A Well-Loved Denim Laurel

I find myself drawn back to denim over and over. Is it something in my distant past, I wonder? Too much of my adolescence spent dreaming of Jon Bon Jovi? Either way, I think that you just can’t beat a classic shape in a classic fabric. I made this dress almost exactly a year ago, and at this time of year I find myself wearing it week-in, week-out. The Laurel by Colette Patterns was my first paper indie pattern and was a Christmas gift last year from my craft-loving sister-in-law. I fell in love with the luscious packaging and the detailed instructions, and decided to try my hand at a simple denim dress.

Denim LaurelI diligently traced the pattern,  cut out a muslin and stitched up my first version in a US size 8. I wasn’t entirely convinced that the shift dress style was flattering to the more curvy figure. I mean, it’s kind of synonymous with the 1960s, chic, slender, boyish look. Not something that really springs to mind when I think about defining my style. I decided to have a crack at a simple pattern modification and took a few inches from the side seams from hip to hem. I did the same on my later Laurel, and I wonder in both cases if this made the dress pull a little across the stomach. It works better on this denim version as I foolishly took rather too many inches off the hem when cutting out the pattern to conserve fabric for my Colette Beignet skirt. So I think the rather short length and perkiness of the denim helps this version to sit better than the Liberty Laurel. I made bias binding for the neckline and sleeves from a vintage-y ditsy blue floral cotton bought during my quilting years from a Walmart in Texas!

Denim LaurelNow I’m a bit more confident with trouble-shooting fit issues, I think I’d be tempted to lower the bust darts by an inch. Gosh, even writing that down shows how far my skills have improved in a year. There’s no doubt that the Laurel is a versatile number. I’ve tried out the shirt version, which I also love, and will no doubt return to this dress version when I find some perfect spring-weight printed cotton. Wait……! I think I’ve got just the thing… cerise floral African wax from my last trip to Goldhawk Rd….

Bonnie does Snakeskin

I am trying to slow down, I really am! But when the perfect fabric meets the perfect pattern, sewing alchemy happens and you’re powerless. I bought this AMAZING blue python print ponte on eBay for a bargainous £3.45 per metre in preparation for my first foray into sewing knits with my overlocker. I had been cyber-stalking a number of gorgeous Bluegingerdoll Bonnies: my absolute faves were courtesy of Handmade Jane, Heather B, A Stitching Odyssey, and Make Sew Do.  Despite loving Bonnie, I fully intended to make a Bluegingerdoll Violet dress first, which I duly cut out, but last-minute overlocking nerves resulted in a light-bulb moment: I could make a Bonnie with the remnants before I tackle the dress. And my new favourite garment was born! It ticks all of my current sewing aspirations: it’s casual, modern everyday wear and quick to make. I love it! Bluegingerdoll BonnieI chose view B – the cropped sweater version, but with long sleeves and a boat neckline. I was particularly excited to be supporting a pattern company that bases its patterns on my bust size as the norm – a D cup. Choosing ponte as my first knit was a good call. It was stable and behaved well; no slipping around and stretching out of shape. I had a bit of a practice-run on some scraps. It all went swimmingly so I got stuck in on the waistband. Cue first incident of fabric being attacked by the blade. Thankfully, it wasn’t fatal, but a good reminder to keep control of both layers of fabric at all times. Note to self: I really should watch the instructional DVD. On the back shoulders I used stay tape to affix the clear plastic stretch tape, then used the overlocker to attach it. Bluegingerdoll BonnieI am always a big fan of a gathered sleeve-head, and this pattern didn’t disappoint. It’s one of those optical illusions that slims down the rest of your body, creating extra waistline. I sewed gather-stitches on the sleeve-head and then overlocked the two sections together. The gather stitches were conveniently trimmed off by the blade. The whole top was made with the overlocker, except from the neckline and sleeve hems, which I zig-zagged on the sewing machine. It was so quick to make: it probably took me around an hour (not including cutting) to make, with my two small people doing colouring-in either side of me. There was a reason why I sneakily suggested a Crafternoon! Bluegingerdoll BonnieI’ve got a couple more Bonnies lined up as soon as I’ve got a spare hour. I cut a straight size 12 for this version. The only modification I’d make for the next one is to lengthen the bodice by 1″ or so. I’m no Amazon, but the length of this top is verging on the indecent. In the real world I will be wearing this with a long-length vest underneath to avoid embarrassing and unsightly muffin-top revealage.  I literally cannot wait to get going on the Violet dress. I don’t think all-over python is too much, do you?! Bluegingerdoll Bonnie

A Denim-Linen Sureau

Happy 2015 folks. While the world was nursing its hangover on New Year’s Day I was getting intimate with my new Brother 1034D overlocker – one of a number of a truly amazing and thoughtful sewing-related Christmas/birthday pressies this year.

I have to say, I’m not massively into the festive season. Don’t get me wrong, I love to reflect on the passing of another year, count my blessings, spend time with loved ones and escape from the pressures of everyday working life. But the conspicuous waste that goes with the festivities gets harder to ignore. I’m not just talking about the excess food and stuff that gets thrown away. The influx of toys and gifts for my very fortunate two girls was off the scale this year. For some time I’ve been reading an amazing blog on living a simple life. It’s called Slow Your Home, and if these issues resonate with you I urge you to take a look.

Denim Linen Sureau

Last weekend I spent a lovely day relaxing in central London with my family. My almost-four-year old and I enjoyed exploring the fabric shops along Berwick Street dreaming about future makes (with some vouchers for The Cloth House and Liberty burning a hole in my pocket). The flip-side was seeing the heaps of once-expensive now cheap-cheap clothes on sale in the shops along Oxford Street. Nothing affirms my desire more to spend considered time deciding what I want to wear and making my own clothes.

Denim Linen Sureau

So on that frugal note, here’s my first make of the year reusing a favourite pattern from last year. It’s my second Deer & Doe Sureau made up with a gorgeous denim-linen fabric left over from my Emery Dress. The fabric originally came from The Little Fabric Store in Louth, and I was beyond chuffed to find that I’d bought enough for two dresses. I used the same modifications as last time, namely cutting a size 40 top and grading to a 42 at the waist. As with my last one, I encountered gapes at the neckline, but did nothing to tackle them other than pressing and re-pressing. I don’t seem to have much luck with sewing gathering stitches on denim; the thread always seems to break. So instead I hand-stitched the gathers with waxed quilting cotton before sewing by machine. Apart from a slightly gapey neck, the only other feature I’m not mad on is the width of the sleeves. They seem wider on this version as the fabric has less tendency to drape. If I were to make it again I’d probably tackle it and make them narrower.

Denim Linen Sureau

After a quick practice with the overlocker, I got the hang of overlocking the seams. Nervous of an overlocking disaster (I’ve seen a few blog posts lamenting the aftermath of an overlocker blade attack), I took the precaution of overlocking all of the pattern pieces before I assembled the dress. I’m not sure if this is normal, but it definitely helped to stabilise the fabric. It does mean that the seams haven’t been trimmed down. I’m really pleased with how professional the dress looks on the inside, but boy does that thing make my old sewing machine feel slow!

seam

I am happy with this dress: I love the fabric, and the pattern. I wanted a not-quite casual denim dress, although it’s a little ‘blousier’ than I would have liked.  I took my time over it, sewing maybe a step or two each night. Most of all, I took the plunge with the overlocker without losing a limb. It was a real pleasure to return to sewing after after a few weeks off.

Denim Linen Sureau

I’ve picked up a few useful overlocking tips over the past few months, such as Handmade Jane’s tip for changing only the left hand cone to match the fabric, and Four Square Wall’s tip for using an overlocker to create gathers. I’d love to hear your top tips for getting the best out of this beauty!