Desert Island Sewing

If you only had enough time for one more sewing project, what would it be? I’ve been on the countdown to fit in my final sewing projects before the big move, which is happening this weekend (cue frantic packing and sleepless nights).  At least I’ll have new clothes to think about on the flight, instead of morbid thoughts (does anyone get on a plane these days without thinking morbid thoughts?!).

Emery BodiceI’m quite chuffed with myself for sticking to the plan and making clothes that fill huge gaps in my tropical wardrobe. There’s been quite a few pairs of summer weight trousers from the Ultimate Trousers pattern by Sew Over It. I haven’t blogged them all as you can’t really outshine the lurid red floral pair with some sensible navy and black ones! So for my last Desert Island project, I chose to make another of my favourite dresses from last year: Christine Haynes’ Emery Dress. Longtime readers might recall my Shrinking Violet Emery (same fabric as the Ultimate Trousers) and her classier cousin: the denim-linen version. For this year’s version I couldn’t resist one of the Liberty of London Alice in Wonderland collection – the scrumptious Oxford B Tana Lawn.

Emery back

I used the same pattern modifications as last time – my first ever FBA, with a few centimetres pinched out of the side seams. I’d appreciate your advice on this one: I think I’ve got the FBA right, but it does result in slightly 1950s style pointy boobs. Should i be dividing the bust dart into two to make it a smoother shape? To do justice to the gorgeousness that is tana lawn, I went for the fully lined bodice. Without the lining the cotton is just a tad too light and flimsy for a closely fitting bodice. I wanted to ensure that it had sufficient structure to cope with the inevitable strain of a bosom requiring an FBA. The lining was surprisingly easy to insert: once the bodice and skirt are attached, the lining is pinned right sides together, and you take a scant 5/8″ seam allowance to stitch along side the zips before doing the same to the neckline – et voila! I thought I’d add a photo of the beautiful invisible zip, but I guess it just highlights that I didn’t trouble myself with pattern matching.

Emery pocket

There was only one ‘challenging moment’ with this dress: I was boldly overlocking the skirt side seams and around the pocket bags. I hadn’t fully appreciated the geography of the overlocker blade and needles…. and managed to cut a 1″ slit in the skit underneath the pocket. A bit of interfacing, a small patch and some zig-zag stitching later and it was all fixed. Not even a tear shed. Thank goodness for a busy print! You can’t even see it in the photo.

Emery Dress

So, farewell from the fireplace for now. While I finish packing I’d love to know what your Desert Island project would be? Oh, and by the way, I thought I’d give Instagram a whirl to ensure my fix of sewing chat while I’m on the move. You can find me at @SewSouthLondon. Tat-ta for now!

Packing the Stash

Consider this less a post containing wit, irony and finished garments, and more a record for insurance purposes. As I write this I’m feeling a bit of a sewing-billy-no-mates. I haven’t made a Morris blazer (and I really really want to), I’m missing out on all the excitement of Me Made May and my new obsession Jumping into June, but such is life! Instead of being in the gang, I’m comforting myself with a good spring clearout to brush away those sewing cobwebs. As I don’t have a huge fabric stash it wasn’t an onerous task. I had a good think about what’s to come and packed a few fabric essentials.

There’s nothing so essential to me as cotton chambray. The colours look a little washed out in this photo, but I present several more metres of the Paul Smith cotton used in my hacked Mathilde, and another sizable length of cotton chambray used to make my Archer shirt. I’m wearing it today. Big love for this shirt! I think chambray is such versatile number. So classic!

liberty stash

Something for the kids! The spoilt small people don’t know how lucky they are. Their inheritance has been frittered away on Hello Kitty for Liberty cotton poplin, and Liberty Lawn in Gallymoggers Reynard D from the Alice in Wonderland collection. Both were bought at discounted prices: Hello Kitty from Simply Fabrics in Brixton for £12 per metre, and the Alice print from Goldhawk Road.To be fair, daughter number 1 is totally in love with her vintage dress, so it was time well spent. She might have earned herself a Hello Kitty number. Last but not least, you might have seen my recent GBSB shirred girls’ dress. I’ve got another one to make so there’s more elephant cotton lawn.

more libertyAnd then there’s a couple of Liberty lawns for me. Watch this space for something in my absolute favourite Oxford B next post. I hadn’t realised how much I’d become a Liberty lover. Oooh, get me. Expensive taste, eh?! But rarely bought at full price (unless someone else is paying!).

wax print

For a bit of tropical glamour I’ve packed a couple of African wax prints. The top one has already seen the light of day as a pair of Ultimate Trousers. I’m nothing if not thrifty! The jury’s still out on the bottom fabric. It might end up being a simple Laurel shift dress, or if I can get my hands on the pattern, a lovely New Look 6145 which I am totally smitten with after seeing Bedlam and Bird’s checked version.


Finally, some cotton jersey and some lurid random patterned viscose jersey. Looking at this technicolour smorgasbord of fabric, it’s probably high time I had my colours done! I’d also love to be disciplined enough to attempt the Wardrobe Architect process by Colette Patterns. So far it’s been trial and error, but sewing clothes has definitely helped me to refine my style. Have I missed anything? Oh, I can’t leave home without my trusty tins of notions, buttons and thread that you can see at the top of the post. If you could only pack a few fabrics to last a few years, what would you choose?

Sewing for Small People

When it comes to sewing for kids, I’m torn. The home sewist in me loves the idea of cute and quirky unique clothes lovingly made by hand. But my practical side wonders whether it’s ever really worth the effort. Perhaps I’m guilty of a nostalgia for my own distant childhood of homemade clothes. I mean, what’s not to like about pink knitted balaclavas with pom-poms on?! Let us not even mention the brown crimplene flares with white crosses on that worked like bully-magnets. My sister and I won’t have been the only ones to have spent their childhoods in highly flammable apparel.  I guess what I’m saying is that there seems to be a perennial mismatch between mum-made childhood clothes and the gratitude of the recipients. Should I really expect my fickle small people to appreciate the work that goes into the clothes they request on a whim?

GBSB Shirred Dress

So, I’m still waiting for my youngest small person to decide whether she wants to try on her new GBSB Shirred Elastic Dress from the Fashion With Fabric book. It’s hard to gauge her impressions as yet, but I am rather pleased with this little number. It was my first attempt at shirring, and it was far easier than I ever thought. The whole project was an evening’s work.  I used elephant/mammoth print cotton lawn bought on Goldhawk Road, which I’ve seen on a few other blogs. See Amy of Almond Rock’s blog for a more grown-up take on the fabric, and a discussion on whether it’s an elephant or a mammoth!

GBSB Shirred Dress

More success has been had with these fantastic reversible sun hats. In fact it was hard to get my hands on them for the photo! The pattern is from the Oliver & S book, Little Things To Sew, and was really simple to follow.The topstitching around the crown and on the brim give this hat a really high quality finish. I made both hats up in left-over quilting cotton: Amy Butler’s Tumble Rose pattern, and the hyacinth one is an old Kaffe Fassett. The sizing comes up a little small, so perhaps they won’t last as many years as I’d hoped.

I found the pattern online for free:

Pattern and instructions:

So, are your homemade gifts received with compliment or complaint? And will they one day grow to appreciate them, or should I just give up now and go back to selfish sewing?

GBSB Casual Trousers

Thanks so much for your lovely comments about the fate of Sew South London. It’s really wonderful to hear that you enjoy the posts. I feel motivated to continue, but at a different pace. I’m really looking forward to writing some more varied posts. With all the sewing I’ve been doing there’s not much mental space for anything other than finished garment posts. I also think I might re-brand as Sew South East Asia!

I’ve been having a push on summer clothes as it’s been glorious spring weather here in South London, and as you know I’m soon to head out for the horizon. Of all the patterns in the GBSB: Fashion With Fabric book that I most wanted to try out (after the drapey dress) was the casual trousers. The original pattern was for a playsuit. Brave as I am, there’s not many than can pull off a good playsuit look once you get past 18 months old.
GBSB casual trousersThe pattern took half an hour or so to trace off, then maybe the same again to cut out. The sewing didn’t take long either! Sometimes you just need some instant sewing gratification. The first pair are black with white polka dot viscose purchased from The Wimbledon Sewing Shop in Tooting. The drape is fantastic on these trousers, but the downside is that they do look (and feel) a little like pyjamas. In fact when I wore them, my personal stylist (aka Mr SSL) politely enquired which train I would be taking to work. He then informed me that he’d be on a later train. He literally could not believe that I would wear pyjama bottoms to work.

GBSB casual trousersPair number two were made with delicious Indian cotton from The Cloth House in Soho, purchased with my final batch of birthday vouchers. I didn’t try to pattern-match the block print, other than to line up the pattern pieces at the same point on the hem. As luck would have it, there’s one point on each outer leg seam that matches perfectly. As the seam tapers in, there’s no chance of matching the print the whole length of the seam.

GBSB casual trousersThe cotton paid drapes differently and create less of a clown-like silhouette. Both pairs are comfortable to wear. The elasticated waistband was quick and easy to insert, but to avoid the granny-trousers look I think you need to have a top covering it.

The light’s not great in these photos. To incentivise my photographer I told him he didn’t need to leave the sofa. All credit goes to my clever pre-schooler who took the photo at the top of this post!