Loving Etta

img_7317-1

Once in a blue moon a pattern is born that stops me in my tracks. In recent times I have been honing my fitting skills with Big Four patterns such as the McCalls shirtdress (M6696), rather than keeping up with all the new indie releases. But when Tilly and the Buttons released their latest pattern, Etta, I immediately fell in love.

Etta is described as ‘a classic, sixties-inspired fitted dress that everyone needs in their wardrobe’. I couldn’t agree more. The numerous darts on the bodice and skirt provide flattering shaping. I had been longing for a Mad Men-inspired fitted sheath dress. Etta is her name!

img_7306

After seeing Meg’s gorgeous floral tester version, I remembered a fabulous floral scuba that I’d made into a McCalls M6886 close-fitting pullover dress (see image below). I hadn’t worn and didn’t love it. The silhouette did not flatter, and the lack of structure didn’t suit the scuba. It was the perfect fabric for Etta, and I thought I would have enough….

img_7332
So I merrily started cutting, and found that there wasn’t enough fabric to cut the front bodice in one piece. Undeterred (although somewhat panic-stricken), I cut the front bodice in two pieces and added a centre front seam. I tried to find places in the print where it would be less noticeable. You can see the seam in the photos, but given that the scuba seems to lend itself to a structured look I don’t think it matters. I suspect that the close fit of the bodice over the bust will distract the eye from the seam, if ya catch my drift!

I made a couple of modifications to the pattern to take into account my fabric choice. Apart from the ill-fated M6886, I hadn’t worked with scuba. It has quite a thick, spongy texture which I thought would be too bulky for a zip and facings, so I omitted both. I joined the back bodice down the centre back seam. I would have cut the back as one piece, omitting the seam allowances had i had sufficient fabric. Instead of facings, I turned the seam allowance under and stitched it in place.

img_7307

The most significant modification I made was the order of construction. The key to this style of dress is a close fit. To achieve this I left the side seams until last, just before the sleeves were set in. I completed the front and back bodices, joined them at the shoulders and added the front and back skirt pieces. I didn’t know how the scuba would affect the finished garment sizing in the pattern instructions, so I pinned the sides of the dress and fitted as I went. I had originally cut a size 4 at the bust and hips, and had graded out to a 5 at the waist. By fitting the dress at the side seams I was able to remove the excess and achieve a close fit, removing all of the extra size I’d added at the waist and a bit more.

img_7322

I couldn’t be happier with the finished garment. Well done Tilly – Etta is every bit a show-stopper of a dress.

 

Advertisements

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

img_4108

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….

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!

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?

 

 

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!

I’ve got a lovely bunch of Cocos!

Tilly and The Buttons Coco

As much as I have been having fun making dresses of late, it would be remiss of me not to write about my most worn home-made makes of this year: my Tilly and the Buttons Cocos! Plus, I’m waiting for my resident photographer to return home to help me photograph my new Deer & Doe Sureau (squeals with excitement – new pattern love affair!).

Tilly and the Buttons Coco

The Coco is a pattern that keeps on giving. I have made no less than four so far, and I suspect that I will keep returning time and time again. The striped Coco was my first foray into stretch sewing. Tilly’s blog convinced me that i could do it despite the lack of an overlocker and experience. So, filled with misplaced new-found confidence, I dug deep and went for it. After all, if I could crack this the possibilities of sewing knit fabrics would be a total wardrobe changer.

Tilly and the Buttons Coco

I found the striped viscose at Simply Fabrics (where else?!). It’s quite a lightweight knit with a good drape, and the perfect navy and white stripes. I duly read up on all things stretch and sat down to my first stitch. To my huge frustration, the needle just seemed to be bouncing off the fabric and skipping stitches so that there were more gaps than there was sewing. After an entire evening of web-search, I found the advice I was looking for:

  • put the kettle on/top up your wine glass
  • take a deep breath
  • do not throw the machine out of the window
  • re-thread
  • ensure the bobbin case is free of lint
  • check you have the right needle (stretch or ballpoint)
  • ensure said needle is in the right way round
  • test again using a larger needle size

It seemed that the sewing machine was using the rather bouncy fabric as a trampoline, and that the bottom thread wasn’t getting high enough up the needle to make the stitch. Amazingly, this advice worked!  I have since used a size 16 stretch needle on all my knits with success. The crazy highs and lows of sewing, eh?!

Tilly and the Buttons Coco