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.


Are you bored of V1247 yet?

If so, don’t read on……..


Vogue 1247 is one of those patterns you see all over the internet. It seems everyone in the sewing world has made it up at one time or another (and in a lot of cases several times).  It’s also perfect for customising; you can see short versions of it, long versions of it, versions without the pockets and superb versions with added decoration

I made it for the first time in 2012 in a cheap, black moleskin.  Several thousand wears later it has got decidedly scruffy; the moleskin has picked up every bit of dust, thread and  little bit of fabric dropping out of the overlocker and clung on to it remorselessly, no amount of brushing, rolling over with sticky tape or cleaning can get it to look nice.

This time I decided I wanted something a bit more colourful, ideally a mustard coloured corduroy. Unfortunately I couldn’t find such a thing so I opted for a mustard coloured velvet from Goldhawk Road.  It’s quite a thick cotton velvet and reasonably stiff.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe fabric was too thick to use the prescribed method of Hong Kong finish on the seams, I tried several times but just ended up with an ugly mess.  In the end I just used my serger, but with red thread so it gives it a colourful finish.  Going around those corners was fun and probably something I wouldn’t recommend trying again!

Unfortunately, having, I thought, cured my problem with making bad waistbands.  This one is proof that I still need more practice.  There were two problems; firstly the fabric really is too thick for a waistband, I should have made a double waistband, lining it with something much thinner. Secondly I tried to using some waistband interfacing.  This is a product I’ve been itching to try for a while, the idea is that you iron it on to the waistband and the holes allow you to fold a crisp line along the centre and where the seam allowances should sit. This sounds perfect, except it really was unnecessary with my already too thick fabric to use such a heavy weight piece of interfacing, also it didn’t stick as it should have done and as a result I can feel it having twisted and curled inside the finished waistband.

Unfortunately I didn’t think of this as I was making the skirt and all the seam allowances have now been trimmed down so adding a different waistband may be difficult (also I’m not sure I can be bothered……).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA note about styling.  The picture above shows me wearing my skirt with my smart cashmere jumper.  I thought this would help you see what the skirt actually looks like.  In practice I usually wear it as shown on the right, with my (I’m embarrassed to say) bought, man’s jumper which keeps me lovely and warm in my cold, old house.

The ⅔ m club

I’m thinking of starting a club.  The ⅔ m club is for people who have boxes of  of fabric left over because they bought the amount the pattern asked for.    Recently I cut out a dress – ⅔ m left over – and a skirt – ⅔ m left over.

Does anyone else have this problem – what do you do with the bits?

Or are you one of those sensible people who lays out all the pattern pieces and works out exactly how much you are going to need in advance?

Christmas Presents

I haven’t had the greatest of luck with specialised sewing machine feet; the first invisible zipper foot I bought for my Toyota turned out to be too light for the job, later I tried a rolled hem foot which proved to be fiddly and did not give a good result. So I felt some scepticism about the binding foot Hugo gave me for Christmas.

IMG_0653For those of you that haven’t seen these they have a sort of double funnel that you use to fold bias binding around fabric which sits in a channel running down the side of the foot. As you sew you feed the binding into the funnel with one hand and guide the fabric into the channel with the other.

IMG_0652It sounds horribly complicated but is actually simpler to use than you would have thought. I haven’t managed to get a completely perfect finish (you tube videos have been a great help) but I have managed to do this.

What did you get for Christmas?  Have you used a binding foot before?

New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year everybody! Tomorrow we get back to work and after a week of sitting on the sofa, eating mince pies for breakfast and generally leading a life of sloth and indolence, I must admit I am quite looking forward to it. I’m not very good at New Year’s resolutions but here are mine (at least my sewing ones)

1) Blog More Often. I’ve found it difficult to find the time over the last few months to do much in the way of blogging and much in the way of sewing. Over Christmas I have been reading Alan Rusbridge’s book Play it Again which is his diary of the year he spent learning to play Chopin’s Ballade no. 1. It is a fascinating book which covers a wide range of subjects but frequently goes back to the theme of how important it is to have hobbies and interests outside work and how they not only enrich your life but also help you to cope with the daily challenges of, in his case, being editor of the Guardian. I can start this one by blogging about the four skirts (yes, four!) I’ve made over the Christmas period.

2) Make Less Skirts Well perhaps not make less skirts, but try something a little more challenging. I have dreams of making jackets and dresses, lots of wool, beautifully lined. Somehow when I am short of time these dreams lose out to quick simple clothes which are fun to make but hardly challenging.

3) Trousers and Other Fitting Challenges According to Sunni fitting is really just about learning to apply a number of techniques. So why do I find it so difficult? I have spent hours reading fitting books, blog posts on fitting and every other resource I can put my hands on but somehow I still find it next to impossible. This year I think I’ll try to focus harder on getting it right. Maybe I need a fitting buddy….

4) Getting the Right Fabric When I analyse my failures most seem to be to do with getting the wrong fabric. For example I made a linen dress last year not thinking about how itchy the linen would be against my shoulders. The jacket that went with it is fine, except I used a lining material which is really a bit too stiff. Neither are unwearable but neither are they as polished as a shop bought garment.

5) More Knitting. This was on last year’s list too…..

6) Finish the UFOs. Off the top of my head – 2013 vintage; one summer skirt, two Summer dresses, 2012 vintage; one cardigan needing some buttons, previous years; one wool dress, another cardigan in need of buttons. I’m sure there is more lurking around and conveniently forgotten for now. The daft thing is that all of these need very little finishing, just an hour or two each and in the mean time they are just taking up valuable space in my sewing cupboard.

Have you got plans for 2014? Any sewing challenges you want to overcome?