What a welter of work!

I have been busy as you can see.  Partly because of our forthcoming trip to South Africa but also because I shall be doing my Portfolio Course Level 3 with Claire Tyler in April.  It involves making a Moulage following the Kenneth D King method and from there producing a range of advanced level work.  We are required to pattern cut one outfit and to attend 10 workshops on top of our tutorials and create a range of work to be shown at a fashion show in June.

I have a number of events coming up which provide me with opportunities to make so exciting things but I need to up my game and work to couture finishes. I have tried to be very particular in my sewing recently but this will take things to a new level.  The trick with all of this is to use the techniques appropriate to the items being created.  I am hardly going to bring a couture finish to a T shirt but I might to a jacket.

The things I intend to make include:

  • A Classic Blazer
  • Fitted LBD with a devoré and silk evening coat
  • A Marfy pattern dress – more of which later
  • A dress and coat for a wedding
  • A Chanel style jacket for wearing with trousers. (This will probably be made after the course has finished)

It is fair to say that I shall be working very hard as I need to produce a file of samples of different techniques along side the completed work I shall be showing.

I started off this weekend by making a very simple boiled wool swing jacket.  The pattern is by The Makers Atelier and is one which has enormous potential for translating into different types of jackets depending on fabric and interpretation.

I decided to Hong Kong bind all the seams with very pretty Liberty Lawn binding. I was careful not to bind the sleeve seam though as I didn’t want little flowery material to be showing on the outside of the jacket. As the fabric is boiled wool there was no need to hem it.

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As you can see it is very simple but the neckline is very attractive and it looks good over a dress as well as trousers. The fabric is very warm as it is 100% wool from Bloomsbury Square Fabrics

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I re-shaped the facings so that they would sit better with the jacket given the weight of the wool fabric.

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A lovely make which I am itching to make again.  Several more on the to-do list then!!

Cashmerette Concord T Shirt

How often do we buy a T shirt?  The answer is “Frequently”.  We often do not pay much, don’t expect a wonderful fit and are prepared to throw it out when it pulls out of shape. However, I decided to put those days behind me.

I had been seeing quite a few Concord T shirts appearing on-line and noticed that despite the pattern being for a seemingly ordinary T shirt, the variety of outcomes was endless. Making a T shirt should ensure a great fit and exactly the length you require. Mine are never long enough! What is necessary in any dressmaking is spending time getting the measurements right and often making a toile to tweak things a little.

I decided to dispense with a toile.  I wanted to use Art Gallery Fabrics jersey and I knew that a cheap substitute would not behave in the same way as the AGF jersey.  So I spent a lot of time measuring and adjusting the pattern before cutting into my fabric.

I have a Janome overlocker and would not be without it and I suspect that making a T shirt would not be as easy as it is if I didn’t have one.  But I used it to the max with this top.

I am delighted with the outcome. Being a larger lady, the reality of it is that no T shirt fits well.  They are either baggy or too tight. But this is just as I wanted it to be.  I love the rounded ends to the front and back and I messed around with the sleeves (again!) and designed my own cuff to put on the sleeve to achieve the look I wanted.

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I think my posture needs looking at, The wretched hip has made me a bit lopsided but the shoulder seams do fit exactly despite these pictures!

Would I make another?  Of course!  The fabric is upstairs waiting to be cut.  I would tack the neck band before stitching to be really sure of a good fit but now that my pattern is ready to go, I can see a load more being made in a variety of jerseys and colours.

Dresses for holidays

I wanted to make some more clothes for my holiday and one of the patterns which I had set my sights on was the Stylearc Patricia Rose dress.  Apart from the fact that it appeared a very comfortable dress, I am always rather intrigued by some of Stylearc’s approaches to things.  They often use a slightly different method of doing things than the traditional way.

Stylearc patterns have very little in the way of instructions and mostly the instructions set out an order of work with detailed instructions only for things done in the “Stylearc manner” or where there is a definitely challenging procedure.  The bit I liked about making this dress is that the band under the bust is not a band at all but rather it is a fold in the fabric in the bodice which is stitched in place once the skirt has been attached.  The “band” is in fact only on the front part and not all the way round.

The sleeves were a little long on this and I decided to do my own thing and not just roll them up.  My fabric was not very attractive on the wrong side and I didn’t want it to show so I took a very large hem up and then folded back the sleeve to make a cuff which was then stitched in place.

All in all I was very happy with it and I can see myself making another one of these in a plain linen which I think would show off the detail of it a little better than the print does.

Here are some photos (taken by my mother!) so please excuse the rather poor quality.

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In the Pink

I had always fancied making a man’s shirt and a year or so ago, I saw a lovely shirt being made by Kim, one of my sewing buddies.  She pointed me in the direction of the Fairfield Shirt by Thread Theory, a Canadian indie company.  The beauty of the Fairfield is that it has a variety of collars, cuffs, sleeve lengths and even patterns for the gentlemen who have a bit of a tum!

I bought at that time some beautiful pink linen and had a real desire to put some details on it such as facings and inside cuffs in Liberty Lawn.  There it sat gazing at me for quite some while until I made a decision to just GET ON WITH IT!  My task was made easier by the fact that despite the shirt pattern having some excellent instructions, there is also a “sew along” on Thread Theory”s blog with different pictures and advice.

I bought some proper shirt collar stiffening and set to.  I did some samples of the sleeve placket to ensure that I had it right and I also played around with buttonholes on my machine.

So here is the finished garment.  Photographed on a hanger as the owner is a little camera-shy but it fits beautifully and I am delighted with how the collar has turned out.

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Hopefully I shall grab a photo or two of him in it on holiday!BW6c5iHnQkesfy7dKJqhfQ

Here is a photo of the placket and cuff.

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And the inside.

Both fabrics came from my favourite supplier: Bloomsbury Square Fabrics

Would I make it again?  I can’t wait.  I love the need for accuracy and the range of different techniques that a shirt asks of you.  A challenge but a really enjoyable one!

So starts 2018……

Although we are only 10 days into 2018, so much has been going on in my life with sewing and planning that it feels like I am way behind with the blog.  But not so!

I decided to take on Sarah Welch Gunn’s challenge called RTW Fast 2018.  The concept is easy.  No buying Ready To Wear (RTW) clothes during 2018.  Fabric, patterns etc may be bought but only underwear, accessories, shoes etc may be bought.  That is a real challenge!  I signed up, having assessed what the pinch points in my wardrobe are and having noticed(!) that I have a wedding to attend in July so something will need to be created for that. Sarah has run a previous RTW Fast in 2016 which I followed on her blog Goodbye Valentino.

It has been fascinating seeing how the group of over 1,000 participants have responded.  Some have worked flat out, some have tidied their sewing rooms, some have dabbled a little and I have made a dress for our upcoming holiday.

I wanted to try to create something that was fairly unstructured and easy to wear.  It will be quite warm in South Africa and I always find dresses much cooler than trousers etc. I bought the Makers Atelier pattern called The V-necked Shift Dress.  I used a crepe viscose which I bought from Bloomsbury Square Fabrics and started to make it.

The pattern was not difficult and the sizing was great for me.  I am carrying a lot of weight at the moment and I wanted something flattering.  Despite the great cut and the lovely fabric I still needed to insert a godet under the sleeve to allow for extra movement.  I also hope that if I lose some weight, that the dress will still work for me.

Although I love the shape and it was easy to make, I find it hard to justify paying the amount of money that the Makers Atelier charge for their patterns.  Yes, they are beautifully drafted, yes, the presentation is excellent and yes, you do get a cute little label to put in the back of the dress BUT similar patterns are available from Stylearc at a fraction of the price even if you buy them ready printed as opposed to a pdf.

So………onto my next make.  This is not for me but instead is a man’s shirt for Chris. It is the Thread Theory Fairfield Men’s shirt.  I have never made a man’s shirt before and am already rehearsing my run and fell seams!  I am making it in a pink linen  with a Liberty Fabric used inside the collar stand and cuffs. Wish me luck!  I suspect it may prove a challenge!

Challenges

 

Although I started this a few months ago, my sewing has not been continuous.  How come when we have ideas and thoughts, life seems to conspire against us so that we are taken off course?  Not everything is negative because most of the interruptions have been pleasurable and joyous but nevertheless, taken off course is what I have been!

So it was a real pleasure to spend 2 days at the Midhurst Sewing Rooms with Claire Tyler.  I thought it completely decadent to spend two days enjoying myself when Christmas is looming and especially when I am expecting the whole family to descend for our annual pre-Christmas party only 36 hours later.  Strangely I think I was able to re-charge my batteries through it all.

But it was nearly not so!

I decided to make this dress: Vogue 1401

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It wad designed by Koos Van Den Aaker. I was completely drawn in to the detail on the front, the pretty sleeve and the fact that it seemed to hide a multitude of sins!

Before I make anything, I read a lot about the patterns and styles on www.sewing.patternreview.com and on any blogs I can find.  The general consensus seemed to be that the dress was enormous when it was cut.  So I did what I always do……….. I ignored the sizing and worked to my measurements.  This meant that my size was actually 3 sizes smaller than the one I usual work to.  I still suspect that I might be removing more from the side seams!

What I did not reckon on, was that the pieces needed to be cut from single unfolded fabric.  As I was using 150cm wide linen and 150 cm wide georgette for the sleeves, I was exhausted before I had cut it out with trying to anchor the wretched fabric to the table when actually it wanted to fall off at any moment. Thank goodness for Claire who cut the linen out on the floor while I battled with the georgette.  It took all day to cut it out.

I am using a medium weight red linen and cotton mix by John Kaldor.  I bought it from Minerva Crafts but the pretty georgette I am using for the sleeves came from Marcy Tilton.A5F06FEB-185A-4FBC-ABD0-1FDC4A983CFE.jpg

I decided to use a glazed cotton from Bloomsbury Square Fabrics  for the appliqué bias strips.  Although there is a small difference in the photos here, the top red (the glazed cotton) is more of a tomato hue whereas the linen is a blue red.

The appliqué is what this dress is about so I set about assembling it.  I have made a good start although I seem to have yards and yards of hand-cut bias binding!!

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Let’s see how it all works out!

Let’s talk about patterns.

One of the biggest differences I have noticed since returning to dressmaking, is the vast array of choices of patterns.  I sewed frequently and with enthusiasm right up to returning to teaching at the beginning of the 1990s.  At that point, the choices were simple: Vogue (much loved by me!), Butterick, McCalls and Style and Simplicity.  If you were adventurous you could buy Burda, a German pattern manufacturer, who sold their patterns via magazines with multi-sized centre sheets for use to create their styles.  You had to be brave!  No seam allowances were included and all the patterns were printed on top of each other so cutting out the pattern pieces was a challenge in itself.

Today, much has changed.  Style has disappeared and Burda, having been bought by Simplicity, has gone over to the traditional method of selling patterns through catalogues and using envelope-style packaging. Their magazine still exists for the die-hards! But beware – their pattern block is designed differently and favours those with broader shoulders and upper chest area.

There are now sites where you can get really good discounts on the traditional “Big4” as they are known. The one which I use and find really helpful is Sew Direct.  This site really  comes into its own if you become a member. Initially it seems like a big cost:  £37.50 but this can be spread out with a quarterly direct debit of £8.  For this you get:

  • Six issues of the magazine “Sew Today” showing the latest pattern releases made up in different fabrics as well as information on yardage etc at the back of the magazine. The magazine is delivered in the post.
  • 2 free patterns of your choice worth up to £15 each – when you join
  • a minimum of 40% discount on all patterns purchased
  • A free Vogue label to sew into finished garments with each Vogue pattern purchased.

As most patterns with Vogue work out at about £15, this is more than worth my investment.  I probably buy at least 4 patterns a year which means that I save £6 each time and then of course the magazines technically only cost me about £1.50 each.  What’s not to like?

Independent Pattern Designers

And what a range of these there are!

This is the area where there has been the biggest change. Today there are literally hundreds of different designers producing their own range of patterns.  Some come in the traditional form: sold packaged in an envelope and offering several sizes in one package.  Others come via the medium of the internet.  You can buy an on-line pattern which will be sent to you as a pdf for printing (digital format).  This has its challenges but they are easily dealt with and also have advantages too.

Over the coming weeks, I would like to introduce you to some of these designers, give you some feedback on the successes or otherwise of their designs and more importantly their instructions and also their fit.  I will also give you tips and suggestions for how to manage the printing of pfd files. (I speak from sorry experience in this area so would like to prevent you from experiencing that as well.)

Here are a few of the “big hitters” in this arena:

  • Stylearc – an Australian pattern house which supplies patterns through pfd files.  They do sizes up to 32 and you can buy them on Amazon who will supply them ready printed but it is worth noting that not all patterns are available through them.

  • The Makers Atelier – a designer from Brighton, Frances Tobin, created the brand and designs these classy and classic clothes.  They come ready printed on great quality paper and with great instructions.  Most of their patterns come in a variety of sizes up to Size 22.

  • Oliver and S and Liesl and Co – an American company that designs for men and women but also for children. (I love their designs for kids!) The link I have given you takes you to the children’s page and from their you can navigate to the adult section. They sell in both digital (pfd) format and paper but the packaging from the States and delivery etc is prohibitive and you may have to bit the bullet and go for the digital offering.

I hope that has lifted the lid a little for those who are newish in this area and I will give you more information in the coming weeks.

It’s a wrap!

My first post is about this dress.  It is a Very Easy Vogue pattern: Vogue V8784.

The dress was made for my mum who no longer finds it easy to buy clothes.  She has arthritic shoulders and despite shopping for a new dress, none could be found to suit her.  I decided to make her one which would be able to be fitted to her shape and also address the problem of needing to fasten at the front for ease.

I will post a photo of her wearing it in the fulness of time but it is for a special occasion so will wait until that takes place.

The pattern is a lovely shape.  The fitted pleats/darts at the waist give it a beautifully fitting shape.

Mum chose to have the three-quarter length sleeves and collar with the full skirt.

The fabric is John Kaldor from John Lewis and is a linen and cotton mixture.  The dress is fully lined (as per the pattern) except for the sleeves. I used the standard John Lewis lining and sewed using Gutermann thread.

What size did I make?  I cut a size 16 but added extra to the waist as mum is short waisted and always needs extra added at that point for comfort.

Did I make any major pattern adjustments?  Yes.  I added  an extra 7 cm at the top of the arm.  I adjusted the pattern so that the sleeve-head and cuffs remained the same.

Where there any difficult stages in the making of the dress? No.  It went together very well and I am pleased with the outcome – as is Mum!!!

Any thoughts for next time? Yes. The pattern can be made in a knit and I shall make it again for her in a knit for the winter.

Reasons and Purposes

I decided to start this blog for a few reasons: I love sewing and making and I love sharing those experiences with others.  I also enjoy writing and miss the discipline of marshalling my thoughts to put them in coherent form (hopefully).

I have sewn and made items with fabric since I was 8.  My mother taught me and then I was taught by the wonderful Mrs Mortimer at my school.  I have had (and still have) triumphs and disasters.  I expect you will be the judge on how that works out in the future!  Now I am in my later 60s and blessed with a non-standard size.  I have learnt a few things over the years but still have still have masses to learn.

My purpose is to share my journey with you, giving you information on the fabrics and patterns used, the challenges and successes along the way and would value your responses to all of that.  Nowadays I sew for myself, my family and other special friends. I learn from Claire Tyler at the Midhurst Sewing Rooms and the many blogs which I visit.