Me Made May 16: I did. Did you?

Hello (sheepish whisper). It’s been quite a while. i honestly didn’t know if I’d come back to writing this blog. Which is a shame. It was an absolute lifeline when I was at home in London with two very small children. Being in touch with the sewing community kept me on the right side of sane. Just. A year into life in Malaysia and with a full-time job, I have a lot less desire to spend my evenings in front of a computer screen, but I am still sewing and I do stay in touch with my favourite bloggers even if it tends to be on Instagram!

I answered the call to Me Made May with a pledge to wear something handmade every day, which I more or less do most of the time these days. I got to the end of the month with no repeat outfits and learned a couple of things to boot.

Although I wear my handmade clothes almost every day, I really missed my favourite Muji linen dresses. They are so comfy and loose-fitting but after this week’s new Inari Tee Dress even they may become obsolete. FYI: I think this just may be the most versatile and flattering dress ever!

Over the course of this year I have been consciously making clothes in solid dark colours and in jersey to redress the balance of my wardrobe and to reflect my fashion preferences. MMM was reminder that my early handmade clothes were often inspired by my love of colour and print. As I reached for my favourite black Moneta, I realised I wanted to look more sleek and elegant than ‘colourful art teacher’ chic. We all had one, didn’t we?! There’s still a fair bit of colour in these photos, but some solids too.

The month also revealed my pattern company loyalties. When I like something, I want it in every colour and texture. Chances are I will buy all of your patterns. Witness my numerous Colette Patterns outfits (Wren, Moneta, Laurel), and multiple Tilly and the Buttons numbers (Mathilde, Agnes, Bettine), not to mention ALL the Grainline Studio patterns! There was a profusion of indie patterns, and according to these photos, only a couple of big pattern companies (the floral scuba McCalls M6886, Simplicity 2444, and the Big Purple One – Simplicity 2406).

Being ‘coerced’ into wearing all the handmade clothes I could lay my hands on meant that I rediscovered a few gems that have been languishing at the back of the wardrobe. I kicked off Day 1 with my first ever Tilly Mathilde (not pictured here). It was like a reunion with a dear friend. Why was I not wearing this every week like I used to? Is there such a thing as too many handmade clothes??

The daily selfie-taking did me in eventually. The light in the tropics is unforgiving and harsh. If I didn’t get my photo taken pre-school run it wasn’t possible. Lord knows there’s enough pressure in my life getting myself and two small people out of the house by 7.45am without a blog-worthy photo shoot thrown into the mix. My five year old did me proud and snapped a few of these – clever girl. The downside is that her school photo came this week. There she is with hand on hip and giving good ‘right leg’ while the other kids stand up straight. They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…!

I’ll sign off (for another 3 months!) with one of my two new garments from May – a black Colette Wren (the other was the Grainline Alder at the top of this post). It’s a winner and ticks all the boxes for dark, solid colours in a flattering, work-friendly jersey dress. It’s been lovely to catch up. Take care all. x

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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!

It’s my Top 5 of 2014!

Top 5 2014 #sewingtop5

There’s no time like the end of the year for some peaceful reflection/anxious soul-searching, so I was keen to participate in Crafting a Rainbow’s Top 5 of 2014. This year’s been a cracker on the sewing front. After a year of making clothes, I took the plunge in July and decided to stop boring my nearest & dearest with the offspring of my Janome and instead let them run free and wild on the internet. Since then, I’ve grown my little backyard plot of cyberspace into a happy place with some lovely new internet chums.

So without further ado, here goes… The Hits:

Clockwise from top left, this Tilly & The Buttons Mathilde in chambray was an early make and has been well-loved. It must have been beginners’ luck as my pattern moderations resulted in a slimmer fit and short sleeves with no tears shed. Oh, and did I mention that it appeared on Tilly’s blog?!

I’ve made four Colette Moneta dresses, including the polka dot and black ones shown here (the polka dot snap also proves that I do occasionally step away from the fireplace!). There’s something about this pattern which results in a perfect fit and finish every time. It also represents my early foray into sewing with knits. I have worn all four versions as many times as it’s polite to, without people wondering if you ever wash your clothes!

That just leaves my Emery in crazy loud £3 fabric, and the Sureau in Liberty Tana Lawn. I spent considerable time getting the fit right on both of these, and it paid off. I have to remind myself of this when I’m in the grip of a sewing frenzy and am desperate to get to the finish line.

So it’s a frock-heavy selection. Next year I’ve vowed to make more casual clothes so I can incorporate handmade in my non-work life. I’m already dreaming of a corduroy Grainline Moss skirt, a chambray Archer, a denim-linen Sureau and of course some Ultimate Trousers. After seeing some fabulous Bluegingerdoll Bonnie sweaters by Handmade Jane, Kelly of Make Sew Do, and Marie of A Stitching Odyssey I am lusting after one of my own.

So those are the Hits. Next up: The Misses!

What were your Hits of 2014?

 

 

The Shrinking Violet Emery

Word of Sew South London’s sewing exploits appears to have travelled far and wide. At least as far as my neighbour, Felicity’s house! Thanks to the serendipity of sewing in South London, I have been loaned a new assistant!  I’m no model, so I thought I’d put her to work to wearing my newest Emery dress.

Emery Dress

As you know if you’ve visited before, I was quite taken with my first Emery Dress. I literally couldn’t wait to get started on another, not least because I’d done the hard work getting a good fit. I was considering making up the bodice in a larger size to see if I could get a better fit with fewer alterations, but after wearing it to work for the day the consensus was that the fit was pretty good. So this is the same mix of alterations: a FBA, a waistline graded to the next size up, then 1cm pinched out of both side seams. To avoid the gaping neckline at the back, I increased the back neck darts by 0.5mm to take into account a mild case of round shoulders. Family legend has it that it’s an evolutionary result of living on the North Sea coastline, where one has to brace oneself against the North Sea breeze!

The dress form has definitely made my job easier. She’s a good size match, although I had to pimp her up with a padded bra and two pairs of bedsocks. It’s fantastic to be able to be able to see the garment on someone of the same size, to fiddle with details and see where the fit could be better. I’m just not sure I’m brave enough to sleep in the same room as her yet!

Emery Dress neckline

We need to talk about this fabric! It was another Simply Fabrics find, although this time I found that the print had a huge flaw through it when I got it home. I’ve placed it on the back skirt panel so it’s not really noticeable. However, it might be more of an issue when the remaining fabric becomes a pair of Ultimate Trousers! The fabric does feel like curtains, but it has a lycra stretch to it, so it must have been manufactured with clothing in mind. It’s rather stiff to wear – on the upside it holds its shape beautifully, however, such is the rustle, you can hear me coming from 100 metres away. Put it this way, I feel bullet-proof when I wear it!

Emery dress

With such a wild print, the fabric is quite forgiving. Rather than drafting facings, as I did for the last Emery, I thought I’d finish the neckline with bias binding along the lines of the Belcarra top. Whilst the binding went on fine, I don’t like the visible stitching. I prefer a cleaner finish on such a smart dress. I can live with it this time as you can’t really see it amongst the print, but I would definitely add facings next time. The weight of the fabric also caused problems with the invisible zip, which ended up towards the ‘visible’ end of the zip spectrum!

Emery Dress

I adore the print and colour. This dress is a lot of fun; not the demure number my first Emery turned out to be. I guess I’ll be mostly wearing it for work. It’s a bit loud for pushchair-pushing, even in South London, don’t ya think?!

Now, about my glamorous assistant: she needs a name. Any suggestions?

 

 

 

Hello Emery. I love you!

 

Emery Dress

Dear reader, I truly believe I’ve found ‘The One’!

Never in my wildest sewing dreams (and there have been some…!) did I ever think I would find a pattern that could result in a dress love-affair as perfect as this.

Emery Dress

It’s everything I wanted in a dress – feminine, figure flattering, yet modern and unfussy. The fabric is to die for: buttery, soft, and with a delicious weight to it. It’s a denim-linen mix from The Little Fabric Store – a gorgeous sewing haven on a cobbled lane in Louth. Thank goodness I bought big – there’s another autumn’s dress-worth left over.

In a short time, we’ve been through a lot together, Emery and I. As promised, I followed the FBA tutorial that was part of the Emery Sewalong. This was by far the best and most detailed tutorial I have found, with each step clearly explained. And it worked! FBA – flippin’ brilliant achievement!

Emery FBA

Emery FBA – white paper showing where room was added

I began with a size 8 pattern piece (US sizes, that is) and added 3cm. No sooner said than done, the ‘ladies’ found themselves in the comfort to which they deserve. However, the waist was too narrow so I graded up a size from the bust dart down to the waist and that did the trick. I seriously expected to end up with a heap of ill-fitting bodices on the road to perfection, but managed it in one, with a bit of unpicking and re-pinning.

Emery toile

Well the bust fits…

But as you can see, although it fitted well on the bust and waist, it was still too baggy around the ribs. So I went up a size at the bust and waist, and still had to take it in at the side seams. Confused? I still am! I’ve ended up with a fit that I’m happy with, but I wonder whether next time to start with a size 10 and see if it requires less fitting. Any thoughts?

Emery Dress

I didn’t want to hinder the drape of this gorgeous fabric so I omitted a lining, instead used bias binding on the waist seam for tidiness and to add strength. I finished the neckline with self-drafted facings.

It’s been a rollercoaster of a love affair – the highs of mastering an alteration, the lows of finding that it’s still not as perfect as I’d hope. Like any developing relationship there’s always a few issues to iron out. I’ve got a slight gape at the back of the neckline which I’ve found on other dresses I’ve made. I’m hoping to tackle it on the next version. But for now, I’m more than thrilled!

 

Next Up: The Emery Dress

I’m limbering up for a big one – The Emery Dress by Christine Haynes. It’s a classic, and I’ve seen so many lovely versions. I particularly covet this Christmas cracker by Paunnet and this gorgeous wool plaid one from Fancy Tiger Crafts.

The only trouble is, I’m yet to really get to grips with serious alterations. But I think I’m up to the challenge. This time, I’m going to have to make a full toile first to see – a true test of patience. I made a couple of dresses last year when I’d just got started that would have really benefitted from an FBA (full bust adjustment). I learned the hard way that the end results are always a little disappointing without a perfect fit. With an increase in confidence and a side order of extra patience, I think it’s time. It seems a bit bonkers to be nervous of a bit of snipping, doesn’t it?!

I’ve got some gorgeous denim linen from The Little Fabric Store in Louth (seen in the background). It’s quite a girly dress, with its fitted bodice and full skirt, so I figured an Autumn version in a denim linen mix would toughen it up a little.

Have you ever really stretched yourself with a make?