Lazy Seamstress Maude skirt

This is a bit sneaky, really, because you can’t actually buy it! But I have had *so* much fun, this weekend, testing a pattern for my wonderful friend Jeanette.  She’s been drafting patterns for a while, and sells them on her Etsy store.  I am in awe of Jeanette.  She’s been a real and a virtual friend for many, many years and she’s a creative whirl storm of a woman.  I wish I had half her imagination and vision.  Never mind her skill with fabric selection! She’s on my go-to list of people whose style and grace I hope one day to emulate!

Anyway, she recently asked on Facebook if anyone would be willing to test her new Maude skirt pattern in its final drafting stages.  So of course I said yes.  And it arrived on Friday.

This weekend, I’m supposed to be sewing a ball dress.  The ball is on 9th May, so time is running out…  I chose the fabric and the pattern and ordered online.  I’ve changed shape quite a lot, recently, and dropped from the borders of a 12/14 to the borders of an 8/10 in ready-to-wear sizes.  So I foolishly assumed that if I got a pattern in size 8-12 I’d be absolutely fine.  Rookie error!  Turns out in Butterick-land, I measure squarely to a size 14 (apart from the boobs… *dejected sigh*).

So I couldn’t make the ball dress, but instead I had some dedicated sewing time put aside to make Maude.  And she was ace! Flew together with nary a pause for head scratching; fitted a little snugly (but that’s because I didn’t resize for a waist which was, admittedly, not to standard measurements) and looked *amazing* on!   I made one minor adaptation to a straight grain, to allow the stripes on my pockets to line up properly, and a tiny bodge for waistbanding when I discovered I didn’t have any petersham.  Here she is in a slightly scruffy bedroom mirror selfie as I was getting ready for work, this morning.

I want to make this again.  This version used an old, striped denim I bought from some German website about half a century ago.  I have other varieties of German denim, but it would look good in wool, and also I figure it would work well in a lightweight cotton – perhaps with a reversible thing going on.  Anyway.  I commend her to you – you should go to Etsy periodically and see if Jeanette has finished her drafting, and buy the pattern!

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

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.

If you can cope with triumph and disaster…

Something had to give, after the lavender dotty sewing disaster.  And it had to give fast…

On the Monday, I had an appointment to view a house, and I wanted a quick squizz around the nearest town, too.  Well.  It turns out the town had a fabric shop.  So I was late for the house viewing, but armed with 5m of yellow flowery loveliness, which I intended to turn into a dress.  And I did.  That very night.  And it worked a treat. 

An absolute dream.  Fitted like a glove.  First time.  And I wore it to work the next day, 

The dog loves it

Heading to the audition
Arse like a hippo

and to my audition that very Friday. And many, many days since.
Including the day when there was a security drama at work and the world’s press photographed me waltzing down the road, accompanied by police and sniffer dogs, wearing my fabulous homemade new dress.  With an arse like a hippo.  But still. You can’t have everything, eh?!

 Sadly, there appears to have been a glut of middle class, middle aged women at the audition, and so I didn’t get through.  Although they were very complimentary about my sewing, and said they’d be delighted to see me back next year.

The weekend after the audition, my lovely cousin, @CamSlates came over to volunteer his body to me.  So that I could sew him a shirt – what else??

He had selected some fabric – a lawn cotton with a busy brown flowery print, which he loves because it reminds him of formica.  I’d cut it on the Friday evening, and it was a bit slippery so I was, to be perfectly honest, intimidated.  To fuck.  And most of the way back again.  Still, when he arrived, I began sewing and followed the instructions very closely (it’s a Vogue pattern.  I really don’t think I can find it again now, but you know.  Current season.  Men’s shirt.  Go figure), and it went together like a dream.  Every seam is a flat fell – where you sew the seam, trim one side, fold the other side over the trimmed edge, and topstitch it down, close to the folded edge. It means every seam takes roughly twice as long to sew as a standard seam, but it means there is absolutely no danger of a stray, fraying edge irritating the wearer’s delicate skin.  None at all.  Not one.  They were tricky to do, on such a light fabric, but it kind of worked.

I’ve never made a man’s shirt before.  There’s lots of technical stuff.  Collar stands.  Button plackets.  Cuff plackets.  Double cuffs.  Lots and lots and lots of buttonholes.  By the time the day was over, I hadn’t got very far:

 but Cam looks reasonably happy with it, I think.  And he’d make a good one armed scarecrow, you have to admit!

It took me a week to get back to it, after he’d left.  You know.  Life got in the way.  But I’ve done it.  And here it is – photos with captions.  Click to embiggen!

Cuff placket – seriously! This was scary stuff.

Finished

Buttons. Behind a hidey thing.
A buttonhole!
A Collar!! With stand!!

A flat fell seam!

He seems pleased 🙂

A yoke. Cut horizontally. Not that you can tell.

And by the time I’d finished it, I’d reflected on my audition. One of the things they’d asked about was how I felt about sewing with difficult fabrics.  Which I haven’t done for a while – barring the cotton lawn shirt.  So I ordered some crepe de chine, and whipped up a dress this evening.
This was a real return to Betty Bodge days, for me.  I used a pattern to cut the dress (a German one I’ve had for years, and made several times), but I didn’t bother to trouble myself with detail.  So I cut the back in two pieces, for zip insertion and then discovered I didn’t have a zip.  So I seamed the back, and decided to put a zip under the arm.  Of course, if I’d been trying harder, I’d have re-cut the back in single pieces, but no.  It has a seam and I defy anyone to call me out on it.  But then I had to re-cut the neck (after I’d sewn the shoulder seams) to fit over my head.  Which was fine, but I had to draft a neck facing pattern against the sewn-up bodice.  Which was also fine, actually, but not technically ideal…
Then I decided to bind the armholes rather than face them, and finally, I threw in a machined hem, rather than a hand stitched one.
I wanted a light weight, maxi length, everyday dress.  And I have one.  I will wear it like a rag.  And maybe tomorrow I will show you a photo of it.  If I can get Freya to take one that looks halfway decent.  So it’s not technically perfect.  But equally, it’s not made by Primark, and it allowed me an evening or two of decompression.  I win!

Drying after a quick wash
Smiley selfie

Litany of total fucking disaster. In lavender. Or possibly heather. (Warning: this post contains harsh language from the start)

So.  I have an audition on Friday, for which I want to make a good impression.  And last weekend, I happened to be in Sew Me Something where they had just 2.5m left of a gorgeous heathery purple polka dot which had caught my eye last time I was there.  Well 2.5m is a usable amount, right?  So I decided to snaffle it, and make a dress for my audition.

I shopped online, and stumbled upon a Burda pattern for a fifties retro dress, with a v-back and cowl collar.  Cool.  It’d look lovely in heathery purple polka dot, so I clicked and bought.

I started on Thursday.  I got Mr P to help me take my measurements.  I was a 16 waist and hips, a 12 bust and an 8 for back waist length.  OK.  So that was going to take some re-drafting, then.

Only, I didn’t really have time to re-draft.  Still, good impressions count, right?  So I fettled out the tracing paper.  Bugger.  Not enough tracing paper.  I drew my bust/waist line on the pattern directly, and figured I’d wing it for the back waist length.  Only when I’d cut the pattern, it looked OK.  You know, the piece of paper held up against my shoulder and floating down my back.  That.  That looked OK.  Over my shoulder, in the hall mirror.  Fine. What could possibly go wrong?

I’d thought I’d make the lining with French seams, just to show off my French seam prowess.  I went to the shed, to fettle out my roll of lining fabric.  No lining fabric.  Jesus.  Really??  No matter.  I stomped off into town, to our funny, inadequate habby shop, and bought some lilac lining.  And 3m of fusible lightweight interfacing, since that roll was mysteriously empty, too.  No problem.

With hindsight, I really should have realised that the Universe was telling me to put my feet up this weekend, and not sew.  But no.  I was set on making a good impression.

I got home, and cut out, and retreated into the shed.  The dress went together really quickly.  I say the dress went together really quickly, but really what I mean is that the bust and waist darts went in really quickly, and the back darts went in really quickly, and the back seam was pretty quick, too.  Then it was time to put in the zip.

I fucking hate zips.  If I never fasten another garment with a zip again as long as I live, I’ll be a happy woman.  From now on, I am all about the buttons and the elastic waists and I don’t care who says it’s not fashionable.  The pattern said “insert zipper”.  That’s it.  “insert zipper”.  No pictures, no instructions.  Just “insert zipper”.  Well.  That’s fine, actually, because I’ve been inserting zippers since Noah was in nappies.  I have inserted zippers up the wazoo.  Not literally, obviously, but you know…. But I *haven’t* inserted a zipper in over 10 years.  Still, no matter.  It’ll be like riding a bike, right?

I inserted zipper.  It gaped, hideously.  I took zipper out.  I basted seam, and pressed it open.  I reinserted zipper.  I edge stitched.  I took the basting out.  The zipper looked like one of the dogs had sewn it in.  I took the zipper out.  I repressed the fabric.  I basted the zipper.  I stitched it carefully.  I took it out.  I must have taken that bloody zip out and put it back in again half a dozen times, before I was satisfied.  But no matter.  I *was* satisfied in the end, so I stitched the shoulder seams and the side seams, and threw together the lining.  And then I remembered that I wanted the lining to have French seams, so I unpicked it and threw it together again, with French seams. And then I pressed the lining.  And melted it with the iron.  Well.  Not *actually* melted it.  Not to holeyness.  More just done that shrinkle effect on it.  Which ironed out, kind of, with the application of some water spray.  And then I basted the dress and lining together at neck and arm holes.  And I tried the dress on.

 Try to ignore the photo-bombing dog, behaving like a media whore… Also, you can click on the photos to embiggen them.

The front was OK – a bit high at the neck, but the pattern’s a bit high at the neck.  What was mostly wrong with this view was the bit you can’t see – the lining.  In Frenching my seams, I’d forgotten to add additional seam allowance for french seams, so the lining was *way* too tight across my hips.  Oh well.  What the eye don’t see, and all…

What’s mostly wrong with this view is my size 16 waist.  Or fucking big fat tummy, as the tabloid press would most likely put it.  Not a good look in a sheath dress…  But still.  I could buy some tummy control pants, right?  Spanx’d fix it?!

But blow me, look at that bloody zipper!!! It’s AWFUL.

So I gave up holding my tummy in, and cracked a smile at the photo bombing dog.

And I put the dress back in the shed, and poured a rather large gin.  And another.  And another.  And I watched Ewan McGregor in Ghost, and I went to bed.

I woke up at 6 o’clock this morning, thinking I KNOW WHAT I’LL DO!! I know how to make the dress right!

I will:

  • Take out the zipper
  • Sew up the centre back seam
  • Put an invisible zipper in the side seam
  • Release the back waist darts in the lining
  • Think about re-cutting the neck

So I went back to the shed, and I took out the zipper.  My nemesis.  My Achilles’ heel.  The accursed zipper.  I took it out.  And, out of sheer blind spite, I threw it away.  Catharsis!!

And I found a 7″ invisible zip in my stash, and I unpicked the side seams, of dress and lining, and I sewed in that invisible zip like a professional tailoring BOSS.  And it was beautiful.  And I took out the basting, and pressed it, and it gaped like a motherfucker.  Still, I wasn’t taking it out again.  No, no no.  I’d done with that.  So I hand basted the seam back shut again, and I hand stitched the zip in place, taking tiny, invisible (ish) prick stitches through the dress, to keep the seams in place.  And I took out my basting, and IT WORKED! It was a beautiful, invisible zip.  So I hand stitched the lining to the zipper tape, and it was beautiful and all was good.  Until I tried it on, and realised I’d misplaced the lining.  But still.  It’s under my armpit.  Who’s ever going to look there, right? Well you are, you lucky people, because I’m going to show you.

See that wrinkle at the top? That’s what I’m talking about.  It’s beautiful.  It’s a beautiful, beautiful zipper.  Apart from that wrinkle where I’ve fastened the lining down in the wrong bloody place.

Still, moving on…. I released the back waist darts in the lining.  Still too tight.  So I did what any reasonable woman would do.  I lost my temper and cut the lining at the bottom of my waist.  Cut it out.  Lost it altogether.  Rolled a quick hem around the cut edge and decided they’d have to take my word for prowess with French seams.  It’s now a half lined dress.  Too bad!

And then I tried it on.  And, you know what?  Better.  Much better.

Less tight across the hips, without the lining.  Still needing tummy control pants, but you know.  Whatever.

There’s an invisible zip in that armpit, if you know where to look!

And that’s *so* much better without a zip straining to be released into the wild. Isn’t it??  I say better.  It’s still too long but you know.  Apart from that.  Better.

Encouraged, I retreated back to my shed, to put the facings in.  The interlined facings.  All cut and neatly stacked on the work top in the shed.

I ironed the first piece of interfacing into place, down a strip of back facing.  Bada bing! Turned my attention to the front facing.  Iron on it.  Fizzle.  Fizzle??? That’s not supposed to happen.  Pick up iron.  Facing comes with.  A melted, black, sticky mess of interfacing, all over the sole plate of my iron.  Arse.  So I re-cut the front interfacing, and tried again.  This time with a tea towel over the top.  And so on.  The facings went together, I trimmed seam allowances, clipped seams, pressed (with tea towel), and understitched.  Perfect.  Looking good.

Hang on.  This dress is supposed to have a collar, isn’t it?  Where’s the instructions for the collar???

Arse, buggeration and fuckety fuck.  I’ve missed out the collar.  Which was supposed to be sewn into the neckline with the facings.

And breathe, Vicki.  BREATHE!!

Actually, thinking about it, sewing the collar into the facings would make an *extremely* bulky neckline.  So I came up with a plan B.  I couldn’t unpick the facings because they were trimmed, clipped and understitched.  So I ironed the interfacing onto one collar piece, sewed the collar pieces together, clipped corners, turned out, pressed.  I’d left the top (neck) edge unstitched, and instead I turned in a small seam allowance on both sides.  I was going to *bind* the collar in place, like a quilt binding.  I pinned, and *very* carefully understitched the underside of the collar to the right side of the neck, and then hand stitched the top side to the top edge of the facing, hiding all the various edges in a very small, very tidy lapped edge.  It worked.  It was beautiful.

I went to press.  I pressed.  I remembered (too late!!) the need for a tea towel.  The iron had smeared burnt black goo all over my beautifully improvised collar.  Oh, for fuck’s sake!!!!

I let go of the last shred of my sense of humour.  I didn’t even miss it, if I’m honest.  I roared, and I rampaged, and I sewed in the armhole facings. The wrong way round.  OF COURSE I DID!!! OF BLOODY COURSE.  I did it on purpose!!! Why wouldn’t you want your armhole facings the wrong way round??? Anyone who puts armhole facings in the *right* way round is a BLOODY IDIOT!!!!!!!

And all that remained was the hem, which was uneventful. Pressed up (with tea towel) and hand stitched, invisibly.  Done.

Tried on.

And here’s the finished article.

You can barely tell, from the expression on my face, how pissed off I am, can you???

I should’ve gone with my plan to re-cut the neck.  To be honest, I should’ve abandoned this project last night and taken more time over it at some other date, but still.  Failing that, I should’ve re-cut the neck.

Yup.  Still too long in the back, and my improvised collar method creates a wrinkle that Josh and I just couldn’t get rid of…

Still, I’ll say this for it: it still looks better without that bloody enormous zip straining to get out of the back!

So.  I’m unlikely to wear this to my audition on Friday.  Very unlikely.  But it’s not *entirely* unwearable.  And if I lost half a stone it’d probably be fine.  In fact, if I could lose half a stone and grow a foot it’d be gorgeous.
Positives?  Well.  Nobody died.  At this point, I’m counting that as a bloody triumph.  As are the children.
This was a remarkably technical piece.  I should’ve paused at the point I didn’t have the tracing paper to make a pattern which would’ve fit me better.  But I didn’t.  However, I *did* make a well made, technical dress in two days.  That’s quick.  And I improvised well on the collar.  And I sewed a bloody amazing invisible zip.
So it’s not a disaster…
Oh, who am I kidding??? It’s a total fucking disaster.
Still.  Nice fabric, right??

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.

Critique?

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…