Sew It With Love Delia top

If you like it then you oughta put a bow on it…

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So I did.

Say hello to Delia, the first pattern from Sew It With Love, the London-based sewing company and school run by the lovely Elena. It’s a super-cute knit top with raglan sleeves, an optional peplum and optional bow. (The bow is not optional in my mind; I will never miss a chance to wear a bow.) I was lucky enough to be a pattern tester.

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I ordered a cotton jersey rayon blend from Girl Charlee UK, and as they only take orders in whole metres, ended up with rather a lot! The orange and lilac colour combination is sugary sweet; every time I think I’m moving in a more sartorially sophisticated direction, I do something like this. Bows, frills and sherbet. Do you ever find this, that you have one idea of your style in your head, and then keep being drawn to prints/colours/designs that don’t sit within that style at all? Or that it’s winter, and you’ve only gone and bought something that screams summer? (You can all too clearly see in the photos that I’m wearing a cami underneath!)

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Delia is a nice and easy sew, perfect for someone still new to knits. The pattern comes with plainer variations (short sleeves, no peplum, no bow) which makes it a great ‘basic’. I made a size 10, which is quite relaxed in this particular knit. Fit-wise I shortened the bodice because I wanted that peplum to hit right on the waist (the original design has it rather lower). I’m still considering whether to shorten the sleeves to three-quarter length; having shortened the top I feel the balance is slightly thrown out by the long (and loose-ish) sleeves.

I’m excited by all the colour-blocking possibilities with this top – I’m thinking of making a version with a black and white graphic print on the bodice, then plain black sleeves and a black bow… It’s such a perfect pattern for spring, which I’m rather waiting for before wearing this Delia out and about. Right now that seems still some way off, given I’m wiped out with a cold that’s utterly stolen my voice. I don’t think I ever realised quite how much I chat to myself until today, when the flat has been so oddly quiet… So, for now, this is my way of communicating – thanks for keeping me company, blogosphere! x

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2017!

Hello, and, er, a very belated Happy New Year!

First day of February and I’ve just about recovered from Christmas. I’ve still got a considerable amount of chocolate to consume, but at least I’ve finally got the Muppets’ Christmas Carol soundtrack out of my head.

I LOVE Christmas. My excitement levels go into hyperdrive sometime around breakfast on December 1st (it’s no coincidence that that was the last date I managed to post a blog entry…) and I usually spend the next few weeks in a sort of craze of festive happiness otherwise only found in sugar-high five-year-olds (only in my case with added alcohol). Thankfully, unlike your average five-year-old I have a sewing machine into which I can channel some of my festive frenzy, and there are few things I enjoy more than making Christmas presents. So although this all happened some time ago now, and I’ve got heaps of exciting 2017 stuff to show you, I still fancied sharing my Christmas makes…

For my mother, on her country walks and mini-breaks, I made a second version of the Desmond roll-top backpack, as before scaled to 80%. Again, I used Liberty fabric from Fabrics Galore, reinforced with interfacing, and this time a grey needlecord for the lining. The hardware came from Kleins, in Soho. Such a satisfying make.

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The speed of my knitting is something of a running joke in my family, especially as Christmases past have often seen me wrap up some unfinished accessory – scarf, gloves – complete with needles and yarn and place it sheepishly under the tree. True to tradition, this year my lucky sister received a half-finished scarf in Rowan Kidsilk Haze, inspired by this one. Hey, at least I managed to finish it in the new year, and it is pleasingly fluffy…

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Also this year I had the added bonus of making for J, a man who was never going to realise on his own that what he really wanted for Christmas was a pair of red tartan pyjama trousers. I used Kwik Sew 4088, a versatile pattern that offers trousers, shorts, two top variations and a dressing gown. Unfortunately, he takes these trousers quite seriously and will only wear them for actual sleeping, not blog posing, so you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say they are great.

And, for me (because why stop at giving to others?) – I finally made the Christmas tree skirt of my dreams!

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It’s a project posted on the Village Haberdashery blog back in 2015. Christmas 2015 I was busy leaving my job to go freelance, overhauling my existence and in general freaking out about Big Life Change, which didn’t leave a lot of time for Christmas patchwork. This year, a consuming, unnecessary and completely indulgent craft project seemed the perfect way to mark the fact that I’d actually survived the aforementioned change. Piecing all those little squares (often imperfectly, but hey, it’s a skirt for a tree) soothed my soul, and inspired me to tackle an actual quilt which will be appearing here imminently…

Anyway, sorry to be oddly sharing my Christmas on February 1st; I don’t know where January went but it clearly wasn’t into productive bloggery. I celebrated Chinese New Year at the weekend and I think my rooster resolution should be blog more! x

The Foldline Billie top – and a little of life lately…

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Hello and happy December! Things have been busy and up and down here, but I’m so excited that Advent is upon us and holidays are comin’, holidays are comin’… I said in my last post that I wouldn’t bore you all with my tales of recent work, stress and occasionally snatched play, so let it suffice to say that at the end of last week, following a minor health scare (all sorted now), I rather snapped and have taken the past few days off for almost solid sewing. As well as a super-cute pattern test, I finally got around to making up this Billie top, from The Foldline Tribe Patterns’ first collection. Rachel and Kate very kindly sent me a copy of the pattern upon its release and I’d been wanting to tackle the top ever since, knowing I had finally found exactly the right use for the leftovers from my election-day skirt.

I’m going to say upfront that the Billie pattern isn’t my normal style, but one of the (less obvious) reasons I love being sent patterns to test or review is because sometimes they take one out of one’s style comfort zone. The square neckline, shoulders and armhole darts were all intriguing to me. The peplum however was love at first sight – I adore peplums, cute waist-enhancing, upper-bottom-concealers that they are.

The gorgeous fabric (I think it would be worth going back to Vietnam just to get more of the stuff) found its match in some scraps of blue silk leftover from a client’s skirt – I have such a hard time getting rid of scraps and now my hoarding tendencies have been validated!

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The top is a cinch to sew; a little trickier in my case to fit. I ended up with excess fabric pooling around my upper chest; I partially resolved this by slightly deepening and lengthening the waist darts but their points are now closer to the side dart tips than ideal.  I also deepened and lengthened the back darts because there was some excess in the upper back too.

The pattern provides instructions for a fully exposed zipper; I felt this would look too heavy on my floral fabric so opted for a semi-exposed (no idea of the proper term!) insertion. Unfortunately, the zip is really too heavy for my fabric and, not helped by my short and overly curved back, waves up and down and wrinkles the back bodice. I’m even tempted to remove it and replace it with a concealed zip,  but let’s be frank here – I’m more likely to just wear the top and grow indulgently fond of it, imperfections and all. Plus, if I let my hair down it will cover most of the back!

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I’ve realised now I have my hands on my hips in almost all of these photos – but it was so cold outside I barely knew what to do with myself! Winter has done with coming, and is well and truly here now. It feels so good to have finally made a few items for myself after an autumn of sewing for others. Back in September I made an Anna dress for my beautiful friend on her Italian honeymoon…

Then I made a capsule holiday wardrobe for my mother’s trip to Borneo and Singapore…

One copied skirt, one self-drafted pair of trousers, one pair of Sew Over It Carrie Trousers and four self-drafted box tops…

Then it was an evening skirt and top commission, made with divine Indian silk that I had to completely underline…

How I love zip guards!

All sewing is pleasurable, but sometimes you just need to carve out a bit of space for a few selfish sews. And so I hope you’re all managing to squeeze in a little selfishness this week… x

* This pattern was provided to me free of charge, but all opinions are my own. Believe me, I wouldn’t have stood out bare-armed in the freezing cold just to pretend to like it 😉 *

 

 

Capital Chic Patterns – Sangria

Hello everyone! Yep, it’s been ages, and I won’t even begin to explain what myriad projects have pushed aside this blog, how I’ve been working like a crazy thing and how I’ve forgotten what it’s like to don decent clothes and get out of the house for a photo – but know that I’m just so pleased to be back here, and sharing with you a brand spanking new pattern to boot!

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This is Sangria, one of four new patterns from Capital Chic Patterns. If there’s one thing I love more than sewing new patterns appearing on the market, it’s being asked to test new patterns before they appear on the market! After the challenging but ultimately rewarding (when the reward is a fantastically smart and sexy outfit) experience I’d had sewing the Martini dress from Capital Chic last year, I was raring to go when Sally asked me if I’d like to test a pattern from her new collection, RELEASED TODAY!!!

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As with the first collection, all of the patterns are named after cocktails, and their style is decidedly aimed at the trend-conscious professional with more than a little dressmaking experience under her (oh-so-stylish) belt. In the words of Sally herself,

Elevated design complexity, atypical construction techniques and slightly unusual shapes (while remaining thoroughly wearable) are intended to provide an interesting but achievable sewing experience for intermediate to advanced sewists who relish the challenge of more complex designs.’

I found my Martini dress a great learning experience; the lined skirt vent gave me hours of head-scratching, but is now my go-to finish for skirts. This Sangria is a simpler make, the simplest of the new collection, but this makes it an excellent way to dive in if you’re new to scuba (sorry, just couldn’t help myself…).

Sangria is a smooth sheath dress made from scuba jersey. Its simple shape lends it to office wear, when made in solid colours, or more formal wear when embracing some of the modern digital prints on the market. The short sleeves are fitted enough to work under jackets. This dress features a neck band, bound edges on the sleeves, and a twin needle hem. There is an invisible zip at centre back. In terms of sewing techniques, this pattern is quicker and easier to sew than others in the collection, a great option for otherwise experienced sewists who are working with scuba jersey for the first time.’

I was indeed one of those very scuba-clueless sewists. Then no sooner had I oohed over this ‘bonded lace scuba’ in one of Fabric Godmother’s emails (my bank balance quivers with fear every time one of those pops into my inbox…) but the email arrived from Sally with details of the delicious Sangria: designed for scuba. Some things are just meant to be.

What probably wasn’t meant to be was my cutting in-between a size 12-14 (graded to a 10 at the waist) when this particular scuba has absolutely minimal stretch. The dress is clearly a little too tight for me at the moment (she says, hopefully, as though any minute now those extra pounds will run away to rejoin Europe). This is something to bear in mind with these patterns – they do run to the tight side. I’m a RTW size 10.

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I also (and now I remember this from my Martini) could do with a swayback adjustment to take a wedge of length out of the upper back.

Do fitting issues affect my feelings about this dress? Well, to be honest, only when I look at these photos! The rest of the time I feel slinky and sassy, and reliant on the fact that it’s the sort of dress one only wears in the evening (i.e. low-lighting) to cover up any unfortunate lumpy-bumpy. Plus the pegged shape of the skirt means I have to walk rather more elegantly than is my wont, which can’t be a bad thing. I’m looking forward to making a stretchier version in some floral scuba.

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I wanted to wear the dress out for Hallowe’en, but we didn’t actually go out for Hallowe’en this year. I’m worried this is because we’re becoming real grown-ups, and only a real grown-up would want to wear a black sheath dress out for Hallowe’en in the first place, instead of a leotard cat costume with elements they’ve owned since Brownies. But we’re hurtling headlong into Christmas party season and I have no doubt this dress will see its fair share of wild nights yet…

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I still have so much to learn about photography. That lipstick is actually a very deep purple-red, and my skin is not quite so vampirically white…

I do hope this has whetted your appetite to check out the rest of Capital Chic’s new patterns. And please be assured that I won’t be leaving it until January for my next blog post; I have some fantastic new makes I just can’t wait to share with you!

N x

P.S. Obviously as a tester I was provided with the pattern for free, but the enthusiasm is all my own 🙂

The last dress of summer…

Good Golly, Miss Molly – it’s October! Coat-weather has arrived seemingly out of nowhere, stews are back on the menu and my pockets keep filling up with ‘ooh-that’s-a-shiny-one’ conkers.

I do however have one last glimpse of summer to share with you before we leave that heavenly season behind. It’s a Tilly and the Buttons Coco dress I actually made right at the start of May, but have mostly been too busy wearing to blog.

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So first I’ll let you in on a secret – I used to think stripes were a bit, well, boring. I only wanted to wear things with big splashy prints, or fascinating intricate ones – prints that told stories. Stripes were just about acceptable if they were multi-multicoloured – but black and white? Navy? Dull! Even watching Coco Before Chanel had not been enough to convince me, because, let’s face it, Audrey Tautou could make an old sack look chic, let alone some Breton stripes.

But that was the old me, and she was a fool. The change began about a year ago with my first Agnes top. As I pranced about in that I gradually began to realise the power of the stripe. So … simple. So … easy. So … je ne sais quoi. And lo and behold, I was a stripe convert. Which is why over the past few months this blog has seen a striped cardigan, a striped Papercut turtleneck, a striped sweater, a striped Archer shirt, a striped Negroni shirt, a striped shirt refashion… and now a striped Coco. I saw the stripe – now I’m a believer.

Anyway, back to the pattern: I cut a size 3, but then took it in down the sides and the arms (but made minimal alteration to the armscye and none to the neckline) to create a closer fit. I also made it quite a bit shorter; too short as I belatedly realised – whenever the weather was warm enough for a mini dress, the dress was over-warm. I’d been inspired by some Boden striped knit dresses but really struggled to find a knit of the right stripe. This one came from Sew Over It; it’s a medium-weight poly/spandex which meant it was perfect for cooler days but a bit too synthetic for when the temperature picked up.

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I’d recently discovered the concept of ‘pancaking’ my plait…
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The cream stripes are actually ridges, which give a great texture and make the dress feel that little bit smarter – although they are now becoming slightly tufty…

Being a sucker for a cliché I couldn’t help but wear my nautical stripes down to the seaside, completing my outfit with – what else – a pair of deck shoes. Thank goodness there weren’t any actual sailors around to witness my sartorial tomfoolery. There was however a handy selection of their boats to casually lean against.

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That’s it for this summer then, *sob*. It’s hard to accept, particularly given I’ve spent the past week preparing a sewn capsule wardrobe for my mother’s upcoming tropical adventure in south-east Asia, and therefore handling light linens and lawns. But I feel comforted when I take a peek inside my fabric chest and see denim, corduroy, wool, rich luxuriant prints and jewel colours, even, ahem, some stripes… well, whoops, I’d better get my sew on! x

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The Refashioners 2016 – my ‘Jeanius’ entry!

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As I write, the deadline for the Refashioners 2016 is fewer than 3 hours away. I feel like I’m bashing out this post like a last-minute essay – J’s teasing me for being such an arts student, always fired up by the pressure of a looming deadline. But you know what? I finished my entry a few hours ago. Finished with hours to spare? That’s an achievement in my book.

To be honest though, I’d sort of left it this late on purpose. I LOVED last year’s Refashioners challenge and it got me absolutely hooked on the whole refashioning business. I refashioned 4 shirts for that contest; since then I’ve turned 3 pairs of jeans into a comprehensive tool storage solution, two old dresses into children’s clothes for charity, a man’s shirt into an off-the-shoulder top and a Japanese kimono into a wrap dress. But the subject of this year’s challenge, jeans, had me rather panicked. Firstly, the last and only time I’d brought my trusty old Brother into contact with denim it had had a meltdown and required emergency treatment for a serious tension ailment. Secondly, my formative years involved some slightly dubious trends in denim, trends I was loathe to revisit…

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What is it with the denim stetsons?

So, yeah. I felt pretty daunted.

But hell, I love refashioning, and I wanted again to be part of an fantastically fun community challenge. I mean, the worst that could happen would be ending up looking like the fifth member of B*witched two decades too late, with a broken sewing machine. No biggie.

I was really taken by a fitted denim shirt-dress worn by Alexa Chung (actually, any denim worn by Alexa Chung) and decided that was my route. As I’ve mentioned before here, I love my refashions to include a nod to their original state, and thus I wanted to use the jeans, not just the denim. At the same time I really wanted to make something I would wear and wear, even if it meant making something too simple to wow and win. So I scoured the local charity shops for three pairs of jeans in a matching shade of dark denim. Amazingly, I managed to find two similar pairs of ladies flares that offered beautiful fabric with slight stretch, and the flare lines were exactly in keeping with the A-line look I was aiming for. I purchased a third pair, these ones men’s, just in case.


Using my sloper I drafted the dress pattern myself, with princess seams from the shoulder and a button band down the centre front. 8 panels – 1 for each trouser leg half from my 2 pairs! I allowed a decent amount of ease as I want to be able to wear layers underneath the dress this winter. The length of the flares from pockets to hem was just long enough to fit my short body – thank you, tall people! And so I was able to use the original hems. The really pleasing part was how the marks on the denim (slight lines for the backs of the knees, fading on the front of the thighs) could be incorporated into the design of the dress – the knee lines now sit across the centre-back waist and the lighter shading down the side panels for a (hopefully!) slimming effect.

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I also used the original waistband off one pair as my top button band. It was tricky because the band had a slight curve, but I put an invisible nick in the shorter edge and stretched it whilst top-stitching so now it sits straight. The under button band uses leftover denim from one of the pairs of flares – using the other waistband would have been too bulky. My buttonhole foot couldn’t cope with the bulk as it was, so the buttonholes were done with bar tacks. I managed to get a whole pack of old Jigsaw jeans buttons in a bargain bin at the Tooting Craft Superstore. Oh, and I shaved down the pockets off one pair of jeans and assigned them a new home on the bust of the dress…

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I then top-stitched each of the princess seams, on both sides, because brassy top-stitching is such an intrinsic feature of classic jeans I wanted to echo it here. Ditto with the bias-binding-finished armholes and collar. The collar is actually the only part which comes from that pair of men’s jeans. Which means leftover denim. Which means… more refashioning!

Then came the really fun part, the embroidery! I was so inspired by images across Pinterest of embroidered jeans and jackets – flowers, skulls, slogans – all in glorious bold colour leaping off the denim. (It’s funny, isn’t it, how denim acts as a neutral against all other colours? A pair of blue cotton trousers simply wouldn’t work the same way.) Anyway, I tried satin stitch for the first time, only stitched through my finger once and am seriously proud of the result. I made up the design as I went along, adding in more and more flowers until it seemed finished.

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And then I did the front.

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It was actually a good thing I only had a few hours left to enter the dress, or else I think I would never have stopped embroidering. Anyway, finished it is, and I’m very much looking forward to wearing it. Once again, I’ve loved taking part, loved seeing everyone else’s wonderful makes and loved being stretched – new fabric, new skills and techniques. My machine did a stellar job with the denim and now I feel fired up to go away and refashion myself some dungarees, denim pinafores, denim shorts, denim shoes… x

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