Adventures in Viscose!

I’m sorry, where? Doesn’t my life sound exciting? Viscose, eh?  The truth is, it is quite exciting at the moment. I’m getting around the region and exploring, but I’m not finding a great deal of time to sew.


I’m also finding it nigh-on impossible to get half-decent blog photos. Either the light’s too strong or low, or I’m trying to prevent small people falling in swimming pools, or I am relying on the same small people to take said photos (see Instagram for a particularly ropey selection). I’m falling a little behind with blogging new outfits as a result.


I’ve also been thinking about what I sew and why. With so little free time I have to really be committed to my choices. I have reverted to sewing simple patterns that place the fabric centre-stage and don’t take up too much brain power. Most importantly they have to fill a gap in my wardrobe. I’m wary of falling into the trap of making more and more without taking time to appreciate and wear the clothes I’ve already made.


In an earlier post I wrote about how much I loved my first Bettine by Tilly and the Buttons. I was very taken with the viscose I had bought in Hong Kong. The drape was great and it was so cool to wear in the heat. I went on a mission to find more and bought two tropical fabrics from Spotlight – a huge Australian craft superstore. My second Bettine was born!


I lengthened the skirt by an inch or so in order not to offend the conservative locals. I was still almost refused access to a public building for gratuitous knee-baring, but managed to talk them around! I thought I had done with Bettine, but already I’m thinking about a cotton chambray number….

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A Birthday Bettine 

Can you believe it’s been a whole year since I decided to join the online sewing community and start a little blog of my own? I can’t tell you how much pleasure, friendship and general sewing knowledge and experience I’ve gained along the way. But then if you’re a blog reader or writer, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about!


Despite my anxiety over being separated from my sewing machine for a few months, I had been happily enjoying my sewing sabbatical. That was until I saw Tilly and The Buttons’ new sewing pattern – The Bettine. As I saw my Instagram feed fill up with Bettines, my eye was caught by this gorgeous number by Meg of Cookin’ and Craftin’ and I knew this was the dress for me.  Social media can be blamed for many things, but its ability to compel you into action is phenomenal!

I was on holiday in Hong Kong when the pattern was released, so I swung into action with a special trip to Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong’s fabric and garment district on the look out for viscose/rayon. Here’s what I found! I didn’t want to wish away the rest of the holiday, but by the end I was losing sleep thinking about getting stuck in!
I studied the pattern sizing and went for a size 5 on the top and graded down to a 4 at the hips, hoping that I hadn’t needed to do a FBA. I also added 2cm to the skirt length, noting other bloggers were finding it a tad short. I was a little nervous as to whether the elastic waistline and blousy fit would be flattering or whether I would prefer a more tailored look. I was really pleased with how it turned out – there’s not too much ease on the hip and the viscose drapes beautifully. It’s the perfect hot weather work dress and was a lovely simple garment to ease me back into making my own wardrobe. In this climate I’m wearing dresses most of the time and I need more! I love my Bettine and I’m looking forward to see all of yours next weekend on Instagram #sewingbettine!

Ultimate Trousers!

Oi!

Psssst!

Wanna see something that’ll make your eyes water?!

ultimate trousers

Introducing my first ever trousers, The Ultimate Trousers by Sew Over It. I bought the pattern some time ago, and was puzzling over getting the fit right. After reading in Clarinda Kaleidoscope’s review of the course that you get to try on toiles of each size, I decided that it was worth the money to attend the course and dropped Mother’s Day-sized hints! And it was worth every penny! The communal sewing experience was therapeutic and enjoyable. It was fascinating to see others’ fabric choices, and chat as we sewed. Dominique, our tutor, was amazing.

ultimate trousers

The trying-on session was the best possible way to get started, and I wasn’t a million miles away from the size I thought I should be. I had been puzzling over measuring my waist size as 3 dress sizes larger than my hips. The pattern is cut for an hourglass figure, it turns out. But the fitting process during the course confirmed my hunch that I’m no hourglass anymore. Once the trousers were assembled (minus the zip and facings), we went back to fitting and re-fitting until we got the shape we wanted. I was after a really slim fit that would work into spring and summer. I took several inches from the outer leg seam until I got the slim fit I was looking for. I used a heavy cotton stretch fabric from Simply Fabrics. The eagle-eyed among you might remember it from my Emery Dress of extreme loveliness. The fabric is quite stiff, and the dress does feel like you’re wearing a lampshade. So, the stretch in this fabric meant that the trousers grew a little during their first wear out. I took another inch from the leg seam to slim them down again.

ultimate trousers

This year’s sewing plan has been to build wardrobe essentials, and a slim fit summer trouser is exactly what I have been after. My second pair are made in African Wax print cotton bought on Goldhawk Road. The fabric doesn’t have any stretch, so I am hoping they will hold their shape. I’m really pleased with my new trousers and plan to make ‘boring’ pairs in black and navy. I absolutely had do go ‘statement’ on the first pair. After all, what’s the point in being to make your own if you’re not going to make something that no designer on earth would come up with?! But as I proudly wore them to work I did wonder what my trousers said/shrieked about me!

ultimate trousers

A Book Review, A Girl’s Dress, and a lot of Swearing

Greetings, sewing chums. It’s been a while. Work and life have got in the way of blogging, but I have been beavering away in the background on a few projects. Today I bring you two firsts: a book review and a girl’s vintage-style dress. Spoiler alert: it involved a LOT of post-watershed swearing.

I was given ‘Sewn With Love: Classic Patterns for Children’s Clothes and Accessories’ by Fiona Bell a couple of Christmases ago. Despite being filled with gorgeous vintage-styled patterns for kids, It’s been languishing on my bookshelf while I gorged myself silly on selfish sewing. After a number of heartfelt pleas  to “make me a dress please, Mummy”, I gave in.

Sewn With LoveI don’t think of myself as a novice sewist these days, which made the problems I encountered all the more annoying. First off was a PDF pattern that was fiendishly hard to assemble. I’ve cut and stuck my fair share in recent months and I’ve always found the quality of indie PDF patterns to be really high. This was not the case. The margins were tiny, and pieces were laid out in the least economical way possible. There was an absence of standard pattern markings.

The written instructions were sparse, accompanied only by the vaguest of sketch drawings. Thankfully I’ve learned enough over the past couple of years to make an educated guess. The least satisfactory of fudges was the bottom of the button band extension. I had a couple of attempts, and gave up on the basis that it would not be noticeable.  I am hoping all will become clear when I attempt the cuffs on my next big project: The Grainline Archer.

button extension

I did wonder if anyone who actually makes clothes had proof-read the book. Other irritating errors and omissions included metric/imperial measurements that didn’t tally  (for example the option of 1cm or 1/2″), and interchangeable non-standard seam allowances of 5 or 10mm. The fabric requirement was huge and not proportionate to the pattern sizing; I probably had at least 1.5m too much. The final straw was the pattern piece for bias binding the neckline that was at least 4 inches too long.

No doubt, the images in the book are lovely. It’s an aspirational craft book, rather than a serious sewing book. It’s put to shame by the quality of independent companies, who create patterns with clear instructions and easy-to-assemble PDFs. In the spirit of adventure I would probably attempt another dress, but would know to expect that the instructions were merely suggestions. I did enjoy making a scaled-down dress, and threw in an alteration for good measure by adding an inch to the length of the bodice to accommodate my tall girl.5o's girls dress

As you’d expect, my daughter absolutely loved her girly, twirly dress, so the adventure was worth it! I shall be taking Patrick Grant to bed tonight to console myself: Mothers’ Day came early this year with the arrival of the new GB Sewing Bee book in the post and it looks fantastic….. What’s been your worst ever sewing pattern experience and are you ready to cope with the end of another series of the GBSB?!

A Liberty Mathilde

MathildeMy love affair with Mathilde has been well documented, so needless to say I was beyond thrilled when Tilly of Tilly & The Buttons fame featured my two Mathildes on a blog post last month. I never thought that my makes would ever have their moment of fame, but, as sewing accolades go I was chuffed to bits! So, having waxed lyrical about my earlier Mathildes here and here, today’s post is a little shorter as there’s not much more I can add short of penning a love sonnet.

Mathilde

After my fabric-purchasing debacle, when I foolishly bought an insufficient amount of this Liberty Tana Lawn and had to source more, I ended up with enough left over to make another Mathilde. Result! British autumnal weather calls for exactly a blouse like this: it looks fab over a pair of skinny jeans. For this version, I went back to the original design after pattern-hacking my Mathilde in Chambray. I lowered the front neckline by an inch as I found the original a little high. The pleats seem to get slightly lost in the busy print, but nevertheless they are my favourite feature of this blouse. I’m a sucker for the buttons down the back too.

MathildeNo photos of me today, peeps. I’m sure you’ll survive! I had a scroll down my ‘In The Wardrobe’ page and had to chuckle at all of my ‘hands on hip’ or ‘just dropped a quid on the floor’ poses. Seriously, how do those supermodels do it?! I just couldn’t compose myself enough to do this blouse justice today!

A Liberty Robe Sureau

Deer & Doe Sureau

I may have found my new, most favourite pattern – the Deer & Doe Robe Sureau. This blustery, autumnal weather requires a lovely trans-seasonal frock in dark floral to wear with woolly tights and leather boots.  What better fabric to use than this delicious Liberty Tana Lawn in Edenham Navy, which I was shocked to find at Simply Fabrics. Being somewhat thrifty (and wanting to buy a whole stack of other Liberty bargains) I only bought 1.5 metres. This turned out to be just enough to cut the pattern, minus one sleeve.  So I had to track down another piece from Shaukat. If you have never been, and have a weakness for Liberty, this place is truly amazing.

Liberty Robe SureauWe are well-served in this part of South London for fabulous sewing supplies and venues. Afterall we have the SewOverIt Sewing Cafe, the Tilly and The Buttons HQ for sewing workshops, the ever fabulous and unpredictable Simply Fabrics and the hidden gem that is The Wimbledon Sewing Machine Shop in Tooting Bec. Yet, when overcome with the urge to buy buttons on a Sunday, the only place I could find south of the river was Morley’s in Brixton, which has a decent haberdashery. I was pretty happy in the end with these lovely vintage-style floral buttons but it took me a looooooong time to decide.

Sureau ButtonAfter the success of getting a good fit on my Emery dresses (here and here) I made up a toile bodice for the Sureau in a size 40, grading the waist out to a 42. Despite Deer & Doe drafting for a B cup, this combo seemed to yield the perfect fit, so no further fitting was required. The neckline has a tendency to gape, which was something I’d read about in a few different blogs. I’m not sure if it’s because I stretched the neckline out when i top-stitched it, or whether I need to follow Paunnet’s tutorial for a gapey neckline from the Sureau Sewalong for my next version. It always takes a few goes to perfect these garments!  I’m so happy with the finished garment – it’s got a lovely vintagey feel to it. The skirt isn’t as full as the Emery, so I don’t feel quite so much as though I’m going to work in fancy dress!

Deer & Doe Sureau

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?