A long story….

Some dresses take a few hours, some dresses take a few days and then there’s this dress.

I first wrote about the StyleArc Emma dress in January 2014 in which I admitted to having procrastinated for some time already because of the fit.  I see my second post was February, also 2014, at which time I managed to fix one of the fit issues.  By December I was bemoaning the fact that it, and many other, projects had ground to a halt.

In order not to play with your patience too much I’ll just list the problems I had with it.  I should stress that there is nothing wrong with the pattern itself, all the problems are of my own making

  • Stylearc patterns only have 1cm seam allowances, this doesn’t give you much room for fit adjustments so I traced all the pieces out and increased to 1.5cm. There were a lot of pieces and all the symmetrical pieces were drawn out flat.
  • I had to increase the bust which took a bit of working out, but I am quite pleased with the result. I should have done the same on the lining piece but I couldn’t work out how so I just used the shell pieces
  • I was so pleased with having fixed the bust issue I completely ignored the fit around my hips and stomach and it was only when I made up the actual dress I found it was tight around my hips but had a bizarrely huge pouch of spare fabric around my stomach. I had to spend quite a bit of time playing around with the side panels and their fiddly right had cornered seams to get this resolved.
  • My sewing skills were just not up to fitting in the pockets neatly and I decided to leave them out. A good decision as the fit issues would have meant I would have had to adjust them too.
  • I decided the cap sleeves were just too unflattering on me so I removed them.
  • Having put the dress together and getting the fit right, I then had to take it all apart so I could add the lining, aaaaagh!

The fabric I used is a wool from Misan fabrics in Berwick Street, it’s dark navy but with dark grey or black undertones. I bought the lining from Bernstein and Banleys who were recommended to me by a friend.

I find it odd that although lots of people have written about ordering this pattern, I couldn’t actually find any photos of any made up dresses.  I’m actually very pleased with the result, it’s just as flattering as I expected from the line drawings and has a fabulous collar.  Now I’ve got the fit right I can imagine making it again. Maybe in a less formal fabric with a bit of stretch. 

Do you have any long term projects on the go? Am I the only one who takes the best part of 18 months to knock out a dress?  Have you tried this pattern?  What was the result?

British Sewing Bee 3

Have you been watching the British Sewing Bee? I’m rather behind here as I’ve only just got around to watching the final.

Previous series have left me rather cold; I couldn’t see myself being inspired to make any of the garments or have a go at any of the techniques.  This series has been different though; from the welt pockets on the waistcoat, to the leather jacket and lace skirt the challenges were technically more exciting and had the potential to turn into something fabulous.  I can’t imagine that I am ever going to be in the position where I need to make a kilt but having seen one made I’d love to have a go.  Was I the only person googling the asymetric t-shirt in the last episode and ordering a copy of Drape Drape 2 before they’d even finished making it up?

I still think the time challenge is frustrating, the whole point of sewing is to take your time and get it right, even if it involves spending an unhealthy amount of time with your unpicker.  But this is television and giving people days or weeks to make a garment would be rather boring.

I was also frustrated that Neil didn’t win, he was consistently the best sewer in the competition, turning out one beautiful garment after another.  Both Matt and Lorna were great sewers but they didn’t have Neil’s consistency.  Had Neil not tried so hard in the last episode I am sure he would have won.

What did you think?  Did you enjoy the series or just not bother watching it?  Who would you have chosen to win?

Pattern Puzzle Continued

Thank you Studio Faro for the comments you made on my last post regarding the curved seam draped dress.  Spurred on by your encouragement I have made another toile.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA First of all though I should show you the back of the dress.  This is made with my usual block which gives a good fit.  The fabric I used is a very lightweight cotton (from Ikea), much lighter than the usual calico.  I haven’t made the alteration to the central seam as yet.  Also I haven’t added the back vent. This photo was taken with toile 2 (from my previous post)

I started again with the front of the dress and redrafted the curve to end higher on my hip. I also dropped my arm hole by 1.5cm but didn’t add the cap sleeves.  I am never sure that cap sleeves suit me and I will probably wear this dress with a jumper underneath so I think a sleeveless style will be more flattering.

Toile 3

Toile 3

You will see that the dress itself it much more flattering, I have managed to get rid of the excess at the waist and the pleats are more evenly spread. The armholes still need some work though!  The front here is attached to original back with the cap sleeves so it will look a bit odd.  I probably need to make the curve of the armhole a bit deeper and shorten the shoulder seams.

Pattern Puzzle

Are you followers of Studio Faro’s Pattern Puzzles?  I stumbled across them on the internet a few weeks ago and have become completely obsessed. Anita is very generous is sharing her knowledge and manages to explain the most complex patterns in the simplest manner.

Curved Seam Dress from Anita McAdam© of Studio Faro.

Recently she feature this curved seam dress and I immediately decided that I needed to make one using my block.

Drafting the pattern took a couple of hours but the toile was very quick to sew up.

Toile no. 1

Toile no. 1

This was toile number 1.  I’m was quite pleased with it.  The pleats on the upper section work well and the neckline is good.  However, I did think I could do better, and in particular decided to move the pleats on the lower section as it all looks a bit long and boring in the centre

Toile no. 2

So, this is toile number 2.  The back and upper front are the same as the  original toile.  The lower section is the same except I have added a new pleat towards the top and removed the very bottom pleat. I have also sewn the pleats downwards rather than upwards, I’ll probably change the direction on the upper pleats in a finished dress too, stops them from becoming crumb catchers!

This is better but I am still not sure.  Perhaps my curved seam could do with ending up a few inches higher. I also feel it’s a bit lose around my waist – I may try just pulling it in a bit at the side seams.  I also want to rethink those capped sleeves and lower the arm holes a bit further.

I have some lovely red stretch crepe from Dragonfly Fabrics which is just crying out to be made into a flatter in dress.  What do you think, am I just being too pernickety about my toile and should recognise that calico will never be a flattering fabric?  Or do you think I should have another go and make a third toile?


Christmas Bling!


Today, I bring you a silver skirt made for last night’s Christmas party.

My friend and I recently attended the Selvedge Winter Fair at Chelsea Town Hall, whilst there we admired the rack of samples from the Makers Atelier which included a skirt made out of the same material as this (we also admired the raw edged coat and bought the pattern which will be the subject of a blog post as soon as I get around to sewing the buttons on).

The fabric comes from Ditto, I think I may have had the last metre as it’s no longer on their website, but it is still available in gold.  I was a bit nervous about sewing with PU but actually it’s very straight forward.  Ditto say you can iron it on a cool iron, but I must admit I found it quite difficult to get any reasonable creases (also it was very smelly!).  It has a slightly tacky surface so I found that right sides together I could sew it without any pins.

You will know from my last post that I was uncertain of how to hem it.  Catherine suggested just cutting it, which is how most of the silver skirts you see in the shops are finished, however  I was a bit worried that the fabric might be a bit light.  Alice‘s preferred method was also cutting it but suggested that copydex might work, which in the end was how I finished it.  Applying copydex to the hem of a pencil skirt is not as easy as it sounds and I am not sure it really was the best decision, particularly as I was doing it half an hour before the party started!

The pattern was made up from my block.  As the fabric is very stretchy I made separate waistband pieces for the front and back sections which made it easier to reduce the side seams to get a good fit.

I can’t imagine that I am going to wear this a lot but it was fun and quick to make, and I received several compliments.

PU fabric

I am currently making a simple pencil skirt for parties. The fabric is silver PU (a girl needs some bling over Christmas) which is much simpler to work with than I expected, however I have no idea how to make the hem.

Like leather you cannot use pins because they leave holes in the fabric. But unlike leather it is very stretchy so presumably that precludes the use of fabric glue.

Any ideas?

What To Do Next?

Sewing is supposed to be the relaxing part of my life but at the moment I feel as if it’s actually the most stressful – my own fault I have done what I always do and have too many things on the go at once.  So in order of completion:

Finished but not blogged about:

  • Two jersey dresses which my friend Alice of Alice & Co designed
  • Orange trousers made at the end of last summer and copied from another pair of trousers
  • Drapped jersey skirt from pattern runway – lovely skirt – made because I was intrigued by the construction method

Nearly complete to in progress

  • Raw edged coat from the Makers Atelier – just needs buttons and button holes
  • Two more jersey dresses designed by Alice – put aside for the time being because the bamboo jersey I chose to make them with proved to be much stretchier and drapier than I had expected
  • Self drafted cotton sateen dress – actually this one could be called finished, I am just not sure it’s actually that flattering so I have plans to alter it.
  •  Vogue 1179 in orange just waiting for the hems to be completed (bought the thread, lost the thread…..)
  • Vogue 1194 front made – lots of swearing about the pleats – back to do
  • StyleArc Emma dress for work – lots and lots of swearing about the fit – called on my friend who helped sort it out, but now needs sewing up
  • Charlotte skirt cut out but not started

Wanna start and (in a fit of enthusiasm) have bought the fabric

  • Checked shift dress – I even have a pattern for this one
  • Silver pencil skirt for Christmas (but which year?) to be drafted from my block
  • Curved seam dress to be drafted using Studio Faro instructions

Vague ideas

  • Pair of good trousers
  • A jacket

Is this normal or is it just me?

Thank you!

Thank you all for the advice given in response to my last post about books for helping children learn how to sew, there were some great ideas.  Catherine I think you are right the SewU books might be the answer, particularly home stretch.  Being a bit of a tomboy she  wears leggings, t-shirts and sweat shirts so learning how to make dresses from woven fabric doesn’t have much appeal.  I also like the idea of the Japanese books, the other advantage of these is that the patterns are likely to fit a 12 year old child.   Also, Marianna thank you for pointing out that the screen has superseded books for many youngsters!

Another book I am considering is the newly published  Beginner’s Guide to Dressmaking by Wendy Ward.   Look at these great projects you can make from it.  I particularly like the jacket

Also look at the variations – the t-shirts are great fun

Actually I might get it for us both – that way I can use the patterns too!



Help and Advice Needed!

My partner’s daughter is going to be 12 next week and, as she has enjoyed sewing a few things with me, we have decided to give her one of my old sewing machines. I wasn’t sure if this would be as good present as its a fine line between encouraging a child and pushing them into something which they later don’t enjoy, but we asked her if she wanted it and her response was beyond excited.

She doesn’t live with us and her Mum is not a sewer so if her sewing machine is not going to sit in the corner unused she could do with a book to help her and that’s where I need some advice.

So far we have sewn a simple dress which I drafted for her, an elastic waisted skirt and a t-shirt which we copied off one of her favourite tops. So she hasn’t really had any experience of sewing with patterns or making anything complicated. If she’s going to progress she really needs to start having a go on her own and make things she wants to make.

There are lots of beginner books out there but most of them are so pretty as to be off putting to a tomboy like Sas. She wants to make clothes she can wear to show off to her friends, that means t-shirts or sweat shirts or leggings, not pencil skirts or vintage dresses or cushion covers.

So does anyone know of a book which is good for absolute beginners and will help her to make the sort of things a self respecting 12 year old will want to wear?

Vogue 1250

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADo you remember Vogue 1250?  It was the dress everyone was making a couple of years ago  – I jumped on the bandwagon with my Accidental Dress and although it didn’t look too bad in the photo’s I posted on the blog, it really was too big to be flattering on me and so was never worn.  I found it again recently and put it in the pile to go to the charity shop, but that got me thinking…

Yesterday I found the pattern again and this time cut out a smaller size using Navy Roma jersey from The Fabric Godmother. I’ve written before about how much I like this fabric, it is probably slightly thicker than the pattern calls for but I know it will wear well and be comfortable.

A couple of hours later I had a dress – yes it really only took that long!  There is nothing complicated about this pattern and with only three pieces it doesn’t take much to put it together.

The combination of a smaller size and less stretch fabric make the fit perfect.  My only concern is the sleeve caps which seem to stick out a little. If I were to wear the dress as it is I wouldn’t be too worried but I know I will be cold at work without a jacket or cardigan and these will add extra bulk.  I haven’t thought how to get around this as yet and it may be that I will come back and add some sleeves at some point.

BTW the pictures in the background were painted by my lovely friend Jim, if you want to see more of his work you can look here http://www.kelsopaintings.com/JK_Paintings_Test_site/Home_Second.html