Sgt Pepper with a chintzy lining

So.  I admit it.  I have a bit of a girl crush on Amy Butler.  I love her designs.  Generally, I’m not a big fan of the floral chintzy girly type stuff, so it was something of a surprise to me to discover that Amy Butler can do no wrong.  Cath Kidston, on the other hand, you can keep.  She is the Kirsty Allsop of fabric designers.  And I don’t mean that as a compliment (to either of them).

Anyway.  Amy Butler.  I went to a talk by her at the Festival of Quilts in 2011.  And I bought a pattern for a long, fitted jacket.  And I bought the fabric to make it.  I got it home, I read the instructions, I got intimidated by the fact I had to know my bicep measurement – MY BICEP MEASUREMENT! – and I put it all away in a drawer.

But now I need to practise me some skills.  A jacket would be one of them.  Different types of hem would be another.  Linings (that fit) would be another.  And buttonholes yet another.  So I got the Amy Butler out of its drawer, and decided it was just the ticket.

I got Freya, my 13 year old, to help me with my measurements – particularly my bicep.  12″, if you were wondering.  Which is quite big.  I blame cake.

One of the fabrics is a big, swirly, flocked design in acid lime green, on a pale turquoise background.  The other is a pale green background with an oversized pink chintz design.  The first thing I had to do was measure the centre of the big flock design.  It didn’t help that the pattern thought the larger flock was in the centre of the fabric (Amy Butler Sandalwood) with the smaller designs down each side.  In fact, it was the smaller design in the centre.  So I got out my quilting ruler and my tailor’s chalk, and I drew a line down the centre of the small design.  Right down the middle, the whole length of the fabric.  And I resigned myself to the fact that the pattern wasn’t as accurately drafted as I might have liked it to be, and I was going to need to do some making it up as I went along.

The back piece was supposed to have a seam down the middle, to allow it to flare.  I couldn’t see how that would work, so in fact I cut the back as a single piece.  I made sure the centre back and centre front were aligned with the line I’d drawn down the centre of the design.  Effectively, I was using my drawn line as the grain, rather than relying on the actual grain of the fabric. I lined the fronts, back, and sleeve pieces very, very carefully on the fabric to make sure the pattern was completely symmetrical on both sides of both the outer piece and the lining (I wasn’t entirely sure which would be which).

The actual putting together of it was quite straightforward.  It pretty much flew together.  I checked the fit a couple of times, but because Freya was so amazingly accurate with the measurements, the fit was fairly much spot on straight off the table.

I cut the citrus fabric last night, and the paisley this morning.  When I did my first fit, this morning, my son told me the citrus made me look like someone out of Sgt Pepper.  And so Sgt Pepper it became.

 But it was far too nice a day to spend entirely in my shed.  So I allowed Mr P to lure me to Baddesley Clinton for some al fresco dining and newspapers… 

And suitably relaxed, and possibly a little sunburnt, I came home and put the finishing touches to the Sgt Pepper jacket.  I couldn’t decide which fabric should be on the outside and which should be the lining, so I did what any mature, sensible sewist would do.  I asked Twitter.  Twitter voted comprehensively for Sgt Pepper to be outside.  Here, just to show the beauty of a symmetrical, pattern matched cutting scheme, are the photos I gave them, to choose from.

The pattern allows for a tie belt – in the manner of a dressing gown.  I didn’t fancy that.  I decided to put a buttonhole in each side, and give it a chiffon tie.  I had a piece of chiffon knocking around in the shed, and some Gutterman variegated thread for the buttonholes.  And I needed to practice manual buttonholes.  So I whizzed in a couple of buttonholes, and fished out the chiffon.  which was a square.  Inappropriate.  I chopped it in half, slung a rolled hem around it (never used the rolled hem foot on my sewing machine before) and threaded it through one buttonhole.

And here’s the finished article.


Well, the cutting is good.  The pattern is entirely symmetrical and the lining is as good as the shell.  Big bonus points there.

The hem (hand stitched) is a little tightly sewn.  You can see the line of it.  I should, really, take it down and do it again looser.  Maybe I will.

The chiffon idea doesn’t work perfectly.  In fact, it barely works at all.  I tied it in a bow to close the jacket at my waist, and Freya told me it looked poncey.  Better hanging loose, apparently – although to me that’s a little bit New Romantic, but there you are. 

 The pattern wanted the lining and shell fabric both to be the same lengths all the way down, which makes for a bulky hem – particularly at the wrist.  If I were ever to make it again, I’d make the linings a little shorter than the exterior to keep the hems finer.

Also. Big bum.  What can I say.  I blame cake.

And Freya asks me to point out that she took all the photos.  And the bicep measurements.

HELP!!! (no, seriously: HELP!!!!!!!!)

So.  Today, A THING happened. 

Well, obviously, quite a few things happened.  But amongst them was A THING.  A thing so unexpected that, even though I dealt with it there and then, I can’t quite believe it happened.  Pinch me!

And as a result, I may need to practise me some sewing skills.  For a start, I’ve never made a man’s shirt.  I might need to know how to do a collar and proper, formal, stiffened cuffs.  Preferably double cuffs.  Mr P has volunteered, and so he will spend a day standing still while I measure, cut, and stick him with pins.  But I probably need another man, just to perfect the technique.  My lovely cousin, @CamSlates has also volunteered (if you’re on Twitter and you don’t follow him, you should: he takes a lovely picture).  So that probably takes care of the shirts.

I could also do to make some fitted stuff.  It’s easier for other people than it is for me.  I mean, it’s easier for me to fit stuff onto other people.  Do you fancy being another person? Leave a comment.

Look, this isn’t a promise.  I’m not promising anything – I’m begging, but I can’t guarantee that everyone who gets in touch will get something, and if you get something, I can’t guarantee it’ll be brilliant (but it will…)

So if you can help me out, by letting me practise my skills on you, please give me a shout…  We’ll agree on what I make, and we’ll find and choose a pattern together. I’ll buy the pattern, and ask you to provide me with the measurements I need.  It would be helpful if you could buy your own fabric (that way, you know you like it, but I’ll tell you how much I think you need).  And then we’ll get to work! I will be able to use the pattern to draft up a pattern that will be tailored to you, and then I’ll actually need you to come and sit around while I make it around you.  From that point of view, it would probably be a good idea if I know you, and you’re happy to sacrifice a day of your life to the West Midlands… And in return I’ll make you a thing.

So things I need to practise:
Invisible zips (in a dress? A pair of trousers?)
Tailored jackets (I’ll be honest. I only want to do one of these at the very most)
Collar/cuff (but probably covered by Mr P and @CamSlates)
Oh. Embellishment. Of garments. Send me your garment to embellish.  Or something…
Um.  I think that’s about it, but if you think of something I need to know how to do, please do shout!

In other (possibly unrelated?) news, I find myself fascinated by beards.  If I was a man, I’d totally grow a beard.  And wax my ‘tache.  And possibly dye it/them.  It’s the first time I’ve thought it might be attractive to be a man.  But, y’know.  With my DNA, perhaps I shouldn’t entirely rule out a late surge on the beard front…

Two-in-one skirt. Dilemma solved. Now with pictures!

So.  I decided not to buy yet more fabric.  Not least because my whole rationale for *not* buying the skirt in White Stuff which was my inspiration was that I could’ve made it for cheaper.

Just for reference, the inspiration was this (but in different fabrics!).

I had several suggestions on Twitter and Facebook for ways to fix the hole in the front of my version.  My favourite was “market the idea to Ann Summers” which, at one point, looked like the most viable solution!  But in the end, I cut a panel from the ‘other skirt’ fabric, and inserted it all the way down the front.  It is assymetrical – the inner edge is parallel to the centre front, which is a plumb line down my body; the outer edge is parallel to the side seam, which is A-line-angled.  I’m sure there’s a better word for that.

I wanted to put some of the grey fabric back on top, to disguise something of the harshness of the colour block  effect.  It’s not, after all, the most sophisticated technique.  I experimented with a bird shape, but it was too complicated to see, what with all the birds on the fabric.  Then I tried a dragonfly, but it just looked a bit odd.  So I stuck to a heart-shaped patch pocket, which is double sided, edge stitched and just top stitched into place, at a slight angle.

Anyway, here’s the inner skirt.  With the applique which caused all the trouble!  The hem of the outer skirt is faced, and that’s what you can see below the hem of the inner skirt…

The outer skirt has something of a colour block effect going on.  Have I mentioned it?

 It fits well (right) – which is a relief because after all that, if it had been a poor fit as well I might have jacked in the whole game for a bad job!

And (left) the fit from the other side.  I must do something about my psoriasis!

The thing I was most worried about going wrong – before I started hacking applique out of my scant fabric, was the button placket.  This had to be reversible, too, and I wanted the contrast fabric to peek through.  I bought some standard buttons, but Mr P was worried they’d be uncomfortable on whichever skirt is on the inside, so I dug out some old beads which would do. If you look *closely* you can see the centre bead has a dragonfly on it.  I knew I’d get one on there, somehow!!

I made little frogs for the button closures.  And there you go! One rather well padded tummy, and one two-in-one skirt.


The Great British Sewing Bee has started something, and I’m getting my dressmaking mojo back…

This is a little like a return to the seaside resort where you spent all your childhood summers.  You recall it being a fabulous, pretty, exciting, relaxing place.  Lit with the mellow glow of nostalgia and awash with all your favourite ice cream flavours.  Shuffling through the scrapbook of your memory, the mere mention of its name is enough to fill you with warm fuzzies.

But as an adult you daren’t return.  You don’t want to spoil the glow with the discovery that the lanes are overcrowded, the beach is littered with dog dirt and ice cream wrappers, and the real cream dairy ice has been replaced by grainy Mr Whippy with lurid sugary raspberry topping.

So it is with me and dressmaking.  I used to do *a lot*.  I got a sewing machine for my 18th birthday, and used to take myself off to Woolwich Market and buy yards of eyecatchingly inappropriate (often upholstery) fabric, and make basic, blocky clothes for myself.  A square T shirt and 45 degree A Line skirt in zebra print spring easily to mind… And when the children were small, I would adapt patterns or work out of magazines and make all their clothes.

Anyway. Enough of the rose tinted stuff.

We’ve been watching the GBSB.  The other week, Josh asked if I could make a dress in 6 hours, so I went stash diving and found some linen/cotton blend from the John Lewis remnant bin in my shed.  I didn’t have a pattern for a fitted, sleeveless, round-necked dress, so I pulled out a pattern for a V-backed, wrapover evening dress and traced an adaptation on top of its basic block, and made myself a round-necked sleeveless dress.  In 5 1/2 hours, including pattern drafting.  It’s not perfect – I need to practice zip insertions if I’m ever to consider myself accomplished, and the back hem is a bit of a fiddle if you look closely.  But it passes the cavalry test (you wouldn’t notice the mistakes if you rode by on a horse!) and I’ve worn it to work and nobody vomited.

So, this weekend, Mr P and I found ourselves wondering around Stratford (upon Avon), soaking up the sunshine and eating fabulous food in Hobsons.  On the way back to the car, I spotted a sign to a shop called Sew Me Something – not a shop I’ve ever seen before.  I am genetically incapable of walking past a fabric shop, so I persuaded Mr P that a visit would be a good idea.  He’d just spent half an hour perched on the windowsill of White Stuff, while I didn’t buy a flippy, A-Line reversible skirt, so I was pushing my luck, a little….

Half an hour of joyous browsing and nattering later, I left Sew Me Something with 1 1/2 metres each of Art Gallery Fabrics grey, hummingbirdy cotton for one side of my A-Line reversible skirt and green, trellisy cotton for the other side.

On Sunday morning, I drew a quick pattern – curved self waistband, fitted to the hip, gentle A Line with the grey on the outside, about an inch longer than the green on the inside – the longer skirt with a faced hem, so that if the shorter skirt is worn on the outside, you see the grey fabric peeking underneath.  Good.  I whipped up the green skirt, using the grey fabric as a bias trim edging the lower edge of the waistband.  So far, so good.  It worked, and it fitted.

And then I totally messed it up, like a complete NUMPTY.  I decided it would be cool to applique a big rose, and a pink humming bird and a red humming bird from the grey fabric onto the green fabric, over my left knee.  So I grabbed some grey scrap, fussy cut the pieces I wanted, and stitched them down.  Perfect.  Looking good!  Time to make the grey skirt.  I picked up the pieces, stay stitched the top of the front skirt, turned to the back and – guess what!! – I hadn’t cut my applique from scrap fabric – I’d cut it from the back skirt piece!

So now I have a dilemma.  I don’t have enough grey fabric to cut a new back piece.  I don’t have enough grey fabric to pattern match a back piece with a centre back seam.  So, my options are – go back to Stratford and buy more fabric – a perfect, but expensive solution.  Or insert a panel of green down my left thigh into the grey piece.  Maybe stitch a shaped grey patch pocket into it, to further mix up the fabric interaction.  I have some thin red ribbon I could insert into the lower seam of the waistband edge, to break up the grey-green border…  It’s a tricky one, to be sure.

Last night, gin was the only answer! Today, I’m asking you….