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This is a perfect summer dress pattern. It's one I've had in my stash for some time and I'm kicking myself that I haven't made it until now! The Rosie dress has a pleated and gathered skirt with a princess seamed bodice. You can choose from different necklines and straps, or to make the skirt on its own. I made mine in beautiful Liberty lawn and love it!

FabricI bought this Liberty cotton lawn from the Sewbox stall at the Knitting and Stitching show. They sell pre-cut packages at a good price - this was 2m for £26 (pretty much half price). I had intended this for another project, but it didn't have enough drape for that. It is perfect for this dress though as you need something with a bit of structure to hold the centre pleat. It's light and feels comfortable in the heat.
I managed to source a navy cotton lawn to line the bodice with - that is actually more difficult than you might think! The only one I could find that wasn't at full Liberty price was this one from FabricUK.



Pattern and Instructions
I bought the printed pattern in one of Sew Over It's sales and kept it for quite some time! I initially bought it because you can insert boning into the bodice which I found interesting. In my version I left off the boning in the end but the instructions are there, with handy illustrations too.
As per all Sew Over It printed patterns you get a package containing an instruction booklet and the pattern pieces printed on tissue paper. I normally sew a size 10 in their patterns, and this was no exception. There are a few different options that you can play with - I cut the sweetheart bodice and wider straps. You can also choose a straight bodice or vintage style 'collar' and narrower straps too. I find their instructions quite straightfoward and didn't have any problems in making. I would say though that I underestimated how long it would take to hand sew that hem....there's a whole lotta skirt there! I wouldn't machine it though as I think the hand stitch is better.

Alterations
I kept the length for a change! I had to take in the bodice side seams a little at the top as they were winging out - there could have been some stretching as I was making because I didn't stay stitch the bodice pieces (that's not in the instructions either though). The waist has a little more ease than I usually wear, but I didn't want it too tight for a summer dress.


This is an intermediate pattern, but I found it really enjoyable to take time over these details, using the tips that I gained from the Couture Techniques Craftsy class I had taken. This is easily a pattern that you could use for a wedding guest dress; it's a perfect summer dress.

Personally, I find the way that the pleats are arranged at the front, along with the gathered back skirt, makes for a very flattering silhouette. The pattern also includes a variation just of this skirt which I am seriously considering in a crepe fabric once I have figured out what I can wear on the top half to match...suggestions welcome!
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It feels a bit odd putting this pattern into most worn as I've only made it this year but I'm already getting lots of wear out of my first hacked Moneta, and this second modal version is also out a lot lately too! This is one of those times when you buy a fabric just because you love it, and then take ages to decide what to make with it. As it happened I realised I needed a dress that would look elegant enough to wear in a  nice restaurant, but was also appropriate for daytime rather than evening. It might also be the first time that I have used a border print fabric like this so I really wanted to do it justice and make best use of the pattern.

Fabric
This fabric came up on the Lamazi fabric Instagram feed and I bought it without hesitating because it looked so beautiful! They stock a range of Lillestoff modal knit fabrics and this one must have sold out pretty quickly because it's no longer on their site. These modals are quite expensive for my usual price range (£9.50 per half metre) but they are very high quality and not easily available. They are lightweight single knits with superb drape and a silky feel (modal is in the rayon family). This one has a pattern that repeats over 70cm or so. I bought 2m and had 2 and a half repeats. 

I cut this pattern out flat from this fabric to ensure that it was perfectly aligned. This meant that I could make sure that the same pattern repeat was at the top of the front and back bodices as well as the sleeves. If I hadn't been so precise it would have been very obvious! I also cut the skirt portions on a single layer - the front and back skirts are identical so you can join them together instead of tracing out a new piece. I specifically arranged the pattern so that the darkest part was at the waist and the brightest busiest parts were away from this (these parts draw your eye - I'd rather it wasn't drawn to my tummy!). I also cut a lining for the bodice as this fabric is fairly thin and I wanted a little more structure for a more professional finish. I only just got all the pieces out of what I had because of all this! I had to go for shorter sleeves than I would have liked as a result too.


I had no problems when it came to sewing this fabric - I was a little concerned about the hem and tried a few different options, including a twin needle. However, a simple zigzag stitch seemed to look the best so I continued with that. I didn't need Wondertape or any stabiliser - just pressed and pinned into place.

Pattern and Instructions
Almost identical to my previous Moneta....there a lot of details in my first post (click here) about the neckline alteration and the pattern itself so do check them out there.


AlterationsI used the same bodice pattern pieces that I had created from my previous Moneta to create a raised neckline from the original pattern. However, as I was lining this bodice my first step was to join the lining and the shell parts together first (eg front shell to front lining, right sides together). I turned these out to their correct sides and pressed, rolling the lining under slightly. At the cutting stage I had removed 1/8" from the neckline of the lining pieces which helped with the pressing. I didn't understitch because it might be too bulky. I then continued by treating the shell/lining as one piece and joined the front and back bodices at the shoulders, as per the pattern etc.



I changed the skirt again! I tested with the same pleats as my previous make and they just didn't look right. Instead I found that three knife pleats, at the same point, allowed the skirt to fall in a much more flattering style. This fabric has much more drape than the AGF jersey that I used previously and these smaller pleats encourage more movement. I tacked these in place then stitched the bodice to the skirt as normal. At the back pleats also did not work in any form due to the drape and the different shape of the body under the back skirt. In this case gathers between the two bodice notches were the most flattering.


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I wear this all the time - it's one of my favourite tops ever, not just that I've made. It's more of a happy accident than anything though! This neckline suits me more than most others and the fabric not only matches a lot but is really comfortable to wear. Thanks to YouTube, again, it's so easy to do as well.

Fabric
I bought this striped viscose jersey in John Lewis in their clearance sale for something like £4.50 a metre. I bought 1.5m in total and have left overs....potentially if I make another one I can get away with 1m. It behaves as most viscose jerseys do - slippery to work with but comfortable and drapey to wear. It's light and breathable without being see through or clingy which makes it easy to wear casually.

Pattern and Instructions
This top is mainly based on a video tutorial by Rosabella Angelica on her 'Sewn' YouTube channel.
In it Rosabella guides you through adapting a knit top pattern to create a slash neck, and how to sew it up successfully too. I followed this through, using the Tilly and the Buttons Agnes top as my base pattern. The only adjustment I added in was to add in more ease, taking out the curved waist and cutting straight down for a more flattering look. I used a smaller seam allowance too which gives a little more room all over.
It took about three hours to make, including the adaptations and stripe matching.

So easy! and I wear it all the time! I really recommend checking out the video because you can apply the theory to a pattern you have in your stash, rather than having to purchase a new one.

[I should also say, I tried to make the Sew Over It Edie top from the Work to Weekend eBook, which is designed as a slash neck top. I ended up having to make so many alterations I don't feel I could say it's an Edie top any longer. This one was far more successful].



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Do you ever buy a fabric just because you love it and then have to think long and hard about what you will actually make with it? This was one of those. I saw this fabric on the Lamazi Fabric Instagram feed and impulse bought 3m, as you do. I must have had a wrap dress somewhere in my mind to have bought this much and eventually decided on the Sew Over It Ultimate Wrap Dress. I bought this pattern years ago but have never got around to making it, until now.
Fabric
This is a cotton jersey in navy and gold. It costs £17 a metre, but Lamazi Fabrics give you free shipping which I think helps with the cost a little. It's a little stiffer than I was expecting but that does help with sewing it. If you are new to sewing knits, it's not a bad one to start with on that point because it doesn't slip around when you are cutting and sewing it. However, I think that potentially a modal jersey might have been a better option for this particular pattern in hindsight. What I do think this would be good for is lining the hood of the Tilly and the Buttons Stella hoodie (just bought the Stretch book, bit late to the party but there you go).

Pattern and Instructions
I can only see this as a pdf pattern now on the Sew Over It site (£9), so you might have to look around if you want a print version. In any case, it is the same as the other Sew Over It patterns in that the instruction booklet comes with layplans, glossary, clear instructions and illustrations to assist in making. There are limited pattern pieces with this wrap dress so it has the potential to be a quick make. What does take time is getting the fit right.
You would think this is straightforward with a wrap dress, but it's been tricky for me. I didn't want a dress that was too revealing and I have read that the V is quite deep on this one. [I know you can wear a cami but that kind of spoils the look for me]. I raised the front wrap pieces to compensate for this and adjusted the neckband to match, with the outcome that you can see. Aside from fitting, this dress can be cut and sewn in a day because there really isn't much to it. 
(Thanks to the Sew Over It makers group on Facebook for the tips too!)

Thoughts
I think I might be refashioning this one.
It's not the fault of the fabric or the pattern really but I'm not in love with how it looks. Is it that the fabric is quite striking and there's a whole lot of it made up this way? or becuase it's too stiff? The pattern was fun to make because it's so quick, but I think something a little more drapey might be more appropriate for this wrap dress.
Plus I think I need to adjust the shoulders because there's a weird thing at the front with the facing creeping out (it is topstitched down at 1cm but I think it's because the bodice is too long for me - not normally an issue with SOI patterns).

So, having made this, I'm thinking, should I refashion it into a top? Not even a wrap top either, but maybe a slash neck top of some kind? The sleeves and back part are fine.
I'm not looking forward to unpicking the topstitching around the back neck, or tackling it, but I haven't worn it yet and don't know when I really would, over the other things I have.

Opinions and suggestions welcome!

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I know a fair few of you who love to sew have also taken up knitting over the winter, so here's one for you! I've really enjoyed being able to pick up some knitting for a little bit each evening and in December I decided to move on from socks to a sweater. Being me, I steered away from traditional first try choices, such as chunky wool or a simple pattern - they just aren't my style. I was entranced with the beautiful fingering weight jumpers that I had seen on the many YouTube channels and knitting magazines that I've been looking at. Many of them would involve learning lots of new techniques, but it goes back to my basic attitude of, if you have to learn it sometime, you can learn it all on one project and end up with something that you really wanted. Hence, my Zweig...
The Zweig sweater by Caitlin Hunter (aka Boyland Knitworks) appears to have been a popular pattern in the knitting community for some time. There are many of them out there! I gravitated towards this because of the features it has that suit my body shape: positive ease but not too roomy and a clear neckline that isn't too high or too low. It has a beautiful contrast lace yoke and below this the rest is knit with a cross pattern made with cabling. I even like the long ribbed cuffs which you can wear full length or doubled over (like in my photos), depending on how chilly it is. The sleeves don't decrease along the arm so they aren't too snug, which I also prefer.


*When you go to buy the pattern, you'll be redirected to the Ravelry store, where you can buy it for $8.40. If you sign up to the newsletter in the link above though you get a 25% discount code. You'll get a pdf document with instructions and charts. I found it best to print mine to keep track of the lace work.*
As a newbie, the techniques that I had to tackle along the way were:
  • short row shaping at the back neckline (so the back is higher than the front)
  • knitting with two colours and carrying yarn
  • lacework
  • picking up stitches for sleeves
  • cable knitting 
  • alternating yarn
The short row shaping didn't go well the first time. Some of the technique was similar to what I had learned in the Jujuy shawl, but I wasn't happy with how it looked so I had to rip it back and try again. I'm glad I did because it was much better the second time. I turned to trusty old YouTube again for anything else I wasn't sure on 
- Voolenvine's tutorial videos sorted out how to manage the colourwork for me [and the one about how to Norwegian purl was a blessing when it came to the ribbing!]. 
- Babbles Travelling Yarn's jogless join video taught me how to alternate skeins with the helical method [which I had heard was good for avoiding a line down the back where yarns were swapped - more on that below]. When I was knitting the cross pattern I couldn't use this method because you don't get the right effect, so at these points I just switched skeins as normal. 
- Avoiding holes in underarm seams for when I picked up the sleeves [plus creative weaving in of ends to close anything that looked a bit gapey].

There is a link in the pattern instructions to a video to master the cable stitch without needing a cable needle, so this has been taken care of. I did practice for my swatch, which was just as well as it took a few goes to get right and I did have to size up needles. The lace work wasn't tricky either - I found I preferred to use the diagram and kept my place with a line of washi tape.

After the initial short row do-over, pretty much everything progressed nicely. Slowly, but nicely. The only other ripping back I did was cuff number 2 because I missed a crucial decrease row. I knitted the full 5 inches of cuff with double the number of stitches that I needed before I realised. I think I was just excited about getting to the last section....I won't be making that mistake again! Overall, this took a good 2 months to knit (and I did spend some large chunks of time on it over Christmas).


I found it difficult to find yarns to match what I had in mind. I'm not the most imaginative of souls and was aiming for something similar to the pattern picture, but not so dark. Charcoal grey and blush was my intention. Not as easy as it sounds, apparently. I sourced the yoke colour of pinks, peaches and caramels, aptly named 'Toasted Marshmallows', from Sherry Iris Designs (£17.50). I had about 65g left over, so this part could well be made with a remnant from another make. I deliberately chose a sock weight yarn for this sweater because I wanted to avoid pilling and maximise potential uses of left overs. What I have left from this yoke will either end up as a pair of socks or a fade in a larger project (like a shawl).

Finding the grey was much more difficult. I was considering some Madeline Tosh yarn, but couldn't make out the colours properly on screen. The only one I could find that might work was out of stock - Smoke by Cosmic Strings Yarn (£18.50). On the off chance, I contacted them to ask when it might be in stock and they very kindly dyed me up a custom batch of three skeins. Result! As it's a hand dyed yarn I decided to follow advice and alternate the skeins to avoid colour pooling or variance - I've seen how this can go wrong. I have also seen that simply switching at the BOR marker can leave a spine down the back, which I wouldn't have minded per se, but if it can be avoided, why not? Using the helical method actually wasn't hard and it isn't noticeable where I've been switching skeins. I've got about 60g left of this too (just as well I've signed up for The Handmade Sock Society 2 with these remnants). The yarn has a lovely lustre to it now it's been blocked which makes it look a bit more special. 


The final result? Well, it turned out like it's meant to, which was a win. It's also very soft and comfortable to wear. I've been told this looks the best out of everything I've made, so I'm assuming that's a good outcome.
Would I recommend it to beginners? Yes - I'm a beginner and I managed it!
Would I make it again? Potentially, but not for a while. I have other things I want to try and it takes a very long time. I don't feel like it needs tweaking either so I'm not desperate to have another go...it turned out pretty well the first time which is nice (a lot of my sewing doesn't).


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Finally, I made a Moneta! I feel like everybody else in the sewing community has several of these in their closets and I'm very late to the party, but I am now a Moneta member. Before, I was put off by some of the design features that I knew wouldn't suit me, but by finding the right alterations and fabric to use, I've made something that I already know will be replicated many more times. Normally the Moneta pattern features a scooped front neckline and a gathered waist. This version has a boatneck bodice with a pleated skirt instead.

Fabric
So, as well as trying to produce more of the kinds of garments I can wear a lot, I've also made a conscious effort this year to invest in some more high quality fabric (the theory being this will also help with making things that can be worn a lot). I previously was sent some Art Gallery Fabric knit when I wrote an article in Sewing Made Simple magazine about Tilly and the Buttons' online dressmaking course, featuring the Agnes top (reviewed here in case you are interested). I always loved the fabric but don't wear the top very often because the ruching at the front that I tried out isn't my best look. In any case, it's made me want to use AGF knit again for another project. It's got a good weight to it (not too light but also not quite a ponte), it's warm and feels fabulous to wear. It also behaves itself very well for a knit fabric which makes for a much more pleasant sewing experience. If you are using knit or jersey for the first time, I recommend using something like this because you just don't have so many issues - when you press it, it stays!


If you've been a reader for a while you know how susceptible I am to an Instagram ad and it so happened that Lamazi Fabrics posted that they had this AGF Tiny Dancer Knit Fabric as their fabric of the week, meaning it was reduced from £10 per half metre to £8. I immediately went over and ordered 2m. Whenever Lamazi Fabrics have discounts I'm always interested because they also have FREE UK DELIVERY which means that you really are making a saving. I actually had this fabric for a while before deciding what to do with it. It was originally going to be pyjamas until the Moneta pattern hit me like a bolt of lightning!

Pattern and Instructions
I bought my Moneta pattern as a pdf download back when I had a Sewmwork subscription - you can use credits for Colette patterns, but they require more than the Seamwork ones. Version 1 is a lined sleeveless dress, Version 2 has an unlined bodice and short sleeves whilst Version 3 has 3/4 length sleeves. All have a gathered skirt and scoop neckline.Whenever you download from Colette you get lots of versions of the pdf as well as the instruction booklet. I selected from these to have mine printed for me by Dotty Print, who I compared with other sewing pattern printing services and had worked out cheapest for this pattern, including postage. I even treated myself to a printed instruction booklet (which arrived nicely folded and stapled too) - the booklet was a bit extravagant for me normally but it equalled the difference between other companies and felt like a nice touch!



Colette instructions are quite good for beginners. You get lots of specific details to help you in your construction, and they give you options you can use if you are using a regular sewing machine for the whole project (which will probably be the case for most beginners). Their diagrams are clear and the instructions for this are particularly easy to follow. I like how they are also broken down into the three different versions so it's easy to keep track of where you are meant to be and not get confused. 

I left out the pockets so only had 5 pattern pieces to think about. That shows how quickly and easily you can get this made. I cut a Medium Version 3 and had leftovers out of my 2m (according to the pattern you should need 2.4m).



Alterations
Firstly, you should know that the 3/4 length sleeves aren't 3/4 length. They might come to an awkward point in your elbow if you cut them as per the pattern. I had to turn mine up to above the elbow with a deep hem to stop them creasing. 3/4 length sleeves are very flattering if you do them right so I would add 3-4 inches to the sleeves at the cutting out stage to get what I think looks nicest.

My main alterations were to the neckline and skirt.
At the stage of cutting out the paper pattern I altered the neckline on the front and back bodice. Instead of cutting along the neckline curve, I cut a horizontal line from the shoulder to the centre front, and cut the fabric accordingly. I then pinned the shoulders and sides together and tried it on inside out. Then I turned the neckline under to where I wanted it to sit and marked the fold line on the wrong side of the fabric with a water soluble pen. I cut away what would be excess, leaving about 1cm to turn under and secure as a neckline hem. I kept what I cut off and used this to make final alterations to my paper pattern for next time. (It turned out the back bodice has a higher neckline than the front in my case). Then, when constructing, you might need to secure the neckline hem before joining at the shoulders. This is because of the angles at the neckline shoulders. It works much better to stitch the neckline hem down with a topstitching zig zag first than to try and pivot your fabric afterwards. This is entirely dependent on the thickness of the fabric in my experience so you may have to try a sample first for yours.




Instead of gathering the skirt and using elastic, I marked where the bodice notches fell on the corresponding skirt pieces. Essentially I wanted these notches to align with an inverted pleat. I measured from the sides towards the centre and again from the centre point towards the sides. The excess fabric between these two measurements is what became the pleat. I stitched the pleat in place with a line of vertical stitches measuring just over an inch (if you look at my pictures you can see that the pleats open up after the waistline). This is simply because when they were opening at the waist it was not flattering!

Thoughts
I'm totally converted now that I've figured out how to make this pattern suit me. The fabric is super comfortable and it makes for a garment that transitions across seasons easily. Plus, now that I have my alterations figured out, I think I could whip one of these up in an afternoon. So simple!
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As soon as I heard that the popular exhibition of Dior dresses that had been on display in Paris was coming to London I booked tickets for as soon as I could go. It was a truly inspiring collection that has made me think carefully about my future dressmaking choices (as well as one of my souvenirs - his book of advice for women),

If you are not able to go, here are some of the highlights of the collection (well, for me anyway). I hope you find them just as inspiring.

The most iconic image of Dior's New Look...


....and the current look under  the first female director, Maria Grazia Churi


The collection starts with a tour through Christian Dior's original lines....






Then takes you through a series of themed collections including designs from all directors since Dior himself. However, I am mainly drawn to either Dior or Churi's designs throughout.

Historical themes:




Global inspiration:





Le jardin:
The inspiration behind dress designs and perfumes.
This spectacular gown is from a very recent collection.



The exhibition then takes you through the signature looks of design directors after Christian Dior.
(Apologies that all my photographs were of Maria Grazia Churi! I was attempting to snap anything that really spoke to me.)




The room of toiles made me think about taking time to perfect fit and design before using a quality fabric.



The finale of the exhibition is the gown room which really is the show stopper. The room itself changes from dawn to dusk through the night and back again which shows the gowns off in golden and silver hues.









Well worth a trip, if you can get tickets.
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This week, the Great British Sewing Bee had a 1970's theme which means that the #gbsbsewalong is vintage themed. I was totally taken in with all the gorgeous maxi dresses from the final challenge; whilst I was watching all I could think of was the By Hand London Alix Dress pattern that I had, and how I had always wanted to improve on my first version with a summer maxi, so here it is (in March!). I took a lot of learning through from my first version and I'm much happier with this maxi.

Fabric
I bought this fabric last Autumn at the Knitting and Stitching Show from the Textile Centre. I had just under 3m for something in the region of £12 (I think). In any case I thought it was very good value at the time! I couldn't say exactly what composition this fabric is...it is lightweight and slightly sheer but it does not feel (or fray as badly) like georgette or chiffon. It may simply be a very lightweight polyester/crepe. It does fray, but is able to cope with seams finished with an overlocker rather than french seaming. I used a fine universal needle which appeared to work fairly well, and I double lined the front bodice to make extra sure it wouldn't be see through there. Over the rest of the dress there is a lot of doubling over from the folds and pleats, which this fabric drapes beautifully for and so far no see through worries. 
It was really important to me to go for a lighter weight fabric from my first Alix dress; in that one I used a normal crepe which was far too thick. I never wear it and a large factor was poor fabric choice. This time around though I think I found an excellent candidate for this pattern.



Pattern and Instructions
By Hand London Patterns are pdf only. In the download you get versions that can be printed at home or by copy shop as well as an instruction booklet. The pattern has three variations that use the same top half with three different lengths for the bottom part ranging from blouse to maxi. Features include a shaped V neck yoke, voluminous raglan set sleeves, waist insert with ties for the back and pleats all over! What this means is that construction of the sleeves is simple and there is little to no fitting because you rely on the waist ties. The only bit that really needs time to get right is the v neck and bust area.

Personally, I like BHL instructions. I find the diagrams are very helpful and the whole process is really clear. Though there are a fair few pattern pieces, the construction is straightforward and once you have mastered the V neck front area, moves along quite quickly. All the pieces always fit well together in BHL patterns so you never have to spend time squeezing parts together that don't match! The key to successful fitting with this pattern will be the bust area, as everything else has lots of room to work with. I went with the size 8/12 based on my measurements and this fit pretty well.


Alterations
Having spent time and money making one dress I never wear, I took a lot of learning through to this project (beyond the poor fabric choice).

I raised the neckline at the front because the original pattern is a little too deep for me - I know it's designed to be a bit racy but I'm not! (This is where my previous make was handy because I could try it on and see where I would have preferred it to sit). I extended the front yoke up by 3cm where the two pieces join at the centre. Then I drew from this point to where the collarbone hits on the neckband.  If you want to do the same but don't have a toile or previous garment you can establish these points for yourself by tissue fitting the front yoke and back neckband. I also took the optional step of interfacing one set of the yoke/neckband pieces for added stability.
I made a few adjustments to the length of the dress and sleeves so that they weren't too long - this is pretty standard for me.


The other main alteration I made was to change the sleeve cuffs. I try to avoid elastic where possible and have never got on with the elastic cuffs on this pattern. Instead created something similar to a shirt cuff. I didn't join the underarm seam of the sleeve to the end, leaving about 4 inches where I turned the raw edge under instead. Then I cut a pair of rectangles for the cuffs (22cm x 12cm). I also cut a 4x10cm rectangle on the bias. I used this to create a rouleau loop and followed the instructions for creating a cuff that are used in the Sew Over It Pussy Bow Blouse. Deviations from the instructions were that I had only built in a 1cm seam allowance and I pleated my sleeve in to the cuff at each end so that it would match the rest of the detailing on the dress. I had these gold buttons in my button jar (I think they may have come with a ready to wear item a very long time ago!) which matched beautifully.

I'm very pleased with both alterations as they make the dress much more comfortable to wear. I even enjoyed hand sewing down the inside of the cuffs after my couture dressmaking classes!
And I have a maxi dress that matches my short stature....definitely not something that's easy to find in the shops!



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This week I'm guest posting on the Minerva Crafts Blog with my Deer and Doe Melilot shirt made from their Cotton and Steel rayon. The pattern I picked was more to do with testing out the versatility of the fabric (more about that on the Minerva Craft site here), but got me to thinking about what I prefer about the different shirt patterns I have used and which I will use most often. Seeing as this year I'm really focusing on which patterns I can use a lot, it made sense to compare the best features of each. All three are casual shirts but offer different looks and making experiences.



Sew Over It Alex Shirt


My first button up shirt was the Alex shirt from the Sew Over It My Capsule Wardrobe: City Break eBook. Thus far it is also my most used pattern (probably because it was the first!). It has a flat collar and a slightly dropped shoulder to give it a relaxed and casual look. The sleeves don't have cuffs but do have tabs for you to roll up the ends with. It has a fairly simple construction including a shoulder yoke and is loose fitting. This means that it is easier to construct than some other button up shirts so is a good starting point for a beginner. There is also a shirt dress version that you can make with this pattern that relies on fit from a waist tie/belt, so no more complicated than the shirt itself. I found that mine needed a lot of taking in and in later versions I made a size smaller which suited my frame better. I was able to make my versions in quite light fabrics - chiffon in one case - because of the design.



(In case you want more details on the pattern or my previous makes....
Full pattern review and details: here
Second shirt: here
Shirt dress version: here)
Good points: simple collar and sleeves make for easy construction; relaxed and loose fit for a casual look; easy to use French seams (and therefore light fabrics); shirt dress option; instructions include photographs.Things to think about: only available as part of an eBook; very relaxed fit.

Closet Case Patterns Kalle Shirt
Next I tackled the Kalle shirt from Closet Case Patterns, as part of the #sewmystyle2018 line up. This is a casual short sleeved shirt with multiple options including different collars, cuffs and plackets as well as a range of lengths from a cropped shirt down to a shirt dress. The hem has a deep curve as a feature and also includes a yoke. If you want lots of versions from a pattern, this will certainly fit the bill. There is a sleeve expansion available too; the original pattern uses kimono sleeves so if you lengthen them they will be based on a dropped shoulder. The instructions are also highly detailed (both in the pattern booklet and the tutorials on the Closet Case blog) so if you are trying a new technique, there is a lot of support in getting it right. It is the most complicated out of the patterns I've tried as it is the most technically advanced. However, you will have a good button up shirt at the end of it!

My version and more details: here

Good points: quality of instructions; you can learn a lot of different techniques through one pattern; sizing and proportions, range of options and so many versions!Things to think about: long sleeves are an add on pack, picking and adapting the hem to suit best.

Deer and Doe Melilot Shirt
The Melilot shirt from Deer and Doe also features dropped shoulders but is a little more elegant with its placket cover and wrist detailing. You can pick from a rounded or mandarin collar as well as different sleeve lengths. The construction of this shirt falls between the other two in terms of complication. It doesn't have a yoke which speeds things up, but does have a wrist placket and cuff which will take time to figure out if it's new to you. The instructions are accompanied with diagrams which are just about enough to get the job done. Out of the three patterns this one was the fastest that I made - whether that is due to the construction or my improving skills is debatable, but I think it is the pattern itself. I also think it is easiest to make this look more formal or more casual too.

Good points: ease of construction, overall fit; placket and cuff details, short sleeved and long sleeved versions.
Things to think about: no shirt dress version.

Overall? or for your very casual first button up shirt? What would I recommend?

  • Simplicity of construction: Alex, or perhaps Melilot
  • Learning potential: Kalle
  • Range of options: Kalle
  • Speed: Melilot
  • Versatility in formal and casual ensembles: Melilot and Kalle
Personally, I'm drawn to the feminine aesthetic of the Melilot, so this will probably end up as my most used in the fullness of time.

oh, and they all have pockets!!

Of course, there are also lots of other options out there, the By Hand London Sarah shirt, Tilly and the Buttons Rosa shirt and shirt dress or Grainline Archer shirt to name a few! The commercial pattern companies also have a wealth of patterns, but I've focused on these three as casual shirts that are popular with online makers. Pop your comment down below for your own recommendations and preferences!
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First up...I used these classes through Craftsy. It's now been taken over by Bluprint. Everything is still available, it's just under a different name. I have only dipped into the new platform but it seems to work the same...
So many people have recommended Craftsy for online classes that when they were on sale last, I had to have a go! I signed up for two classes by Alison Smith; Couture Dressmaking Techniques and Couture Finishing Techniques. I figured it was time I tried to improve what I was making, and was interested in the kinds of techniques that I could use to achieve a really professional finish to my handmade garments. If you are also thinking about spending more time on the quality of your makes, read on to find out more about these classes - I definitely recommend giving them a go.

The two classes have some similar content, like how to sew seams, but are quite different. Couture Dressmaking Techniques gives you the 'big picture' elements - understanding lining, construction (including darts, necklines, sleeves, boning) and sewing things like princess seams. Couture Finishing Techniques looks at the smaller details - hand stitching, finishing seams, inserting fasteners and hemming. Personally I think the two go very well together, and I couldn't pick one over the other for usefulness! If you hang on long enough, there are often half price offers around bank holidays so you can get both for the price of one if you time it right.



The tutor, Alison, is very experienced (she has an MBE!). I love her presentation style because you can hear the years she has spent on dressmaking in what she says. Each section is full of small tips that help make sewing easier and more accurate. I feel that the lessons are correctly paced, so that you don't miss anything and it's all explained clearly, but doesn't drag on. I have watched these just on their own as videos as well as using them alongside my making to take me through each step.  I found it interesting to learn more about dressmaking and construction for a range of garments, even if it wasn't relevant to anything I'm making right now. You can access lessons forever, online or like I do, using the mobile app. The materials for this class are sparse, but it's not really about worksheets so that didn't bother me.

My sewing has definitely changed as a result of watching these videos. I'm not as adverse to hand sewing as I was before and like adding that extra professional finish now. I've also learned different ways of achieving the same outcome, and think a bit differently about the patterns I'm making to consider if it will get me to the best possible finish. I have picked up the princess seams chapter on more than one occasion from my mobile app to help get it just right, as Alison give a lot more detail than any pattern does. I've also invested in a seam roll to make best use of the iron, instead of rushing through this step when I'm making (or missing it out altogether!). It has made a difference, in case you are wondering. I have to say I feel less worried about making garments for other people now. Beforehand I was worried how obvious it would be that it was made by me - there is a distinct difference between 'homemade' and 'handmade'!




The first project I used my new found skills on was a wool miniskirt; it uses left overs from my Rumana coat for a matching winter set. I added a waistband and lining using Alison's techniques. Normally I would never bother with a bias binding finish, but did here, and love how it works. (For some reason no matter how many times I've tried to photograph me wearing this skirt, the images always look awful! It must be something to do with all the grey going on, and the lack of light in winter time.)

I'm so glad I signed up to these classes. I won't be using these techniques on all my sewing but I certainly will when I want to make something really special.



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