Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Heather: February Sewing Roundup

Sitting down to start writing this blog I thought I would struggle to find much to share- I haven't managed a single blog post this month- but the sewing has been ticking along quite nicely even if it hasn't felt like I'm getting a lot done, and I've ended up with a pretty full roundup!


The month started with a bit of a mad dash to finish my make for the Secret Valentine Exchange organised by lovely instagrammers Ute and Sanae. 

Into its fourth year, the international exchange invites crafters of all kinds create a beautiful item and ship it off to another creative soul to share a bit of love during the Valentine's season. I was paired with a lady in Canada who liked grey and yellow, and with very little other info to work with I decided to make a tote bag (who doesn't love a bag?!) in a remnant of Snoopy-print fabric from Fabric Corner!

It seems the gift was well received, which is really lovely- it's pretty scary to send something half way across the world not knowing if it's what someone will want. I received a parcel of gorgeous flamingo-themed gifts from Ginny '@ginpins' which couldn't have been more appropriate given my love for those leggy birds. 
Look out for sign ups in January next year if you'd like to take part! 

Valentine's Day was also broadly the theme for this month's Dressmaking Blogger Challenge, where we asked the blogging community to share an item which they had made for someone else, or something that they had made for themselves with love. 

Back at the end of January I came across a forgotten piece of autumnal print viscose which I had purchased back at the 2016 Knitting, Stitching and Hobbycrafts show in Manchester. I bought it specifically because I knew it would be perfect for my Mum, and then promptly forgot about it amid the making-flurry of last year's challenge! 

So I decided to finally make good on my intentions and make a blouse for Mum to wear to Grandma's Birthday Party (I won't tell you how old; she wouldn't thank me for putting her age on the Internet!). I picked out a tried and trusted Burda pattern that I also used for her Birthday gift last year and whipped this up in an evening. 
(My Mum enjoys neither standing still, nor having her photo taken... but she did really like her blouse!)

February also saw my first ever trip to Abakhan! (I know, how have I lasted this long?!). We don't have a store here in Lincoln so when I arranged to meet an old friend half way between our homes we settled on Manchester and I made my maiden voyage to the fabric mecca. I really had no idea what to expect, so was pretty thrilled to come away with a metre of printed sweater knit, 1.5m of border print viscose and 1.5m of indigo denim for the grand total of £15. £15!!!!

Not hanging about, I made the viscose into my favourite Burda Patti dress, and the sweater knit into a jumper which... I'm not sure is totally me. I spent ages trying to make sure the pattern placement was right but in the end I think it overwhelms it a bit. But actually it looks really fab with my Cleo pinafore and is super cosy, so even if it gets destashed at the end of the season I will have been warm up to that point.

It was at this point in the month that I decided my sewing room was getting a bit out of hand. I spent an evening tidying up and sorting out my fabrics, and even managed a mini destash (some of it may have been restashed...). I picked out quite a few pieces of fabric that I'd completely forgotten about and made a rather bold commitment to use up 6 pieces of fabric, or destash them at the end of the month...

So on the plus side the Patti dress (top right) got made that very evening. 

The bottom two fabrics have become a gorgeous Sew Over It vintage shirt dress and there's a jacket in the making too.
The rest of them... well perhaps we'll have a rollover into next month...!

My next make was the unexpectedly lovely McCalls 7381 which came free with this month's Love Sewing magazine. I'm not going into much detail as I intend to write a full blog about this one, but here's a pic of my rather hacked version in a piece of jersey from the stash which has been waiting quite some time for its perfect pattern partner!


And finally, what's the end of a month without a party? I decided to join in with the Moneta Party (another full blog on the way about my hacks for this pattern) using some stripe zigzag sweater knit from SewEssential. It's basically my new favourite dress! 

So those are my highlights from February. There were a few more makes which haven't made the cut this time but perhaps will feature next month! 

All that's left is for me to introduce the theme for the March Dressmaking Blogger Challenge which is... Springtime ! 
We want to see lots of cheerful brightly coloured garments. Perhaps you'll pick a spring flower for the theme of your garment, or maybe just something bright and cheerful. As always, the challenge is just for fun and you can tag your posts with #dressmakingbloggerchallenge to share them with us online.

Happy Sewing everyone, see you next month. 

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Heather: January Sewing Roundup

January has been a busy month busting the winter blues at the sewing machine! The recent cold snap has motivated me to fill some gaps in my wardrobe, and I've also been trying to be a bit more adventurous with the patterns I choose, rather than just sticking with the same classic styles. 
Here are some of my favourite makes this month:

Winter Woollies
Made from some gorgeous sparkly crochet knit gifted by Mum at Christmas, I made this up into a matching hat, scarf and jumper, and even made a nude coloured jersey cami to go underneath. The pattern is a Burda jumper which is almost identical to the popular Linden sweatshirt that everyone seemed to be making over Christmas! 

Cosy Nightshirt
Over on the Dressmaking Blogger Network we've set a little "just for fun" challenge for January which was to make something cosy. 
I decided to make a cosy night shirt and you can read the full blog post here.

The first of my "not my normal style" makes this month was my Tilly and the Buttons Cleo pinafore, which came about as a result of trying to find something to make with a piece of old corduroy. 
The keen eyed amongst you will see that this is not a corduroy dress, and you can read the full Cleo story here.

Nancy Dress
Nancy is the latest offering from Sew Over It and one that I really wouldn't have picked any other day of the week. Perhaps it was just the novelty of making something so totally different that appealed to me! 
Read all about Nancy here.

Sewing Scuba
My final make to share with you this month is a fab floral spring dress made from stretchy scuba from SewEssential. This was a bit of a tricky make and you can read all about how I tackled the challenge here.

Next month's challenge
Now is as good a time as any to let you know about the February Dressmaking Blogger Challenge which is...

"Sewn with Love"

We want to see your gifts for others, or something for yourself that's a real treat. 
Share your makes online using #dressmakingbloggerchallenge 

Happy Sewing everyone! See you next month. If you're getting withdrawal symptoms you can find me online at 


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Bridie: Making Good Choices

So looking back at my handmade clothes from the past year I've come to realise that I've not been making very wise choices either with the patterns I've been choosing or the fabrics I use which mean that although I love them at the time, the garments I make quickly go out of favour. So this year I plan to make more sensible choices so that I truly have a wearable handmade wardrobe. 

I put together some posters to remind myself of what I need to think about when I'm picking patterns and fabrics. I started by thinking about what my style is.

What is my colour palette? My Autumn Winter colour palette is made up of warm jewel colours with black,dark blues and tan. In Summer I go completely the other way and love bright bold colours.

Think textures. Personally I love to layer up textures I think it gives more interest to an outfit! I'm also terrible at dressing for the weather so the more layers I have on the more I can take off if the weather changes on me.   

Patterns, Solids or Both? I like a mixture of bold interesting usually quiet quirky patterns with solids. As well as large stripes and plaids.

What is my silhouette? I have quiet a slim figure, not particularly blessed in the boob department but they're in proportion to the rest of me so can't complain! My bums got a bit bigger since having a baby but nothing I'm self conscious about. I do however like all women have clothes I feel more comfortable and confident in.
 Above the knee,
Sleeveless or 3/4 length
Fitted bodice
Scoop neck, not too low.
Full skirt.

Fitted or 60s styles
Length, waist or above the knee.

Skinny or wide legged,
High waisted.

Floaty can be worn tucked in or worn out.

Comfort and Practicality, I'm a mum to a very active 3 year old, so being able to move round easily and comfortably are important to me. Its also good to if I look nice to, maybe not smart (defiantly not the type of person you'd find in a pencil skirt and blouse even if I had a conventional job) but I like to look feminine and like I've made an effort even if I really haven't.

Once I know my style I can pick out patterns and fabrics and ask myself the questions in my next two posters. If any of the answers are no I move on and find a more suitable choice. Hopefully this will help me make better choices and means that I'll have garments I can return to and wear with other items in my wardrobe.

If you find this post useful please feel free to use these questions yourself. It's very early days so I will let you know how it works for me in the long run. Hopefully it will it might save me a lot of time and money.

Happy Sewing x 

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Bridie: New Year Fresh Start

Hi folks I hope you've had a lovely Christmas and a fabulous New Year. I thought I'd just take the time to have a little catch up as it feels like I've not posted on here or on my Vlog for that matter in a while. I have been sewing (not as much as I'd like) and I'm still very much enjoying the SIY Challenge. It very much just feels like a part of my life now and I don't think I could go back to buying clothes again.

I have however struggled with organizing my life in general. Now I don't pretend to have a hectic work life balance in anyway but I am a full time mum and what with other commitments on top of that I defiantly struggled to give all the things I enjoy equal priority and most defiantly stressed far too much over things that I shouldn't have been. I do that! (usually based on the fear of letting people down)

This new year feels like a fresh start, for a few reasons. For one my little man will be going to nursery a bit more. Which we've decided to spread over the week. I'm so pleased about this I think it will break up the week more for him and for me! During this time I've set myself things to do. One morning will be house work (needs must I'm afraid) one morning I'm going to my favorite cafe/fabric shop to work on my pattern cutting designs and business plans (super excited about that working and being able to get amazing tea and cake, I've thought this through!) the final morning is going to be for vlogging, so I wont have to pray for a long nap time or film in terrible lighting. I've also planned out the rest of my weeks for the next few months. All beautifully colour coded to! Which included everything from sewing and blogging time to putting on washing loads. The aim is to possibly be one of those women who has their **** together!

As well as being more organised with work plans, family and sewing I'm also giving myself some me time. This will most probably be knitting with a face mask on and my aroma steam thingy I got for Christmas smelling of lavender. However I'm also going to give yoga a try as I need to get fit and stop my brain from overloading which it has done many a time this last year (not fun!) I'm starting off with a YouTube 30 day Yoga along thing I'll add a link. Mainly as I'm a little intimidated by classes and extremely uncoordinated! I shall let you know how this goes.

Looking a little insane but feeling relaxed!

As for future blog posts they will be more regular from me I promise and on set days. Heather will still be posting but monthly and showing you all fabulous things shes been making. I should think there will be a lot! 
I'm going to be doing weekly vlogs again as I really enjoy that and I think it's great to be able to chat and show off my make live (kind of).

I hope this explains a few things, if you have any tips on organizing your sewing projects or even life please feel free to share, I'd love to hear them!

Happy Sewing 

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Heather: Happy New Jeans!

This week marks one whole year since I joined the Sew It Yourself Challenge!  Earlier in the year I decided that my final project for this challenge would be a pair of really well fitting jeans. Technically the challenge allowed me to purchase jeans, but I've been wearing a great pair from Dorothy Perkins for almost 10 years and I couldn't find anything on the high street to meet my needs. These have finally given up the ghost and so I needed to find a replacement pretty quickly! (I never realised how often I wanted to wear jeans until I didn't have them!).

Thankfully, stylish jeans patterns are becoming more and more popular, so I had plenty of great indie patterns to choose from! I narrowed the search down to the Sew Over It 'Ultimate Trousers', the Closet Case Patterns 'Ginger Jeans' and the Deer and Doe 'Safran Jeans'. In the end the decision was simply a case of which one I wanted to try first and the Ginger Jeans won the toss. 

One of the major worries with considering any jeans, handmade or otherwise, is the fit. We have all experienced the misery of visiting the high street fitting rooms with 30 pairs of jeans and finding nothing at all. Thankfully the last garment I purchased before starting the challenge was a really excellent fitting pair of chinos from Fat Face. I used these and my trouser block to guide my cutting, and decided on an 8 waist, graded to a 10 at the hip and back in to an 8 for the legs. I graded the back panels further to a 12 at the widest part of the bottom to make sure I had enough room to sit down! 

The next challenge was finding a suitable denim. The pattern required the fabric to be at least 2% stretch and the jeans I was trying to replace were a very dark, overdyed indigo denim. Sounds straightforward, I hear you say, but try as I might I found it difficult to find anything of this specific nature. (I've subsequently found a few good denim suppliers, but please do share your favourites with me in the comments below!) I even took a trip to the fabric markets in Birmingham (what a chore! 😉) but found very little variety. I requested a few samples from The Denim Company which were really nice quality, but in the end I headed over to new favourite Sew Essential for some of their Dark Blue Medium Weight Stretch Denim. It wasn't necessarily the shade of blue that I wanted but the fabric properties were suitable and I figured it would be good for practice pair.

Denim swatches 
I have a confession to make here... I didn't pre-wash this denim! I put a small piece in the machine with some old trousers that I was dying and didn't get any shrinkage so decided to risk it! 

So, the only thing that remained was to just get on with it! After cutting, I followed the instructions closely (really, I did!), starting by constructing the front sections, back pockets and fly front. I chose a contrast front pocket fabric for a bit of fun and a back pocket design from a selection released by Closet Case with their newsletter signup. I printed the pocket design twice, once as a mirror image, and then pinned this to the pocket, carefully lining up the design and then topstitching over the paper to ensure accuracy. Peeling off the perforated paper was very satisfying!  

My husband chose the white topstitching thread, which I wasn't sure would work, but I think it looks great!
 The fly front instructions and diagrams were clear enough, though I did have to reread them a few times, and compare with other trousers to really understand how they should look. When I made the Jedediah Pants for my husband back in September I found the instructions for flat-felled seams to be particularly good, and so I followed this technique throughout rather than using the faux flat-fell technique detailed in the instructions for these jeans. 

At the final fitting stage I took 1/2" out of the centre back seam (after wearing for half a day I probably could have got away with an inch) and attached the waistband according to the instructions. I was really impressed with how well my machine handled the denim. At the centre back the needle had to pass through 10 layers of denim in order to attach the belt loop through the flat seam, and it barely even slowed down. The topstitching needle I purchased also really helped with this and I didn't break any needles during the process!

I'm really pleased with the final result! 


Update: By the end of the day I started to think that I probably could have gotten away with a size smaller all round, especially across the back waistband, so fingers crossed they will bounce back in the wash!  


So all that's left is for me to say a huge thanks to Bridie for inviting me to join the challenge. I've had a really enjoyable year improving my sewing skills, getting to know my shape, and becoming part of such an amazing sewing community. I'll be still writing about sewing over at my blog 'Dresstoration', you can follow me on Instagram for all my latest sewing news, and I hope you'll still see the occasional guest post here too. 

Happy sewing  and a Happy New Year to you all!

Monday, 26 December 2016

Heather: The night before Christmas...

... I wasn't sewing (!), having finished my dress with loads of time to spare (around lunch time on Christmas Eve). I’d been planning my dress for quite a while this year, but with so many lovely gifts on the making list I wasn’t convinced I’d actually get the time to finish it.
Last year some time a friend of mine had a big destash and gave me three sackfuls of beautiful fabric, which included some stunning Chinese style silk brocade. It sat undisturbed in my stash until I picked up an edition of Love Sewing magazine in Autumn 2016 with the Lily dress on the cover. Ordinarily I wouldn’t be especially interested in a Chinese style dress, but the opportunity was too good to miss with such a perfect fabric option in my stash. I chose option D for the collar and wavy edge detail at the neckline, with the short sleeves from option B/C.
Upon inspection, what looks to be a very technical pattern is actually quite straightforward: simple front and back skirt and back bodice panels, with just the shoulder detail adding a little more of a challenge. I knew the bodice would need some alteration to achieve a good fit, so I started by cutting out the skirt panels and getting those out of the way. I then used my trusty pattern block to check the bodice fit. Now, normally I find that Simple Sew patterns are generously fitted and I tend to need to take 1/2″ out of the back length and grade the width from an 8 bust to a 12 waist. The measurements on the back of the pattern also indicated this would be the case. I was surprised, then, that after comparing to my pattern block, I found myself needing a 12 bodice graded only slightly to a 10 under the arms, and then out to a 14 waist! This pattern is a completely different fit to other garments in the range and just goes to show the need to measure twice on every pattern! 
Those of you who are avid Sewing Bee fans will remember a challenge in the middle of the series where the contestants were tasked with making a Cheongsam Chinese-style top, which had many similar features to my garment. You may also remember that many of the sewists struggled with the relentless fray in the fabric (seriously, I’ve never seen anything like it!) and how easily it could pull out of shape, even with careful sewing. For this reason I stabilised each of the seams on the shoulder detail with interfacing before stitching, clipping and grading the seams and turning through.

Bodice complete, I gathered the skirt (not recommended in this fabric!) and attached it to the bodice.
And I hated it! Granted, in this (poor quality) picture the seams haven’t been pressed open and it’s not hanging straight on the mannequin, but it just didn’t look right. I felt the full skirt gave me a bit more room for the Christmas Turkey than I possibly needed and I knew I just wouldn’t wear it. 
After 24 hours of consideration and a quick walk around the shops for inspiration, I spent the evening of the 23rd removing and recutting the skirt panels using the skirt section from Threadcount 1613, which I used in my previous post for the Velvet Burnout dress. The straight skirt sits so much better than the a-line one, and is much more in-keeping with the Chinese style. 
I finished off the dress with some traditional frog fasteners, purchased from a fair trade supplier in Hong Kong via Etsy.
So here I am wearing my dress on Christmas Day!
After a whole day of wearing it I was being driven totally mad by the sleeves and I will definitely be taking them off and recutting them an inch winder across the arm. I’d probably also widen the shoulder width if I made it again, and whilst I much preferred the straight skirt, I definitely should have allowed more room for turkey! But I got lots of lovely compliments on the day and it definitely did the job of being a “wow” Christmas Day dress.
Me and my “little” Bro continuing the lifelong tradition of a picture in front of the tree on Christmas Day.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Heather: Speedy makes and December sew far

Once again it's been a month since I shared my makes with you (really, where has 2016 gone?), but it's been a really productive month at the sewing machine, so I thought I'd give you a bumper roundup of some of my recent makes. Each of these projects were "speedy sews", made in a single evening, or in some cases, just a few hours! Hopefully you'll feel inspired. 

Velvet Burnout Party Dress
First up is Threadcount 1613 made up in a sparkle velvet burnout fabric, made up in around 4 hours. I made quite a few adjustments to this pattern, particularly on the back panels and shoulders, both of which were shortened and tweaked by about an inch to get a more precise fit in the bodice. The fabric itself is quite firm- it has stretch but behaves more like a stretch denim than a jersey- but this allowed for a really close fit without compromising my ability to breathe! 

I'm not normally a fan of a peplum, always believing them to make my bum look big, but I pinned this one together and was pleasantly surprised with the fit and styling, so it made the final cut!

Floral Heather Dress
Next up, a version of the Heather Dress by Sew Over It (I had to!). Again, a one-evening make as I had already made a version in red sweater knit for practice and I was able to make the entire garment on the overlocker. The fabric is a heavy weight jersey with a low % stretch. The slightly lower than required stretch meant that I needed to allow a little more room over the bust and across the arms than the previous version. I also made two simple alterations to this pattern, adding a cuff to the sleeves (cut sleeves shorter, sew a rectangle of fabric, short edges together, fold lengthways, attach to sleeve!) and a slightly deeper neck band for a roll neck effect. This dress is so comfortable that I want one in every colour!


Stripy Jumper Dress
My next speedy make was a self drafted jumper dress made after work on a Friday evening (started at 4.30) and worn out to dinner the very same night (at 6.30!). The pattern started life as a simple shift dress from Burda, to which I added a grown on sleeve, to make, essentially, a giant t-shirt! I've made this pattern up before in black and white ponte and it's a real wardrobe staple for warmer days in the office, so when I saw the pink and navy stripe I knew exactly what I wanted to make. On this version I lengthened the sleeve to the elbow and then added a panel for the lower sleeve. I also added a wide neckband for an extra level of coziness! 

Dashwood Annabelle 
And last, but by no means least, we have Annabelle, the absolutely gorgeous new floral dress I whipped up last weekend to wear out for lunch with my Nanna. The pattern was free with December's Love Sewing Magazine and the design was quite straightforward. The new Paper Meadow range by Dashwood has some beautiful coordinating fabrics and I knew straight away I wanted to use these together. I also picked up some orange cotton lawn to use as the lining and set to work! As usual I shortened the back length by about an inch at the lower back, and also at the shoulder by 1/4". I did also adjust the front bodice length slightly at the neckline, deepening the curve by about 1/2". I started sewing after Saturday night's Strictly and was at the restaurant by Midday on Sunday! 

All of the fabrics used were sourced from Fabric Corner at the Craftea Sewing Bee Shop, 22-24 Melville St, Lincoln. Call in for your next speedy sewing project!