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Red crepe Annalotte dress from By Hand London

October 14, 2014

I made a new dress – an Annalotte.

Red BHL dress

I think this is the first red dress I’ve ever owned!

Ironically, at the wedding I wore it to, there were at least 6 other women wearing bright red. Obviously it’s a thing.

Although the nice thing about making your own dress is that you know nobody else will be wearing the exact same outfit.

So this is a cross between a By Hand London Anna bodice and a Charlotte skirt, and it was heavily inspired by Fiona’s mash-up of the same two patterns.

You have to do some shoogling of darts to get them to match up on the front and back. I kept the double darts on the back skirt and just matched up one set with the back bodice darts.

BHL Anna dress 4

You can see I also changed the sleeves and the neckline. The Anna neckline was a bit too wide for me on the last version I made, so I brought it in at the sides and scooped it out at the front.

Plus, I added a V at the back.

BHL red dress back

You can tell from that back view that this dress is basically too tight. It’s comfortable and wearable because the fabric has stretch to it, but really I could have done with a couple of centimetres more ease the whole way round.

Still I’ve worn it to two events that involved lots of sitting down, dancing and eating and it held out both times. SUCCESS.

It’s made from this amazing Prada self-lined crepe from Minerva Fabrics. Blimey this is gorgeous fabric. It’s really easy to sew, has just enough stretch, and you don’t need to line it! What more could you want?

This only took two metres, so it cost about £24, which I think is pretty good.

I hand-sewed the hem and added a really deep facing for the neckline so it didn’t flip out too much.

BHL red dress 2

Yeah, I haven’t got any better at posing during my lengthy break from blogging. But at least this time you get a lovely picturesque French backdrop.

Possibly the best thing about this dress is that it matches Alex’s kilt perfectly. Top tip – if you wear a kilt to a French wedding you get a LOT of attention.

BHL red Anna dress and kilt

And that’s it! Anyone else made an Annalotte?

Ultimate Trousers – two pairs in denim and crepe

August 25, 2014

Ultimate Trousers – now there’s a pattern with a lot to live up to. What a name.

I was actually one of the testers for this Sew Over It pattern, way back at the beginning of the year. You might have spotted my denim version during Me Made May, if you can remember that far back.

ultimate trousers me-made may

I’ve worn these a lot since making them.

I really like the fit of this pattern, especially with the deep darts at the back, but I did have to make a few changes:

  • I cut a size 14
  • Added 0.5cm to the rise
  • Made the back waist about 1.5cm higher in the centre, tapering out to the beginning of the dart
  • Lengthened the legs 4 (yes, 4) inches.
  • Added about 1cm to the front crotch seam

Here’s the battered looking pattern for visual reference:

ultimate trousers pattern changes 2

I’m pretty happy with my first denim Ultimate Trousers. They’re really comfortable for non-stretch trousers, and I like the fit.

ultimate trousers denim 2More recent photo with bonus new hair

I think the back view, (not pictured because I couldn’t face putting it online for posterity) could do with some welt pockets to break up the vast expanse.

But that would make them more time-consuming to sew, and as drafted they’re incredibly quick. There are only 4 pattern pieces!

The denim is just cheap stuff from my local fabric shop, Ultimate Craft (DOUBLE ULTIMATE) but it’s holding up well.

For my second pair I was determined to add pockets. The only way I could think of doing this was by adding a waistband as well. So that’s what I did.

ultimate trousers crepe 2

This fabric is from Fabric World on Goldhawk Road, and I was bullied into buying it by Clare, Nicole and Sally on the big sewing meet-up earlier this year. It’s an amazing, silky viscose, and I love the print.

Here’s a closer view of the waistband and pockets:

ultimate trousers crepe pockets

It was a bit shifty and annoying to sew, but I wrangled it into submission in the end. I can’t believe how well I matched the pattern across the front. It was a complete fluke. I didn’t even cut the pieces on a single layer.

It’s not matched at all across the side seams because, well, who can be bothered with that.

Here’s what the waistband and pocket pieces look like. For the pocket, I just drew a slanted line across the side of the trousers, and then traced off a vaguely pocket shaped piece to match it.

Ultimate trousers waistband pockets

To add the waistband, I just drew a line about 1.5 inches from the top of the trousers, and then traced this piece off (you can see the line in the photo). I then took this piece, folded out the dart lines, and extended it at the top. Then I added seam allowances.

This second version are so comfortable to wear. They’re definitely a step up for my lounging wardrobe, which up until now has consisted of a holey old pair of American Apparel yoga pants and some unfortunate promotional t-shirts.

I have worn them out of the house a few times, when it was really hot. They’re very lightweight.

My one reservation is that they look a bit like something you’d wear to go backpacking in Asia. This is particularly noticeable from behind for some reason:

ultimate trousers

Not saying I have anything against this look, I’m just not sure it works when you’re commuting on a rainy London bus rather than trekking through Thailand.

ultimate trousers crepe 1

I know I look like I’m telling someone to piss off in this photo but my hair looks good, so it’s staying in.

Anyway, hopefully I will be going somewhere hot and sunny next year, and then these will come in handy for public use. Until then I can reserve them for autumn nights in watching Don’t Tell The Bride and eating cheese on toast.

I definitely recommend this pattern. It’s an easy one to fit as there are no pockets, so you can quickly whip up a muslin and test the fit. And it’s comfortable without relying on stretch fabric. A good way to dip your toe into trouser-making for beginners.

You can buy the Ultimate Trousers pattern from Sew Over It here.

Blog hop

August 18, 2014

I was nominated for a blog hop question type thing by the lovely sisters at Tea for Two. I don’t usually do these kind of things but I haven’t posted for so long I thought it might be a fun way to break the silence. So here it is.

What have you been doing / making / scribbling at your desk this week?

 

I’ve been making a muslin of a ridiculous Joan Collin-esque one-sleeved dress in bright red crepe.

Last week I made a black denim skirt on a complete whim – it took four hours from start to finish. I love that kind of impulse sewing sometimes.

Where are you currently finding your inspiration? (Influences, heroes, sources of inspiration, paths exploring)?

I get 99% of my clothing inspiration by browsing Net-A-Porter and attempting to rip off the beautiful, overpriced clothing.

I also LOVE Pinterest, like the craft-loving cliche that I am. I’ve even got a Pinterest mug. And tote bag.

I also like perving over RTW clothing in shops and seeing how they’ve made all the different details.

Also, anything that Whistles sell. And Oliver Spencer.

Oliver spencerI want to copy this entire Oliver Spencer outfit

How important is being creative to you, and how do you blend this with your work / life / family balance?

It’s super important for me to have something creative to focus on outside work.

Even though I haven’t been blogging lately, I’ve been sewing a lot. If I have to choose to spend my time sewing something or blogging, I choose the first one every time, although it pains me not to be talking about it on here.

When I’ve got a sewing project on the go it’s pretty much all I think about. I put the pieces together and run through the steps a hundred times in my head before I do it in real life.

I love planning a project from start to finish like my green skirt. When it turns out like the picture in your head – there’s nothing better than that.

I do find it difficult to keep things balanced though. This year has been so busy. It’s really hard to find the time to make stuff.

One thing I really miss is drawing. I’m not very good at it but you never look at something so closely as when you’re drawing it. It really fixes objects in your head in a unique way.

I’m nominating Marilla Walker and Katie of What Katie Sews to answer these three questions next, if they’d like to…

My Minerva outfit reveal: floral crop top and pencil skirt

July 15, 2014

So it’s taken me FOREVER to write this post, and you’ve probably already heard about the Minerva meetup on a million blogs.

You know about the Raiders Of the Lost Ark style craft warehouse, the amazing dinner at Blackburn Rovers FC, and the red carpet line-up, as well as the realisation that the £3 taxi ride exists when you leave London.

So this post is just about my outfit. Thanks to Katie for taking some of the photos (you’ll be able to spot them, they’re the good ones).

The outfit

I knew I wanted to make something different, and in the end I came up with the idea of a pencil skirt and crop top:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Originally I was going to sew some kind of crazy one-shouldered 60s pencil dress, but when the fabric arrived (this beautiful John Kaldor stretch cotton) I knew I had to do something simpler. The print is huge! And I didn’t really fancy a shift dress. So co-ordinates it was.

The pencil skirt

It’s a By Hand London Charlotte skirt, which is really straightforward to sew. I made these changes to the pattern:

  • Cut a size 12 but added length to the waistband, which I interfaced.
  • Lengthened the darts 1.5cm each at the front, as I was getting a strange fold of extra fabric there.
  • Interfaced the edges of the invisible zip.
  • Added a back vent using this tutorial.
  • Lined it with this stretch mesh.

Stretch cotton is absolutely perfect for this pattern, I’ll be looking for some more to make another one. Although you need to add a vent – not sure how you could walk in it without one!

Minerva outfit 2The crop top

It’s a Burda pattern – 05/2012 #131.

I cut out a size 34 and had to make some serious changes as it was huge. I took the sides in a lot, cut about 4 inches off the bottom, added back darts and neck darts, and swapped out the button band for a zip.

Here’s how it looks on the back:

Minerva outfit backI did make an effort to match the pattern on the back pieces, but I didn’t bother with the sides. You’ve got to pick your battles.

Everything else

Cutting out was an enormous pain. I did it all on a single layer as the print is so huge. I didn’t really want to end up with a massive flower over an anatomical feature.

My inspiration was this outfit from Jonathan Saunders which is slightly more classy:

Jonathan SaundersIt’s pretty tricky to know exactly how much midriff to expose, but I was limited due to zip size.

The separating plastic zipper is from Jaycotts, and I had to choose between the 14 and 16 inch variations without knowing exactly how long the top would be. In the end I went with the 14 inch, which worked as the skirt was so high waisted.

crop top zip close-upZIP ENHANCE

Will I wear it again?

The acid test. As a whole, I reckon the outfit works, and I might get it out for a wedding this summer. It turned out slightly more cartoonish than I intended, but I think I rocked it anyway.

It seems highly unlikely that I’ll wear the crop top with another skirt – the Charlotte is the most high-waisted skirt I own.

I did try the top on with another skirt, but it was all a bit 90s looking. I distinctly remember wearing a tie-dye crop top to a school disco in about 1996, so I think I’ll leave that style the second time round.

The skirt is a different issue. I’ve already re-worn it loads! It looks really good with a denim shirt, if I say so myself:

pencil skirt and denim shirt

Thank you Minerva!

Huge thanks to Vicki and everyone at Minerva for organising such an amazing day. I’ve been a terrible network member lately, massively behind with projects and blog posts, but I really enjoy being part of it all, and I sincerely hope I’ve managed to shift some fabric for them. They deserve it!

Also a big thank you goes out to all the ladies of the online sewing community, for being awesome.  I’d be living a much sadder life if I’d never met all these amazing women. Although I’d probably have spent less money on fabric.

Picture 3

Spoolettes forever

Me-Made-May: final round-up

June 7, 2014

I’m very behind with this Me-Made-May roundup. You’re probably sick of seeing these blog posts by now, so I’ll just cram everything into one giant update.

I was doing well with the daily photo, but the end of the month slipped into chaos. I got tired of seeing my ugly mug on Flickr every morning, plus I went on holiday to Norway which knocked out my normal routine.

I did well with my pledge though, honest! I didn’t wear a shop-bought pair of jeans the entire month, and generally my outfits were 80% handmade.

Here’s the photos I did manage to get:

All-blue extravaganza (Days 20, 22 and 23)

Me-Made-May1.jpg

 

L-R: Blue chambray shirt and knit pencil skirt, blue Burda jeans and striped Hemlock, Maudella denim skirt and sweatshirt

The week of bad photos (think this was days 24, 25 and 26?)

Me-Made-May2.jpg

L-R: Burda jeans and a Robin jumper (Yes, I finally finished this jumper! Blog post to come) McCalls knit dress, polka dot trousers and Hemlock tee plus hungover face.

Norwegian adventure (no idea which days these were)

MeMadeMayNorway.jpg

L-R: Knit pencil skirt and chambray shirt (super-classy airport toilet selfie), unblogged denim trousers and stripey top, chambray shirt again and some (gasp) trousers from Dorothy Perkins. I did get them in a swap though. They were brilliant for climbing up a big Norwegian hill.

And here’s the traditional Me-Made-May giant photo collage:

Me-Made-May-2014.jpg

Drumroll please! The Me-Made-May 2014 Yes I Like That awards go to…

Most worn item:

Definitely my chambray shirt. I’m glad I spent all that time doing French seams and sewing buttonholes – I love wearing this and it feels quite smart.

Most complimented item (online):

This has to be my Simplicity geometric shirt dress. But I think it must photograph better than it looks. I didn’t get any offline love for this dress, and someone even asked me if I made it myself, WITHOUT following up with a compliment. Dissed.

14211565995_483508edeb_z

Most complimented item (in real-life):

It was the Flora shirtdress, although it might have something to do with the fact that I wore it to the big sewing meetup. Those seamstresses are pretty free and easy with their dress compliments.

Most earth-shattering realisation:

I don’t really like wearing dresses! I only put on three all month, and I felt pretty uncomfortable in all of them. Knit dresses are an exception though, so I need to make more of those. Other than that, SEPARATES 4 LIFE.

Most versatile item:

A tie between my Hemlock tee and my Built by Wendy grey sweatshirt. They go with everything.

Favourite new Me-Made-May blogger:

A difficult one to choose, but I think it has to be Marilla, who I chatted to at the big meetup, and who has a wardrobe of beautiful stripes.

Worst photo location:

A tough category, but I think I’ll have to go with the disgusting toilets at London Fields Brewery, 10 hours into an all-day music festival (you can see the evidence in day 25 above). Nobody can say I don’t suffer for my art.

Log-cabin patchwork cushion

May 25, 2014

So, I finally made something useful out of all those fabric scraps I can’t stop hoarding (it’s becoming a serious problem – I do a cull every six months, but I think they’re breeding inside my plastic IKEA boxes…)

It’s a log-cabin cushion cover! Behold the glory:

logcabin cushion

We’ve talked before about the massive high of trying a craft for the first time, when you’re totally clueless about all the mistakes you’re making.

This cushion definitely qualifies for me. It’s pretty wonky and is not going to win me any rosettes at the WI fete, but it was a total thrill to put together.

Here’s the back where you can see the construction (and wonkiness) more clearly. Another brilliant thing about patchwork – no seam finishing!

patchwork back

I used this super-helpful tutorial and cheat sheet to work out what strips to cut. I aimed for yellow on one side and blue on the other, but tried to mix it up a little bit so it didn’t look too much like the Ukrainian flag.

All the fabrics are scraps that I’ve been saving for years. The insects and the bikes were screenprinted by me in various classes, and you might spot bits of other projects here and there.

I didn’t cut all the strips to length in advance, just did it as I went along. This ruler, recommended by someone on Twitter, was super-useful, along with my rotary cutter and mat.

The back is entirely made from the chambray left over from my recent shirt project, and the buttons are vintage ones from my stash:

back of cushion

Although I enjoyed making this, I can’t see myself going over to the dark side and becoming a full-on quilter. Precision is not my strong suit.

Also, I didn’t actually quilt this as you can see, just backed it with some yellow fabric to hide those messy seams, and then overlocked the edges before making the cushion cover.

To finish, I thought you might enjoy this view of my sewing room mid-construction. I think tidying up took longer than making the actual cushion…

patchwork mess

Me Made May 2014 week three: the sun comes out!

May 18, 2014

I’ve really enjoyed this week’s round of MMM, probably because the sun came out.

I also went to the big London sewing meetup which was completely epic. Never have I seen so many handmade dresses together in one place! It almost caused a rip in the space-time-clothing continuum.

Anyway, here’s what I wore this week.

MMM Day 12 and 13

Day 12, off to work. I am wearing my vintage Maudella skirt and my stripey Burda kimono sleeve top. My cardigan is from H&M, my brooch is from Tatty Devine, and my shoes are from Clarks (of course).

Day 13, workday. Wearing my polka-dot Moss mini (it’s on wonkily, the seam does really sit at the front). Also my Built by Wendy sweatshirt.

MMM 14 and 15Day 14, at work on a sunny day. I had a haircut! I’ve been growing my hair for ages, so I could have an up-do at my wedding, and also just for the novelty value. But I’m so happy to have a bob again. Oh, I’m wearing some unblogged denim trousers, my McCalls white broderie top, and a cardigan from Dorothy Perkins.

Day 15, at work, still sunny I’m wearing my yellow skirt from a vintage pattern, and my Hemlock top. Must make more of these.

MMM 16 and 17

Day 16, at work. The first time this year my legs have seen the sunlight without a protective layer of tights. It was a tough day for them but I think they coped well. Not sure about all the passersby who were blinded by my milkbottle white pins. I am wearing a Simplicity 2258 skirt, a McCalls white shirt, a cardigan from Cos, and some yellow Vans (actually a wedding present from my husband!).

Day 17, off to the big sewing meetup Wearing my Flora dress for the first time in public. The cross-over top gapes a bit and I was in danger of flashing everyone on the tube and at the meetup, so I’ll probably stitch it down.  My cardigan is from Uniqlo and my shoes are from, yes, Clarks. This was the perfect outfit for a day of chatting, shopping and drinking with 70 other sewing ladies.

Day 18

Day 18, Sunday brunch and outdoors drinking Check out the different backdrop! And the yellow light coming from a strange orb in the sky! It was so hot today. I wore my Simplicity Lisette traveller shirtdress. I’m still not 100% sure about this dress so I’m glad that Me-Made-May gave me the push to wear it.

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