Friday, 17 January 2014

Up, up and away (with the birds)

I really didn't intend for there to be such a delay in posting about these dresses but unfortunately malfunctioning technology intervened!  Anyway... problem one resolved, problem two trundles on, but at least I can now download my photos.  Now, on with today's dresses.

I've seen a few made with this hot air balloons fabric popping up in the blogosphere, and this is the colourway I liked best, so when I saw it at Ally Pally last year I had to get some.  I was running out of cash by the time I spotted it, so bought 1.5 metres with the plan of pairing it up with some plain fabric.  I don't remember now whether I already had the yellow cotton in my stash or whether I bought it after the balloons fabric, it came from the Fancy Silk Store in Birmingham and I'm not entirely convinced that it is 100% cotton.  Doesn't matter though because I love the colour.  Since the balloon fabric has rather a large pattern repeat I decided to do a gathered skirt and not worry about pattern matching.  Same skirt as for my Dotty Anna actually, two widths (58") of fabric with one cut up the middle for the zip at the back.  Although I think this one is a little bit shorter.  Why I felt the need to make such a summery dress in December I don't know, I haven't actually worn it yet, but once the weather warms up a bit it's going to get quite a bit of wear I think.  The pattern is of course Elisalex.

Up, up and away Elisalex
Dress number two is another variation on Elisalex, made with some fabric I bought in Ikea a few years ago with no plan in mind, I just liked the look of it.  I probably thought I'd make a cushion cover because I only bought one metre.  Because of this I cut the skirt narrower, it goes from 14 at the waist, to 6 at the sides and back out to 14 at the base (pretty much in a straight line actually).  I worked out the cutting line with the highly technical method of putting on my Flamingolex dress, grabbing some pins, pinning the sides to take out some of the width and deciding 'yep, that'll work'.  I can't remember exactly what I did next because I made this a while ago and didn't take any notes, but I now have a paper skirt pattern in this new outline which I can use again.

This dress originally had short sleeves which I had to fiddle around with because by mistake I cut out two the same rather than a left and a right, but eventually I got a left sleeve and a right sleeve, attached them and tried the dress on.  Disaster.  Well that's an exaggeration really, but I can't think of a more appropriate word at the moment!  And it looks wrong whether I spell it with one 'g' or two.  The sleeves pulled the shoulders down and the armholes were a bit snug - it's furnishing fabric so that may have something to do with it, but I was so disappointed after all the time it had taken me to cut the sleeves and put them in.  So I unpicked the sleeve seam, took them out and oversewed the bodice and lining together at the armhole and it's now a sleeveless dress.  The black bodice fabric is a plain cotton from Fabricland.


Thursday, 2 January 2014

Dotty Anna & Lily Anna

Here are two more Anna dresses from By Hand London – this is such a pretty and versatile pattern that I will be making more of them this year.  I made both of these in December but haven’t had time to blog about them until now because, well, life.

The first one is made from some polka dot fabric which I bought at the Knitting & Stitching Show at Ally Pally in October.  I like polka dots, in the same way that I like gingham, and bird prints, and I like this particular one very much because (a) it’s cotton not polycotton and (b) it’s white dots on a colour rather than the other way round.  I decided to make this with a gathered skirt, which is just two widths of the fabric (58” wide) with one cut in half to accommodate the back seam, so I got the whole dress out of 2m of fabric.

As with my first Anna I cut a size 12 and took the back neckline in by ⅝” and tapered it out.  I also did size 14 bust pleats because the pleats on my Anthro Anna come up a little high.  With a machined hem this dress came together very quickly.

Dotty Anna
This next one is a v-necked maxi version made with stretch cotton which I bought in Fabricland recently.  As soon as I saw it on the roll I knew I wanted to make an Anna maxi from it (and that doesn’t happen often – it’s more usual that I buy fabric without a particular pattern in mind).  I bought 3.5m and as it’s 56” wide and I cut the skirt pieces 6” shorter this was enough fabric, even though it has a one-way print.

This too I made with size 14 bust pleats, however I didn’t think to cut a size 14 skirt front, so there is a bit of mismatch going on at the waist.  I don’t think it’s that noticeable though and it’s not something I’m going to fret about.  Next time though, if I am using the skirt pattern pieces, I will either cut a 14 skirt front, or use the size 12 bust pleats and make them shorter so that things match up.  With a gathered skirt of course this doesn’t matter!  I also tapered all the skirt seams from ⅝” out to ½” to give a little more room around the waist and this has worked well.

As I was sewing the skirt pieces together I noticed one of them had a mark on it – not sure what from, but having seen it I decided to cut out a replacement piece which fortunately I had enough fabric left to do.  If there hadn’t have been enough I’d have left it and tried to ignore it, it wasn’t that noticeable really and I’m not sure that anyone else would have seen it, but once I knew it was there…  However, I didn’t have quite enough fabric and so the replacement piece was a bit shorter than the rest.  This meant I ended up cutting 1½” off the length, and with a machined hem of ⅝” + ⅞” it is now an ideal length for wearing with flip flops rather than killer heels.  Which is just fine actually as I tend to live in Birkenstocks in the summer.  The only thing I haven’t done, and probably will, is to top stitch the neckline to keep the facing from riding up at the front.

Lily Anna maxi
I’m really pleased with both these dresses and I’m sure other versions will be appearing in the next few months.  At least one more maxi (this is the only maxi dress pattern I have), and maybe a mash-up with the Elisalex skirt, possibly one with the Cambie A-line skirt if I can make the darts line up (or use a fabric where it won’t show if not), and, well, we’ll just have to see where the fancy takes me for further outings of this pattern.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

2013 - Round up of my knitting and sewing year

Ideally I suppose I would have written this before the end of the year, but I was busy doing stuff, so it appears now.

2013 started with me deciding not to buy any more yarn since my stash reached SABLE[1] proportions some time ago.  Deciding and doing are not the same thing though and there were a few purchases between January and May (who am I kidding, there were quite a lot of purchases actually) – the result of going to Unravel (link is to this year’s event) a few destash purchases and special offers.  However, from June until mid-December I cold-sheeped successfully (this is probably entirely due to my return to sewing and buying fabric instead of yarn…).

I also decided that I would concentrate on knitting cardigans for me and managed to knit four before the knitting took a back seat to the sewing – two Emelies, one Honeybee and one which I designed myself because I couldn’t find a pattern which matched the idea in my head.  I also knitted a shawl and some fingerless mitts/armwarmers for me and a hat and cowl for my man.  So not much at all really and that is because in July I Was Bitten By The Sewing Bug.

So, since July I have made 18 dresses.  Three of these are test versions, two intentionally so (the two purple gingham ones which I’ve blogged about) but the third one didn’t start out that way.  I bought some blue stretchy cotton from Fabricland and used Butterick 5813 to make a Joan Holloway inspired dress (pretty much like the picture of the model on the pattern website actually, although I bought this pattern in a shop and the photo doesn’t appear on the pattern envelope, so I thought my idea was brilliantly original).  Unfortunately though, as I started sewing the pieces together, I noticed a few slightly greeny-looking patches on the fabric.  I can only think this happened when I pre-washed it – I think the colour must have run from one of the other fabrics I put in the machine to pre-wash at the same time.  It is also a bit too tight – the only time I cut a size 12 dress that would have been better cut as a 14.  So… I have bought some more of this fabric (2.5m for £10, so I didn’t feel bad about having a fail with this version) and will make a better fitting version later on this year.

Of the 15 dresses I’ve finished I realise I have yet to blog about five of them, so will aim to do that by the end of January.  I also have one more which just needs a zip inserted, the bodice lining sewing into place and a hem.  And two more which are cut out ready to sew.

I’ve really enjoyed making them all, and the fact that it is substantially cheaper to make a cotton dress than to buy one (at least the ones I seem to like) is a very welcome bonus.  Knitting with wool on the other hand has become increasingly expensive over the past five years…

I’ve loved discovering other people’s sewing blogs (really must get a list up on here) and being inspired by both patterns and fabrics that I’ve come across while noodling around.  I’ve also found it really helpful to see dresses modelled on real people rather than stick thin willowy models.  Maybe in 2014 there just might be some pictures of me in my dresses appearing here.  I have a real mental block about this for two reasons – one, I am the most unphotogenic person I know, so to get one decent photo will probably take at least 50 attempts and life is just too short, and two, I have this silly feeling that it’s self-indulgent to put pictures of me up on the interwebz – in a ‘look at meeee’ kind of way.  Silly really, because I don’t feel that way about other people doing just that – as I said, I’ve found it really helpful.  Hmm… a dilemma.

If I had to pick a favourite dress of the year it would be Flamingolex – it’s a great fit, was an easy make (apart from the princess seams being a bit of a faff, but not enough to stop me from making more of them) and it makes me smile every time I look at it – which at the moment is every time I open the airing cupboard.  It doesn’t get wardrobe space at this time of the year and I can’t bring myself to shut it in a suitcase and put it in the loft out of sight for months.

Now I’m off to consider my sewing and knitting plans for 2014, write lists, consider pattern and fabric or yarn options, and finish my latest Elisalex.

[1] Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy