Playing with my stretch block

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have been in need of instant gratification recently so I have been playing with my stretch block.  Having a stretch block is wonderful, I can use it for an infinite number of designs, all of which only take a couple of hours to make.  My stretch block came from some pattern making classes I took at Raystitch with the lovely Alice.  I can’t recommend these classes enough as Alice is a great teacher who makes it all look very easy and gives you lots of inspiration and encouragement (also plies you with wine and cake which makes the sewing much easier).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a simple dress which is smart enough for work but fun enough for play.  Stretch dresses are an absolute godsend to those of us who cycle to work as they fold up next to nothing in a pannier and come out looking fresh and new.

There is nothing complicated about this dress, the front and back are straight from my block, which has darts, to give it a great fit.  The collar I stole from the Renfrew pattern, I love large collars and this one is fabulous, the only quibble I have is that because the inner and outer collar are made from the same pattern piece the seam around the outer edge of the collar falls to the outside.  If I were to make it again I’d make the under collar slightly smaller to ensure the seam is kept nicely hidden away.

The fabric is called Les Branches and came from Dragonfly.  I had one of those late night buying sessions which lead the next morning to a lot of guilt, and worry that I might have ordered something not very nice.  Fortunately both pieces of fabric (I also ordered some Campan jersey) turned out to be lovely.

I only ordered 1.5m and I was pleased that I managed to get all the pieces cut with next to no spare fabric (really I was struggling to find a scrap big enough to run some test stitches over).

I was so keen to get it made I just ran it through the overlocker without basting it first and as a result it is slightly better fitted than I had meant it to be.  Naughty Jane! Always baste first so you can check the fit.  Fortunately stretch fabrics are very forgiving.

The hems were finished by running them through the overlocker, then turning them up once and sewing around with a twin needle.

Probably two hours from start to finish – that’s pretty instant in my book – taking the train into town, browsing the shops and doing lots of trying on would have taken longer.



Experimenting with the Spiral Dress

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a muslin made with my spiral dress pattern – I knocked it up to check the fit works with a woven as well as a jersey fabric.  The answer is yes! although I probably need to make the neckline and armholes slightly deeper.  On this picture you can clearly see the long, single seam line the starts in the top left armhole runs around my body and comes back to the front at about knee level. Marianna, Ruth you are right to compare this to a toilet roll!

Whilst trawling through the internet I found this Rick Owens dress which I suspect is made in a very similar way.

I feel a party dress coming on, know where can I find a nice piece of silk?

Lola Dress

ImageThis is the Lola Dress from Victory Patterns. I made it a few weeks ago with some grey sweatshirting from Cloth House in Berwick Street. I’m not actually completely enamoured of it, the style is a bit odd, the upper bodice wants to be a fitted dress but below it has these enormous pockets that give it a very casual look.  What I wanted was a very casual sweatshirt type dress and I am not sure this is actually it.  Having said that I have worn it a lot, mainly to do housework, gardening and general slouching.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI do quite like the pockets, particularly from the back, but Hugo says they make me look like a bag lady.  I think this was the look I was trying (and failing) to get

I also feel the length is a bit strange, it could do with being a tunic rather than a dress.

Have you tried this pattern? Where you happy with the results?

Spiral Dress

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn instant dress this week made using my stretch block!

I was reading my blogs the other day and came across Alice & Co in the South Pacific. Warning clicking this link will make you green with envy!  About half way down the post there is a picture of Alice in a spiral dress which immediately got me thinking about how I could make such a thing.  Fortunately Alice is a friend and very kindly gave me the secrets of how to cut the pattern.  It’s actually made from one piece of fabric which is cut on the straight grain but, cleverly, once you sew the one long seam that runs around your body, you end up with a dress that sits on the bias.

As the technique is Alice’s I won’t divulge how you make the pattern here but it really is extremely clever and hopefully you will agree that it makes a very flattering dress.  The pattern took me quite a while to draw up, mainly because it’s on such a big piece of paper and I didn’t have a table big enough to fit it all on.  Also I was trying to be as accurate as possible with my lines and angles so I could get the stripes to spiral around and meet up in the right place.

There is no room for adjustment once you have cut the fabric out  so I made this one out of some extremely cheap jersey I bought from Tia Knight.  Cutting the dress out was very trying!  The viscose jersey moved at the slightest opportunity and all the edges curled like mad.  I also discovered that the stripes were not at right angles to the selvedge – I think jersey is often made in a tube and then cut open, I suspect that the cutter didn’t take the care they should have to ensure that it was straight.  It probably took me three hours to cut the whole thing out.


Yes there is a seam there!

The pattern piece is a bit less than 3m long and about 70cm wide. In theory a 3m length of jersey which is 150cm wide should give you enough for two dresses – if you wanted to have two dresses and if your fabric was cut so the grain was straight.

Having spent so long cutting the fabric out, I then took about half an hour to hand baste the long seam so I could be certain that all the stripes matched up. I am pleased that taking the effort to do this paid off – even I can’t see the seam in the picture above but it is there!

It took me less than 10 minutes to run through the overlocker and hey presto I had a dress! Just goes to show  that taking the time to do things properly at an early stage really pays off.


Great British Sewing Bee

Have you been watching the Great British Sewing Bee?  What do you think of it?

I love that there is sewing on the television and revel in the intricacies of getting the under stitching perfect or managing to put in an invisible zip err…invisibly.  I only wish there were more of this sort of geeky detail, I mean we haven’t seen the inside of any of these clothes yet!

Who do you want to win?  I’d like it to be Chinelo; I love the way she just draws on the fabric with a bit of chalk and then seems to cut out the most amazing designs.

The big question for me though is, why would any one want to watch it if they didn’t sew? I’ve never watched the Great British Bake Off but I can imagine that even if you don’t bake you can at least drool over the cakes.  The clothes made on the GBSB aren’t really that exciting, in fact most of them are really a bit boring.  If I wasn’t a sewer already I don’t think I would start as a result of watching this programme.

What do you think?

Design and Print Your Own Fabric

I am sure that most sewing bloggers will have heard of By Hand London who designed the Charlotte skirt amongst other lovely patterns.  Their latest venture is to start printing fabric on demand.  The idea is that you can design your own fabric, send it to them and they will print it out, initially on cotton poplin but if they idea takes off then silks and jerseys and other fabrics may be possible.  As the fabric is printed on a digital printer you can have as little or as much printed as you want. This blog post explains the concept.

At present By Hand London need funding to get this started so they have set up a kick-starter page to attract backers.

This is such a great idea, I just now need to start thinking about what my design might look like!

Does the world need another V1247?

IMG_0647The answer to this is of course, yes.  I must admit to having made this a few weeks ago (ok, if I’m being truthfully honest before Christmas).  And, yes I know that one of my resolutions for 2014 was to blog more but life gets in the way sometimes……

Anyway enough of the excuses and back to V1247.  This one is made out of cherry red corduroy from Truro Fabrics, it’s quite a lightweight corduroy and the colour is to die for.  I finished the seams as it tells you to do in the pattern using some bias binding made from a piece of fabric sitting in my “spare ⅔ m” box.  It was whilst I was doing this that I realised that I really needed a bias binding foot.  The waistband is finished with a button because I prefer buttons to hooks and eyes.



The Fitting Resolution 2

Thank you for your helpful comments on my last post about fixing the Emma dress.  I thought I would quickly update you on what I did.  This is not by way of being a tutorial, it worked for me but I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to say it will work for anyone else.

Princess seam alterationDo you like my picture?  I’ve just downloaded paint2 to help me edit my photos.

Just to remind you I wanted to increase the bust on my dress by 1.5cm on each side.  The dress has princess seams but I needed to avoid changing the design line which runs along the bottom of this picture.  So what I did:

1) I marked the point on the side front pattern piece where the bust is at it’s largest (red mark)

2) I placed the pattern on a new piece of paper and drew a line parallel to the grain line 1.5cm from the edge of the pattern at my red mark (red line)

3) I traced around the outside of the pattern pieces from X to Y, around the arm hole seam, the side seam and the design line – these are the lines I wanted to leave unchanged

4) I pivoted the pattern from X until the red mark met the red line and traced around from X to the red line (new blue line)

5) I then returned the pattern to it’s original place and pivoted it from Y, again until the red mark met the red line and traced from Y to the red line (new green line)

6) I measured the difference between where the blue and green lines met the red line – 2cm and then smoothed the curve over this area.  This produced my new side panel.

7) For the centre panel I worked out where the red mark would come on the inner part of the princess seam and cut a horizontal line across the pattern (at right angles to the grain.   line). I then added in 2cm of paper between the two pieces and taped it back up.

Result – it now fits across my bust much better.  It’s a little large in the waist so maybe I should have just pivoted from a point a bit higher than Y (but I’m not too bothered).

I’m not sure if I can use this method on the lining, but if the worst comes to the worst I will just use the shell pattern rather than the separate lining pattern.

I’ve also made some decisions about the dress.  I popped to Berwick Street last week to see what was available and found some rather nice black and blue lightweight wool. I’ve also decided that sleeves are a must so have been playing around with my drafting some from my block.

The Fitting Resolution

Some time ago I ordered the Emma dress pattern from StyleArc. I had been looking at their web site for some time, admiring many of their designs but this was the first time I had ordered anything.  When the pattern arrived I cut out a toile and then did………… nothing.

To be honest I wasn’t sure what to do next.  The pattern is lovely, but  I am in two minds about the sleeves, should I leave them as they are in which case I’m going to need a jacket or should I just use my block and draft some proper sleeves? Secondly, I can’t decide what sort of fabric to use.  The pattern suggests gabardine or thin wool, it also says you can use a stretch fabric.  I love the idea of wool, but then there is always the problem of how to keep it clean without spending a fortune at the dry cleaners.  I could go with a poly  of some sort but I am a bit prejudiced about synthetic fabrics and never feel they are as nice as wool.  This is a fairly complicated pattern so if I am going to spend the time on it I want to make a dress I feel special in.

Anyway I got the toile out again last weekend and spent a bit of time trying to get it to fit.  First off I had gaping at the back neck which seems to be a common problem on a lot of my clothes (bought as well as made).  I added a couple of darts to the neckline and it fits much better.  As the dress has princess seams running into the sleeve seams I now need to decide how to get rid of these darts.  Adding them to the shoulders is the most obviously thing to do but it might look a bit odd having shoulder darts as well as princess seams.  The back seam has a bit of shaping in it so I might just try and lose the excess there.

The second problem, also a common issue for me, was the back was a little narrow.  This was easily fixed by letting out the princess seams.  I might need to recheck this one if I decide to add sleeves, but for a sleeveless dress it looks fine.

Lastly, and one I didn’t expect, was that the bust is too small.  The pattern I bought is the same size as my full bust measurement so I am a bit puzzled about why I need some excess.  The adjustment isn’t huge, just 1 ½ cm on each side, but just big enough to make me puzzled as to how to correct.  I tried letting out the seam allowances on the side piece and although this worked I can see that I will need to lengthen the front over the bust a little to take into account the excess.


I read up on doing an FBA in a princess seam and have found lots of useful hints but all of them seem to increase the width of the overall pattern piece.  I don’t want to do that because of the design lines on my pattern. If I did make it wider I would also need to adjust the skirt part of the dress and the pockets.

Adjusting the shell is bad enough but the lining is going to be even more complicated as that has the princess seams but is one piece without the design lines.

I do wonder if I am trying to make this more complicated than it needs to be.  Have you got any ideas?

Charlotte (or does my bum look big in this…..)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI love pencil skirts, I love the way they look so smart and demure and yet so sexy and feminine.   I have been eyeing up the Charlotte skirt pattern from By Hand London for sometime. Over Christmas I found the perfect fabric to go with it and decided to treat myself.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe fabric came from Cloth House in Berwick Street and is a tie dyed denim, my first thought was that it looked a bit All Saints (a couple of years ago) or slightly punkish.  The idea of using this slightly off beat fabric with such a classic design appealed to me.  It’s proved to be soft and supple and so far hasn’t shown any signs of creasing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI coupled the fabric with  a metre of lipstick pink lining fabric I had hanging around, which looks surprisingly good and brings out the pinky, blue design on the fabric.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHugo’s first comment on seeing my new skirt was “I know I’m not supposed to say this, but it does make your bum look big”.  I gave him “the look” and he rapidly back-tracked by saying it was in a Jo-Lo sort of way.  Anyway it doesn’t matter because I love it!.

So this is a skirt I will make again (and again and again).  I can see it as part of a suit for work or added to a bodice for a summer dress. I probably should have taken the time to draft a similar skirt using my block, but I’m not sure I could have got such a good result.

Having said the good stuff, let me balance it with some “could do betters”.  Firstly, there is the small matter of walking.  The pattern itself says you should just sew up the back seam, I took a double take at that one and went to find the Charlotte sew-along.  That’s not much better, it says to leave 4″, 1″ of which will disappear into your hem.  Well I tried 10″ and a 2″ hem and found I couldn’t do more than shuffle, another 2″ and I think I have it right.  Next time I will add a vent to make a neater finish.

Secondly, and I was glad I thought about this before cutting out the material, there is no allowance in the hem area for the pegging that has gone on before.  Had I not realised this I would have ended up with a rather bubbly hem.

Lastly, the pattern asked for 2 ¼ yards of fabric, I realised in advance that this was likely to be too much so I bought a metre and managed to get all the pieces out with a bit to spare.

So, some good and some bad stuff but on the whole another lovely pattern.