Tribute August: Who inspires me

I recently discovered the Sewcialists, an online community of  people who like sewing and social media. It seems like a great way to discover other sewing blogs – both on the blog aggregate and the flickr group – and connect with like-minded people. Each month there is a themed sewalong, with past themes featuring colours and most recently Oonapalooza – sewing something inspired by Oonaballoona. This month’s theme is (was?) to sew something by a blogger, who inspires you.

I was mentally running through my feedreader when it suddenly occurred to me that it was Sarah from A Million Dresses who actually inspired me to finally bite the bullet and buy my sewing machine. And it was through her that I then discovered Dolly Clacket’s blog and then through her the whole online sewing community. So really I should make a Christine Haynes Emery dress in some sort of fabulous print.

Image taken from A Million Dresses

But then I wandered through town on my lunchbreak and saw a dress in a shop window that instantly made me think of Katie, from What Katie Sews. I really admire that she’s so aware of her own style and seems to only sew things that fit it and that she’ll wear. I have tried really hard to only sew things that I know I’ll wear and I have worn most of my handmade makes – my red Anna was only worn once but that’s down to fit and has now been dismantled awaiting a new bodice. And when I think about what RTW (ready to wear – it took me ages to figure that out, I kept thinking the R was retail) get the most wear it’s just not fit and flare dresses these days. I do wear them and I’ve got lots of wear out of my Simplicity 2444 but really knit things get the fastest rotation. I have a knit duck print dress that I wear a lot (I wore it on my first date with my manfriend so it will always have a special place in my heart) and a striped straight dress (shift? Sheath? I have no idea what dresses are what) that also gets worn a lot. So I’m going to have a go at sewing knits and I’m going to count it as being inspired by Katie.

I’ve ordered myself a walking foot and the Coco pattern, I’ll order some ponte di roma tonight and get cracking. If sewing knits isn’t horrific I can see Coco dresses with tights or leggings and boots becoming my autumn uniform.

Another blogger who I find really inspiring is Fiona of Diary of a Chain Stitcher. I really like how she challenges herself to try new fabrics and new techniques. Her technique checklist is a great idea that I’m possibly going to steal. Otherwise I’ll put off lapped zips and slippery fabrics forever.

I’ve also been feeling very inspired by Inge and again Katie with their recent pattern drafting. I have actually registered for a pattern cutting course at a local college – nothing like running before you can walk. It’s a whole year course, broken into three 10 week blocks and I’ve only registered for the first one so far, in case I hate it and don’t want to do any more. I’m really excited though. We start with shirts and blouses so I should probably have a go at sewing one before the course starts on the 18th – eeeek!

Pretty much every pattern I’ve bought has been inspired by seeing another blogger’s version but a couple that spring to mind are New Look 6069, which I bought after seeing this version of Lynne’s from Ozzy Blackbeard. Isn’t it lovely? I haven’t made it yet as I can’t decide on the fabric and I was scared of sleeves so wanted to make Megan before trying anything else sleeved.

Image pinched from Ozzy Blackbeard

And the Deer and Doe Anemone skirt after seeing Paunnet’s versions.

Image from Paunnet.com

I also LOVE this cocktail print FrankenAnna from Tabatha Tweedle of Thread Carefully

The Cocktail Anna Dress - side view
Image taken from Thread Carefully

And this Annalotte with added peplum from Jenny at Sewing Pies.

Tangerine Roses
Image taken from Sewing Pies

I’m sure there are dozens more that I’ll kick myself for forgetting as soon as I press publish on this post but that’s a few of the brilliant bloggers who have inspired me. So I’ve sort of joined in my first sewcialists theme, except not really as I haven’t actually made anything, ooh unless I can count my colour blocked Megan as being inspired by Tilly’s colour blocked version in the book.

Love at First Stitch Megan Dress

I’ve been planning to make the Megan dress from Tilly and the Buttons book, Love at First Stitch for a little while – it’s one of the main reasons I bought the book – but I kept changing my mind about what fabric to use. I had originally planned to make a red and navy one, copying one of Tilly’s variations from the book as I had some navy fabric and some red fabric left over from my first Anna but I’m planning to remake the bodice of that dress so I need the red fabric now and couldn’t decide what to use instead.

love at first stitch megan dress
Another backdrop for you (trying to find the right light)

But I did a Tough Mudder last weekend and my manfriend took me to Y Polyn to celebrate me not dying and I wanted to make a new dress to wear so I finally got my act together and decided on this butterfly print fabric to use for the bodice. I possibly should have made something a bit more roomy considering I was going to stuff myself full of three courses of the best food I’ve ever had but I’m really happy with how the dress turned out. I sewed SLEEVES!

Tough mudder game face
Thought I’d sneak a Tough Mudder photo in here as I’m bloody proud of myself. Game face ON in this one.

This version is sort of a wearable toile as I just sewed a straight size 4 with no alterations to see how it fit. The fit is pretty good, except for a mega gapey back, which will be easily fixable next time I make it.

Gapey back
Gapey back

I’ve just noticed the back doing weird things around my lower back and bum though and I have absolutely no idea what’s causing that or how on earth I would go about fixing it. I don’t care too much though, I don’t see the back. I sort of wish I’d tried to pattern match the back too but again, I don’t see the back.

And another different backdrop, best use them all.
And another different backdrop, best use them all.

Construction wise I used French seams on the skirt and on the waist seam but I didn’t on the bodice because I was worried about the seams being too bulky as the butterfly fabric is quite thick, so I zigzagged them.

I tried timing how long it took me to make this dress but kept forgetting to stop or start the timer so it’s not entirely accurate. At least seven hours though. That’s a really long time isn’t it? Oh well, I’m sure I’ll get quicker eventually. I don’t really have much more to say about Megan, except I love her, especially her sleeves. Did I mention that I sewed sleeves?

Cost:

Navy fabric – £5.99 /metre
Butterfly fabric – £7.50/metre (I have about 20-30cm of each fabric left but I’ll just use the full metre price for the maths)
Zip – £2.20

Total = £15.69

One more photo of a guest photobombing dog, meet Poppy, my Nan’s dog.

Megan meets Poppy
Megan meets Poppy

New Look 6096 Maxi Dress

Not a lot of sewing has been going on around these parts. I stupidly entered a Tough Mudder and didn’t start training until about a month ago so most of my spare time has been spent running and weight training, desperately trying to get fit enough to not die half way round the course. So with that, enjoying the sunshine and househunting I haven’t had very much spare time to sew. I did manage to finish this baby though.

New Look 6096

After the success of my Anna maxi dress – which I have worn the hell out of – I knew I wanted to make another maxi dress as they are easily my favourite thing to wear. So I prowled Minerva looking at pretty much every maxi dress pattern they stock. I was torn between New Look 6096 and 6774 but chose 6096 in the end because of the lack of zip. I hate zips.

The fabric is some viscose I got on eBay, pretty cheaply. I bought 5 metres and plan to make some Tania culottes with what I have left. It was my first time working with viscose and I wouldn’t say I did a great job. Some of my cutting out was pretty shoddy and I sincerely doubt that very much of the dress is on grain. I really struggled with that part as the selvage wasn’t very straight and the slight stretch to the fabric kept throwing me.

IMG_3864
It can also be worn pulled down off the shoulder for a peasant blouse style look.

I used French seams pretty much throughout but I messed up the one joining the bodice to the skirt. I sewed it the wrong way first and ended up with the seam on the inside. I thought about trimming it really close to the stitching line and sewing at 1/4 inch again and then finishing off as normal, doing a sort of double (triple?) French seam but was a bit worried about making the bodice too small. That turned out to be a needless worry as next time I’d probably take some length out of the bodice anyway.

I cut a size 10 and it fits okay apart from there being a bit too much floof in the bodice (technical term). I don’t think I’d go down to an 8 as the arms fit just right on the 10. So I think I’d possibly just see what taking some length out does and if that doesn’t work then either fiddle with the pattern to take some fullness out or cut an 8 but use the same length arm elastic as for a 10 and see how that works out.

I enjoy my properly stroppy face in this photo.
I enjoy my properly stroppy face in this photo and I think the dress looks nice in it.

I wasn’t too keen on the dress when I tried it on before I hemmed it. It felt a bit too much like I was trying to hide a baby bump. But somehow it doesn’t feel as huge now and I really like it. The viscose feels lovely to wear too. It has actually inspired another dress I’m working on at the moment that I’m going to laughably call self drafted.

Cost:

Fabric – 3 metres @ £3 /metre = £9
Elastic – not sure how much I used. I’ll say 2m as I bought 5m and have loads left @ 30p / metre = 60p
Thread – free

Total = £9.60 Bargain

And I’ll leave with some outtakes of my stupid faces – no photobombing Max this time, he was too sleepy.

The many gimpy faces of a Leigh
Hawt!

Nautical Anemone Skirt

Deer and Doe Anemone skirt
With added Manfriend shadow.

My first skirt! Well first proper skirt from a pattern anyway. I loved the Deer and Doe Anemone skirt from the moment I saw it. I am a big fan of high waists, my favourite pencil skirts have a high waist – or I pull them up high regardless of where they’re actually supposed to go in the case of a couple of jersey ones I have. I nearly went for the versions with the little fins but as the fabric I bought was navy I thought that some gold buttons would make a nice nautical version.

I bought the fabric on a recent trip to Cardiff. I don’t have any fabric shops near me and have bought all my other fabric online so it was very lovely to go to actual fabric shops and be able to touch the fabric, I did many laps of Butterfly Fabrics on City Road. One of the recommended fabrics for the skirt is a lightweight twill but I think I had drill in my head and I can’t actually remember what this was but I know that it was one of the two. I think they’re practically the same anyway aren’t they? *noob face*

Me in my Deer and Doe Anemone with Max the dog
I’m pulling a gimpy face but I thought I’d continue the photobombing Max theme.

I wasn’t sure whether to cut a size 42 or 44 so I measured the pieces and went with a 44 and cut and assembled the lining first to check the fit before cutting out the skirt pieces. It’s fully lined with a navy cotton voile I also bought in Cardiff. I’m fairly happy with the fit but I probably could have done with taking the side seams in ever so slightly at the top of the high waist but leaving them the same at the waist. If that makes any sense at all.

I made the shorter length skirt and got all the pieces out of a ridiculously small amount of fabric as my fabric was wide. I only used 60cm and I’d bought 2 metres so I’ve got plenty left if I want to make another version – or possibly a cropped By Hand London Victoria jacket to make a suit out of it.

Deer and Doe Anemone skirt cutting layout
Cutting layout

In term of construction I just followed the instructions but next time I think I might do things slightly differently. The instructions have you insert the zip on the main fabric and sew the rest of the back seam and then sew the lining to the main fabric at the top and along the zip. I am not explaining that very well. But I got into quite a pickle when sewing the lining to the zip and as I don’t hate hand sewing I might just do that by hand next time – either slipstitching it down afterwards or just sewing it by hand instead, I did have to handsew a bit at the end this time because I just couldn’t get to the end with my machine.

I understitched the waistline and I was quite pleased with it but I think it would just be so much easier if you attached the lining and main fabric at the waist, then understitched and then did the zip part but I am clueless about this sort of thing so there’s probably a reason for doing it the recommended way. I’ll also use a shorter zip next time, I think 12″ would have been fine.

I zigzagged all of my seams on my main fabric and pinked them on my lining fabric. My main fabric was very much a frayer so I did the top and bottom of the skirt too. Very time consuming – why am I always drawn to things with so many panels?! – but I’m really happy with the finish.

I wore it to work yesterday and then for a walk and beer garden lounging with my manchap – making him take photos of me whenever I thought there’d be a nice view behind me. I’m really happy with it and can see me making quite a few more versions. I nice simple black one with the peplum fins next I think.

Deer and Doe Anemone skirt
A closer view.

Cost:

Main fabric – 60cm @ £6.99/metre = £4.19
Lining fabric – 1.25m @ 2.99/metre = £3.74
Thread – free, came with my sewing machine
16″ concealed zip – £1.89
Buttons – 6 @ 50p each = £3.00

Total = £12.82

Floral Anna Maxi Dress

By Hand London Anna dress

I love love love this dress so much. I am very much a maxi dress girl in the summer and the maxi version of the By Hand London Anna dress was one of the things that drew me to the pattern in the first place. I got this lovely floaty cotton lawn from Abakhan for £4.99/metre. I used 3 metres so with the notions that’s less than £20 for a dress that makes me feel amazing. Sewing is great.

I used French seams throughout again and I’ve used loads of new techniques. I applied bias binding to the edge of the facing, I understitched for the first time, which was no where near as scary and hard as I was expecting thanks to this great tutorial from Tasia of Sewaholic. Sewing it as a straight line just made it so easy.

Understitched bias bound facing
Understitched bias bound facing

I also made my own bias binding and bound the centre back seams before putting in my zip. This didn’t go that well. I used the pin method to fold my bias tape as I don’t have one of the maker thingies and it was pain in the arse and didn’t really fold that evenly (and I hadn’t cut it that well either). Because it was all uneven I foolishly tried attaching the binding to the first raw edge just by folding it in half and stitching both sides at once, which I buggered up and had to try to sort out loads of bits where the fabric wasn’t enclosed properly.

So for the second edge I did sew along the fold first like you’re supposed to, even though the fold was wonky and then used a zig zag stitch to close it. That worked much better but the inside doesn’t have the nice clean finish I was intending when I decided the bind the unfinished edges rather than just zig zag or pink it. It doesn’t detract from how happy I am with the dress though. I just want to dance around in it waiting for people to tell me how pretty it is so I can creepily shout, “THANKS, I MADE IT!” in their faces.

By Hand London Anna dress

I used my altered bodice pieces from before but with the length I took out initially put back in and the fit is much better than my first Anna. I took 5 inches off the skirt pieces before cutting them out and the dress would have been long enough to wear with heels but I wanted it to be short enough to wear with flats so I took off another 2 inches before hemming. It’s now maybe a teeny bit short if I ever did want to wear it with heels but I’m more of a flip flop girl anyway so it doesn’t really matter.

almost matched the zip at the waist seam, it’s a few mm out. It starts a little bit too far off the top of the dress too but I put a hook and eye in for the first time so it’s not really a problem. I was going to handstitch the hem but it was gone 9 o’clock by the time I was ready to start and I wanted to wear it to work today so I decided to machine stitch it. I had lots of compliments from people at work, who were very impressed when I said that I’d made it.

I’m so, so happy with this dress. It’s easily my favourite of the three I’ve made so far and it’s possibly my favourite maxi dress I own (I have about six). I’m very glad I started sewing.

I’ll leave you with one more photo featuring a photobombing dog.

By Hand London Anna and Max the dog
Rub my tummy, Human.

June Sewing Plans

This month I’m planning to make:

A maxi length Anna. I’ve got all my pieces cut out and the darts and pleats pinned ready to be sewn. Hopefully I’ll get a chance over the weekend.

A navy Deer and Doe Anemone skirt. I think I’m going to cut the shorter version but I may leave out the peplum (or fins as I’ve described them to other people) and add some gold buttons for a nautical feel.

I’m going to sta20140606-105948-39588960.jpgrt work on a Megan dress from Tilly and the Buttons’ fabulous book, Love at First Stitch. I may not finish in June as I’m slow and I seem to always have to make up a couple of trial versions ironing out fitting kinks. Though from the looks of the finished measurements on Megan I should be able to cut a straight size 4 but I doubt it’ll be that simple. I was planning on making a wearable toile first (copying Tilly’s red and navy colour blocked version as I have leftover fabric of both colours) and then making it in this gorgeous mustard floral cotton lawn but I’m not sure the fabric is right for the dress. You are supposed to use something a bit heavier and I really want to use this fabric for exactly the right thing because I love it. I would love to turn it into a Sew Over It 1940s Tea Dress but it says it’s an advanced pattern so I don’t think I’m ready for that.

I’d also like to try and make a Grainline Scout t’shirt but I’m not sure I’ll get round to that as I’m being a bit ambitious already.

 

Polka Dot Simplicity 2444

Simplicity 2444
Polka dot Simplicity 2444

I’m much happier with this dress than my first one. I never would have bought this pattern if it wasn’t for seeing so many lovely versions of it all over the internet. Fitting wasn’t quite as big a nightmare as with my Anna as it’s a lot easier to grade between sizes on this one. I did still end up making loads of toiles but I won’t bore you with all details. I ended up sewing a size 12 at the shoulders and bust and then grading out to a 16 at the waist. A 16 is a a bit too big but a 14 was too small and I didn’t really want to faff about with altering the skirt pieces so I just went with the 16. I also took about an inch out of the front and back neckline.

I lined the bodice because I don’t really like facings and because the dress is made from a polycotton that doesn’t feel that nice.

A surprise discovery since I started sewing is that I quite enjoy hand sewing. Which is lucky as I did bloody loads of it for this dress, what with slipstiching the bodice lining down at the waist and to the zip tape and that giant hem. I’m not very quick so the hem alone took me two hours.

Simplicity 2444
Ready for Uplands Market

I’ve worn it twice already. First to a lovely monthly market in Uplands in Swansea where I was glad of the extra room in the waist as I snaffled lots of delicious foods – a huge roast pork bap, a scotch egg and so many delicious samples of cheese and pies (Caws Cenarth Cheese is possibly the best cheese in the world). And then to work, where I’ve had lots of compliments on it, which is nice. I love being able to say, “Thank you, I made it.”

Cheese, pies, pickles and bread
My market haul.

Overall I’m much happier with this dress than my first one and I feel like I’ve learned more skills. There was lining the bodice, sewing pleats, staystitching the neckline and pattern matching – though I didn’t do as great a job of that as I thought I had and I have some slightly figure 8 shaped polka dots. I can definitely see me making lots more versions of this pattern.

Me and my first dress

I’m Leigh and I’m a completely clueless sewing newbie. I’ve decided to start a blog to chart my attempts to teach myself what I’m doing and so that I can hopefully look back in the future and see how far I’ve come. I also really love reading sewing blogs and would like to become a part of the online sewing community, I’m hoping I’ll get up the bottle to start commenting on other blogs any day now – such a wimp.

I started sewing in March, after umming and ahhing over buying a sewing machine for about a year. I finally cracked and bought myself a basic sewing machine (Janome SMD1000). At this point my entire sewing experience amounted to following some lines on a piece of paper with an unthreaded machine when I was 11 so I wasn’t that optimistic about my sewing ability. But I’ve since made an envelope back cushion, a simple elasticated waist skirt (with awesome raccoons on it it) and two dresses – a By Hand London Anna and a Simplicity 2444.

Fitting is where I’m having my biggest problem as I appear to have the body of a monster. I’m short (5’2”) with small boobs and a thick waist, so I’ve had to learn quite quickly how to make adjustments or grade between sizes. But of course I have no idea what I’m doing. For my Anna dress I think I made 5 toiles and I still have changes to make before I make my next version.

Firstly I made a straight size 16 based on my waist measurement and I was drowning in fabric and being garrotted. Not even knowing that a SBA (that’s a Small Bust Adjustment for fellow floundering sewers) was a thing at this point I had the idea of talking out some of the length between my boobs and shoulders. I pinned it out and it made a big difference so I altered my pattern pieces and made a second toile(/muslin if you prefer). Which was better but still had a lot of extra fabric around my bust and shoulders.

By now I’d learned that a SBA was a thing, just not how the hell to do one on the Anna dress. All of the tutorials I could find were for bodices with a waist dart and a bust dart. Eventually I found this tutorial from Emily at Belgian Seams, which was really helpful and I hacked into my pattern pieces once more and whipped up a third toile.

Cue a MUCH better fit at the front but lots of bunching at the back of my armpits – if that makes any sense – and no one wants baggy armpits. Google helped me discover a narrow back/shoulder adjustment and I bodged one of them and made another toile. I was almost happy with this one but the shoulders were sitting a bit wide so I narrowed the neckline at the front and back and made my last toile.

Finally happy/sick of toiles I cut into my red shirting and knocked up a dress. I used french seams throughout and a zig zag stitch on the edge of my facing as I don’t have an overlocker and didn’t even have pinking shears at this point. I really love french seams.

Red By Hand London Anna
Excuse the terrible selfie, I lost my better photos.

It’s riddled with mistakes. I spent ages making sure the waist seam lined up at the zip and ended up getting it way out when I actually sewed the blinkin’ thing. I could/should have unpicked it and redone it but I decided I didn’t care enough (it was late). I loved it anyway until I got a friend at work to take a couple of photos of me in it and noticed that weird pull going from the bottom of one of my boobs up towards the top of the other. I didn’t have it on the final toile so I can only assume that it’s something I messed up in the construction causing it rather than a fit issue.

I’m not entirely happy with the fit now either though. The waist is too high and I think the armholes come up a bit short. I also read a comment on a blog post discussing darts that said pull lines from the top of the dart to the side seams are a sign that the darts are finishing too high and I have some of them – I think. So I think the solution might be to re-add the length that I took out after my first toile. That would lower the waist, extend the armholes and mean that the darts are finishing slightly lower.

Red By Hand London Anna dress

So yeah, that’s me and my first shoddy dress. I’m hoping that my second Anna – a maxi length floral version – will work out better.