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Man’s check shirt from Paul Smith fabric

December 17, 2014

I was very late making this birthday present for Alex (6 weeks) and now I’m even later blogging about it.

alex shirt front 1

It’s a man’s shirt (duh), sewn from the pattern I traced from one of his existing shirts.

The fabric is Paul Smith flannel which I got from Croft Mill about a year ago. It’s super-soft but the trade-off is that it’s pilling already. Oh well.

The buttons are from myfabrics.co.uk. I had the worst time trying to find grey shirt buttons locally. Nowhere seemed to sell them in the right size. That was part of the reason for the delay (also because making buttonholes and hemming are v tedious).

alex shirt front 2

Making men’s shirts is a bit tedious in general, depending on what kind of mood you’re in. Everything is incredibly fiddly.

Of course I made things harder for myself by using a check fabric, but at least I did a good job matching it across the front. I also matched the side seams but I’m not sure how noticeable this is if you’re not a sewer. None of his other shirts seem to have done it. Probably won’t bother next time.

I used these excellent tutorials for some of the fiddly bits:

- Sewing a collar from Four Square Walls

- Placket tutorial from Off the Cuff

- Burrito yoke tutorial from Grainline

alex shirt back 3

I over-eased the back yoke a bit, next time I’ll just make the pleats deeper. The sleeves also are still too wide, I need to remember to narrow them up a bit next time.

Once again I couldn’t have sewed this shirt without my Bernina straight stitch foot. Truly it’s the best sewing purchase I’ve made this year.

shirt placket

Here’s a close-up of that sleeve placket, accessorised with Lindor.

I cut it on the bias so I didn’t have to match anything.

These are so satisfying to sew! It was my first time making them. I did do a practice one first. It’s like magic when they work.

sleeve placket

I reckon I put 10-15 hours of work in this thing, not counting all the time it took me to me make the pattern in the first place. I flat-felled every single seam and spent ages working out where to put the pocket.

I also hand-sewed on all the buttons, with the pocket and top button in red thread, as requested.

Still it was worth it in the end, as he wears it a lot. Here he is wearing the shirt while drinking beer and waiting for a burger.

shirt photo

I think one shirt a year is about my limit though.

Parka of glory – McCalls 6531

November 25, 2014

Behold the greatest thing I have ever sewn:

parka 2 800

A parka!

Okay so it’s not a real parka – it doesn’t have a proper fishtail and it isn’t lined. You probably couldn’t wear it on a scooter down to Brighton without your fellow mods laughing at you.

But I’m really proud of it all the same.

parka 1 800

This has been a long time in the making. I bought the fabric more than two years ago and the pattern and notions (it’s McCalls 6531) in April 2013.

I was planning on making it for autumn ’13 but that came around a bit too quickly…as did spring ’14…and then autumn happened again, as it tends to do.

So I actually finished this exactly when the freakish warm spell in London ended about two weeks ago.

Excellent timing as usual.

But again I don’t really care because I love it so much.

It was really fun to make. It’s an unusual shape for a jacket, with two-part kimono sleeves – I made version C.

mccalls 6531

Because it’s an unlined jacket, I decided to flat-fell every seam, even on the curved side/underarm seams which was a bit of a pain.

The insides look beautiful now though. Coats and jackets are probably the one item where people do see the inside so I guess it’s worth the hassle.

parka inside 800

The only fitting change I made was to lengthen the sleeves 2.5 inches to accommodate my gorilla arms.

The length, the pockets, and the elastic placement were absolutely perfect for me, so I think it must be designed for tall people.

parka back 800

I was worried that the dolman shape would be a bit 80s but it’s actually great for wearing big jumpers underneath. I made a large so there’s lots of room to move around.

parka sleeve

SO NATURAL AT POSING. At least you can see the sleeve shape.

This pattern has lots of fun details, like tabs so you can roll up the sleeves:

IMG_8084

parka side 800

And cording and toggles at the top and bottom (the middle is elasticated)

I considered going for boring old brown or green cord, but I saw a parka in Whistles once that had neon binding on the hood, which was my inspiration for this.

parka toggles

The fabric is beautiful. Even though it’s unlined, the cotton twill is very sturdy so it keeps out the wind chill. And it only cost a tenner!

However, all the notions I had to buy were a lot more expensive. Here’s the rundown:

- Open end heavy duty two-way zip from Jaycotts- £4.80

- Two packets of antique brass snaps from Jaycotts- £8.60 each, ouch (one pack is not enough, especially if you’re crap at hammering and keep breaking them. I speak from experience).

- Amazing neon cord and stoppers from myfabrics.co.uk – about £12

I also had to buy three spools of thread for all that flat-felling.

Incidentally, I never could have made this without my special Bernina edgestitching foot. I love it so much.

parka open 800

The pattern and instructions were actually very good, although they don’t mention seam finishing at all so you need to factor that in before you start.

The one annoying bit is that the pocket flaps aren’t functional – just decorative. I put a snap on them for looks, but didn’t bother with the corresponding bit underneath.

parka pocket 800

Pocket flap of lies

The trickiest bit was topstitching down the flap that covers the zip. 8 layers of thick twill – my poor Bernina was groaning a bit going over that. But we made it in the end.

I seriously think this is one of the best things I’ve ever made. It turned out exactly the way I planned out.

parka 3 800

I can’t think of anything else to say about this jacket, except that I love it, I want to marry it, and if I ever lose it (fairly likely given past experience) I will cry for at least two weeks.

p.s. I also made the skirt using the Home Stretch skirt pattern, but as it took 20 minutes I don’t really think it’s worth blogging separately.

p.p.s. Sorry for the excessive photos but seriously I LOVE THIS JACKET

p.p.p.s. I also have new hair! I should blog more often, at my current rate I’ll have a new hairstyle with every blog post.

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.

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