to Glasgow to visit family, then when we got home I had 2 weeks of total work madness, then about 2 days after the work madness, my mother in law arrived to stay for a fortnight. It's all been good, but has not left me much time for any sewing! (Didn't stop me from planning lots of projects and buying both patterns and fabric though. Oops). But this weekend finally I had an entire weekend with nothing planned and even better, the weather was a bit shit, so I felt no guilt whatsoever about staying indoors sewing. YAY. 

So - to the sewing machines! 

I planned to make a Sew Over It Ultimate Shift dress. Now, I do already have the Colette Laurel, and I also have several Big 4 patterns that are suspiciously shift-dress-like, but what I like about the SewOverIt one is that it doesn't have a back zip. It's super floaty and relaxed (and thus - quick). I have no real issue with zips in terms of sewing them (although I'm lazy, so that's an issue I guess) but I find them a faff with delicate fabrics and also, actually, it's just sometimes nice to have a dress that slips on and requires no effort (zipping yourself up is SO MUCH WORK you guys). I suppose I could have converted an existing pattern to be zip-less, but we've already discussed that I'm lazy, so let's assume we know why I didn't do that. 

Having done a bit of web sleuthing of versions of this pattern, I was pretty sure I was going to need to lower the dart by about an inch. This is increasingly becoming a standard pattern adjustment for me and my apparently low-hanging boobs, but once I had the pattern traced off, the dart looked pretty low already. I did a rough tissue fit and decided I'd risk it and call this a wearable toile - and you know what? I'm so glad I did! If I'd lowered the dart by an inch, it would have been miles too low. Depending on which bra I'm wearing, this dart is either spot on, or maybe 1cm too high, but I am SO not precise enough to give a shit about 1cm. Pretty sure we can go ahead and call that a spot-on fit out of the packet. Yay! 

Sorry about these overexposed pics. It was overcast but apparently still too bright for decent photos

I cut a straight 12 based on my boob measurement, and since I was using a lovely quality, drapey crepe (which, btw, I totally love and is perfect to sew and wear. More of these fabrics please!!), I figured the waist and hips could be a bit bigger without grading (yes, ok, laziness again. So sue me). I'm happy with it. It's pretty loose without a belt, but I planned to wear it belted anyway so that works (and, in saying that, having looked at these terrible photos, I'm quite liking the unbelted look too. A wee bit tentish, but not too horrifying).

I did have a bit of a drama when I made this which provoked all manner of swearing and stamping around. If you follow me on Instagram, you'll have seen my horror at this most common of overlocking incidents! ARGH. Caught the fabric when overlocking the side seams and hacked a bloody great hole in the fabric!! Thank god for a busy print which hides my sneaky patching ever-so well. If I can just avoid telling people it's there, no one will notice I think. Still peeves me, but I won't be making that mistake again I guess. Yay learning. 

Crisis averted with a sneaky patch. Can you see it? Look closely, but shhh don't tell anyone!

The pattern calls for a hook and eye, but my MiL brought me a tonne of buttons this visit so I sifted through and found a cute wee flower that I thought worked with the tropical fabric vibes. 

Oh, and I bound the arm holes with bias binding rather than just overlocking and turning them...that seemed a weird finish for a woven fabric. Would you guys do that with an arm hole? Am I overly suspicious? The arm hole fit is ok but I think if I had made it in a more rigid fabric (a cotton lawn perhaps), I'd need to widen it a bit. It's just bordering on too tight. Fine for this version, but I may alter future efforts.  

So that's it! Actually, I also sewed up a test version of a cardigan yesterday, but I'll blog about that another day (hopefully with a 'real' version of the same garment). For now, I leave you with my shitty photography and the hope that the sun starts shining again so I can wear my black and white tropical shift dress and frighten the world with my pasty white legs. 

Have a good week everyone! 

p.s - I've only recently noticed that if you're reading my posts via Bloglovin', they probably look less formatted and even more shit than they do in the originals. Sorry about that. If you want to see a slightly less crappy version, come on over to the actual blog! Thanks my dearies xx

Monday 18 July 2016

Maxed Out

Hey! Summer has arrived in Britain! Whoop! The news is filled with stories of 'temps hotter than Hawaii' (HA) and 'heatwave', all of which, farcical though they might be, do make a nice change from the news of political torment to which we've been subjected the past month. I personally tend to think it takes more than 2 days of 25+ weather in the middle of summer to warrant calls of a heatwave, but whatever - I'm enjoying it while I can! Naturally, such weather is a delight if you have lots of summery dresses you've made because finally, finally it's warm enough to wear them! 

For some reason, last weekend, I decided that I simply HAD to make a maxi dress. I've never worn a maxi dress, because when you buy them at the shop and you're only 5"2, they tend to come with about a foot of extra fabric and that just made me mad. But loads of sewing bloggers rave about how cool and comfy maxi dresses are in summer, and I just fancied giving one a shot. 

I didn't have any actual patterns for maxi dresses, and I had an idea in mind of what I wanted. Something loose-ish, lightweight and floaty - ideally made in viscose or a light crepe or some such. I had a bunch of lengths of suitable fabric so I was sure I'd be able to sew up something from my stash. I decided I'd modify the Washi dress for a maxi length, having seen a few versions around, and I spent a couple of hours tracing and spreading the pattern. Naturally after finishing that way too time-consuming process (at about 4pm on the Sunday), NONE of the fabrics I had were long enough or wide enough to fit. No matter how I pieced it, I could not get a damn maxi length Washi out of any of my fabric. I got in a bit of a huff about it all, if I'm entirely honest (I'll spare you the embarrassing tantrum-like details, but you can use your imagination). You know when you have an idea and you just get fixated on making it happen and then it won't?! So yeah. That happened. I was cross, and the dress was a fail before it got out of the gate. 

Then on Monday or Tuesday (once the red mist had receded), I started pondering a bit more on this. Maybe a different pattern would work better anyway? I can't remember what made me think of it, but I thought that perhaps the April Rhodes Staple dress might make a good maxi version. It's a very loose tunic-y style dress that has shirring at the waist for shape. I bought that pattern ages ago, made a truly terrible toile, loathed it, and resigned the pattern to one of those 'good in theory, horrifying in practice' ones. You know what I mean, right?? But maybe, I thought, maybe in a maxi length, it would work? I was delighted to find I hadn't thrown out the pattern, and I didn't even bother lengthening the pattern pieces - just drew the lines out from the bottom on the fabric and chopped straight in! (brief moment of 'arrrgh' as I did so, because I was cutting into a long hoarded piece of lovely John Kaldor crepe - I have a Laurel made in this as well - there's a pic on my Me Made May post). 

I'm SO glad I did this. I love this dress a lot. I feel just a tiny bit fabulous in it. Is that the power of maxi dress? You feel all swishy and cool and glam somehow (none of which I ever am on a normal basis!). It's a love thing! 

So the dress has grown on kimono sleeves, pockets, a scoop neck and that's really all there is to say! I decided to put a couple of splits in the side seams for maximum summery ventilaton, and I used bought bias binding rather than the fabric 'facings' the pattern calls for (partly because I'm lazy, but more because I used every inch of fabric I had in the dress. I even had to make the pocket bags out of random scraps of blue and black crepe from my stash). It's a super quick sew, and a bloody fabulous result. I haven't seen many Staple dresses in a maxi length, but I reckon it works. 

Told you I wasn't glamorous

I wore the dress out to a friend's 40th birthday party (held in the gorgeous gardens of her parent's country house) on Saturday and it was comfy and glam and summery - everything I wanted it to be. 

Don't you just love it when a random idea finally works out exactly as you'd hoped?! One of the best things about sewing! 

Happy 'heatwave' lovely readers! 


Friday 1 July 2016

Crazy Carrie

I told you I loved this pattern. So much so, that I've made another pair already! These might very well win the prize for the loudest garment I've made...the Hello Kitty dress is probably brighter overall, but these just feel crazy-bright! ALL THE COLOURS! 

Here I am doing my best 'Lisa' pose. It felt as awkward as it looks. 

This is my second pair of Carrie trousers from Sew Over It's online trouser course. I totally copied Lisa's fabric in the online tutorial videos (although I actually got it at Minerva and it was a bit cheaper - they call it viscose challis, but it feels like a crepe to me). It looks like a black base in these pics, but it is actually navy. I'm throwing caution to the wind and wearing black with it anyway. RENEGADE! 

Um, so. What else to say. I used the correct size of elastic and lighter-weight interfacing, so all is well in the waist-band department. I cut these the same size as the original ones, but tried them on before putting the waistband on and decided they did need to come in a bit. So I took them in about 3/8" each side and inner seam. So I guess that means I probably should have cut an 8? Wonder if I'd fit an 8 in the waist? I definitely don't based on the measurements. But the fit on these is less baggy (while still being the drapey style that is intended) so I'm happier I think. 

Mm gin.
The colours are a bit shit in the posy photos, so I'm including a 'reclined-drinking-gin-in-the-sunny-conservatory-on-a-Friday-arvo' pic too - it shows the intensity of the lime and coral colours more clearly! Get your sunnies on! (it's totally started raining since I took that. Sigh). Please excuse the terrible top I'm wearing too. I need to make some plain basic tops - that's next on my make-list! 

Mm gin. And a photobombing kitty

So, that's it really. New trouser Friday! And it's definitely gin o'clock. Enjoy your weekends folks! Hope you're making something that will bring a smile to your faces...


Monday 27 June 2016

The world sucks so I made trousers. Or something.

Hey everyone! Remember me? Sorry if you've forgotten me - I wouldn't blame you if you had. It's been quite a while since I posted properly. First it was work frenzy (which also led itself nicely to a delightful period of insomnia and anxiety/panic hideousness) that kept me from not only blogging, but also from sewing. I just didn't make anything for ages (it felt like months. It's really only a few  weeks). Then when the work frenzy calmed down a bit, the awfulness of the referendum got into full swing. I'm not likely to do justice to my feelings about Brexit here, because I'm oscillating wildly between heartbreak and rage, with everything in between. I'm still just shell-shocked/dumbfounded too, and I'm struggling to 'get over it', which is what much of the world seems to think we Remainers ought to do. I don't find things as cataclysmic as this very easy to ;get over', so you'll have to forgive me if I'm grumpy for a while yet.

But. This is a sewing blog, and not a political rant blog, so let us return to the making of things! Once work calmed down a bit, and I was able to get my head above water, sewing was exactly what I felt like doing. Something gentle and soothing and kind to myself - a nice easy project that would result in something I liked and wanted to wear lots.

Enter Carrie.

Named after Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City, this is a new casual trouser pattern from the lovely team at Sew Over It, and is being offered as an online course. You get their Ultimate Trouser pattern as well as Carrie, and I signed up in the first week when they had a launch discount (I hope to conquer to the Ultimate Trousers at some point. *determined face*). The Carrie trousers aren't my typical aesthetic, but they fall into that category of trousers I've been trying to fill for ages - somewhere between track-pants and jeans that is both comfy and stylish. I've seen quite a few people wearing this sort of drapey trouser around the place, so I figured I'd give it a go.

Ohmygod. Guys. I LOVE these trousers. I basically didn't take them off for the first 3 days after finishing them. They are so unbelievably comfy, but also (I think) cute and not tooooo unflattering (although it was pretty hard to take a pic I liked, which is often an indicator that these don't look quite as good IRL as they do in my head. Oh well, TOO BAD! I love them!).

So, broadly speaking, there are similarities here to the Moji pants with which I've had fraught relationship - having made one pair that I wear a lot in winter (but which, if I'm honest, really do look like slightly fancy pjs) and a couple of disastrous pairs. But Carrie is different better in a few ways. Firstly, she has lovely pleats on the front sides, and while there's an elastic waistband, by having a flat unelasticated piece in the front above the pleats, the whole look sits a lot flatter than it would do otherwise. The pockets are huge and lovely, and the trousers sit nice and high on your hips so they're just really comfy to wear. They just feel like a step above Moji, and for me, their drapy design means there are fewer fit issues (or rather, they're more forgiving of fit issues).

I did the online video tutorials, rather than just following the written instructions, and I actually quite enjoyed that process. Lisa is lovely and chatty (have you watched her vlog?) and it was a bit like having a friend in the room while you sewed.

I used this fab viscose Ikat print fabric from Minerva Crafts. It's cheap (about a fiver per metre) which is always good for a first time make, but I think it's the perfect fabric for these. Size-wise, I'm a weird shape, so my waist is a bigger size than my bum and thighs. I often come up as a 12 in the waist/boobs and an 8 in the bum/thighs which is absolutely the reverse of every other sewing person in the world apparently (judging by the amount of info about how to grade out versus how much there is on my weirdo way - ie. none). But since this is an elasticated waist, I figured it would allow me a bit of wiggle room, so I split the difference and cut a straight-up 10. I think it's pretty good fit-wise. The legs are a bit loose, and maybe I could have gone to an 8, but that could also be because I think this woven viscose has stretched a bit. I'll make the next pair in the same size but in different fabric and it'll be interesting to see if I still think they need to be smaller. I also shortened the pattern pieces by 2 inches because frankly I think that's too much to just lop off the bottom when you hem them.

Look at my lovely new tiles in the conservatory! Hurrah! 

Stairs with no carpet. But we do have skirting boards, so progress is being made. 

I made a couple of errors - I used medium weight interfacing for the front panel which is a mistake as it's too stiff. Don't do this - use light-weight! I also couldn't get hold of 2inch (50mm) elastic so I used the 40mm stuff I could find at Hobbycraft, but that means it doesn't 'fill' the elastic casing and it wiggles around a bit. Not massively, but it's definitely worth getting the right width of elastic if you're thinking of making these.

So, I've already bought some more fabric to make a second pair of these (the same fabric Lisa is wearing in one of the promo pics - green and coral flowers on navy/cream crepe), and am contemplating buying some plain crepe or linen to make more. They are just fab. Projects like this are a delight really: it was a nice gentle process to make them, which was just the sort of calm project my overwrought mind needed, and the finished product is a total win. And that, my friends, is why we love sewing, right?!


p.s - sorry the pictures are rubbish. I had lighting/torrential rain issues, and then the sun kept coming out too bright, and ah, I was frankly too lazy to wait around taking better pics. Sorry!

p.p.s - Having now looked at these in the pics, I do think they are just a bit baggy. Might take them in a tad in the in-seam 'coz that's where they feel baggy. If you look at the ones Lisa is wearing in the link to the course, hers seem less baggy to me. Thoughts? Of course, to take them in, I'm first going to have to take them off...nooo!!

Tuesday 7 June 2016

Reflections on Me Made May

Yes, yes, I know we're already a week (!!???) into June, so this post is late. Add that to the list of stuff I'm running late with!

So, as promised, and as has become de rigueur, here are my thoughts/reflections/conclusions about this year's Me Made May. They're a bit rambly, sorry! But then, one of my goals was to become a more thoughtful sewist...and I've definitely done a LOT of thinking about my clothes this month!

 - I didn't take as many pictures as there were days. Sorry about that. I found the photography part much much harder work than I expected. I felt really quite conflicted about the whole process of taking my own photo so regularly. I may yet write a whole post about my thoughts on photos and sewing. I might not, too, because like I said, I'm running late with practically everything right now! 

 - From the pics I do have, it's clear that I wore a lot of dresses. Like, way more than I would have imagined. Does this mean I'm a dress person now?? How exciting! I'm definitely more comfortable wearing certain dresses at home (hi Washi pattern, I love you), though I still feel a bit weird wearing them in other situations (lazy Sunday at the pub, for eg.). I've been thinking about this, and have realised that it's more about me feeling worried or self-conscious about how other people will respond to what I'm wearing than it is anything else. One of my lovely reader/commenters, Janet, mentioned this - that family members comment when she wears dresses. I seem to live in fear that people will pass comment or judgement on me if I rock up to something wearing a dress. I'm really quite surprised to have discovered this, and more than a little bit disappointed in myself to be honest! If you had asked me, I'd have said that I dress to please myself, but I fear it's not fully the case. So (and forgive the bluntness here, but) I think it's time to say - bollocks to THAT. I have lovely dresses, and most of them are more comfortable than jeans and more importantly, they make me happy. So friends and colleagues and random strangers at the pub: I will henceforth be wearing dresses all summer and if you don't like it, tough!
(In actual fact, most people don't really care. Do you care when you see people wearing something you wouldn't? No, right? Maybe we have the occasional raised eyebrow, but then we go back to our own gin and tonic and stop thinking about it. This is about my weird hang-ups, not the imagined judgement of other people)

 - I wore a lot of repeats at home, even including the dresses. My flowery and feathery Washi dresses, and my Mabel skirts got a lot of wear, as did the unpictured Moji pants. I do need more comfy trousers for times I just don't fancy wearing a dress. Such times do exist, particularly when it's a bit colder (yes, hi, I'd like to play my 'I live in Britain' card once more. thanks). On that note, I just signed up for the Sew Over It new online trouser course so hopefully I'll have time sometime soon to make the Carrie trousers and a well-fitting pair of Ultimate Trousers.

 - I loved seeing everyone else's makes all month. I might have felt exhausted by the photos, but other people's pics were amazing and such fun to see. The brightness and variety of homemade clothing never fails to make me smile, and I feel so lucky to get to take part in that. Thanks fellow Me Made May-ers - you guys are awesome!

 - I sewed from my stash! And I sewed a LOT (by my normal standards). Guys, I made 5 dresses in May. Bloody hell! I don't even quite know how that happened! I blame the sunshine. I'm really pleased with myself that it was all stash-sewing too. I had to buy a large quantity of wool fabric in May, which is for a mystery project I'll post about soon, but otherwise I don't think I really bought any fabric in May. Nice work me! Me Made May pledge achieved! *pats self on the back*

There might be a bit of slow down on the making of stuff for a while, because work is about to get much busier and until end of next week I don't envision much in the way of sewing time. But I have LOTS of sewing plans for when I do have time, so stay tuned.

How was your Me Made May? Any surprising discoveries about your wardrobe or yourself?!


Tuesday 31 May 2016

Anna fanna bo-bana, me my mo manna, Anna!

It's an Anna dress! 

Yay. I'm happier than I look here. I promise...

Ok, that post title was weird sorry. But I started saying Anna over and over in my head, and then the Name Game song got stuck, and well, there we are!

Right. So. I have finally made my first BHL Anna Dress! There's a lot of love for this dress (and it's various hacked versions) on the interwebs, and it's pretty clear why. So flattering, so pretty, so comfy, just, so! I actually have a sort-of-Anna cut out and half made on my dress form (and have done for months now) but this one has beaten it to the punch. I really need to start finishing all the damn projects I start...

I treated myself to this utterly gorgeous double gauze fabric a few weeks ago when I was feeling down/grumpy after a shitty few days of work. I've never bought double gauze before, and couldn't quite envision what exactly it was like (or what all the fuss was about), but I totally get it now. SO SOFT. I sort of want to live in double gauze. It kind of feels to me a bit like flannelette sheets that are super old and worn and they're no longer fluffy, but have a particular softness to them? Or they feel like those muslin cloths people use to wipe up baby grossness. Whatever - it's bloody lovely to wear!

And it's great to sew with. I made it over 2 days at the weekend, but really it was probably about a day in total. Being cotton it presses super easily, and I had no issues sewing it up. Someone on Instagram advised starting with a new sharp needle, so I did that, but other than that, I didn't have to take any particular care with the sewing. I think I'd have been faster, except that I decided to do French seams everywhere because A. there's a tutorial to show you how on the BHL website (yay) and B. the double gauze will fray like nobodies business as the two layers come apart so it seemed like a sturdy finished seam would be sensible.

So for those few people who aren't familiar, this dress has kimono sleeves (my fave), pleats under the bust, and a 6-panel gored skirt, and can be made with a slash neck or v-neck, and midi or maxi length. I went with the short one (because I only had fabric enough for it!) and the slash neck because I don't love a v-neck on me, and I cut a straight 10 I think (must check that) based on my full bust size. I could probably come down a size truth be told (that seems to be a trend for me lately!!). The underbust pleats sit perfectly (and are such a pretty detail!) but I did have to take a lot of excess out of the back (which is admittedly fairly normal for me to have to do), and the dress is definitely not over-fitted. I was aware that unpicking this fabric would not go well, so I was careful to check the fit as I went. I basted the zip in and decided I needed to take even more out of the back, and then I sewed it. I could have been braver probably but I didn't want to go too small! To me it looks like a decent fit (ie. it has a proper shape and gives me a waist) but not over-fitting it means it's still comfy enough to wear everyday AND after a big meal. These things are important! Breathing, you know?

I did shorten the skirt by about 2-3 inches before I cut it out (I'm about 5'2), and it has come up quite a nice 'lady-like' length (HA. I am not at all lady-like!). It could be shorter, but I rather fancied a knee length skirt for a change. There's also a bit of excess in the front neckline which doesn't really bother me that much, although I know it shouldn't sit out like that. Because the fabric is super drapey I can get away with it (I think!) but a stiffer fabric would probably have required me to brave a hollow-bust adjustment?  I might try that in the next version. Is anyone familiar with that adjustment, and have any great web tutes to refer me to??

Oh, I also added in-seam pockets because I totally regretted not putting them in the Hello Kitty dress, and I'm very glad I did here. I didn't have enough scrap fabric to make them in double gauze so I found some shitty navy polycrepe scraps in my stash that I was able to use. For the side seams and pockets, I overlocked the seams instead of French-seams because I couldn't work out if it was even possible to do French seams on a pocket. I think not. The overlocking was fine!

I'm wearing this today (because it's the last day of Me Made May, so I have to go out with a bang!) but not as pictured (with my other new sandals!) because it has once again gotten cold and miserable here in Britain. Instead I'm wearing it with tights and flats - and it's SO comfy. First dress with a zip that I could honestly say gives the Washi or Moneta a run for their money. The gale force winds mean I'm very likely to end up flashing people, but I don't care because this dress is too damn pretty not to wear! Marilyn gets it...

Saturday 28 May 2016

Way, hey, it's Washi Day

Surprise! I made another Washi dress! And I have to tell you - I seriously LOVE this dress! Lots and lots of love.

It's made in a utterly delicious bamboo viscose fabric I bought yonks ago from Fabric Godmother. It looks black in these pics, but you'll have to believe me when I tell you that it's actually an incredibly dark navy. Navy is right in my comfort zone of course, but I quite like the colour ambiguity here - I could probably get away with some black tights and boots in winter. (update: I just checked my old order email confirmation and it's black. Which is rather a pain as I've totally sewn it up in dark navy thread!! Oops. Oh well. I won't tell if you won't).

So the fabric has lurked in my stash for ages, because I seem to find it impossibly hard to use my favourite fabric! How ridiculous is that? I'm working on getting over this stupidity. I had in mind to make this into a BHL Anna maxi dress but I didn't have enough for that. I did, however, have enough for a Washi! Win!

You'd think viscose might be too soft and drapey for a pattern designed to be made with quilting-weight cotton, but I really like how this has worked out. It feels...fluid? Does that make sense when talking about clothes? It just feels incredibly floaty and quite dressy actually. But being a Washi dress (and having no fastening - hurrah for shirring elastic on the back!) it's also super comfortable. Like pjs. For the day-time.

If I'm honest, it has come up just a teensy bit shorter than I'd normally feel comfortable with, but I don't think it's indecent? Plus it's (theoretically - I live in Britain) going to be summer time soon, so I can be forgiven for showing a bit more leg.

I've decided that the pockets sit better if you cut them separately and attach them, rather than cutting them out as part of the skirt pieces. That was why my last one was 'poofy' in the pocket-area. The pattern gives you the option for both, so this will be my preference from now on. Otherwise, everything was made up the same, except I remembered this time to use a wider seam allowance on the side seams - it's meant to be 1/2in and I used 5/8. It just brings it in a bit tighter around the middle which I prefer for the shape. I whipped this up so quickly. It was pretty much done by lunch-time, bar the sleeves and hemming. And my hand-stitching must be getting faster because it only took me one episode of Grey's to invisible-stitch the binding under the arms/sleeves!

Oh, and how cute are my new shoes?? I bought 2 pairs this week (I'm calling these my 'compensation sandals' - my partner accidentally THREW OUT a pair of my boots a few weeks' ago, and he promised to replace them. I figured he could buy me some sandals for now and I'll deal with the boot loss later). These are faux clogs (ie. not actual wood because I can't be doing with soles that have no flex) and they're so comfortable! Like little cushions on my hooves. This whole outfit might be the most comfortable thing I've ever worn!

By the way, do you love my new conservatory tiles as much as I do?! So pleased. 

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Oh, hello Kitty!


Remember when I was talking about needing to sew practical things - like stuff I'd wear when working at home?

Well, this is NOT that! And I'm not sorry at all.

This is a half-circle skirt sun-dress in HELLO KITTY FABRIC. Yeah, Hello Kitty fabric. The Japanese cartoon feline overlord is officially part of my wardrobe. Hurrah! And of course I made it with matching Hello Kitty buttons. Because if you're going to use Hello Kitty fabric, you might as well go all out and get matching buttons, right?? (my Instagram peoples agreed with this logic when I did a little informal poll over the weekend...)

I bought this cotton poplin fabric from Guthrie and Ghani AGES ago (so the dress does fill one of my criteria in that it uses stuff from my stash) but I could never quite figure out what to make. It's yellow, for a start and that's not a colour I wear very often, and I could never work out what to make that wouldn't look insane. So it languished in my stash, destined to eventually become dull like pajamas or some-such.

And then I made the Adelaide dress and started pondering on the whole concept of button-down shirt-dresses and the idea for the Hello Kitty Hawthorn was born.

Ta Dah!

Please forgive all the rubbish in this pic. We're about to get the conservatory re-tiled, and soon it will be tidy and perfect for indoor blog pictures! Also, I couldn't crop them because the update to my stupid work laptop has caused Microsoft's photo editor to vanish. Must fix that issue...

Full disclosure, I'm totally unoriginal, and am plagiarising the amazing Kat's Hello Kitty dress here. I loved Kat's version when she made it last year, but I've never really thought I could wear stuff that buttons down the front. I've never quite mastered the FBA and I assumed I'd have to do that on any nice shirt-dress patterns. I have also had a serious fear of buttonholes. This is madness, obviously, but ever since I got my 'new' machine (which is over 18 months ago now), I've been unable to work out how to do them. It's a 1 step buttonhole function, so it really should have been easier than on my old 4-step machine, but the last time I tried to do them it went Very Badly, so I was too scared to try again.

But for some reason, I decided I really really wanted to make a Hello Kitty Hawthorn dress. I figured could conquer my fear of buttonholes, and try the whole shirt-dress concept out. Hawthorn seemed like a good entry-level's a flat collar and a faux placket, and Colette patterns are great for talking you through new processes, so it all sort of seemed like a good starting point.

I really like this dress!! It'd be hard not to like a Hello Kitty dress I think, though this did make it a bit hard. The buttonhole function was totally mastered (it really isn't hard, who knew?!) Fit though...oy. I made a toile of the bodice in a size 10 and it seemed to be fine. There was a bit of excess on the side seams, but the bust darts fit spot-on, so I figured I'd just use a bigger seam allowance on the sides and it'd all be tea and crumpets. Alas, it was not the case.

Damn did I have issues with the fit on this! I made it, attached the skirt and when I tried it on, I realised the bodice was way too long on me. That's never happened - I don't think I'm short-waisted - but it was clear that I needed to shorten the bodice by a good inch. And there was at least an inch of excess in the side seams of the bodice. Grr. This was annoying because naturally I'd already overlocked the waist-seam. Cue an intense period of unpicking on Sunday!

Anyway, blah blah blah - I made the adjustments, stitched it all back together and tried it back on. I don't know. I think I need to make a size 6. It's ok with a belt, but it's still fairly loose-fitting and I feel like the shape would really suit being properly fitted, you know? In saying that, if I went to a size 6, perhaps I would need to do an FBA? I think I'll make another one in a 6 but just use the size 10 dart...will that work do you think? The dart really is in the perfect spot and this pattern is drafted for a C-D cup which means it does have plenty of room. Ah well. I reckon Hello Kitty needs a belt anyway - it adds definition and breaks up all the yellow.

It's really really cold here today. Back down to a high of about 11 degrees, and I have the heating on, so we are not in the midst of sundress weather at all. Kitty needs a cardy at the mo! But as soon as the sunshine is out, I'm going to revel in this dress. Fit issues aside, it's still a dress made in crazy Hello Kitty fabric and you can't help but kind of love that!

Post-script: I tried to take a video of me twirling around in this (because a half-circle skirt needs to be twirled) and I made myself actually sick. Like crawl-to-the-bathroom-and-vomit sick. Blergh. This is what comes of the madness of taking photos for blog posts! (And having issues with my inner ears and balance). No more twirling for you Ms Kitty! 

Monday 16 May 2016

Me Made May Week 2 Round-up

Well, it's the 16th of May which means we are officially over half-way through Me Made May already! Crazy.

I wasn't as consistent last week at taking a pic every day of what I was wearing. Partly this was because I got sick of it, and partly it was laziness and/or slopping around the house in something that didn't need to be photographed! On days which are not photographed here, I was either wearing my Moji pants or my new feathery Washi dress which I posted about last week. Still me-made, but around home there are starting to be some wardrobe repeats. I don't mind that - I wouldn't expect to wear a different thing every day of the month whether I bought or made my clothes. I guess what's interesting will be which items get the most repeats!

I was determined to wear my Adelaide dress on Tuesday, even though it wasn't that warm! Worked well with leggings and a cardi (RTW) though! 

Drama Dress worn on Wednesday. This dress makes me sigh. It had stretched out in the bodice again already, so before wearing it, I unpicked the underarm hem, took it in by 1.5cm each side, and then restitched the hem. I could probably afford to lift the shoulders too, but am getting sick of it. It's SO annoying because this dress is perfect otherwise - so cosy and warm and comfy! 
On Friday (or was it Thursday? Losing track...losing my mind) I wore my Linden Sweatshirt which definitely qualifies as a favourite make. I LOVE this contrast jumper. It has all the comfort of Linden, but is just fancy enough that you can wear it with heels and lippy and feel dressed up. Perfect! 

We went out for tea on Saturday and I wore my crepe Laurel dress. Not sure I've blogged about this one but I love it. That dress is so different when made in drapey fabric. It's super comfy and easy to wear, and I love the bright print. The bust darts are really too high on this, but non-sewing people don't tend to notice so I wear it anyway. The other pic is the giant bunch of flowers I took to the friend - almost the same height as me! ;-) 

Weird Rambly Thoughts/Reflections from Week 2:
 - I definitely find dresses (certain kinds - Moneta and Washi being high on that list) to be more comfortable than jeans. I'm increasingly much more likely to want to wear a dress with leggings on a day that will be spent largely at home sitting at my desk or on the couch in the conservatory, than I am likely to want to wear jeans. I am sloooowly adjusting my brain to accept that wearing a dress is not weird or overly 'dressy'. This feels like progress, and a positive use of my hand-made clothing!
 - After making the Adelaide dress last week, I've realised how much I love the idea of button down garments. I've honestly not worn a single button down garment since high school (and the button-down shirts we had to wear as part of our uniform)! I can't buy RTW shirts or dresses with front-buttons because of the boob situation (ie. I'm a 12 in the bust, 10 in the waist and an 8 in the hips), but at some point I obviously decided that I also didn't really like the style (maybe it was a 'if they don't like me, I don't like them' thing). It's actually really delightful to realise that I can wear them if I sew them myself, and I that like the look! I have plans a-foot for my first shirt-dress, and another Adelaide.
 - I said I was bored of taking photos, but I'm not sure if it's boredom exactly. I think I feel a bit embarrassed of taking so many photos!! I've never been very comfortable in front of the camera, and I LOATHE a candid photo (death to anyone who dares to take a candid shot of me and tag it on Facebook without checking with me first!), so I've found it quite unsettling to spend so much time taking photos of myself, and thinking about taking photos of myself. I can't decide if it's making me feel more or less confident! Also, you should know that the photos I do share are usually the one good shot of about 20 bad ones (...and that quite frankly, I wish I looked like the girl in my Instagram pics! Is that me?!)
 - While I'm bored senseless of taking photos every-day for MMM, I am genuinely loving seeing everyone else's photos on Instagram. Sewing people - you are SO creative and amazing!! It's properly delightful to see such an incredible range of gorgeous handmade garments, and to see everyone celebrating them. It's a little bit awe-inspiring. The work and skill that goes into all this sewing is wonderful and I feel proud of not just my own makes, but pride in this talented community more generally! You guys rock!  

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Sewing Against the Clock (or: filling the dress-sized gap in my wardrobe, Part Deux)

I fancied a day of sewing last Wednesday, and thought I'd try to make another dress to fill this summer-dress gap in my wardrobe. In light of my Me Made May pledge, I wanted to be able to make whatever it was from my stash, and given we didn't know how long the weather will stay nice, I wanted it to be quick! (sew, sew, quick before the rain comes!*)

I've posted before about Seamwork patterns. They're from Colette's online sewing magazine, and are all designed to be made in roughly 3 hours or less. Perfect for a quick make. I love my Mojis and my Astorias, so why not try another one?! The Adelaide dress is Colette's pattern of the month (which means discount!) and while I wasn't drawn to the pattern originally, I'd seen a couple of versions pop up that I properly loved. This one in kitty fabric is amazing. I'm still tempted to splurge on that fabric and have it sent from the US. 

So on Wednesday morning I decided to make the Adelaide. We had a friend coming over on Wednesday night for dinner, so I figured I needed to finish sewing at 5pm in order to have time to clean up and cook tea. That gave me plenty of time, even for a new pattern! Oh, did I mention that I hadn't actually printed the pattern out or pieced it together yet?! The 3 hour time suggestion doesn’t include the pdf faffing, but I reckoned I should still have plenty of time. I finish printing the pattern (37 pages) by 10.15am, and....I'm off! 

I manage to get the pdf cut out, taped together, and cut out again in just over an hour, but then I hit a glitch and had to race back down to the bloody craft shop as I’ve realized the pattern needs interfacing (which isn’t listed in the notions!! Grr!) and I’m out. This is my second trip to Hobbycraft for the day, as I'd been down there at 9am to buy bias binding and the snaps required for Adelaide. I furiously cut out the pattern pieces when I get back – I’m going so much faster than normal! I’ve got Netflix on in the background, but it’s washing over me and I couldn’t honestly tell you what has happened much in this series.  By 1.30pm I’m done (and have also made the pie filling and the pastry for dinner, and made and eaten my lunch). At 2pm, I finally start sewing. 

The sewing goes really well. In reality, there’s not that much to the dress (3 pattern pieces, darts front and back), but the placket is something I haven’t done in ages so I take a bit of time getting it right. The dress is shaping up! By this stage it’s 4pm, so I still have an hour to go to meet my own deadline of 5pm (which is also the 3 hour mark), and I reckon I can do it! I’m about to sew on the belt loops, but I decide to try it on first... 

...Doom! The dress is great – I think it’ll look really good, BUT the armhole is at least an inch too high. It’s unwearable – so tight and totally cutting me off under the arms. So frustrating. I start unpicking, but I’m out of bias binding, and by now it’s 4.15pm…there’s no way I’ll be able to redo the armholes and finish the rest of the dress by 5pm. My 3 hour challenge is a failure.


I finally get a chance to return to the dress on Friday evening. It's mostly done. All I need to do is cut down the armholes, make some bias binding (I need to stop buying the premade shit. It's so convenient but so expensive!), and then make the belt loops and belt (and hem the dress). Well. I don't know what kind of voodoo sewing magic other people can manage, but it takes me about a bloody hour just to turn the stupid belt loop piece out the right way! I'm wrangling a metal skewer in the end. But I've long since given up on the 3 hour thing by this point anyway, so I just concentrate on finishing before bed. In all I think I probably end up spending another 3 hours on the dress, so the 3 hour challenge didn't pan out - but the dress is still great! 

I made it in cotton swallow-print fabric I had in my stash, and realistically, I think it probably would be better in something with a bit more drape (as recommended). But I really like it! Perfect warm weather attire.

Being a dork and trying to pose cute with sunglasses and heels...and then realising you can see the ironing board against the window #classy
Bare feet, no ironing board, and happy in my Adelaide dress! Can you see how it doesn't sit flat at the top? Flaps a bit where I feel like it should sit flat. 
Alterations? I hacked about an inch and a half out from under the arms as discussed, and I cut a size 8 but used the size 10 dart. That worked well actually - the dart sits in the right spot but I think perhaps I need to lower the neckline a bit in future versions. It flaps a bit, and that's mostly boob-fit related. If it were an inch lower in the scoop, I think it would sit flatter on my chest. Or maybe it'll sit flatter in a softer draping fabric? Thoughts/advice? I'll also make the belt wider next time - the 5/8 seam allowance meant it came out quite skinny. 

The dress fastens with poppers rather than buttons which is partly how it can be considered a 'quick' make. I love the poppers, I do - so quick and convenient. BUT...I think I might try and use buttons instead on any future versions. The unfortunate thing about poppers is that they pop open easily. Like when you're bending down or getting in and out of of the car! Mostly it's only the bottom couple that pop open, but I've had a few situations when wearing this where, if I hadn't been wearing leggings, I'd have properly been flashing my undies. Eek! So buttons might be a tad less likely to result in wardrobe malfunctions! Also snaps are really expensive. This dress needs 13 of them (I used 12, not bothering with the bottom one), which is 2.5 packets of the Prym ones I bought. That means there's about £10 of poppers in this which frankly is more than I care to spend on notions for a dress. 

I have to say I'm really pleased with this dress, and glad I decided to make it. I've never worn a dress in this general style before, and it's got me thinking that maybe I could do the whole shirt-dress concept. And now that I know about the arm-hole fit thing, I'll be able to make my next Adelaide a lot more quickly. In fact, I have ordered my first fabric buy of the month to make another one! Hooked on Adelaide. 

Let's just hope all these summer dresses don't provoke the weather gods and send the sunshine packing! 

*Post-script: The rain has come (I'm now back wrapped up in my flannelette Mojis and Opal cardigan!). Clearly this run of summer sewing has tempted the weather gods. Sorry Britain - my bad! Oh well. If the sun comes back, I'm ready!