Sunday, 2 September 2018

Cambie refashioned

A couple of years ago I made this Sewaholic Cambie dress. I know we don't see many around the blogosphere these days, but a few years ago, everyone was making it. I was drawn by the line drawings and the makes that I saw online.

So I jumped in and made it out of this fantastic IKEA fabric. The instructions were faultless and I finished this dress beautifully. fully lined - even I'm impressed with the finish I did on this dress.

It fitted fine, but there was just something off with it and I couldn't put my finger on quite what was wrong. Hence I have only worn it a couple of times and that is a waste! I've since decided that it's the proportions of the bodice that was wrong for me. The balance of the design just didn't suit my frame.

I considered sending it to the charity shop, but the truth is I love the fabric and the skirt part. I also had a small piece of the fabric left - just enough to create a basic bodice front. I found enough white cotton in my stash to make the lining. So inspired by "The Refashioners" Inspired by... theme I decided to remake this dress with a nod to 1950's style. and I just love the neckline on this dress worn by Audrey Hepburn, so this is what I aimed to recreate.

I took the bodice apart and carefully reused the back pieces and cut a new bodice front with bust and waist darts. I made a slightly extended shoulder to fit the original Cambie back pieces but widened the neckline to a boat neck. I used my self-drafted block for this.

Miraculously the new bodice fitted the waistband perfectly. I was expecting to have to do a bit of
adjustment, but not so. I attached the new bodice and lapped zipper by machine and then slip stitched the lining back into place.

I think this is a much better style for me and I think I might just wear it more than I did the last one.
(Photos were taken by my daughter whilst on a rather windy dog walk with Daisy our Wheaten Terrier)

Monday, 27 August 2018

On Sewing, Sustainability and Style

SOI Eve dress - All the spots. I love this one

I began sewing back in 2011 as part of my recovery from a stress-related illness. At the time it was one of two creative outlets I had, one was my art and the other was sewing. I sewed to make things that fitted and helped me feel good about myself. I really needed a sense of accomplishment.

My first make

Over the last few years, I continue to sew to make things that fit and I know that my self-image and esteem has improved as I no longer feel the need to fit into the box that the world would have me believe is in 'Fashion' or 'Style'. As a beginner sewist, I made simple clothes in nice fabrics and I have challenged myself to try more challenging things. However, recently I have felt uncomfortable that the sewing world is becoming just like a high street shop - just with better made and fitted clothes. I see the same patterns again and again as each new indie pattern gets an outing. Does every sewer in blogland own a Keilo Wrap dress, Ogden Cami, Kalle Shirt, Ginger Jeans or Lander pants, to name but a few!!!!!

I love this dress and I still wear it - even if it's a bit faded

Don't get me wrong - these are all great patterns (and I have a couple of them) and that's why they are popular. I thought quite a lot about buying the Ogden Cami and the Kalle shirt but have made my mind up that I don't want to jump on that bandwagon. I like the designs, sure I do, but they're not really me and I have other patterns that are similar but don't get as much airtime as these patterns. I still love the Colette Sorbetto and I hardly ever see it made in blog land these days. It's actually my go-to sleeveless top and I love it.

Eyelet Sorbetto top - still in rotation.

I think the point I'm trying to make is that we consume pattern after pattern and make constantly  - whatever is the next new sewing thing. The stash of fabrics increases and we create boatloads of waste pieces. I'm as guilty of this as the next person and I'm trying to fight against it. So I cancelled my subscription to Burdastyle Magazine - I have 6 years worth of magazines - more than enough to keep me going for a wee while. I also don't buy a pattern as soon as I see it. I like to consider if it's really me and if it's something I'll actually wear or I can make for others and I'll make more than once. Recently this means I didn't buy a pattern, which I really did like and now need to source as it's a foreign company and not easy to get here. Procrastination does bite me sometimes.

Pigs might fly - same style lines again. great print.
Big bold prints

I'm also more considered about the fabric I buy. I make a lot fewer trips to the cheap fabric stall on the local market and I buy less synthetic fabric than I used to; I take time over my makes (when I rush they go wrong anyway); I try to use patterns that I already own; I piece my scraps at the end of a project to make patchwork yardage - I'll be using these for some zero waste projects over the coming months. I'm trying to upcycle pieces that are a little unloved (i've just finished a Cambie dress refashion) and I'm trying to make only what I'll wear or make for other people.

A bold print and a full skirt

Then there's the other thing - Style. My style has changed a bit and I do sew more basics than I used to as I wear nearly all me-made clothes. However, I have an aesthetic I'm drawn towards, yet I find myself making things I just won't wear or that actually don't fit my style. I also make far too many occasion wear pieces and don't wear them very often.

One of my many party dresses - I've worn this twice, but love it.

This summer I've also found myself wearing slobby clothes, combat shorts and t-shirts - nothing wrong with that, but it's actually not my style.
I'm determined to identify shapes that work for me, colours that work for me and be willing to embrace the slightly odd side of my character a little more. After all, I'm an Art teacher I can get away with it.

I always get lots of compliments when I wear this one - It might be black but I love the style, nipped in waist and full skirt.

So here goes:
Dresses/ skirts - Fitted waist with either a full skirt or pencil skirt at knee/ midi length. Shift dresses Knee length.

The dress that nearly didn't make it. the fit was off and I lost patience with it.

Trousers - cigarette pants or wide-legged trousers - 50's style. Shorts not shorter than mid-thigh, culotte styles work well.

cigarette trousers - still need to perfect the fit.

Tops - boat neck, jewel neck or shirt neck. T-shirts, fitted with a curved hem, short or 3/4 sleeves. Sleeveless shirts and tops that can be layered or cap sleeves/ extended shoulders.
Knitwear - cardigans - lots, waist length, semi-fitted and 3/4 to full sleeves.
Casual - jeans - skinny or bootcut, mid to high rise. Hoody tops/ tunics. Black leggings.
Accessories - Tights -  as many different colours/ patterns as I can find - opaque; Jewellery - chunky and bright; scarves;
Footwear - mid-height Mary Jane style shoes - Bright colours. Flat ballerinas. Doc Marten boots - the chunkier the better. Converse all stars or similar.

Summer - it doesn't get much wear but I love it.  Self-drafted.

Fabrics - natural where possible; bright or black; unusual prints; no ditsy/ chintzy type prints; All the spots - every time. I try an avoid neutral colours except for black and white. and my colour palette is "spring" so most pinks and blues look good on me along with some greens. I have to be careful with reds near my face and orange is a no go unless it's part of a design with other colours.

In light of my list, I need to have a wardrobe clear out - time for a clothes swap.

Another Sorbetto top and this summer's winner - Burdastyle culottes with fabric gifted to me by a friend.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Knit binding/ band tutorials round-up.

Recently I have had some issues getting good results from knit bindings when sewing with super stretchy knits. and decided to do a bit of research.

I have had three failed necklines - two have been boat neck pieces (one was this dress I made for a Minerva Crafts review) one is a dress I'm currently making from a super stretchy burnout velour knit and I've made a real pig's ear of the binding - so much so that my seam ripper and I have been good friends over the last couple of days. As I carefully take it to bits in the hope I can do something to make it work.

The third disaster was a raglan sleeve top.  The stupid thing is I have had some real successes in the past with neckline bindings. I have had some excellent results on my Gertie boat neck t shirt and a couple of knit dresses. I'm not sure quite where I've been going wrong lately and thought it would be a good ideas to find a selection of tutorials that are out there by great sewing bloggers who actually know what they are doing. I'm sharing this in the hope that I'm not the only one who struggles with this from time to time. If you have any brilliant insight into where I'm going wrong, or have a preferred method - please get in touch I'd love to get this nailed.

Craftsy Blog

Craftsy Blog has a brilliant post offering several different techniques written by Emily Thompson. I have tried both options 2 and 3 from this post. Some times they work perfectly and other times they don't. You can read this post here.

Megan Nielsen

This method encloses all the raw edges and gives a very neat finish. I've used this on a cotton jersey dress with good success, but it's when I use a boat neck that the issues seam to occur with this type of technique. Megan's instructions are really clear. This is a great post with lots of clear photographs to help you alone the ways.

Simple turned edge - Grainline Lark Boat neck

I have used this technique on my ruffle dress for Minerva crafts and it worked beautifully. Jen explains a really simple way to finish the neckline - and it's easy; Take a look! Do we sometimes make knit bindings more difficult that they need to be. I might do this on the dress I'm currently making. I have had a good bound finish on a boat neck, but it was a much more stable knit. What are your experiences here

Colette Blog

This post covers some of the key basics between bands and bindings. Again I've used some of these on round neck pieces and they've worked brilliantly. This is a great post for a beginner to knit sewing as the post is comprehensive. You can read it here.

Made By Rae - invisible finish binding.

This post is the closest to the one I tried for both boat neck pieces - with one significant difference, I cut a 90% neckline and Rae suggests that the binding should be the same size as the neckline as it's flipped to the inside. This might be where I've been going wrong. What's your experience of this technique? Do you think this could be where I've been going wrong? I might try this version.

Pattern Fantastique - Neckband techniques

This post by Heather is a comprehensive post and covers how different types of fabric might behave in addition to techniques for a neckline band.

So what is your favourite technique for neckline binding? do you have a method that works without fail every time? if so I'd love to hear about it.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

How to sew a Gertie dress from less than 1m of fabric

Over the summer I have been sewing with small pieces of fabric. Most less than 1m. I had this lovely black jacquard fabric, but there was less than 90cm of 150cm wide.

My original plan was for some capri pants, but there wasn't quite enough for that.

So I opted for the  B6453 Gertie princess seamed sundress. I thought it would make a chic LBD. Due to the amount of fabric, the skirt is much shorter than I'd wear and I decided I'd make this for my daughter (for reference she's a UK size 10 in RTW).

I cut the skirt pieces out on the fold, using the pencil skirt version as a guide and extended the sides to form a subtle A-line shape - I think this looks really cute.

The rest of the pieces I cut from a single layer and used all but the tiniest of scraps. I did manage to cut all the pieces including the facings. I chose to make fixed straps rather than adjustable as they used a bit less fabric and I didn't have any suitable sliders and rings.

The front bodice went together well. As usual when sewing princess seams I sew a line of stay stitching 1mm inside the seam line. This helps keep the concave and convex curves accurately placed when pinning and stitching the curves.

I stitched the skirt pieces to the bodice fronts and backs before joining at the side seams. And that's where I went wrong.

Not paying attention - I joined the bodice backs the wrong way around - so the side seams are at the CB. I was really wondering why the side seams didn't match when I was sewing them - it didn't click until I'd sewn them together. I'm hoping I can get away with this as I really can't be bothered to take it all apart and re-sew...

Do you ever just leave something even though you know you should correct it? No? - Me Neither

My OCD got the better of me! I took it apart and re-sewed. Can you see the difference in the shape of the back?

Once the dress was sewed in the correct way I fitted it to my daughter. I ended up taking a little from each side seam from the rib to the hip line - otherwise, the fit was fine. I didn't want to overfit as last time I made her this dress I made it a bit snug and she didn't get much wear out of it.

Key advice for sewing with small amounts of fabric. 
1. Check the yardage. I place the pattern pieces on the fabric before cutting out to check I have enough room. I usually find I can manage on way less than the pattern envelope suggests.
2. Cut out from a single layer. It takes more time but is much more fabric efficient - remember to flip the pattern pieces once you have cut one side so that you get the opposite piece.
3. If necessary us an alternative fabric for the facings. I've made this dress before and used a contrast facing as I didn't have quite enough of the shell fabric. understitch well and it shouldn't be an issue.
4. Check the pattern/ nap of the fabric. If you have a directional print or nap, cut all pieces in the same orientation. I will occasionally cut facings upside down or on the cross-grain (depending on the fabric).
5. Make a muslin/ use a TNT pattern. You need to know that the pattern will fit as there's no opportunity for cutting extra pieces.
6. Try not to make silly errors (unlike me) as its disheartening when you have to unpick loads of sewing!!!!

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Art Schools

Bob & Roberta Smith
It's drawing close to the end of the summer term and with just one week to go, I can safely say this term has been very busy and I'm very tired. The last few weeks have seemed like a treadmill with no time to really relax.

In my head the summer term should be a lot more laid back and chilled - in reality, it's probably one of the busiest times of the year. Reports to write, tests and exams to be sat and marked, new students to meet and some to say goodbye to. Last week the year 6 SATs results came out and it brings into focus for me the imbalance in the educational drive of the UK.

We have great Arts education here but is under threat as more and more schools drop the creative subjects at primary level to focus on English and Maths in order for children to "pass" their SATs. At GCSE level, schools are directing students to take Ebacc subjects which have resulted in some high school arts course completely folding. I hate it! I actually get quite angry when I hear of this happening and the arts being sidelined as subjects you do if you 'cant' do other subjects. I know from my experience that those children who engage with the arts generally do well in other subjects and have a different way of processing information and are more able to think outside the box.

As you can tell I'm passionate about arts education and last week I had the opportunity to take some of our students to London for an arts enrichment experience. We had a jam-packed three days and saw lots of stuff. It was hot and tiring - but brilliant.

44 students and 5 staff set out early from school on Thursday morning, we travelled by coach and checked into our accommodation at 4pm before enjoying a meal out and off to the Cambridge Theatre to see the production of Matilda. Our Friday activities included the Tate modern, a tour and drama workshop at the Globe theatre, focusing on Macbeth and a visit to St Paul's Cathedral. The whispering gallery was the highlight for most students here. We finished the evening at the Underbelly festival seeing Circolombia - the most jaw-dropping acrobatics I have ever seen!

Finally, our weekend culminated in the Royal Academy Summer show. I wasn't quite sure what the Children would think of it. But they really enjoyed it. I'm hoping to go back again over the summer to see it again with my husband. I'm also hoping to see the Frida Kahlo exhibition at the V&A.

Our Arts experience didn't end there as on return to school on Monday I was put to good use finishing off the backdrop for the school show. Plenty of our students took part and were amazing in their performances. 

I'm so thankful that the school I work in values the arts and I know the students got so much out of it. I just hope this doesn't become eroded away under pressures from the government.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Sunday, 8 July 2018

A win and a lose

This week I have sewn two patterns from Burdastyle magazines - one a resounding success the other a fail.

First up  - the win!
A friend gave me this fabric that was light furnishing weight. I think it's IKEA. I had 1.5m and it was 145cm wide. I thought it might work quite nicely as some culottes. This is a trend that I'm still not 100% convinced is me, so sewing up something in a non-precious fabric from the stash seemed like a good idea.

The pattern is 114 from the 03/2016 issue of the Burdastyle magazine. I cut a straight size 38, which is my normal size for Burdastyle, although I sometimes grade to a 40 at the hip on slim fitting styles.

The pattern came together really well. As usual, it's drafted well and was a good fit straight out of the box. I did pinch in a couple of centimetres at the centre back - both the back pieces and the waistband. If I sew this again I'd change the straight waistband to a curved one. I just didn't have enough fabric this time.

As usual, I sewed the hems by hand and also the inside of the waistband. I considered topstitching from the front but decided that a hand-sewn waistband would look better and I think it does. The stitches are all but invisible.

I'm pleasantly surprised with how much I like these. It's a bonus that I didn't need to make a load of adjustments to the pattern.

Secondly the fail - and I really thought I was going to like this. This was style 111 from Burdastyle 05/2016 it's a simple cami top with an inverted pleat at centre front. Easy right?

Yep. Easy to make and sew. It all came together really nicely the bias binding was easy to make and the fabric behaved itself - but...

I hate it. It gapes under the arms. the strap placement is too narrow and it looks odd on my frame. It's already been relegated to sleepwear form my daughter.

So why did I not alter it? TBH I really couldn't be bothered. I've tried a few cami tops and often find them too narrow. I do have broad shoulders and I think that the only strappy thing I've ever made that has been the right width is the Butterick B6453 Gertie princess seamed sundress.

I think I'll just stick with my tried and true Sorbetto tops, I'm wearing one with the culottes in the top picture. I love this pattern - we don't see many around the internet these days. It's such a versatile top and really should still be up there with some of the more recent offerings, it's been updated and there are several different options for it now -  and it's FREE. If you've never tried the Colette Sorbetto - you can download it here.


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