Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Carmen Miranda

I didn't make this dress until the August bank holiday weekend and was hoping for an Indian summer during September so that I could wear it before the weather got too cold and it got put away for the winter.  This isn't a print that I would wear when it's freezing cold outside.  Well, the weather gods smiled on me and we have had some lovely sunny and really quite hot days this month and I've worn it twice.

I can't remember exactly how I came across this fabric - possibly a google search for pineapple fabric - but I bought it from The Polished Button earlier in the summer and I absolutely love it!  The bodice of this dress is Butterick 5748 and the skirt is Simplicity 2444.  I think I'd recently made the blue polka dot dress and couldn't face another circle skirt so soon so decided on a pleated one instead.  However... the bodice darts and skirt pleats don't line up with each other, which I don't think matters particularly with this fabric because it's such a busy print, but I don't think I'll use this particular pattern combo again.

Carmen Miranda dress

Despite the mismatching, I'm very pleased with this dress - the fabric is very soft and I love the colours and the print.  And it makes me smile whenever I look at it. :-)

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Autumn and winter knitting plans

Originally this was going to be one post together with the sewing plans but I decided to split it into two shorter rather than one loooong post so, here are my knitting plans.

I've got some baby knitting on the go at the moment - a cardigan - and then I have two hats planned and also a cuddly toy, but haven't decided what to make after that - but I will be using the yarns below in various combinations.

The toy will be a lion and I've bought a pompom maker for the tail - I'm now wondering what else I can make pompoms for...

Drops Baby Merino

For myself I really want to knit the Icon dress.  I love this and bought the pattern and yarn at Unravel in February 2013 after having seen the dress on the Purl Alpaca stand  and tried it on.  I started knitting this last autumn but ground to a halt because of a hemming construction issue, but I think if I start soon I should be able to get it finished in time for Unravel next year.  Since it's knitted from the bottom up the most time consuming knitting will be at the start and then it should, theoretically at least, get quicker.  And no sleeves, yay!  I don't like knitting sleeves, for me it's the worst part of cardigan knitting.

Purl Alpaca Icon dress and Purl Alpaca yarn

However, I do want to knit several cardigans, but realistically am unlikely to make more than a couple simply because there aren't enough evening and weekend hours to get through all the knitting and sewing I want to do.  In my head I can knit much faster than I can in reality.  So, I'd like to make one or more of the following  Paulie, Love Potion and Funky Grandpa

Paulie, Love Potion and Funky Grandpa

and I've sorted out the following yarn combinations as possibilities...

Handmaiden Casbah

Malabrigo Sock

Handmaiden Casbah again
Then I'd also like to make Audrey in Unst in some lovely mushroom coloured wool which I bought in Loop,

Audrey in Unst and The Uncommon Thread BFL light DK yarn
I'd also like to make a green cardigan and a grey cardigan in the wools below, I have ideas in my head for how I want them to turn out, I just need to work them out on paper.

Madelinetosh sock in Grasshopper and Drops baby merino grey yarn

I just need to pick a final stitch pattern for each one from one or other of these books - they are a great resource, which would be even better if the lace patterns were charted - although it doesn't usually take me long to write out a chart it would be nice if I didn't have to!

Barbara Walker Treasuries
And finally on the cardigan front, I bought the mini-skeins below at Unwind in Brighton back in July, and would also like to use these in combination with probably either some grey (again) or maybe navy wool for cardigans too.  Although not all the same cardigan.  They may end up being used for one of the stripey patterns above...

Madelinetosh Unicorn tails and fivemoons mini skeins
Then finally finally, I also really want to knit this jumper in Excelana Land Army Green, but with long sleeves.  I can't see the point of a short sleeved jumper for me, my arms would get cold and I've got enough wool for long sleeves so I just need to work out the shaping and away I go (yeah right - loads of enthusiasm too many other calls on my time at the moment!)

Pattern in A Stitch in Time Vol 1 and Excelana yarn from Susan Crawford
I'm also kinda missing lace knitting, so a shawl or two may end up on the needles as well...

And just like the sewing plans I know that this is a hopelessly over-ambitious list...

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Autumn and winter sewing plans

My sewing plans for the next few months are to make up dresses in the following

Purple tape measures - a shirtdress (although not sure which pattern yet), John Lewis purple bricks - at the moment I'm thinking a Simplicity 2444 with a stand up collar and long sleeves.

Tape measures and bricks

Khaki polka dot fabric - another shirtdress, olive atomic fabric - something with a fitted bodice, long sleeves and a straight skirt, mustard keys - not sure yet, but something with long sleeves and not too many seams to break up the pattern.

Olive atomic, mustard keys and khaki polka dots

Viva Frida fabric - still undecided on pattern for this one.  The brown and blue floral and the turquoise roses are, I think, destined to be made up with 60s patterns.

Viva Frida, brown & blue floral and turquoise roses
The sunflower fabric I absolutely love, and I think I'll save this to make up when we have some grey, gloomy days in the depths of winter - which I'm sure we will - and it will cheer me up as I sew.  Not sure of pattern, but maybe an Emery.  The resin beads fabric (I've called it this because that's what it reminds me of) will be a Simplicity 3774. 

Sunflowers and resin beads

Then  there are three Liberty fabrics which my mother has had for years and now they are mine!  The yellow floral one is voile and has a real 40s vibe to it I think, so I'll almost certainly use a 40s, or 40s inspired pattern for it.  The other two are Tana lawn - there is enough of the top one to make a dress - maybe a 40s pattern again, but the turquoise one will probably become a blouse because I don't think there's enough for a dress.

Liberty fabrics

I'd also like to make some separates.  The two fabrics below are destined to become skirts although I haven't decided on pattern(s) yet, and I'd like to make some shirts and blouses, but haven't decided which patterns to match with which fabrics, and in fact, to start with, I might just practise by using up some of my left overs - I like the way Rochelle New mixes and matches the fabrics she uses.

Trees and ferns

I realise that even without the knitting this is almost certainly far too ambitious to get through in six months, but ever the optimist I'd like to think I'll get at least some of this done.  And I can come back to this post next spring and see just how much I managed to make (or not!)

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Like London buses, three came along at once

During the summer I made three Cambie dresses one after the other.  One I've already blogged about here, and then I made two more in quick succession.

The first of these I made from some lawn which I got as a 3m coupon from Classic Textiles on the Goldhawk Road earlier this year.  My sister tells me that it's "very Antoine et Lili", and since she pointed that out, I kind of agree.  (Antoine et Lili have several shops in Paris and elsewhere in France - I love their aesthetic).

This didn't take long to make - I decided since the skirt was gathered and had quite a lot of fabric in it I wouldn't bother to line it - and I'd made it before so it came together pretty quickly.  However, once it was finished and I tried it on in front of a mirror on a sunny day I decided that actually, the skirt definitely needed lining because it was practically see through.  So I cut an A-line skirt lining and sewed it in.  I really like this fabric / pattern combo and am very pleased with how it's turned out.

Antoine et Lili vibe Cambie
The third Cambie from this summer I made with some fabric which I bought in Decorative Cloth in Leamington Spa last summer.  I love this fabric, it's so summery.  Not much more to say about making up this pattern, except that I didn't line this skirt either - and this one has stayed unlined because the fabric is thick enough not to need it.

Beachhuts Cambie
I really like all three of this summer's Cambies, and having unpicked the yellow one I made last year I had intended to recut and resew it straight away, but actually... it's joined my growing alterations pile because after making three in quick succession I fancied sewing something else instead.

And now autumn is approaching and my thoughts are turning to knitting so it probably won't get put back together until next spring now.  I still have five dresses which are cut out and waiting to be sewn up (although in fact one is nearly done and just needs hemming), so perhaps I should get those done first, especially since one of them I cut out last year, and another one in January.  But the siren call of wool, and knitting, is getting louder...

Monday, 22 September 2014

My first year of sewing

I started writing this post in July, when it actually was a year since I started sewing again.  But then it was summer, I did some sewing, and generally life intervened so this post has been sitting as a draft for a while now waiting for me to finish it.  Anyway, here it is.

I started sewing again in July last year having made nothing for myself since my twenties - although in the intervening years I mended or altered quite a few things and made various dressing up outfits for my children when they were small so those years weren't a sewing free zone.  I stumbled across Dolly Clackett's blog by following a link in someone else's, liked a lot of what I saw, followed links to other sewing blogs... and decided that I wanted to start dressmaking again.  And so (unitentionally actually) began the building of a fabric and pattern stash (this page is still under construction - there are quite a few more patterns still to be added...).  Not as big as my knitting pattern and yarn stash, which I am also slowly working my way through, but I now have plenty of patterns and fabric to keep me entertained for a good while to come!

Between July last year and the end of July this year I've made and finished 28 dresses and have another six which are either waiting to be finished or were just toiles. 

In this past year I've learnt quite a lot

- I'm not very keen on sewing with polycotton fabrics, I much prefer 100% cotton.

- I've learnt about fit (although I haven't really cracked it yet, still more to learn) and that I don't really want a great deal of wearing ease in my dresses so in the early days patterns which I made up according to my measurements were quite often too big.  I'm now much more likely to cut a smaller size than I was a year ago when my thinking was that if I cut too big I could always take it in - easier than making something which needs to be let out!

- I like two basic styles in equal measure - 50s dresses with big skirts like those worn by Betty Draper  in the early series of Mad Men, and more fitted straight-skirted dresses as worn by all sorts of women in various eras.  I also like V-back or scoop back bodices - much easier to zip up if the zip is in the back!

- I like patterned fabric.  Although I've got plain fabric in my stash it's probably only going to be used for trial versions of dresses which will end up being made in patterned fabric.  Or maybe for collars or other contrast.  This shouldn't have come as a surprise really, because if I'm shopping for rtw dresses it will almost always be the print on the fabric which draws me.  I never look at plain dresses unless they are on a mannequin and I like the cut.

Over the course of the next year I'd like to

- make some shirts / blouses and skirts.  I've seen so many popping up on blogs and instagram that I really like the look of, I've got the patterns (and the fabric, ha) so I just need to get on with it.

- make some shirtdresses.  I don't remember ever making anything with buttonholes in the past, although I'm sure we must have learnt how to make them by hand when I was at school.  Now though I have a machine that can make them for me so I should really conquer my feelings of trepidation, choose a pattern, and go.

- make a dent in my mending/alterations pile.  I have quite a lot of clothes which need something doing to them - from just adding a hook and eye or popper, to major unpicking and refashioning.  There are some gems in that pile which I would love to be wearing so maybe I should follow a make one mend one mantra to get through them.

And now I'd better just publish this, because it won't be that long until it's the one year anniversary of this blog, when no doubt there'll be another review type post!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Paper Roses at Kew Gardens

I've just had a fabulous day out at Kew Gardens - the weather was beautiful, proper summer heat and sunshine and the place was blissfully uncrowded.  I discovered parts of the garden which I've never seen before - and I've visited on and off since childhood.  I must have walked miles!

More about Kew in a bit, first the Paper Roses part.  I wore a Cambie dress which I made this summer - my second.  I bought the fabric, a Liberty Tana lawn called Paper Roses, from Fabrics Galore at the Stitching Show at Olympia in March this year.  I went to the show with my sister and we had a thoroughly enjoyable time there.  This is the first time I've sewn with Tana lawn (I think, I don't remember sewing with it when I was younger, although I do remember my mother making us dresses from it when we were little) and I'm smitten.  It is a delight to sew with and a delight to wear.  There will be more in my sewing future!

Paper Roses A-line Cambie
I made the A-line skirt version and it took about 1.5 metres of fabric, so pretty economical.  I cut a size smaller than the first one I made last year, which didn't fit particularly well and which I have since unpicked to recut and resew.  I also moved the shoulder straps in by half an inch towards the centre front.

I love the fact that the fabric has scissors in with the roses - makes me smile!

Liberty Tana lawn Paper Roses (and scissors)
And now back to Kew...

This is outside the Princess of Wales glasshouse - yes cacti outside in September.

Outside the Princess of Wales glasshouse

Inside the palm house - I made the mistake of walking up the spiral stairs to the walkway which goes around the top of the glasshouse - won't do that again unless it's winter, it was really hot up there!

Inside the palm house
One of ten statues outside the palm house - this is the Unicorn of Scotland and photographing this particular one seemed apt since today the people of Scotland are voting on independence.

The Unicorn of Scotland
The waterlily house

The waterlily house
And a particularly beautiful waterlily

Then there were roses,

Rosa Lady of Shalott

and orchids,

carnivorous plants
Maybe a sarracenia, the label was hidden
and a traditional Japanese house (a minka) which has been there since 2001 and which I'd never seen before.


And finally the parterre behind Kew Palace.

Parterre behind Kew Palace

All in all it was a wonderful day.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Spots before my eyes

Still in catch-up mode, there are three polka dot dresses in this post, one of which I actually made last year and realise I haven't got around to blogging about it.  The other two I made this summer.

So, I'll start with the one that's been unblogged for the longest.  The pattern I used is Butterick 5603, one of their retro reprints.  It started life with a contrast bodice - white polka dots on green - which took me ages to cut out because the fabric had so many flaws in it.  I'm not sure that they would have been immediately obvious to anyone else, but I could see them and therefore had to cut around them.  Once I'd made up the skirt and attached it to the bodice I decided I didn't like the overall look and so cut out another bodice in the same fabric as the skirt.  Now, about the fabric... it was cheap; a polycotton which I bought on Goldhawk Road because I liked the idea of a dress with green polka dots on it.  However, after sewing it up I realised that polycotton polka dots were not for me.  The fabric frayed quite badly and is very thin, so not only is the bodice lined, the skirt is too.  This meant that there were several layers of fabric at the side seams - albeit thin layers.  And that, together with having to remake the bodice because I didn't like the first version, meant that by the time I'd finished sewing it, I was glad to see the back of it.

Butterick 5603 Green polka dot dress

I've only worn this a couple of times since I made it, which is a shame because it is a pretty dress.  I will make up this pattern again because I really like the skirt, but I'll use the bateau neckline V-back version of the bodice next time - I didn't really enjoy sewing this cross-over version.

The next two dresses were much happier sewing experiences.  The first one is made from some cotton I got in Fabricland because I absolutely loved the colour and which was a pleasure to sew with.  I can't remember where I came across this pattern (Simplicity 3774) because it is out of print - probably on someone's blog, although I can't remember whose.  But it is one of several patterns I've bought in my quest to find the perfect pattern to make something similar to the Vanity Project tea dress that I blogged about here.

I'm really pleased with how this turned out and will be making more from this pattern, it was a good buy and an easy sew.

Teal polka dot Simplicity 3774

And the third dress for this post is a Butterick 5748, another retro reprint.  I absolutely love this pattern, this is the third one I've made, although only the second with the full circle skirt that comes with the pattern.  I cut this a size smaller than the first two I made which I had to fiddle about with to improve the fit.  The fabric is a lovely cotton which I bought from Minerva last summer.  The only downer about making this dress was that there was a lot of fabric in the skirt, and the skirt was fully lined, and I made this in July when it was really rather hot by English standards.  Having a lot of fabric piled on my lap while I was sewing wasn't the most comfortable of experiences, but clearly it wasn't bad enough to put me off  because I made another two dresses this summer with fully lined skirts... which will be for another blog post.

Butterick 5748 Blue polka dot dress

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Curtain call

A few months ago I was browsing at the Frock Me vintage fair at Chelsea Town Hall when I spotted this fabric on a stall selling vintage haberdashery, fabrics and curtains.  I just love the colours in it and although it was made up as a curtain it was long and wide enough for me to cut the heading tape off and have enough fabric to make a dress.

And so it came home with me, was washed, dried and put to one side because summer came along and I didn't really fancy sewing with thick fabric.  However, there it was every time I opened the airing cupboard and I decided that actually I would make it up using a tried and tested combination of the By Hand London Elisalex bodice and a New Look 6824 pleated skirt.

It wasn't the nicest of sewing experiences though; being furnishing fabric it was quite loosely woven and therefore frayed like a be-atch.  Somehow I managed to sew the two back bodice pieces the wrong way round at the shoulder seams and discovered that not only did the fabric fray, it was also effing difficult to see the stitches when unpicking and I had to be careful with this otherwise the fabric would have pulled.  Having spent quite a bit of time with pattern placement at the cutting out stage I didn't have any fabric to spare so couldn't afford to mess up any of the pieces.  This meant that I had to be particularly mindful with sewing the rest of it, which of course slowed the process down!

Gorgeous green curtain dress
 The bodice is lined and I decided to underline the skirt with the same fabric - some dark grey lawn which I had in my stash and had intended to use for something else.  I usually use white lawn for lining, but this fabric needed something darker and the grey was all I had.  Normally I pink seams to finish them, but knew that wouldn't work for this fabric due to the fraying issue, so I overcast the bodice seams and finished the skirt seams and hem with bias binding, so all in all quite a lot of actual sewing.  It was very relaxing hand sewing the hem though.  I usually machine my hems, but knew that wouldn't work with thick underlined fabric - it would make the hem much too bulky so I spent a very pleasant evening with Monsieur Poirot and a needle and thread.  And then it was FINISHED!!!  And I love it.  Not ideal to be making dresses with fairly voluminous, lined skirts in the middle of summer though, and yet I chose to make four fully lined dresses this summer. Why?

I have quite a bit of blog catching-up to do so I hope to be posting more frequently until I'm all caught up.  And I don't think I'll be sewing with furnishing fabric again for a while.  Now I have some knitting to do.  Toodle pip.