Last weekend I did something a little out of character. I left my house with the sole purpose of meeting people I’d only ever read about on the internet. Don’t get me wrong; I’m no stalker. I’m just a girl who loves to sew clothes! It’s part of my life these days. But it’s a solitary hobby, and our human condition requires us to seek out like-minded folk with whom to share our interests. So I did!
The meet-up was in honour of Lauren LLadybird’s visit to London. As well as Lauren, there were a number of other bloggers present who have provided so much inspiration and, frankly, good sewing company since I discovered the sewing blogosphere. Slightly star-struck as a meet-up newbie, I felt like I was rubbing shoulders with internet royalty. To the rest of the world we were just a noisy gaggle of shoppers. I wasn’t sure how communal fabric shopping would work in practice, but it turned out to be more expensive than the solitary version! And so much chatting… I can’t tell you how exhilarating it was to strike up conversations with total strangers (whether I’d stalked their blogs or not). Within minutes we were scrutinising each others’ outfits, fondling fabric, examining seams, trading tips.
I had to leave early so missed out on the post-shopping refreshments and gossip session, but not before I’d made a few friends and purchases. I tend not to buy fabric without a project in mind. Of late, I have also been giving lots of thought as to what kinds of garments I want to make. I embarked on this sewing journey to fill the gaps in my wardrobe with clothes I love and would not find or afford in high street shops. To date I’ve veered towards outfits that I wear for work, for example my Emery Dress. These patterns tend to be more exciting and eye-catching, and frankly more interesting to make and write about than wardrobe staples. But I want to increase the handmade garments I can wear in my leisure time too. New Year’s Resolution alert!
Inspired by fellow sewist Rachel’s navy blue corduroy Grainline Moss mini skirt, I had to get myself some dark blue cord in A-One Fabrics. My favourite Goldhawk Road shop, Classic Textiles, didn’t disappoint either. I left with a few metres of blue cotton chambray with a Grainline Archer shirt with gathered back detail in mind. I also scored some fabulous elephant print cotton lawn and floral poplin for my future foray into children’s sewing. The final purchases were totally gratuitous: African Wax Prints in cherries on navy, and crazy cerise. I didn’t need either but the group thing was working its magic and 5.5m of Wax Print for £12 seemed like an offer I couldn’t refuse.
On the sewing front, I have been making slow progress with the birthday frock. For some reason I’m making a real meal out of this one. Googling pattern reviews has been akin to looking up medical symptoms: you begin to fear the worst. The spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down was the arrival of my latest Moneta. I don’t know how it happened! One minute I was busily preparing pattern pieces for the Vogue 1342, and the next I had cut out a Moneta in black jersey that I’d bought earlier in the summer. I am thrilled with this make. It was straightforward and provided almost instant gratification. It fits beautifully, and as it’s a black longer-sleeved version it’s both seasonally appropriate and stylish. I love it! Happy sewing!!
I admit it: I’m procrastinating! I am supposed to be busy tackling my terrifying party frock (deadline 12 Dec), but something about the Dahlia debacle has left me determined to create a garment in plaid that I’m happy with. I bought this fabric at the same time as the Dahlia plaid. It’s a close relative: brushed cotton, soft and cosy.
I was very taken with Rachel of House of Pinheiro’s recent Laurel in plaid. In a shameless act of
plagiarism flattery I decided that this was the perfect pattern for a quick and satisfying make, and I was keen to revisit the alterations I made to the skirt of my last Laurel, which had resulted in it being too snug across the stomach.
On reflection, my wardrobe had become increasingly full of dresses but there’s a gap when it comes to off-duty tops to wear with jeans. So here’s the answer: a really simple blouse from the Colette Laurel pattern, cut as size 8 with no alterations. What better use for this lovely fabric! I love it! If it washes well, I think I might just have to treat myself to a dress version too!
After my rather tricky dress-making experience with the Colette Dahlia (I am pleased to report that we are friends now), I took advice and sought solace in the comfort of knitting. My tolerance for big projects is much reduced after last winter’s epic shawl, so a slouchy beret seemed the perfect solution.
I already had this glorious King Cole Galaxy DK in fuchsia in my stash. I was drawn the sparkle of the sequins in the yarn, and surprisingly they didn’t cause any problems when knitting. Despite the detail, Ysolda’s Rose Red pattern was really straightforward to follow. The beret is worked in the round, starting with an I-cord at the top and then working down through a series of petals to the cable ribbing. Each row is unique, so it was a satisfying combination of a small project with interesting detail.
To give the beret its distinctive shape, it needed to be blocked over a dinner plate. Who knew?! This beret has been renamed The Plate Hat by my children, who have requested scaled-down versions! Finally, Big thanks to my visiting photographer – Auntie Ems, who got me smiling.
It was nearly the end for us. I didn’t think I could live with the imperfections. But after taking advice from people who know better than me, I was encouraged to give you a second chance. You were so close to being binned that I thought I had nothing to lose and might learn something from attempting to alter you.
When I first set eyes on that tantalising sneak preview email from Colette Patterns I knew I couldn’t live without you. The perfect (or so I thought) fabric was awaiting a perfect pattern. I may be shallow, but I was so easily seduced by your gathers, bound neckline and sleeves. The fact that you were a beginners’ level pattern was a bonus. Similarly, the fabric drew me in with its soft and comforting feel and autumnal palette. But in my haste I didn’t consider its structure or how it might behave. Things didn’t work out well the first time around.
Surgery to remove excess at the waistline
You’re definitely not going to win any beauty contests on the inside after my alterations, but I can live with that. You gave up nearly three inches on your waist without complaint. And two darts on the back neckline meant that no longer would my pants be visible when someone looks over my shoulder!
Back neckline with added darts
I’ll admit that I had to undergo a bit of a mindshift to give you a second chance. Instead of seeing you for the misshapen rag you had become, I began to imagine that I’d found you in a vintage shop, where tender tweaks would bring you to life again. I would have been immediately drawn to your colours and texture, and wouldn’t have minded re-stitching your entire insides, even by hand, just to make you fit perfectly.
I can’t say that I take much pride in what we have yet. I’m too much of a perfectionist. But there’s something about you that made me want it to work out. I can’t promise you’ll be the only one, but the next Dahlia I attempt will be at least one size smaller, if not two, and in better quality fabric (and definitely not in plaid).
P.S. I used to think it was a bit strange being on first name terms with your clothes, but writing letters to them…I must have lost the plot.
Regular readers may recall that I won the Pattern Whisperer lottery a few weeks ago! Beth of SunnyGal Studio Sewing kindly posted some suggestions for a perfect dress for my forthcoming birthday party.
I am excited to report that I have now purchased the Pattern Whisperer’s number one suggestion: the Donna Karan for Vogue (V1342). I’m busy selecting fabrics at the moment before I get my head down and start sewing.
I have to say I’m a little intimidated by this dress. It’s classified as an ‘Advanced’ pattern. I thought I was up to the challenge, but going by my recent balls-up on a beginners’ pattern (the gorgeous Colette Patterns’ Dahlia), I’m beginning to wonder if I might be over-stretching myself. I’ve had a browse of the blogosphere and the only reviews I’ve found suggest it’s not the most straightforward pattern to follow. Have a look at this gorgeous peach version by Bloom’s Endless Summer. Clio & Phineas also posted a review here. Hmmm. I’m trying not to be intimidated. But hey, Beth believes in me, and that’s half the battle. I guess the worst case scenario would see me being stapled into this dress pre-party. I just hope I look more ‘Hot Mama’ than ‘Hot Dog’!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some serious sewing to be getting on with. I won’t be posting the finished article until after it’s been covered in champagne bubbles!
Zip not inserted, left side pinned
My projects start out 100% perfect, but that’s before they’re cut and sewn. It seems that every stage of the process moves the garment further and further away from perfection. From cutting to sewing and the final finishing touches, my dream of a perfect make deteriorates with the accumulation of human involvement. Most of the time the end result is wearable, even something to be proud of. This time, the project defeated me…Let’s just say, the jury’s still out as to whether it’s even worth finishing.
I will not be alone in falling hard and fast for the new Colette pattern: the Dahlia. Feeling optimistic, I followed Colette Pattern’s How to Match Plaids & Stripes tutorial and spent a good four hours, yes that’s four hours, cutting out the pieces. Deep down, I think I knew this Dahlia was doomed from the start. The brushed cotton plaid fabric was the perfect colour for a winter dress. In retrospect it would have made a perfect pair of pyjamas: soft, snuggly and yielding. Whilst being my dream colour combo, the fabric has a tendency to pull out of shape. Case in point: it took an awful lot of tugging to straighten it out after the pre-wash, and with plaids there are no shortcuts. So I shouldn’t have been particularly surprised when the bias-cut waist yoke appeared to have stretched out of shape. I decided to go back and add fusible interfacing to stiffen it up before I sewed down the lining yoke.
Major neckline gaping
A similar effect had occurred on the neckline. Despite stay-stitching, the neckline had stretched out so that the binding gapes away from the body. Is it just me, or does stay-stitching itself stretch the fabric out? I do wonder if it’s better just to sort the neckline out for good at the earliest stage possible to avoid all problems. The only solution would be to remove the binding at the back and add neckline darts.
Whether the fabric has stretched beyond belief or I had cut a size too big is up for debate. I did cut a larger size than my last Colette pattern, the Laurel. I also graded out at the waist to be sure that it would fit after studying the size tables! The hastily prepared toile did not hint at the disaster to come. As I write, after the yoke lining has been stitched down, the only way I can take the fullness out of the waistline is to increase the seam allowance down the zip side. Would this result in the dress being noticeably off-centre?
So, the fit’s not great, the fabric pulls out of shape, and worst of all, the dress seems to be in a ‘Fatal Attraction’ relationship with my tights. I’m really unsure as to whether it’s worth the effort to salvage this, despite the super-human effort it took to get the plaid to line up. I think I will admit defeat and let this one go. It will be The One That Got Away. And it could have been so perfect….