Sewing Delphine

After a hiatus of a couple of months, I recently re-opened Love At First Stitch by Tilly Walnes – if you don’t have the book and are keen to start dressmaking, then this one is the one! I really think its the best beginners sewing book out there (but also keen to hear your suggestions if you’ve worked with a great dressmaking book!). A second Tilly book is due next year (HURRAY!).

I’ve not worked my way through LAFS in chronological order, though it probably pays to do so as Tilly takes you through all the skills you’ll need and advances your abilities with each project. My first project from the book was the Margot pyjamas, a great start to make something simple and comfy where mistakes don’t matter (after all, you don’t tend to wear them outside the house!) Also, you can read here why mistakes in dressmaking are ace.

Then I tackled the Mimi with mixed success – find out more here! After making a list of all the patterns I have in my stash that I have yet to make, I decided to reverse a bit and try out the Delphine skirt – the next project on from Margot – a simple A line skirt set to become a wardrobe staple.

With just four pattern pieces, the Delphine is great for practising your tracing skills and comes together crazy quick! I chose to make mine out of a Liberty of London corduroy with a fab seventies vibe – I picked it up from the Knitting and Stitching Show in London back in March at a fab price – £20 for 2 metres! I didn’t realise at the time how much Liberty fabrics generally cost….

With Delphine I had the same issue as I do with every sewing pattern – my measurements spanned three sizes! It happens every time, no matter what I make, and its always such a good reminder that making your own clothes is about making items fit to you – no wonder so many women might struggle with RTW sizes! Anyway, I ended up drafting a line to merge sizes 4 and 5 at the hip. On fitting, I panicked that I had drafted the line to low and that I needed extra room around my hips *PANIC MODE* so I just let out the seams a little bit to give myself more room.

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Delphine comes together super quickly, with just four pattern pieces!

Then, on inserting the zip and fitting, I realised I had a lot of room. Oops! Shouldn’t have panicked maybe… Also, the A line shape was far too exaggerated and did not suit both my shape and my fabric. The Liberty cords are really quite lightweight and floaty, and Delphine needs a bit more structure for the shape to work. I took the side seams in again (just a tad) and at the bottom straightened the seam out to lose a lot of that A shape. I probably took it in by about 2 inches and I know lots of other dressmakers have done this with Delphine.

Inserting the zip is super easy – I don’t use a zipper foot because I’m brave/daft/lazy! I just fold back the teeth as I sew which works pretty well. I’m always happy with the end result!

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Inserting the zip is super easy, even without a zipper foot!

And tah-dah! Delphine has arrived! Great skirt, and a perfect wardrobe staple. I’d like to try it in a medium weight cord – perhaps in a block colour (I’ll admit, it will probably be navy). I love the colour and print of this version and have dug out all my yellow, purple and navy tees to go with it. Next time I’d probably refrain from playing about with the fit too much, and would tone down the A line shape at the beginning of the project, rather than the end. This is a great pattern for beginners and if you’re an intermediate or advanced sewer, then this will come together in just a couple of dedicated hours!

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The finished article!

As always, Tilly and the Buttons has totally rocked it. Hands up if this is one of your staples?

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SOI Ultimate Shift Dress

This is undoubtedly the summer of gingham! And my love for those teeny, pleasing checks is as strong as yours. I picked up a simple navy gingham (the proper stuff too, not the printed gingham!) from Norwich Market at just £4.50 a metre and squeezed the dress out of just 2m, making this next make my cheapest to date!

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Sewing darts on the Sew Over It Shift Dress

When searching for a project for this fabric, I decided to reflect the simplicity of the fabric in the simplicity of the make. I bought the Sew Over It Ultimate Shift Dress pattern ages ago (from vouchers as work leaving gift!) and hadn’t tackled it. Low and behold, a fabric and pattern match from heaven was born!

As usual, my measurements spanned across sizes so I opted for a size 10 in the bust and a 12 at the hip. This was super easy to do – I drew a straight line from the waist (10) down to the hip (12) to combine sizes. Simples!

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A bit of help sewing darts from the excellent instructions in Love At First Stitch

The fit without sleeves was actually superb – bang on! I made size 10 sleeves which seemed fine when first trying it on. Unfortunately, with further wear, the fit around the sleeves isn’t great. I can’t quite move fully and comfortably, and the dress rides up quite a bit when sitting or reaching up.

I’m still really keen on this pattern and will undoubtedly be making another SOI Shift Dress – possibly by making the entire thing in a size 12 and making it longer in length. I love the simplicity of both the make and the style – the whole thing comes together so speedily and the darts are simple to do and sleeves easy to set in.

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It’s a great beginner pattern and I feel silly for not getting to it sooner! The instructions are nice and clear and the drawings are really helpful. Since this make I’ve also made a sleeveless Shift Top which I love – the fit is perfect! If you’re a beginner dressmaker then this is a great pattern – I would suggest lots of fittings as you go (I’ll admit I’m very bad at this!) and trying the sleeveless options first. The bodice would also be great for a hack with another skirt or trouser to create a jumpsuit.

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Have you made the SOI Shift Dress?

The Factory

The Merchant and Mills Factory Dress pattern has been on my radar for sometime. The illustration used on the front of the pattern has wonderfully simple lines, a reasonable length hem, and a shirt style bodice that was oh-so tempting. It for me harks back to our school days wearing blue, green and red check summer dresses – though Merchant and Mills refer to the Twenties, a far more glamorous period than the early 90s.

I love the Factory’s simplicity. The shirt details are simple – a pocket and a collar which lays quite flat. For me, the beauty of this pattern was always going to be about the fabrics chosen and the time taken to produce a high quality garment. And that’s what Merchant and Mills seem to be about: functionality and longevity. This pattern and the ethos behind it really spoke to me, and as a result the Factory ended up being top of my list of summer makes.

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I often find with pattern instructions that very little makes sense to me until I am actually in the process of doing it. Anyone else find this? Reading ahead in pattern instructions is of no use to me, I have to be holding it in my hands already for it to make any kind of sense. The Factory is no different. And the instructions are a little pared down: I am used to super beginner friendly instructions by the Tilly pattern house. The Factory does require a little existing beginner knowledge – and at times I did refer to Tilly’s Love At First Stitch book for more detailed instructions on darts etc. Needless to say, the Merchant and Mills instructions are beautifully illustrated and simple enough to follow.

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The collar was the most tricky part for me. You can probably see in photos its a little off. I think I missed off a few of the notches – which you use to match up and align your pattern pieces properly – and as a result my collar isn’t perfectly lined up and so the facing also didn’t sit quite right. This problem led to a bit of a disconnect with the bodice, changing slightly the shape of the front. It really is a minor problem and not something that can be picked up during wear. With a bit of an eye for detail, it bothers me slightly and is something I will work on for the next Factory dress.

The best thing about the dress is the very professional feel in construction. Which brings me on to fabric choices. As I said earlier – this dress really lends itself to high quality fabrics. I personally think it works well with sturdier, heavier fabrics which hold their shape. Linens, cords, even denim. I picked up 2 metres of heavy navy fabric at a bargain price of £2.95 per metre from Anglian Fashion Fabrics in Norwich. In fact, I went back for more of it just the other day as its such gorgeous stuff. And for me, that is the best thing about this factory. My advice would be, choose your fabric carefully for this project. It will really give it that added something.

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Finally, the fit. I had read a lot already about the fit and shape of the Factory Dress. It is very much designed to be oversize and comfy. I like this style in theory, but on me, not in practice. Without even taking my measurements and comparing them to the pattern instructions (whoops!) I decided to make the pattern in what M&M call a size ‘8’. If it helps, I usually wear a RTW size of 10-12. Half way through making I did a quick fit (before attaching skirt and bodice) and decided the skirt was just far too large. The pattern calls for two sets of two pleats in the skirt – I added two sets of three instead. When bringing the bodice and skirt together, I also added a dart on either side of the bodice, and two darts in the back skirt and bodice. Dart mania! It really worked though. The dress still has that slightly baggy style but I’m personally happier with the fit on me.

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Et voila! I’ll be making many more of these. And I’m a big fan of the Merchant and Mills style and ethos, so will be trying out some of their patterns too! Let me know if you’ve also made a Factory and what your experiences were!

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Summer Sewing Plans ’17

Hello!

So I had been hoping to get a write up of my June sewing plans up on the blog, but seeing as we are now mid-way through June that seems silly to go ahead with… These last few weeks I unfortunately have not found time for much sewing and have mostly been separated from my machine (sob!).

I thought instead I would write up my overall summer sewing plans. Me Made May was really good fun (see my write up here) but also highlighted some huge gaps in my me made wardrobe. In fairness, these gaps are hardly surprising – I’ve only been dressmaking since the beginning of this year and sewing your own clothes can often be slow progress. Because dressmaking is such fun and the wealth of gorgeous fabrics out there is so tantalising, I haven’t been sewing to any particular plan. As a result, I have a mismatch of bananas stuff – fun prints, big stripes, and dungaree dresses! What I’m missing is a comprehensive and coordinated wardrobe of me made pieces which I could actually pair together to form outfits.

Dressmaking wouldn’t be dressmaking without that fun stuff though. My plan is to concentrate my summer sewing on using up more of my fabric stash (mostly mad prints) and the odd staple make! In reality, I know that I’m making some things which I would never buy from a shop and wear. I’m also taking a moment to think about the shapes, styles and colours that I do actually wear and how best to build upon my me mades…..

  1. The Factory Dress, Merchant and Mills

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I absolutely love everything about this dress. It harks back to my school years in checked dresses though M&M refer to working women and the 1920s – which is far more glamorous! I’m making this in a lovely navy linen from Anglian Fashion Fabrics in Norwich – just £3.95 a metre in the sale! In part I thought I might make a toile using this linen, as it’s my first deviation away from beginners specific patterns by Tilly and the Buttons. But, if I’m successful, I plan for it to be a wearable toile! A simple shirt like dress in the most staple colour possible – I can’t wait to finish it.

Photo – Merchant and Mills

2. The Ultimate Shift Dress, Sew Over It

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Designed with beginners in mind, this super simple shift dress is an obvious staple. The only problem is, I don’t quite have a fabric planned for it yet – but I’m not adverse to some fabric shopping! Is it terribly boring to make it without a print? Other than stripes, I’m not sure I’m very big on prints! I absolutely love them in the fabric shop and love other people’s makes, but I’m battling with whether really I would wear them myself. STRUGGLES. I do have some African wax print from Urbanstax (about 2 yards) which might work…..(thought not in keeping with my quest for staples!)

Photo – Sew Over It

 

 

3. Bettine dress, Tilly and the Buttons

Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 16.38.25ANOTHER ONE?! You cry. Yes, I’m going to make another – and sharpish before summer runs out. I have a lovely yellow aztec-type pattern fabric from John Lewis (sale hurrah!) that needs to become a summery dress ASAP. The yellow print is on a white base but its a fairly sturdy cotton and so I think won’t be see through. I know that I could attempt a different summer dress, but truth is I love the Bettine pattern! It’s so easy and quick to do and I of course already own the pattern (see my blog on Bettine here) so don’t have the additional cost of pattern buying.

Photo – Tilly and the Buttons

 

 

4. Circle Skirt – Pattern as yet unknown

A quick scoot on eBay after a glass of wine led to the most wonderful fabric purchase – a remnant Cath Kidston fabric with TRAINS on it! I absolutely love trains. A few years ago my friends bought me the CK train mug and I’ve always wanted to get my hands on the cotton to do some dressmaking with. I think the best thing to do in the world ever ever ever with this fabric would be to make a midi circle skirt. Possible patterns include the Simplicity 8211 (anyone had a go?) but I’m aware there are so many pattern options out there for something like this. Suggestions are very welcome! (I’d also be interested to know whether you managed to self draft a circle skirt before).

 

5. Penny Dress, Sew Over It

Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 16.51.45I’ve shared a couple of times on Instagram an amazing Liberty print cord which I picked up at the Knitting and Stitching Show back in March. I love the print and the colours but have been at a loss with what to do with it. Then Penny arrived from Sew Over It! I’ve been imagining the cord in a shirt dress – EVERYONE needs a corduroy shirt dress – and was initially thinking of the Tilly and the Buttons Rosa, but am being swayed by the simplicity of Penny. It would mean purchasing a new pattern (when I already have so many to get through!) but if I complete the above projects this might just be my treat.

Photo – Sew Over It

 

So there we have it! What are your summer sewing plans?

xx

Me Made May 2017

So Me Made May is over! This was my first year joining in and I’ve enjoyed it so much! I haven’t been able to wear me mades every day but instead wore them as much as I could over the course of the month (with a brief hiatus while away on holiday).

Unless I kept *seriously* on top of my laundry pile (HA!) I do not currently have enough me made items to wear for an entire month, but I hope to slowly build up to a bigger wardrobe – hand making clothes is of course a slow process! There are clearly some gaps to be filled – my Tilly and the Buttons Bettine dresses are key features of my wardrobe, but mostly I’m in need of some more simple staples.

I very easily get drawn into fab and funky fabrics (I have many in my sewing room waiting to be cut!) but I’d like to focus on making a few comfy basics in easy colours and prints to make dressing handmade easier.

Below is a round up of my outfits for Me Made May 2017:

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This is a self-drafted dino tee which I made in my first few months of sewing. I bought the fabric online (eek, I can’t remember the seller it’s been so long!) and used a RTW top from home to make a pattern. It was super simple to do and I would encourage any newbie dressmakers to give it a go – there are plenty of good tutorials online!

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This Tilly and the Buttons Mimi blouse was one of my mmmay17 pledges – to finish! The fabric is a gorgeous Liberty print (Lotta) which I bought from Fabrics Galore online. I’ve mixed feelings about this one! Half way through the make I panicked about the fabric choice – that it might be far too busy! The buttons really help break up the colour, and I wish I had gone for a contrast collar too. On wearing it I found the interfacing on the collar too stiff (I might have used a weight too high?!?) and the cut a bit too low for me to feel comfortable. I’m keen to have another go and you can read about my hack here.

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This is my second glorious TATB Cleo dungaree dress in blue butcher’s stripe from Anglian Fashion Fabrics! This is the long version with pockets to both front and back and the top stitching makes me the happiest woman ALIVE! Read more about Cleo here.

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Another self drafted success! This is based on a RTW top from home, only this time I added a V-neck and a dart to improve fit (which accidentally became quite a nice feature!). The fabric was on sale from John Lewis and is a lovely soft cotton.

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Easily my absolute favourite outfit and favourite make ever! Aside from my simple self drafted tees this was my first real dress, and of course, it’s another TATB Cleo! The fabric is a bright yellow corduroy from eBay with a navy topstitch.

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The Bettine dress is an absolute must for any wardrobe! This was my first attempt – which sadly I made a size (or two!) too small on the skirt and had to add panels to save it – read more here. However, I still get lots of wear out of this fantastic dress and I love the dark chambray from Anglian Fashion Fabrics.

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And here she is again – Bettine Number Two! This light chambray dress (chambray from Fabrics Galore) I think I possibly made a size too big this time, but with an elasticated waist you can get away with an ill fit. Because the skirt is larger, the tulip fit is exaggerated and I’m not sure it suits me. My next Bettine (and there will be another!) will have a smaller sized bodice and I will straighten out the sides to remove the tulip shape. Without a doubt, my Bettines are comfy and easy to throw – bare legs for summer and tights and a long sleeve top underneath in colder weather. Perfect.

Sewing Mimi

After a bit of a hiatus I recently got stuck into Tilly Walnes‘ book Love At First Stitch! I bought it a couple of years ago when I was very new to sewing and only ever got as far as the Margot pyjamas (another, better fitting pair is on the make list). I’ve been thinking about making a few more tops recently so turned immediately to the Mimi blouse; a buttoned up v-neck silky blouse with a somewhat vintage feel.

My Mimi blouse is a hack: I opted for a buttonless blouse for a quick and speedy make but at the last minute decided to add faux buttons on the front as a small detail. And here’s how I did it:

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I started by tracing the pattern from Tilly’s book – wonderfully of course all the patterns are included with Love At First Stitch but as many of the lines lay on top of one another they do need tracing before you begin. I opted for a size 3 Mimi blouse with a view to bring in the seams if it was too big. I cut out the pattern pieces and pinned them to this fantastic Liberty of London cotton tana lawn called Lotta which I bought online from Fabrics Galore. The fabric was of course quite slippery and I had to check the print direction before cutting. I bought two metres (my policy seems to be that I only ever buy two metres of anything and hope I can eek out enough for my project) which was more than enough for the Mimi blouse and I have plenty leftover for another project!

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I was most worried about the gathering stitches – I hadn’t done this before! It was actually really easy. I tested the tension and stitch length on scrap fabric first, which proved quite tricky. It took a bit of practice pulling on the long stitches to get the fabric to gather. When I was working on Mimi’s gathering, the fabric got confused and tangled and I ended up running a stitch in the wrong place! Although this was easily unpicked it devastatingly left a hole in the Liberty fabric. These are probably only noticeable to me and they are on the yoke so the gathering distracts from it.

The second lot of gathering on the front of Mimi I didn’t bother tacking first and just went full throttle ahead. This possibly isn’t very sensible but I’m not always a very careful seamstress in my own makes….

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The collar was incredibly easy and very satisfying to make and press – I love those corners!

In order to avoid buttons, I cut two front bodice pieces for Mimi and simply stitched them together at the centre – I did this later on in the make, after the yoke and collar construction, so around the time you might make the button holes. I did this with a large seam allowance – probably around 20mm or so. I did also have to alter the interfacing slightly – just by cutting it short so that it ends just past the bust. The sleeves were a dream to construct and the darts in them are lovely – something I’ll certainly be doing again!

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And so Mimi is complete! Final verdict? I want to have another go, but I don’t envisage getting lots of wear out of this particular one. It might be that the style doesn’t really suit me – the neckline is much longer than I would normally wear and the fit around the shoulders and yoke isn’t quite right. The fit around my arms and bodice is great. It’s possible that the fit could be altered in the making process but I imagine my skills might not stretch that far!

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I love, LOVE this fabric and its my first foray into Liberty. I’m not sure that the busy bright print works for the Mimi blouse. One way I could get round this would be by making a contrast collar (I’ve seen so many wonderful examples of contrast collars on Mimi and I wish I had a blue collar on this one!) The addition of buttons really helps in breaking up the print too.

I think I possibly also used an interfacing which was too heavy for this lovely cotton lawn. I find the collar and front a little too stiff to be comfortable. I wonder even whether it would be possible to go without the interfacing? It seems to ruin the lightness of the fabric.

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Key lesson learnt here: I need to think carefully about whether the fabrics I like are actually fabrics I will wear. Mimi will be on my sewing table again one day soon – only I think I’ll go for something far more simple (like a navy bodice with contrast collar) and with a cheaper fabric. I’d also have a play with different interfacing on the Mimi collar and I will most definitely be having a go with buttons and button holes! Although I wanted a quick make, I think it would have been fine to tackle the buttons on this.

Has anyone else been sewing Mimi? x

Buy Love At First Stitch here.

 

 

 

 

Sewing Cleo

The Tilly and the Buttons Cleo dungaree dress is easily one of my favourite makes and one of the best for any newbie dressmaker – I would recommend this project over and over again to anyone who is slightly anxious about making their own clothes for the first time!

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This is my second Cleo and I love seeing the improvements I have made in the space of two dresses! I opted for the longer length version Cleo dungaree dress with both front pocket and two back pockets. I bought this wonderful butcher’s stripe canvas in blue from Anglian Fashion Fabrics in Norwich (and have subsequently seen it in other colours – YAY!). I couldn’t resist making a dungaree dress out of this fabric and strolling around town looking like a baker/butcher/candlestick maker.

My first Cleo was made in yellow corduroy and in shorter length, and though I love it and continue to wear it lots (my insta is proof of this!), it is slightly too big and the corduroy a little too soft. I’d rather have a slightly sturdier fabric for the Cleo dress and so may try a third in a stockier cord or even denim! When making my first TATB Cleo, I panicked mid way through the make that it would be too small for me – note to self, holding up two pieces to my chest is not an accurate way of testing size! As a result I decreased the seam allowances from 15mm to 5mm to allow more room, and yes, it was of course too big when finished. The wonderful thing about Cleo is that it needn’t fit perfectly, but I did have this in mind when I started the second. Needless to say, the second Cleo maintains the 15mm seam allowance.

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I’d like to try a bit of hacking on the size of the Cleo – my widest part is my hips – so this might be something to consider for the third version I will inevitably make!

I can be a bit of an impatient dress maker, so the worst part of this pattern for me is the straps and turning them wrong side to right. With the help of knitting needles and a very patient helper, I got there! I’m thinking I might actually make these first, as the TATB instructions tell you to make them when you’re almost at the end of the project – something which I’m just too impatient for!

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The yellow top stitch is possibly my favourite feature and the canvas was just dreamy to work with. So looking forward to wearing my new Cleo dungaree dress with a crisp white shirt and sandals in summer – or a bright yellow tee and my matching yellow brogues!

TATB has a great sew along for Cleo with plenty of tips and tricks to get you along your way. If you’re new to dressmaking, you can tackle this project easily and be satisfied with the result! You won’t need your hand holding and you’ll have a wonderful staple for your wardrobe.

Happy Cleo-ing!

The fabric I used is on sale here from Minerva Crafts.

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