New Sewing Patterns for Spring

Vogue has decided to bring a bit of Spring cheer to these wintry days by releasing a new batch of sewing patterns.

My favourite is this dress by Ann Klein (V1338). I bought one of her patterns (V1254) a year or two back but haven’t got around to making it up as yet.  She’s not a designer I know a lot about but the patterns she does for Vogue seem quite classic, elegant and most importantly practical.  This dress would be good for work, it has long sleeves (Catherine pointed out on a recent post that these are a must in cold times!) and being made of jersey will be comfortable to wear and easy to keep looking good.

I also liked Vogue 8773.  There lots of patterns for dresses with cowl necks but this one is particularly useful in that it has sleeve variations (yes, including long sleeves) and two different skirts.  My main grumble about this pattern is that, yet again, there is no lining.  I know not everyone lines their dresses but I think lining makes clothes look more flattering and also makes them more comfortable to wear.

The other dress that caught my eye is V1343 from Tracy Reese. It’s completely impracticable (I don’t like wrap around skirts I always feel I’m having to tug them back into place) but very pretty.


Hartnell to Amies: Couture by Royal Appointment

One if the less well known exhibition spaces in London is the Fashion and Textile Museum in Bermondsey.  Yesterday, we braved the snow and cold and made our way to the unmistakably Zandra Rhodes pink and orange building to see the Hartnell to Amies exhibition.

The exhibition is subtitled “Couture by Royal Appointment” and shows the work of Norman Hartnell, Hardy Amies and Frederick Fox, all of whom have designed for the Royal family.

The older exhibits are from the 1920’s, starting with Norman Hartnell designing for the Jazz Age, and moving through the century until about the 1960’s. The clothes are interspersed with elegant and sophisticated photos by Norman Parkinson

Many of the exhibits are ball dresses designed for society women of the day. There is a stunning dress at the entrance made out of a gauzy fabric covered with star shaped spangles. The sequins are sewn over a print which makes the whole thing look as if it’s covered in shooting stars moving through the sky.

It was the day wear that I found most interesting, there is a fashion these days for “vintage” clothes which means that many of the suits and dresses would not look out of date in today’s high street stores. Indeed there was a dress made out of fabric I could swear I have seen in Whistles fairly recently and several of the suits and jackets I’m sure you can buy in Hobbs.

Upstairs they had hats including the Queen’s pink bells hat designed by Frederick Fox for the silver jubilee

The exhibition is on until 23 February and well worth a visit.

If you have time I also suggest you wander a bit further up Bermondsey Street to the White Cube to see the Anthony Gormley exhibition which includes the most amazingly huge metal installation you can walk and crawl through, some spaces are filled with light, whilst others are pitch dark. It’s great fun and slightly scary!

Somewhere good to eat nearby? Apart from Borough Market I suggest you try Jose’s tapas bar or Zucca’s.

First 2013 sewing


A few weeks ago I ordered some grey roma jersey from Fabric Godmother expecting to make a sophisticated, sleek and understated shift dress using this pattern from Burda in September. It’s lovely fabric but when it arrived I realised it was a bit too plain for such a simple dress; there’s a fine line between understated and boring and I suspected that the finished dress would have fallen very much on the dull side of the divide. I still wanted to use the fabric though and fortunately Burda decided to republish this dress from 1956 that month. I was attracted to the long lean lines, the funnel collar and the slinky, skirt.

The fabric is lovely, a warm thick knit, very smooth, doesn’t crease and looks as good after washing as it did when it first arrived. I may order some more in the future, although probably in a more exciting colour (the aubergine looks fab!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe pattern is very straight forward to make up, but the bodice is time consuming and it took me a good couple of hours to trace and then hand baste all the darts. I expected to have problems getting the seams to match but they came together very easily.

I had a little difficulty with the neckline, the instructions tell you to apply the facing before sewing the shoulder seams. I did this but then found a tiny mismatch on both sides of the top neck seam which meant the facing would not fold neatly in. This was quickly fixed by taking it apart, sewing the shoulder seams, sewing the pieces of facing together and then sewing the seam around the top of the neckline in one go (this is the way I normally apply facings and I’m not sure why the pattern asked for a different method).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe project was started before Christmas and before I received my overlocker so, although I have finished it off where I could with the overlocker I would have got a neater finish had I been able to finish each seam as I sewn it. Incidentally I found in my thread drawer that I had five different spools of Gutterman’s 701, all bought to go with different fabrics purchased at different times from different shops. I don’t think I could have done this if I had tried, obviously something in my sub-conscious draws me to that particular shade of grey. They are all used up now as the overlocker eats thread, so I am going to have to find a new, cheap source for the future (any suggestions?).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo anyway I finished the dress and was very happy with it. I had taken a smigeon off the waist and a fairly hefty chunk out of the two front princess seams across my belly (this made me feel much better about my post Christmas flab). I also thought about taking some fabric out of the top of the back as I get a weird wrinkling there but it was a bit too late to make that alteration by the time I spotted the problem. I get a bit of gaping on the top of another Burda dress I made some time ago so I probably need to think about this in the future. The bodice was well fitted but I hadn’t taken out the basting at this stage. It did vaguely occur to me that it should be much tighter given that the darts would be removed adding back lots of fabric but I really didn’t think this was going to be a problem.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat a mistake! Unfortunately removing all those darts had a terrible effect on the fit. The bodice suddenly became far too long with huge baggy bits about five centimetres under my bust. I took this photo but I’m not really sure it shows the full horror of the situation. There are pictures of the dress on the Russian Burda website which show that it can work with the darts open however I did notice that Melissa of FehrTrade also decided to sew up all the darts so I am not entirely alone in this respect! (yes I know, a toile would have highlighted these problems much earlier)

By this stage all my careful marks showing where the darts should have been had rubbed off and rebasting, then resewing those darts took me forever.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis fixed the problem with the bodice but emphasised a wodge of fabric I had been trying to ignore at the top of the central skirt panel. The piece is shaped with a point here, I had noticed that it didn’t look quite right but thought the weight of the skirt would pull it into shape. Unfortunately the jersey is too clingy for that to happen. The bodice is quite thick where the three pieces meet, as the central seam also has the folds from the darts sewn into it and I think this contributed to the problem. Eventually I fixed it by taking about 2-3 cm from the top of the central panel of the skirt. It hangs well now but there is still some bulk at the bottom of the bodice which I haven’t been able to remove.

Anyway I love the finished dress even if it’s not what I was expecting. Burda recommends using a wool jersey but looking at the picture from 1956 I suspect a drapey, woven fabric was originally used (did they have thick jersey fabrics in those days?). This would explain why the pattern has a back zip and calls for darted sleeves to be set in with a bit of ease around the cap. Whilst it would be difficult to get such a close fit with a woven I think a lovely patterned silk or maybe a wool challis would have made a gorgeous dress. I also suspect that the problems I had with the bodice may not have been so severe had I used a more drapey fabric.


Christmas Knitting

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the lovely present I received at Christmas was a ball of Freia Ombre sport yarn and the radiance shawlette pattern from KnitWhits. This proved to be the perfect Christmas project, knitting up very quickly in a simple to remember leafy lace pattern.

The finished scarf is quite small but that’s perfect for me as I like to wrap it around my neck on a cold day but not have the bulk of a full sized shawl.

I finished it on New Year’s Eve and then took a few days to block it and sew in the ends. I love small projects; they are so satisfying!

Blog Award

The lovely Marianna from Sew2Pro nominated me for the One Lovely Blog/Very Inspiring Blog award which is very kind of her.  There are so many great blogs out there I feel very honoured that she has thought to do this.  The rules are as follows

1. Thank the person who nominated you. – Thank you Marianna

2. Add The One Lovely Blog Award /The Very Inspiring Blogger Award to your post. – Done

3. Share 7 things about yourself.

– I was born in New Zealand but have lived in the UK since I was a baby.  In 2008 I went back to work in NZ and for the first time really got to know my wider family.  I now feel at home in both countries but prefer the opportunities available in the UK, having said that I miss NZ a lot and wish it wasn’t quite so far and so expensive to get to!

– My Mother and Grandmother taught me to knit when I was about 7 or 8, I spent a couple of years making a teddy but then gave up.  When I was 17 I found a pattern in The Times for a large sloppy sweater made out of some sort of yarn which included quite a lot of mohair.  I wanted to alter the pattern and so my Mother suggested I ask one of her friends to help, she not only helped me but retaught me to knit the continental style (she’s Swedish so we call it Viking Style) and became one of my closest friends in the process.  I don’t think there has been a time since then that I haven’t had something on my needles.

– I currently live a very complicated life alternating between my lovely house in Suffolk, a tiny flat on the Isle of Dogs I use when I am working and my boyfriend’s flat in Beckenham. I have sewing and knitting projects in all three but something always seems to have been left in the wrong place

– We enjoy cycling a lot and keep mountain bikes in Suffolk for cycling in Rendlesham Forest.  I have also recently bought myself a road bike for use in London (love Boris bikes but they don’t go as far as Beckenham).  My boyfriend has some funny ideas about taking the new bike up very steep hills – this isn’t going to happen.

– I now have four sewing machines (if you include the overlocker) but what I really want is a new one that will thread itself (bad eyesight) and just cope with whatever fabrics you throw at it – am I dreaming?

– I’m a bit of a perfectionist and find it easy to get put off if I think a project is not going terribly well (currently writing this blog post rather than putting sleeves in my new dress).  Unfortunately I love starting new projects, a new project is always going to be the shiniest and best, it will sew up like a dream and amaze everyone who sees it.  If I don’t control myself I end up with too many half finished garments sitting around the place.

– My friend (the one who taught me to knit) and I have booked ourselves on the Pattern Magic 2 course at Morley college in March – I can’t wait!

4. Pass the award to 10 nominees.

OK, ‘fess up time, I spend far too much of my life reading blogs and really need to cut down the number I subscribe to.  If I am really pushed though I will just go these (obviously Sew2Pro would also be on this list)

Handmade by Carolyn – A lovely stylish lady who makes incredible clothes

Fehr Trade  – Another incredibly good seamstress I wish I had half her expertise and experience

Jorth – For her sense of humour (also makes lovely stuff)

Calico Stretch – Who has left me lots of very encouraging comments

Catherine Daze – I came to her blog via the Vivienne Westwood Philosophy Skirt which she very cleverly knocked off in 2010.  I think I love everything she makes

Alice – Another stylish lady

SewingJen  – Another one who leaves encouraging comments

Every stitch  – A lovely blogger from NZ

The Sewing Lawyer –  Fabulous clothes

Eugenia – I’m not sure she has blogged recently but I loved the clothes she made when she was blogging

5. Include this set of rules. (Done)

6. Inform your nominees by posting a comment on their blogs. (Will do so)

Top 5 Goals 2013

Ok so goals are made to be missed, aren’t they?

I checked my New Years resolutions for 2012 last night and found I’d achieved one out of the nine I set myself, but I’m not really too bothered I did other stuff instead.

So goals for 2013:

1. Tops for work. Smart, long sleeved, go under suits, easy to wear and look after.  Should be simple but there’s always the problem of finding the right pattern and the right fabric.

2. Jacket. Only if I can find the right pattern.

3. Get to grips with my overlocker.

4. Draft some clothes with my blocks.

5. More knitting! I only made two cardigans, a pair of socks and a shawl in 2012 which is shocking!

6.  OK I know this is more than 5 but I really need to add waistbands to the list.  Not sure why but all the waistbands on my skirts are terrible either too bulky, a bit wonky around the corners or (in the case Vogue 1247) sewn on the wrong way around. I know this stuff should be simple so why do I always get it wrong?

Top 5 Reflections 2012

I’m not a great one for reflecting, I’m more of a get on and do it person, so apologies if my list seems a little light.

1) I used to spend a lot of money on clothes. These days I still buy clothes but only things I can’t or don’t have the inclination to make I.e. underwear, sports gear or the fabulous sequinned skirt I’ve been wearing on every possible occasion over Christmas.

2) I don’t think I’ve saved much though when you consider how much I’ve spent on sewing……

3) I love blogging and reading blogs but think I spend too much time only computer.

4) How did I manage to acquire so much fabric?

5) I sometimes think I’m a little over obsessed with sewing

Top 5 Inspiration 2012

Choosing my top 5 places for inspiration is probably the most difficult of all the categories as there are so many options!

Number one probably has to be Burda magazine. I’ve written elsewhere about how much I enjoy it. Burda you don’t always get it right but I still luvs ya!

Number two has to be the pattern making courses I completed at Raystitch. My bodice and skirt blocks are spot on, the trouser block needs a couple of minor adjustments but will be easy to fix. I now just need more time to play with them. Our lovely teacher Alice was fabulous and has given me so many ideas I don’t know where to start!

Number three has to be other bloggers. There are so many stylish women out there making fabulous garments its difficult to chose any to name in person, however if I’m pushed my absolute favourites are Carolyn, Catherine, Jorth and Kate. If the truth be told I spend far too much of my life reading blogs. I’d really like to cut it down but they are so inspiring and fun I’m finding it difficult to wean myself off the habit.

Number four is Pinterest. A fairly recently discovered habit and another one that sucks is hours of my life.

Lastly I love looking in the shops to see what’s available and thinking I could make that! Although if the truth be told its usually I could make that if I could only find the right fabric or the right pattern.

Top 5 Misses 2012

So moving on to my Top 5 Misses

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt number one has to be my jasmine blouse. I’m still not sure why I even started this one. The style is really not me; far too girly, and the fit is a million miles from anything like my body. Half of me doesn’t want to be defeated so I may take it out again and try to sort out the fit but the other half just wants to forget about even attempting it.

At number two is another top (perhaps there’s a pattern here); the grainline woven tee. I knew this wouldn’t suit me, so why did I even try. Fortunately it was only an afternoon and a small piece of scrap fabric that got used.

Thirdly and most disappointingly were a pair of trousers I tried to make with my trouser block. Despite having had the block fitted the crotch curve is still not quite right. I think I know what to do about fit but need to find the time to play with it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFourthly the Twisty skirt from Burda March 2012. I made a linen version which hasn’t been worn at all. Not sure why, maybe I just need a new top to go with it. I also made a wool version which I love but also doesn’t get worn, possibly because of a “blue stocking” comment I received. I think the problem with these skirts is that they are just not sexy enough.

Lastly, I should mention my failure to finish Vogue 8413. There is no reason for my not having finished it apart from a lack of focus, laziness and general excitement at getting caught up in other new projects!

Top 5 Hits of 2012

I’ve been inspired by all the sewing blogs running reviews of the last year and shamelessly decided to copy Sew Busy Lizzie’s and give you my Top 5 of 2012. So starting with the hits…….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt number one has to be the triangles dress I made from February’s Burda. This dress is flattering and smart enough to wear to work but is as comfortable and warm (with a sweater underneath) as a large woolly jumper. We all have days when we’d rather stay under the duvet than go to work; Well on those days this is what I wear. The best thing is that it always makes me feel good about myself and people often make nice comments about it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt number two is the Wiksten Tova dress. I was a bit hesitant to put this in because I tried to make a second and had some fitting issues due to differences in fabric (now resolved fortunately although I haven’t finished the dress yet!). This first dress, however, got worn and worn during the summer. It looked smart with leggings, with capris and with jeans. On colder days I put a sweater underneath and on warmer days it was loose enough to feel comfortable. If you want to find the pattern you can see it here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANumber three has to be the Pattern Runway Easy Kimono Dress.. I made three of these during the year, my favourite probably has to be the one I made for Christmas out of a bird patterned Crepe de Chine. The one that got worn the most was the summer version. My work version gets worn occasionally but if I’m honest I don’t really like the fabric (polka dot poly-georgette)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFourth has to be a skirt. I made several skirts this year many of which were worn a lot. I think my Vogue 1247 will probably become my favourite skirt but as I’ve only just made this I’ve decided not to put it in. My first Beignet has been worn a lot and was quite a challenge to make. I particularly love the orange buttons and the grey linen fabric I used. I lined this skirt (and the subsequent one) with cotton poplin which in retrospect was a mistake as it drags against anything I’m wearing underneath. If I make another I’ll use a shinier fabric.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast but not least has to be my red version of New Look 6000. Technically I made this in 2011 but I wasn’t really very happy with it and didn’t wear it much. I recently made some small but significant alterations and now it’s one of my favourites!