Sewaholics Cordova

Earlier this week, I took Josh to the local sewing shop and pulled out some fabrics to make up a bundle of patterns I’d ordered online.  I was going to combine new fabrics with stash fabrics and whip my way through a little capsule wardrobe. 

I got a bit carried away (as one does) and bought quite a lot of fabric – just shy of £100 worth, actually.  Josh was horrified: “I thought you said sewing your own stuff was cheaper??” So on the way home, I took him into a fairly standard boutique.  I explained that I was going to make one cotton dress, one jersey dress, one wool skirt and one jacket.  I made him walk around the shop, and price those things up – his choice of garment, so he had control of the bill.  It came to just over £300.

Today, I made the jacket.  This is the Sewaholics Cordova jacket pattern, which I got from the Village Haberdashery.  I didn’t intend to make it today; I was just going to cut it out – it’s fully lined so with main fabric, lining and interfacing I figured cutting it would be enough faff for one mildly hungover Friday. 

But then I looked at the pattern, and realised there were only 16 steps.  Nothing, really!  So I got started.  Again, this is an unaltered pattern.  I measured 8 for boobs and hips and 10 for waist.  I decided to take the risk and go with the 8.  The back of this jacket is in four pieces, and each half of the front is in two, and then there’s a peplum.

The fabric I’d got is a heavyweight linen stripe.  I wasn’t really paying attention when I bought it – the stripe runs horizontally across the fabric. Not what I wanted, at all.  So I thought I’d just have a little see if I could cut it vertically across the grain, rather than along it. I was confident I could get the grain right, by being careful about running down the stripe, and matching stripes would be much easier with vertical stripes – not to mention that horizontal stripes are notoriously unflattering (see t shirt for confirmation – I was meant to be flashing you the jazzy lining, rather than my boob, in this photo but whatevs).

Anyway, by the time I’d put the jacket back and fronts together and stuck the peplum on, there was little point stopping for the day, so I soldiered on.  I’ve always found it difficult to fit linings without buggering up the overall fit of the garment, but this one went in easily enough.  And I managed the stripe matching pretty well, I thought.

So, in all, another pleasing make.  The arms are possibly a shade long, because I’m only short, but it’s a reasonably well fitted jacket which, with no requirement for effort at all from me, looks well tailored.  This is another one I will make again.  This particular version may well get worn to my thing.  

Now.  While fiddling around my sewing room this afternoon, I’ve found three lengths of rather gorgeous silk.  It so happens I need a new cocktail dress.  Can anyone recommend a pattern?!

Colette Moneta

I’m turning into a bit of a Colette groupie.  This latest make is the Moneta – a pattern designed for jersey.  I had a large piece of purple jersey that I’d bought in Sew Me Something the last time I was there, and I thought it would do this dress just nicely.

Beautiful fit!

I traced this off on Sunday evening, before I went out to a party (in my Zinnia skirt).  It’s a very straightforward pattern – two bodice pieces, two skirt pieces and a sleeve.  And a pocket if you wanted one, but it’s quite a lightweight jersey I was using, so I didn’t. 

Making it was incredibly easy, and gave me an excuse to dust off my overlocker – a piece of kit I use so rarely that 10 years down the line, I still need to refer to the threading diagrams!

The only thing I’ve never got the hang of is using elastic to shir (?) a waist seam.  All my elastic seems to lose its give once it’s been stretched into place.  I had a couple of goes before I lost my rag and simply shirred the skirt waist using shirring elastic in the bobbin of my standard machine.

Not looking like a loon

This pattern is designed with negative ease, and narrower than normal seam allowances (to compensate for the give in the jersey), so I made a small bodice and a medium skirt, to allow for my childbearing hips issue.  I made no adjustments to the bodice – lesson learnt from the Hawthorn dress, then! 

Cover hem detail

I couldn’t be more delighted with this dress.  It fits like an absolute glove.  I struggled a bit with the cover hem on my overlocker – but that’s a lack of practice issue, rather than any problem with the pattern or the fabric.  I suspect this will get worn *to death*, and will certainly be made again… and again…  Oh.  I made version 3 🙂

Photos this time are taken by Josh, whose one instruction was “don’t make me look like a loon”.  Good, then! As ever, you can click to embiggen for full lunatic effect.

Still not looking like a loon

Beat me to it!

One of my oldest friends became a grandmother, in the wee small hours of this morning.  She will be the best granny! [edit: I’d just like to point out that ‘oldest’, in this context, refers to the longevity of the friendship, NOT the age of the friend! Erk…]

I thought the occasion marked a quick and dirty tiny person quilt.  I happen to have bought a jelly roll of rainbow coloured strips from Doughtys, the last time I was visiting Penny in Hereford, and it was just perfect for a baby sized knock-up.  I used up some of the background fabric left over from the wedding quilt‘s early drafts, and backed it with a piece of flannel that’s been in my stash roughly forever.  In fact, it may well have come from a co-op organised by the new granny, since that tends to be where I bought flannel from in the olden days…

Anyway, since I don’t think the recipient will be reading this, I’m putting up photos before the parcel has been received.  Here’s my rainy Sunday, “You Beat Me To It, Granny” quilt for the new little person in that family.  I hope they all enjoy it.

Break in the clouds

We’ve had sunshine today! And the children opted to go for a walk!  
I happened to be in the Cotswolds yesterday, razzing around in a friend’s fancy car, and spotted a place called Salford, which amused me no end, because it’s a far cry from the Salford I know of old… just compare those two skylines!!
Anyway, when I got home and looked up my new local Salford, I discovered there are Neolithic standing stones nearby.  So when the children opted to go for a walk, it seemed like the obvious choice.
So, no sewing to share today.  But I wanted to show you these, instead: 

These delightful families took a keen interest in us as we walked past.  In the other Salford, you want to avoid the interest of delightful families, on the whole.  Even here, I was very pleased for the two strands of barbed wire that separated us.  But aren’t they beautiful?

The other Salford has dangerous dogs, too.  My dogs are just dangerously stoopid…

This is the Kings’ Men circle, part of the Rollright Stones.  The legend is that this is a circle of courtiers, petrified by a witch.  They say that if you count the stones in the circle, you never get the same number twice.  We counted 70, 74, 75 and 76.

The blackberries are still so sour they’ll send your ears shooting round to the back of your head, but apparently some of us like them like that!

Colette Zinnia

So, you remember I had a pile of fabric to work through, and needed some patterns?  I wrote about it in the Washi Dress post.

Yesterday, Josh and I happened to find ourselves in Witney.  Almost entirely by accident…. almost.  And I happened to stumble into the fabric shop.  Almost entirely by accident.  Which inevitably led to a bit more fabric – a wool mix (or at least, I thought it was a lightweight wool.  More on that later) for the Zinnia skirt pattern, and a heavyweight striped linen for the jacket I might need for a thing.

I bought the Zinnia pattern because it looked flexible, quick to make and easy to wear.  It was indeed quick to make – I can see myself making it again and again.

I made version 2 – the one with little pleats.  I did a very quick and dirty voile, and knew that it would fit me straight off the pattern.  No need for alterations, which is always a bonus, so I traced it off and began sewing.   As you can see, Freya didn’t take these photos – they’re all selfies.  Please excuse the unmade bed in the background.  Housekeeping is not my forte!

The fabric I chose is soft and swishy, but not terribly drapey.  So it became obvious that if I left the pleats as designed all they would do would be to considerably enhance my childbearing hips.  And nobody wants to look like Kirsty Allsop, right?!  So I extended the pleats from the 2″ affair drawn on the pattern to 8″.  The pleats are edge-stitched down, so there’s quite a flare from the bottom of them.  I was a little nervous this would mess with the fit, but actually it worked really well.

My other small, niggly criticism with this pattern is the belt loops.  As written, they’re a real fiddle – they require you to sew and turn through a tube of fabric not much wider than 3/8″.  Hideous.  Instead, I pressed the seam allowances in to the middle, folded the fabric strip in half and pressed again, and edgestitched down the open edge.  Much simpler to make.  Next time, I’ll make the strip a little longer, so that the individual loops can be a tad bit bigger, and sew them into the bottom of the waistband, so that only the top edge needs top stitching down – I think this will make for a less fiddly process, as well as a neater finish.

In all, I’m pleased with this skirt.  It reminds me a lot of things my mother used to wear in the 70s – I think she called them dirndl skirts?  And it’s reasonably flattering.  I need to find something to wear on top of it – I don’t really want to re-create the whole 70s vibe, but I do need some skirty-type tops.  Maybe that’s a task for more of my stash-busting activity!!

The fabric, as well as being not particularly drapey, creases up a storm! So I’m going to go back to the fabric shop and see what the composition actually is.  It smells and feels like wool, but creases like linen.  I wonder if it’s a wool/linen mix, therefore?? 

Washi Dress

I’m on holiday, and the sunshine’s stopped, which means I can’t do the outdoor DIY jobs I had planned.  So instead, I am working my way through a pile of fabric, but had run out of patterns.  Also, I need a jacket for a thing.

Front view

I like the look of the Deer & Doe patterns, but didn’t want to wait for one to arrive from France.  And so by a process of clicking and looping back and clicking some more, I found myself browsing the fabrics and patterns at The Village Haberdashery.

One of the bits of fabric I need to use up is a lovely, rich purple jersey which I wanted to turn into a t-shirt dress.  But I lost heart at drafting a pattern myself, and so after my success with the Hawthorn dress, I’ve ordered Colette’s Moneta pattern.  I’ve also ordered the Zinnia skirt and the Sewaholic Cordova jacket, which is for my thing.  Perhaps.  And then, just as I was about to check out, my finger slipped on the mouse and a Washi Dress pattern fell into my basket.  Along with the fabric to make it up.

The postman looked slightly askance, this morning, as he handed me my beautifully wrapped spotty package (which included three free fat quarters! Bliss!!) and I tore into the sewing room, and then the packet, and chose to make the Washi dress first.

I did something virtually unheard of, for me, and made a toile of the bodice out of some cheesecloth that’s been lying around for a bit. It fitted beautifully, straight out the packet.  So I made the whole thing.  It was beautifully easy to put together, and fits like a dream. 

Pretty neckline

The bodice is very simple – darted, with a U-cut in the neckline.  The instructions for putting it together were really clear, and you could easily make it round necked if the U gave you the shivers.  I added some topstitch detail, too, which I hope will help keep the corners in line (though I suspect the success of this strategy will depend somewhat on which bra I choose to put underneath it!).

Back view, with shirring

The back is a single, largely unshaped piece, with 6 rows of shirring to give it shape.  It’s the first time I’ve used shirring for years, and the first time ever in this machine, but it was unproblematic.  I stopped following the instructions about half way through when I decided not to face the neck, but to use my voile as a lining for the bodice.  Even with that adaptation, it was a lovely smooth make.

Topstitch detail

I suspect this pattern will get a lot of use – I really like the fit; it’s a quick and easy make, and I think fairly flattering.  I can see it working well in needle cord and brushed cotton for the winter – I might try and draft some 3/4 length sleeves for it, to make it a bit more cold weather friendly.  But even as it is, with a long sleeved T shirt, tights, and boots I think it’s a winner!

Oh.  Freya wants me to mention that she took some of the pictures (which you can embiggen by clicking on them, incidentally).  And I totally would give her the credit, apart from this conversation which happened just after the optician had declared her eyesight perfect, this afternoon:

Freya: Josh….. MUM! I mean Mum!! Bwahahahahaha!! I called you Josh!!!
Me: Is it because of my slim, boyish figure?
F:……..
Me: No. It’s because of my youthful good looks, isn’t it?
F: ……….
Me: It’s because I’m young and gorgeous, isn’t it?!
F:  No, it’s because of your beard.

So she can go whistle for her photo credits.

Colette Hawthorn

Sewing. In my pyjamas.

Well.  One of my very favourite sewists, Lazy Seamstress (who’s now famous! But I knew her first, so there!) raves about the Colette Hawthorn pattern, and made herself a very pretty version…  And so when she did, I thought “hmmm… shirtwaister. I could make me one of those” and bought the pattern.

Now.  I am a size 10 on top, with good old fashioned child-bearing hips and a plenty-of-children-borne tummy.  Which makes me something between a 12 and 14 from the waist down, despite my frequent, more fidgetty than dedicated best efforts.  So I knew this pattern would need some redrafting, but no matter.

The pattern calls for cotton or linen, or similar light and floaty fabric, and I found a lovely, retro-ish linen in my local fabric store.

I find it really difficult to fit to my own body.  Obviously.  It’s kind of tough to look, measure and pin behind your own back.  But I have a kind of semi-functional tailor’s dummy, and I have some pattern drafting fabric, and I haven’t made any clothes in well over a year, and what the fuck can go wrong, right?  Right.

So I measured.  With the help of teenagers.  You’ll notice the lack of the adjective ‘willing’ in the previous sentence.  Don’t forget that…  And I drafted.  And I worked out how to flare the bodice so that what I ended up with would fit around my hips, and I almost completely forgot to take account of the fact that my waist is high, and my tummy prominent and yet despite those two things, my hips are just where you’d expect them to be, and anyway.  Half circle skirt.  Not much need for additional ease in the hip department, sistah.

Proper cuffs!

And then I put it together, and it flew together like a dream.  The pattern is well drafted, the instructions are clear and it all went beautifully smoothly.  I love doing shirty things – collars and proper cuffs and fitting around awkwardly shaped torsos.  It feels like a real skill, and it pleases me greatly.

Sewing, for me, isn’t a quiet exercise.  It’s not a head down, breath quiet, concentrate and get on with it thing.  Not at all.  When it goes well, I hum distractedly to myself.  Or sing along with the radio, whether or not I know the words.  Kids and dogs lie low in a mildly embarrassed, despairing manner.  When it goes badly I swear.  Volubly and in fluent Anglo Saxon.  Kids and dogs hide, from sheer self preservation.

This was definitely a singing along with the radio day.  And besides, I was kept in good company on my bing-bong email, and for most of the day the sun kept Hurricane Bertha at bay, and the chickens clucked contentedly and it was verily the epitome of domestic bliss.

Beautifully fitting dummy

When I’d constructed the bodice, I tried it on.  It fit beautifully across my shoulders (well done, teenagers!) and boobs (well done, me!) and sat nicely in the small of my back.  Obviously, it’s difficult to gauge the final fit until all the parts are together, but early indications were that there was nothing to worry about.  A pattern re-drafting triumph.

I whizzed up the skirt, and stuck it onto the bodice, and put the whole onto the dummy.  All good.

It turns out that when you’re a little stumpy person with good old fashioned child-bearing hips and a plenty-of-children-borne tummy, what you really need is a dressmaker’s dummy with an adjustable back waist length.  Mine doesn’t have one of those.  And the dress fitted her beautifully.

So I carried on flying it together, and did the magic buttonhole thing, and sewed on the buttons and turned up the hem and BADA BING!  All done.

And then I put it on.  Not on the dummy. On me.

And lo! It was too long in the back waist, and not really all that brilliant around the actual waist, and generally made me look like a sack of spuds.  So I decided, for the safety of all concerned, that I’d leave it till another day, but I would fix it.  I.  Would.  Fix.  It.  If it killed me.

This morning, I got up LIKE A BOSS (which is lucky) and took the skirt off the bodice, and unpicked a buttonhole.  I opened out the facings, and unpicked the top stitching.  I took off two buttons, and an inch off the back waist.  And then I put it all together again.  And it was better.

Better, but not good.  I could lose another inch from the back waist, I think – bringing the actual waist up to the bottom of my rib cage.  And I could fit the back better, with larger rear darts.  It fits well – even really well – across my shoulders and boobs, though.  Well done, teenagers! Well done, me!

I have looked carefully in every mirror I’ve passed, today.  And I have concluded that (a) I didn’t really need to re-draft the bodice; (b)  I could have cut gores in the skirt pattern, and made the skirt wider (and that mightn’t have been a bad thing) but (c) really the problem with the fit on this is that it calls for a light fabric, and much of the weight of the garment is in the skirt.  So no matter how well you draft and fit the bodice, it will be pulled out of shape by the weight of the skirt, a bit.

I might try silk, next time.  Silk and a higher waist.  And perhaps a lined, stronger bodice.  I might even buy a proper tailor’s dummy.