I’d like to put in a vote for purple to become the official colour of Christmas.
Red is played out, don’t you think? It’s so obvious, so Coca-Cola. Let’s all pretend we’re Roman emperors and drape ourselves in shades of aubergine.
Here’s my contribution to the cause, in the form of my latest project for Minerva Crafts. It’s another version of New Look 6070 which I’ve made before in a summery floral cotton – you can see that here.
It’s made in a gorgeous luxury crepe from Minerva. This fabric is amazing. It’s drapey, heavy, and beautiful, and it makes the perfect winter dress. They have it in a range of beautifully saturated colours – I’m keen on the maroon, might have to pick up some of that for my next project…
This went together pretty smoothly. I had an issue with the facing, which required some tacking down, and the hem, which has annoyingly decided to flare out at the bottom. This fabric also frays like mad, so you’ll need to get the hoover out regularly when sewing.
I think the pleated shoulders stay just on the right side of being too 80s, although you may disagree. The fit is great, helped by the fact that this crepe has a slight stretch to it. It’s very comfortable to wear.
Top tip for working with this crepe – use a press cloth! You need quite a high heat to make it behave, but it’s easy to put a shine on the fabric if you’re not careful. You should also baste down all the pleats (I do it on my machine with a long stitch length), as you can’t iron them flat as you would in a cotton.
Read my post about this dress on the Minerva network here, buy the kit here which includes two metres of fabric and a matching zip, and get the New Look 6070 pattern here.
Here’s to a purple Christmas!
So this was a ridiculous and fun project.
I made it for the Spoolettes bowling trip, which was an extremely good night out involving bowling, karaoke, large pizzas, and ice-cream cocktails. The shirt was a last minute panic effort on the Thursday and Friday night before the big event.
Luckily I managed to make it entirely from materials I already had. I rummaged around in my messy pattern stash to discover this gem from the Paul Knight shop in Stevenage (not bought by me, you’ll be surprised to hear). From the styling I’m guessing it’s late 70s/early 80s.
At some point in the long journey from Stevenage to Hackney, the pattern pieces had come unmoored from the instructions, so I had to wing it.
My main problem was that I’d never made this kind of collar, and I had no idea what it was even called. Eventually I found a good tutorial from the much-missed ‘pattern scissors cloth’ blog after extensive googling.
Is it a rolled collar? A blazer collar? Any ideas?
Either way it is magnificently massive, in a 70s kind of way.
This pattern also featured something I’d never seen before, a tiny dart in the front. I think this supposed to help you fold back the lapels, although mine were actually folded in front of the dart. If you can shed any light on this I’d be intrigued to hear more.
I bought it a long time ago but it’s not the most lovely fabric in the world, to be honest. It’s thin but stiff and feels quite cardboardy. But it’s perfect for a space bowling shirt. The burnt orange contrast stuff was a remnant I got in a fabric sample sale, it’s slightly sueded and I think it suits the massive collar.
Here’s a cool thing I discovered when making this shirt. While reading the manual for probably the second time in 8 years, I found out that my Bernina can sew pre-programmed letters. They’re straight stitch so it’s not technically embroidery, but its pretty awesome anyway.
Obviously I chose to embroider ‘COSMIC BOWL’ on to my shirt.
I didn’t get any good photos on the night as I was chatting too much, but you can see some great ones on triumphant winner Sally’s blog Charity Shop Chic here, Sew Dixie Lou here, Diary of a Chain Stitcher here, Nicole Needles here, and My Oh Sew Vintage Life here.
Will I ever wear this again? To be honest, my bowling skills don’t really justify a specialised shirt for the activity. But I’m sure it will see the light of day at some point. And if I ever want to open up a 50s space-themed diner, I already have my own uniform!
Now, I have a sneaking feeling that some of the people reading this are quite keen on fabric shopping. Not least because this post is one of the most popular things on the blog.
So you’ll be pleased to hear that I’ve discovered a new-to-me online fabric shop and it’s stuffed full of amazing things. Not only that, but it’s ethical too!
It’s called Offset Warehouse, and all of their fabrics are socially or environmentally responsible. It’s a huge treasure-trove for sewists, with fabrics I haven’t seen in any other shops, online or off-line.
Here’s some of my faves:
This is their fabric of the week at the moment, a pink and white striped Chambray. How brilliant would this be as an Archer shirt? (also on sale at the moment!)
They’ve got a gorgeous range of organic hand-blocked cottons, made in a cooperative and certified Fair Trade. This one is only £8.99 a metre, it would make a beautiful top or summer dress.
This thick black organic cord would make an amazing winter skirt.
Finally, Lauren from Offset Warehouse very kindly sent me two metres of this super-soft fleece back jersey, which is the cosiest thing I have ever felt. I’m going to make a dress from it and I plan on living in it throughout the whole Christmas holidays (pattern suggestions welcome!).
They also have a really good resources section looking at the reasoning behind buying ethically produced fabric. Even if you sew your own clothes, often it’s hard to know where fabric has come from, or exactly what it’s made of, so a shop like this is a really positive step.
To encourage you to try out Offset Warehouse, I’ve got a 10% off discount code, which you can use on anything in the shop up until 1st January 2014.
Here’s the code:
(you need to include the whole thing, including the exclamation mark).
Happy pre-Christmas shopping!
Thanks to everyone who entered the Sew Over It Giveaway! I have the winners here – drumroll please….
Thank you for all the entries, it was certainly enlightening reading about everybody’s dream pattern. I particularly liked all the requests for a pattern that fits right out of the envelope. I dream about this too, but sadly, I don’t think it’s going to happen in this world (maybe in the next one, where we’ll also get assistance from good-looking angels to cut out our patterns and hand-sew our hems).
Sorry for the delay in posting this giveaway. As a consolation prize, please accept the news that Miss Betty’s Attic, one of the best vintage pattern sellers on Etsy, is currently giving a 50% discount on all her stock. I have a horrible feeling this means she’s shutting up shop, so take advantage while you can!
Here are my dream pattern picks:
Here’s the link to Miss Betty’s Attic – the code for 50% off is ‘TAKE50′
STOP PRESS – I’ve just added the 1940′s Tea Dress pattern to the giveaway too! So all three dresses from the new Sew Over It line of patterns are now on offer. Hooray!
New pattern company alert! Sew Over It (a sewing cafe in Clapham) have just released the first three dresses in their new line of patterns.
They’re all drafted by Lisa Comfort, who runs the cafe, and they’re all BEAUTIFUL. Previously they’ve only been available to people taking classes at the cafe, but now you can buy them here!
I have long coveted the 1940s tea dress, ever since I saw Zoe’s amazing version, so I ordered one within seconds of seeing it released. Ah, I love it.
The wonderful Lisa saw me gloating over my new purchase on Instagram, and kindly offered to send me the other patterns in the range.
And because it’s nearly my birthday and I’m feeling generous, I’m going to give them both away!
I’ve only just started fitting the tea dress pattern, but here’s what I love about this range so far:
- Beautiful packaging, with a little booklet telling you how to make each dress, and an envelope style that means you can tuck the pattern pieces right back inside.
- Comprehensive instructions with clear illustrations, AND the reminder to finish your seams at each step. It took me so long to get used to the fact that commercial sewing patterns don’t include this, which I think is very unhelpful for beginners. So hooray for Sew Over It for putting this step in.
- These patterns couldn’t be any more reliable! They’ve already been tested and tested again on people taking the classes at the sewing cafe.
Here’s the two patterns I’m giving away:
Ultimate Shift Dress
This would be the perfect dress for a beginner – it doesn’t even need a zip. It’s a versatile one to have in your stash, as it includes long sleeves, cute cap sleeves and a deliciously 60s neck ruffle. I would make it in this bonkers Multicoloured Hippie Floral Print cotton from Minerva Crafts.
Ultimate Wrap Dress
I have to say, it really hurts me to give away this pattern, I am greedy and want to keep it, but I’m going to do it anyway just because I love you all. This is the perfect, simple wrap dress pattern for jersey fabric. I would sew it in this galaxy print jersey from Stone Fabrics that I have been coveting for ages.
NEW – 1940′s Tea Dress
Because I am the owner of the smallest letterbox ever (only bills fit through), I didn’t realise Lisa had also sent me another copy of the 1940s tea dress which was languishing in the post office. So I’ve now added that to the giveaway too!
Here’s the back of the tea dress pattern, which I think is my favourite of the three:
How to enter the giveaway
I’m going to give away each of the three patterns to a different person, chosen at random.
To enter, just leave a comment on this post and tell me what your dream sewing pattern would be. A pattern you’ve been coveting for ever but just can’t find anywhere – it could be something you’ve thought up yourself, or an item you’ve seen in RTW and really want to copy. Or if you’ve already found your dream pattern, tell us what it is!
Leave a comment by Monday 18th November, midnight GMT, to enter. Open worldwide.
(You can buy all the patterns on the Sew Over It Shop here. You can also visit their sewing cafe in Clapham, which I fully intend on doing the next time I venture down to the wilds of South London. Huge thank you to Lisa Comfort for this giveaway!)
A couple of weeks ago, I put out a cry for help on Twitter. I needed ideas for a non-gender-specific baby shower present, and it had to be handmade. Obviously I couldn’t show up with a shop bought gift – my reputation would be in tatters.
I got tons of useful advice, and ended up putting together a blanket, burp cloth, and bib. It took me less than a couple of hours, and I thought you guys might be interested in what I came up with. I think they make a nice set together.
(Whether these things are actually useful for babies, I have only the vaguest idea. Opinions welcome!)
I wanted to buy everything in one place, and I had a gift voucher for The Village Haberdashery, so that’s where I started. Plus, they have an amazing selection of prints, and I didn’t want to choose boring neutrals or pastel shades just because my present had to be unisex. Babies deserve colour!
- 1 metre of In The Forest – Leaves (this is on sale!)
- 1 metre of Fanfare Confetti Flannel in Blue
- 1 fat quarter of In The Forest – Branches
- 1 fat quarter of Solid White Flannel
Lots of people recommended Handmade Jane’s baby blanket tutorial, which you can find here. It’s beautifully simple and quick, and seems to have the seal of approval from people who know about baby stuff.
I used cotton flannel instead of fleece, so my blanket is pretty thin. The flannel is super-soft and cushy though, and doesn’t shed bits of lint everywhere like some fabrics I could mention.
Also, can I just say that I LOVE this leaf fabric. I wasn’t expecting a quilting cotton to be so soft and beautiful. I would definitely use a fabric like this from Cloud9 to sew a shirt. The colours are super vibrant.
Most babies seem pretty watery (and worse) so something to catch leakage was essential. I’m not sure though if a ‘burp cloth’ is an American concept? None of my friends with kids had heard of them by that name.
Anyway, I used this free downloadable pattern from Cloud9, which has a nice rounded area so it fits over your shoulder better.
The back is plain white flannel, and I used an extra layer of cheap flannelette in the middle to make it extra padded. I also sewed two lines down the middle to stop the layers shifting.
I had enough fabric to make this out entirely out of my yellow fat quarter, but I loved the leaves so much I had to include them. Once again the back is plain white organic flannel, with another layer of cheap flannel in the middle to make it more absorbent.
The pattern is this one from The Purl Bee. It seems very small to me – next time I would use a template with more baby coverage, and possibly a wider neck opening. I used a jersey hammer-on snap as a fastening. These ones from Prym are pretty great and very easy to put in.
Note to self – use woodland animals next time
So there you go, a matching baby set. This cost me about £28 for fabric and just over a hour cutting and sewing time. It went down pretty well at the baby shower, although it didn’t elicit as much coo-ing as a tiny bandana bib made with owl fabric, curses.
You could definitely make it cheaper, although I think it’s worth using a really nice fabric for the blanket top at least. The bib could be made from any old scraps, and so could the burp cloth if you didn’t mind piecing it. I look forward to making many more of these whenever another one of my friends pops out a sprog…
What’s better than just one exposed zipper?
Two exposed zippers, of course!
(If you’re not a fan of visible zippers, you might want to look away now.)
They may be old hat, but I still love an exposed metal zipper, and they feature heavily in my latest project for the Minerva Blogging Network. Incidentally they’ve just added lots of amazing new bloggers, check the Network page to see them all!
The idea for this skirt started a few months ago when I pinned this double-zippered number from Net-A-Porter. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to try and rip it off.
I already had the perfect Vogue pencil skirt pattern – 8603. It has two seams down the front (and the back). Basically, all I had to do was insert the exposed zippers into the front seams, and Bob’s your uncle.
Of course it ended up being slightly more complicated than that, but somehow it always does…
The fabric from Minerva is a dark grey flannel, flecked with lighter grey specks. It’s an intriguing mix of polyester, viscose, and lycra, and is beautifully thick, almost like a boiled wool, but stretchy like a ponte. I would love to make a biker jacket in this stuff.
As an underlining technique, I just pinned the lining and fashion fabric together, and then overlocked the edges. This is not the approved way to do it (you’re supposed to baste them together), but I am lazy, and it worked out okay.
I also added some lining rectangles just stitched onto the seam allowances as zip guards, and I cut the facing out from a plain black cotton to eliminate bulk. You can sort of see this below in an unfortunately blurry photo.
I’m really pleased with how this turned out, and I wish I had some better photos for you. As usual, I was finishing this right before deadline, so the photos are a before work job in the stairwell. My jumper is excessively crumpled and I had to bin half of the shots because of low-light, blurriness and/or shocking eye-bag footage.
One thing you can’t tell from the pictures is how heavy this skirt is. Seriously, it weighs a ton and feels very luxe, what with the fabric, the lining, and the two massive metal zippers. I will probably get toned abs just from hauling this thing around (although it’s actually very comfortable).
Here’s a top tip - if you use Wonder Tape to stick the exposed zip down before sewing it, you can easily line the edge of each folded seam up with the edge of the tape – see picture above. It’s pretty magical.
(And if you don’t own any Wonder Tape yet, why not? How much more do I have to bang on about it before you give in and buy some? It can only make your life easier.)
I hand-sewed the hem to the underlining, and didn’t press it as I didn’t want to mark the fabric, but I think it does actually need a bit of steam on there just to flatten it down.
The zips do look a bit rippled in the pic above. I ironed some interfacing to the edges of each seam to stabilise them, but the zips do bend a lot when you sit down, so I think some rippling is unavoidable.
If you like the look of this skirt, you can buy a kit from Minerva here including the fabric, lining, pattern, and two zips, for a mere £31.71, thus saving you £93.29 on the price of the designer item. Bargain!
(exposed zipper haters, it’s safe to open your eyes now)