Thank you Yorkshire Spoolettes!!

The very best thing about being a 21st Century seamstress is being part of a global sewing community. No need to be shut away in solitude with only a sewing machine for company (unless of course you want to)!

Living on the other side of the world from more or less everyone I know, being in touch with sewists from ‘back home’ has even more importance for me. So I pay particular attention to what’s going on, especially in Yorkshire.  Thimberlina has done a sterling job of bringing together the Yorkshire Spoolettes and arranging meet-ups in Dewsbury. Thimbers and I go back to my early blogging days. I once coveted her GBSB drapey knit dress. Lo and behold – a few days later it arrived through my letterbox! I was thrilled, and so was Thimbers to see the back of it! Read all about it here!


To cut a long story short, for the last meet-up participants contributed gifts towards a prize for whoever could guess the total mileage of everyone travelling to Dewsbury. I would have done almost anything to go to the meet-up, apart from maybe flying 15 hours from Malaysia to Manchester. Not only did loads of my favourite Brit bloggers go, but the Spoolettes stole the show with their world’s largest gathering of Moneta dresses at the International Moneta Party. Anyway, I digress –  I won!!!


My prize arrived this week. Ladies – I was literally speechless as I unwrapped each incredible, thoughtful and personal gift. I can’t thank you enough!! From the gift labels, particular thanks go to Pam (SweetPeaGreen), Simona (Sewing Adventures in the Attic), Helen (Just Sew Therapeutic), Katrina (Rolling Eyeballs), Gemma (Mustachioed Threads), Karen (Wakey Makes), Sam, and of course Thimbers herself!! Please forgive me if I’ve missed anyone out, as not everything had labels on.

Here I am on Mother’s Day today wearing my Colette Moneta dress and new brooch – thank you!

❤️🍒❤️🍒❤️🍒❤️

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My 2016 Top Sews

Happy almost end of 2016, friends! My sewing year ended last week with possibly my finest dress to date…. so I’m in a good place to look back on what was sewn this year.

There’s been less sewing than in earlier years. As life has got more hectic I wanted to be more structured in chosing my projects. My goals for 2016 were twofold: to focus more on silhouette and shape, and to try and perfect a well-fitting shirtdress. 

Inari Tee Dress
I clocked up a total of four Inari Tee dresses this year – easily my most prolific pattern of 2016. Top of the pops was this red linen version in Tessuti fabric, but my silk and denim-linen versions are in regular rotation. See some of them here. 

Elskan Dress

Next up for fulfilling the brief on silhouette was this amazing bat-winged Charlotte Kan Elskan dress. This was a spontaneous pattern purchase and within  a few hours I’d made a black and a purple one. You can see how much I love this one: the black overlocked hem still hasn’t been turn up! 

SBCC Moto Chic Jacket


I fell hard for this jacket when I saw Heather’s of Closet Case Files. I made a navy blue version last year but still lusted after a grey one. With only a small alteration to the bodice length, I ended up with a really well-fitting jacket. I bought this gorgeous Robert Kaufman Essex linen twice to complete this jacket. Yes that’s right! I didn’t buy enough the first time around. I managed to source another piece, but ‘someone’ in my household threw the remnants away before I’d cut the facings.  

Tessuti Frankie Dress

Another impulse purchase was the Frankie dress by Tessuti. Well, it did fit my objective of being an interesting shape! I bought another ton of striped jersey in Japan this summer so when I saw this pattern I knew it would be a perfect match. I made Frankies in black and red too.

 McCalls 6696


Where do I begin? I had wanted to make this McCalls shirtdress since Idle Fancy’s Autumn of 1000 Shirtdresses. I bought the pattern around two years ago and had been intimidated by the potential alterations. I’ve had a few Big Four disasters in my time! Remember The Big Purple One of Christmas 2015?!  Instead, I had a crack at a couple of Grainline Alder shirtdresses followed by an Alder-Archer mash-up as a warm-up. In the end it was the classic shirtwaister shape that I was craving. It’s these longer, more involved projects that seem to bring me the most pleasure. 


Well here she is! It was worth all the time it took. I think she deserves a blog post to herself to describe my alterations and amendments. If there’s one thing I learned this year it was to just get on with it!! Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year. X

Alder with Added Liberty

Can you believe I’ve been labouring over this Grainline Alder dress for over a month! Since Father Christmas brought me some books on achieving a great fit, I’ve really slowed down my sewing in an attempt to up-skill my fitting techniques.  

My most common alteration is a full bust adjustment. I took ages deciding which size to base my dress on. My measurements matched a size 12, but knowing that Grainline draft for a ‘B’ cup meant that I knew I’d be better off using my high bust size. Also, the finished garment measurements looked huge and I didn’t want the dress to turn out like a chambray tent. So I traced off a size 8 with a 1″ FBA and made up my first toile bodice.

Straight away I could see that there was a problem: the bust dart was incredibly low so the ‘added fullness’ was completely in the wrong place. Back to the cutting table…. I raised the bust dart by 1.5″, pivoting up the apex and leaving the dart legs where they were on the original position in the side seam. The Grainline sewalong suggested boxing and moving the dart up or down in its entirety but there wasn’t enough space below the armhole to accommodate the whole dart up by 1.5″! I don’t think I’m the only person to have had this issue with Alder. I went with the fitting textbook and was pleased to find that it worked out: the next toile fit perfectly.

  

So I went for it…. Apart from sewing curved bust darts to get a more natural shape, I sewed the dress up as instructed. On reflection, looking at these photos, the dress looks a little too baggy on the front. The bust fit is spot on, but the extra 1″ added on each side has resulted in spare fabric on the front panels. In a dress comprising of bodice and skirt you can remove the added fabric in waist darts, but in a shirt dress the added fabric stays to the hem. I wonder whether I should had removed the extra 1″ from the side where the front panel hits the gathered skirt? Or am I over-scrutinising?   

Either way, I am extremely pleased with this dress. It’s the perfect summer outfit. I took care over the top stitching and added some of my precious Liberty Tana Lawn Oxford as a contrast yoke and collar stand. I wasn’t sure if the collar stand was a step too far, but lovely insta-buddies agreed that the more Liberty the better! I finished off with a gorgeous teal button for a splash contrast colour. I think I might be making another one sooner rather than later. I’m already planning my Christmas plaid Alder with sleeves! 

So Long, South London!

IMG_0362Dear sewing chums,

This week I want to ask you what kinds of posts make a good sewing blog. There’s a good reason for this: I am on the verge of an adventure.  A huge one. Involving many thousands of miles (and probably as many boxes).

You see, I don’t usually write much about life away from the sewing machine, but since I am about to be separated from my beloved Janome for a while until our possessions catch up with us I need to think about whether to continue with the blog. I have loved sharing my finished garments and connecting with all of you lovely folk, so it would be a great shame to shut up shop. I am also inappropriately proud of my little corner of t’internet. In around eight months I’ve amassed 230+ regular subscribers, and have had over 21,000 hits. I like to think that I’ve made some good buddies too, even if we’ve never met IRL (in real life!). So my awkward camera moments in front of the fireplace have not gone unnoticed. But i also have to be realistic about this impending sewing sabbatical.

Empty fireplace!

So my big questions are these: do I say a simultaneous goodbye to South London and the blog? Or carry on with it but accept that there won’t be any posts for quite a while? Are you in it for the long haul? Do you read blogs to look at finished projects, or are you interested in more varied posts? Would you like to hear about the fabulous textiles I hope to be buying around the world, even if I’m not stitching for a while?

Please drop me a line and let me know what you think. I’m all ears.

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!

Ta dah! It’s a sewing blog.

Lily Dolly

Introducing my sewing corner of South London.

This past year I’ve been immersing myself in a blissful world of fabric, sewing patterns, and the fabulous community of sewing blogs. I’ve been so inspired to make my own clothes and have learned so much from fellow sewists.

Making stuff’s been part of my life since I was a child, but it’s been so satisfying to develop my sewing skills and begin a hand-made wardrobe that suits me and that I’m proud of.

I’m ready to share my makes. So here’s my contribution.

 

Rachel