Monday, 27 March 2017

Sleeveless Tunic Dress, Kwik Sew 3691

First things first! Congratulations to Dawn who is the winner of my giveaway last week. I hope you enjoy using this beautiful fabric Dawn and would love to see what you make with it. As soon as I have your address it will be winging its way to you.

Now for the new project...

One of the first pieces of fabric I bought for my stash three years ago was this piece of beautiful flowery jersey. Since then I have looked at it so many times trying to decide what to make. I was limited by the fact that I only had about 1 1/2 metres, not enough to make anything with sleeves, and I always imagined it as a tunic.

Finally I decided to make up a sleeveless tunic dress using this pattern that came in a batch from eBay.

My measurements came at the top end of the medium size so this was the size I cut out. The tunic was very easy to make. I used a ballpoint needle throughout, apart from the hem which I took up with my twin needle. My only reservation was that the pattern recommends fine fabrics and my jersey was more of a medium weight. I didn't have enough fabric to cut the bias collar in one piece so I made mine in 2 pieces with seams down the sides, not a centre seam at the back. With such a busy pattern I don't think you really notice.

Front view

It was very important to centre the design which has an obvious vertical stripe between the rows of flowers.

Back view

This is the first time that I have used a Kwik Sew pattern. I had quite a lot of issues with the fit and I think the best way to record these would be by writing a pattern review.

Pattern review

Pattern description
Pullover tunic and top have a round neckline with tucks on front. Neckline and armholes are finished with facings. View A has bias cut cowl collar.

Pattern Sizing
I cut out a medium, bust 94-98. My measurement is 97 and I usually choose the size which best matches my bust measurement and make adjustments as necessary to the other measurements.

Did it look like the picture on the envelope when I had finished sewing it?
I would have to say that it didn't really. It was simply enormous!! I really liked the neat finish of the collar on the pattern photographs and the line drawings. I do not have such a small collar on my tunic but more of a boat neck. Looking at the pattern pieces with hind-sight, the collar gets bigger with every size increase and I am not sure that as women get larger their necks get that much bigger!
I took an extra 4 inches in total off the size seams to get a wearable tunic. I do like my tunic but it is not really the style I was hoping for.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
Yes they were. It was really important to read the instructions in full because Kwik Sew patterns only have 1/4 inch seam allowances, not the usual 5/8 inch or 1.5cm we are used to.
This was a very easy tunic to make with no fastenings or difficult techniques, It just pulls on over your head.

Fabric choice
Recommended fabrics are lightweight, woven fabrics. I used a medium weight jersey with some stretch. I don't think that this accounts for the problems I had with sizing.

Did I make any alterations?
Because I used a thicker fabric than recommended I was worried that the pleats wouldn't sit well at the neck. To help them to lie flat I stitched along the fold line for 1 inch with a stretch machine stitch. I later unpicked the stitching on the centre pleats because they gave the tunic a deep, unattractive box pleat down the centre.

Instead of using the facings I finished the neck and armholes with bias binding that I made myself. I find that narrow facings keep popping out when the fabric has body and I prefer binding. I am pleased with the result, which is much less bulky than facings would have been.

I had to take in the size seams a lot to get a good fit. Next time I will make the small size.
I used the over-lock stitch on my machine for the side seams and trimmed off the excess seam allowance.

Would I make it again or recommend it to others?
I expect that I will make this pattern again, either as another tunic or as a summer top. I will definitely cut a smaller size next time and try to make an adjustment to the size of the collar.
I don't think I would recommend it to anyone else because of the amount of alterations I have had to make to the pattern.

My conclusions
I have a comfortable tunic made from a beautiful floral jersey which has a 60's vibe because of its large cowl collar. I have had lots of compliments which is always nice. I really love this material and I think the pattern shows it off very well.

So finally, I hope that you have all had a happy mothering Sunday. I enjoyed spending the day with my three sons and I visited my Mum. The house is full of flowers, one of my sons has bought me a new sewing book; what more could a Mum ask for?

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Let's celebrate! Two months! One thousand hits! One Freeby!

Lets party!

My sewing blog is 2 months old today and this week I also achieved a bit of a milestone. When I first started to write about my sewing projects on 17th January I set myself a target. I thought that if I could achieve one thousand hits by the time I reached 17th April, I could feel pleased and I would be making contact with other sewing enthusiasts.

So a great big thank you to everyone who has had a look and especially to those who have commented on what I have made. You are inspiring me to make more things and am really enjoying keeping a record. By linking up with other people I am also learning so much and this is driving me on to try new challenges. Two weeks ago my friend Pam, who had seen my blog, gave me a bag full of patterns. It was a real treasure trove and I feel so blessed! If it wasn't for me starting this blog she would never have known that we shared our interest in making our own clothes.

I really felt that I wanted to give something back so I am launching my first giveaway. I love a freeby and hope that you do too.

In my stash I have a beautiful piece of jersey. It is 150 cm wide and about 147 cm long. Just enough for me to make a straight dress or a spring top. It was the last piece on the roll.  I bought it from Stuart's Fabrics on Leicester Market. The sun was shining as I walked through one lunch time and it felt like spring. This material sang to me and I bought it on impulse. Now in the cold light of day I have to admit that, sadly, this colour combination really doesn't suit me. My loss, but it could be your gain.

Showing the yellow a bit more true to colour

It is a really soft jersey with 4 way stretch and it drapes very well as you can see.

If you would like to have this lovely floral print in your stash then please leave a comment about something on my blog. I will draw the names out of a hat at midnight next Saturday, 25th March 2017. The fabric is light so I can post anywhere in the world. One of the things I have found so exciting about having a blog is that it has put me in touch with dressmakers in America, Germany, Romania, Japan and so many other countries. I never anticipated this when I started. I wasn't really looking much further afield than the rest of the UK.

I look forward to hearing from you and Good luck.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Birds on the Wire, Georgette blouse

I have had the pattern for this blouse for a long time and can't remember where I bought it. It is a Women's Realm pattern which looks as though it originates from the 1960s. I don't think that Woman's Realm have a pattern archive on line so I couldn't check the date.

The pattern itself is very simple. It has no writing on the tissue paper, all of the markings are holes or notches cut in the paper, which must have saved money on printing. Another feature of the pattern is that it gives instructions for making the button holes by hand!

I had to learn this technique in sewing lessons at school in the 1970s when I made my first blouse and it nearly put me off sewing for life. I chose a very fashionable blouse pattern for its day with 4 buttonholes on each cuff and lots more down the front, My Mum had an automatic buttonhole attachment on her Singer machine but my teacher, Miss Croft, wouldn't allow me to use it. I spent hours sewing tiny, neat buttonhole stitches by hand, finished my blouse and wore it quite a lot. Most of my classmates never completed their projects and I have never made buttonholes by hand since! Did I benefit at all from the knowledge that I could, I am not sure.

The fabric for this blouse is another remnant from Leicester Market which I loved at first sight. It was the very last piece and I had to buy it. From a distance it looks like scallops and close up it is row upon row of little owls.

Although the fabric is sheer it was very easy to work with. It had a firmness to it and didn't stretch or slip. The most challenging part was the cutting out because the design has straight and diagonal rows which are very obvious from a distance.

I have used french seams throughout, apart from the armholes which I neatened with a zigzag stitch.

The collar is cut on the bias and I think it sits very nicely because the fabric is fine.

I finished the cuffs with bias binding made from the same fabric. I was so pleased that the cuffs were just the right size so that I could push them up to my elbows when I am doing things like cooking and washing up and they don't slip down. This is probably just good fortune. If my arms were thinner or fatter I wouldn't have been so lucky

I like the back detail with buttons down the back and the pointed collar. I took  a lot of care to match the horizontal stripes across the back but something slipped and I ended up a whole stripe out so I have had to compensate.

I have entered this blouse in  Dressmaking Magazine's Dressmaker of the Year competition in the Vintage section. This is the first time I have ever entered anything into a competition so it has added some extra stress to the sewing experience. I admit that I was tempted by the free pattern for every entry. I can't resist a freeby. We had lots of attempts at taking a photo for the entry so here are some samples. I paired this blouse with the skirt I made in my last post here and think it goes very well
Giving instructions!

Nice smile!

Whoops, eyes closed!

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Little Black Skirt, New Look 6217

Having made the top from New Look 6217 I returned to this pattern when I wanted to make a short black skirt. I have had a few issues with fit recently and I am always a bit cautious when using a new pattern so I decided to measure myself carefully and compare the pattern with a skirt block I made. It was quite depressing to find that I was a size 14 hip and a size 18 waist when I would usually buy a size 12 RTW but I am getting used to pattern sizes being different. After comparing the pattern with my skirt block I chose to cut the pattern slightly smaller only size 16 at the waist, grading down to a size 14 on the hips.

I had one metre of black fabric in my stash which I think is probably scuba. It is a shiny black jersey, springy to the touch and quite thick. It feels lovely and smooth and doesn't crease or fray at all.

I have found this skirt as straight forward to make as the top, just 2 pieces to sew together with darts at the back, a size slit on the left and a lapped zip. I used a medium ballpoint needle and increased the size of the stitching slightly because the fabric was quite thick. 

The instructions for putting in a zip were detailed and easy to follow. However, I had no end of trouble with the zip and ended up sewing it in about 5 times until I got it right. This was not the fault of the pattern but a problem with my zip and my concentration. At first I put the zip in too high up because I went happily on using my common sense and not reading the instructions. Then my needle came undone and fell out in the middle of the overlap stitching and the cotton broke spoiling the line of the stitching so I unpicked it. The last straw was when I pulled up the zip, the zip-pull came off in my hand and I couldn't get it back on. In the end I had to choose a new zip from my zip jar to replaced the broken one and then everything went like clockwork. As you can see below I now have a black skirt with a dark purple zip but it is well hidden so it won't show when I am wearing it.

I missed out the stay stitching around the waist because I was using a very stable fabric and making the skirt in just a few hours so I didn't think there would be time for the waist to stretch out. The front fitted along the tape very well but I had to put a row of easing stitches along the back to ease the fullness of the skirt onto the tape.

Pattern review
Overall this skirt is easy and quick to make. I have worn it and it is very comfortable. I am sure it will become a wardrobe staple because it goes with so many things in my wardrobe.

I like the twill tape used to finish the waist seam. It makes a smooth waistband that isn't bulky.

I have finished the hem with my twin needle and I like this finish for a jersey skirt.

I measured very carefully when I was cutting out but the skirt has come up quite roomy and if I make this pattern again I will make a size 12 because I would have liked a closer fit. I absolutely can't face taking the zip out again to take in the side seams and it isn't too baggy. I actually have a skirt which exactly matches the finished garment description. It is a straight shirt with 3cm of ease which sits 1 inch below my waist. Unfortunately, my tights sit nicely on my waist line so they show above the skirt until I put a top on, which seems a bit odd.

Some of the favourite tools I used to make this skirt.

I have recently treated myself to some new flower head pins. I bought a set of standard dressmaking pine from the same manufacturer 2 years ago but I was so disappointed with them. Many of the pins were blunt and had rough points which snagged the material. The flower head pins have been so much better, They are sharp and long and easy to handle. I can now pin a seam and machine without tacking which I was never able to do with my old pins. I have thrown away the standard dressmakers pins and wouldn't recommend them to any one.

I find my hemming gauge invaluable for measuring turnings and hems. The slider is really useful when I am moving along a hem ensuring that it is the same length all the way along. This tool also has a point on the end which I use for turning out corners on collars etc. It is less likely to make a hole than an blunt knitting needle.

I have only just bought the thread snipper and I love it. It makes cutting off all of the stray whiskers so easy. It fits into my hand well, feels nice to hold and is so useful. The blades retract back into the handle when it is not in use for safety. I wish that I had one a long time ago.

If you have any tools that you love and wouldn't be without please leave a comment and let me know. I think everything in life is so much easier when you have the right tools.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Character Costume Day

It's book week again at school this week and on Thursday my son will need to dress up as a character from a book that he likes and wear his costume to school. As we have been thinking about who to choose and planning the costume I have been thinking back over all of the outfits I made for his older brothers in the past. They are both at university now but we have lots of good memories of past character costume days and looking back I was quite surprised at the detail in some of the costumes I made for them.

I hope that this blog post will inspire and encourage you to have a go and be adventurous, but there isn't much time left so at the end I have included some of the ideas we had which were easier and didn't involve so much sewing in case you are still looking for inspiration.

The tiger who came to tea
Lots of my patterns have been self drafted but I have relied on two vintage children's patterns as a good starting point. This tiger outfit was made from Butterick 5104. A vintage pattern which my mother used to make a costume for my sister when I was about 6 years old.

I used the pattern again to make a tin man costume the same year,

Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz
Daniel is wearing his heart in his pocket, has a foil covered funnel on his head and I was really pleased to be able to buy a bright red oil can to match.

The following year we were asked to provide our children with victorian costumes to go to a victorian activity day. These are the ones I made

Victorian school days

These costumes were more complicated. Granny lent us the hats, the breeches were cut off trousers which had become a bit short. The long socks were standard football socks. I used old white school shirts and cut of the collars to make granddad shirts and gave each of the boys a scarf from their Dad's collection. The jackets I drafted myself. I used Simplicity 4924 size 6 as a guide for the size and shape of the jacket.

The dress opened down the back and my jackets open at the front so I placed the centre back seam on the fold and added a facing and an overlap for buttons at the front. I ended up with too much fullness in the back of the jacket and that is why there is a short waistband gathering in the extra. I lengthened the dress sleeve pattern to make the jacket sleeves. Each jacket was made out of an old pair of their Dad's trousers. I was able to cut the front and back out of one leg and the sleeves out of another.

The following year both boys were really enjoying reading Harry Potter. I think everyone has a Harry Potter costume at some time. This time I bought a pattern to make the wizard robes. I can't remember which pattern I used and I don't have it any more. I made the robes in crushed velvet each with a different sparkly trim and a contrasting lining. These costumes have been used a lot for playing in and we still have them. The boys loved them too much to part with them although they no longer fit. I made the sorting hat from curtain lining and brown paint, the glasses came from the dressing up box and we used chopsticks as wands.

Harry Potter

Dumbledore looked amazing in his hair and long beard but it was so itchy that it had to come off as soon as he got to school.

I don't know whether you have wondered but my older sons are identical twins. We couldn't resist taking advantage of them begin in the same class, so one year they dressed up as a pantomime horse from the book "Pongwiffy and the Pantomime" by Kaye Umansky. I didn't have a pattern for this costume. I used the jump suit pattern again as a guide for some dungarees and made black frills around the bottom to look like hooves. The horse's head was sized up from a toy horse pattern and the body was just draped over them and cut to size before being attached to the head. The boy in the front looked out through a gauze square. The horse in the book is red with white spots but I ran out of time so my horse was the colour of the original curtain lining with some patchwork squares sewn on.

The last costume I thought you might like to see is Willy Wonka from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The trouser pattern was made using a pair of shorts as a guide. They pull on with an elasticated waist so were easy to make and the pockets are patch pockets which blend in because the checks match. The waistcoat and purple tailcoat were drafted using the dress pattern Simplicity 4924 as a guide for the size and this time I took in the back so that it fitted better. The cane is a length of black plastic pipe with a plastic Christmas bauble tied to the end. I made the hat from layers of newspaper covered in black jersey and sewn round and round to hold all of the layers together. This lasted several years in the dressing up box until last year when my youngest son wore this costume again to Character Costume Day. I splashed out on a top hat for him from the local dancing shop. I couldn't face making another one.

This year I am making a costume for Seismic Sid, The boy in the Horrible Geography book about earthquakes. This is a quick fix. He just needs a scientist's white coat made from a cut down shirt and a box of tools. If like me you want an easy project this year then here are some I have tried before:

Harry and the Bucket full of Dinosaurs, by Ian Whybrow
- Jeans and a jumper, spiky jelled hair and a seaside bucket from holiday filled with plastic dinosaurs.

Tom's Midnight Garden, by Phillipa Pearce
- Your pyjamas, dressing gown and slippers

The Saga of Eric the Viking, by Terry Jones
- Track suit bottoms with tape tied round the legs, a large dull coloured T-shirt borrowed from Dad tied with a belt, a fabric rectangle to use as a cloak pinned to the shoulder with a broach and a plastic viking hat and axe from the local museum shop.

The Boy in the Dress, by David Walliams
- You need a very brave boy for this one who has good friends for support, but he only needs his sister's dress to wear.

I have had fun making these costumes over the years and my sons have had fun wearing them. I hope that you feel inspired. I would love to hear your ideas if you make a costume or if you have any ideas for next year. I have been wondering whether Aslan would be possible...

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Calvin Klein cotton blouse, Vogue 1878

After all of the slippery, stretchy and sheer things I have been making lately it was pure pleasure to cut out and make this cotton blouse. (Vogue 1878 by Calvin Klein)

The fabric is a fine cotton lawn in a very pale minty green with tiny white flowers all over. I'm afraid that the photos don't really do justice to the subtle shade of green.

This is a straight blouse without shaping and I didn't want to have the same fitting issues as I had with the pussy bow blouse so I made a toile first and was glad that I did. The pattern fits well on the shoulders but was a bit tight everywhere else so I added extra ease on the centre and side seams. The disadvantage with using a vintage pattern is that they only come in one size so I had to add extra to the side and centre back seams.

As I said in my last post this pattern only had one sheet of instructions for cutting out and starting view A. After that it has been mainly guesswork using the diagram for guidance.

I have made view B. It was quite straightforward in the end. I used straight seams for the shoulders, neatened them with an overlocking stitch and top stitched towards the front. This has given me a nice flat finish.

The next step was to attach the facing. I used a fine iron-on interfacing. This was the only real glitch I had. I set the iron too hot and suddenly a section of interfacing shrivelled up, but luckily the fabric was OK so I just pealed it off and cut another piece of interfacing. I will need to be more careful in future.

Next I set in the sleeves. I didn't widen the sleeves at all when I sized up the pattern. By keeping the shape of the arm hole the same the sleeves fitted in easily, I did stitch a row of easing stitches along the seam line but I don't think I really needed them. The cotton frays a lot so I have trimmed and overlocked the sleeve seams on my sewing machine. Having discovered the overlocking stitch I find that I am using it all the time now and I don't know how I managed without it.

I decided to use a flat fell seam for the side and sleeve seams. I stitched this all in one, sewing from the bottom up. This has given me a smooth finish with all of the raw edges inside and I think this is my go-to finish for cotton shirts and blouses.

One feature I especially like is the finish at the bottom of the button band. This is often a tricky area on a blouse but in this case the diagram showed a continuous line of stitching running all the way around, 1 inch away from the edge, and there were a few instructions at the end of the first sheet.

I stitched my facing one inch from the edge, trimmed the facing seam allowance and turned it out. Then I pressed the hem up by one inch all the way round. When I stitched the facing to the blouse I turned a right angle at the neck and the hem giving one continuous line of stitching all round. I admit that I didn't manage this all in one go on this blouse because I was making it up as I went along but if I make this blouse again I will know what to do. It is so neat and so satisfyingly regular. I am one of these people who likes to line up the table legs with the stripes on the tiles or carpet and wants the spots on the table cloth to line up with the mats so this pattern was made for me!

Last but not least I made six buttonholes down the front and sewed on 6 buttons from my collection. I love these shell buttons. I have several sizes and I used the smallest. They shine in the light and pick up the colours in whatever you sew them on to.

So there we are. I feel quite pleased with the end result but if any one has this pattern I would be very interested to know how closely mine resembles the actual instructions. Please leave a comment and let me know.
It was a very cold day for prancing about in the garden in a thin summer blouse taking photos but here we are!