Parka of glory – McCalls 6531

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.

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Ultimate Trousers – two pairs in denim and crepe

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.

My Minerva outfit reveal: floral crop top and pencil skirt

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

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.

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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.

Minerva Blogging Network: Chambray shirt (Vogue 1323)

I’ve finally jumped on the chambray bandwagon!

chambray shirt 1

Yes, I may be five years behind the rest of the blogging world, but at least I got there in the end.

This is my latest Minerva Blogging Network project, and the pattern is Vogue 1323. I’ve wanted to sew this ever since I saw Erica B’s heavenly version in hot pink.

Mine isn’t quite as slinky, but it’s a lovely little spring shirt and was fun to sew. You can read my full post about it on the Minerva network here.

Chambray shirt closeup

The fabric is gorgeous but it does tend to wrinkle. I promise that I ironed the shirt before I took these photos, even if you can’t really tell.

Somehow, even though I spent ages matching everything, the pockets have come out wonky at the bottom. Look at the photo – the pocket on my left is about a cm lower than the pocket on my right.

This is DEEPLY annoying, as I swear they were even at one point. I think I caused the wonkiness when I sewed the placket.

Here’s an in-progress shot, you can see that the left pocket has already started to creep down…

chambray shirt in progress

I’m not convinced that I sewed the bottom of the button placket correctly, as the instructions were brief and v obscure. So that may be the reason.

Oh well, I don’t think anyone will notice.

If they do, hopefully they’ll just think I have one bosom larger than the other. Better that than shoddy sewing skills.

French seams on armhole seams

The instructions for the rest of the shirt were good. They tell you to do french seams all over the shop, even on the sleeves, and I obediently followed. It makes for a lovely clean finish, which is good as this fabric does fray a bit.

chambray skirt back

I don’t always do what it says on pattern instructions, but I tend to think they know best, even if what they’re saying is obviously ridiculous. Also, I always read instruction manuals, which may be a connected habit.

Just a small insight into my psyche there for you.

You can buy the kit for this project here for £34, which includes everything down to the thread (chosen by clever Vicky at Minerva, and it’s a perfect match). You even get a trouser pattern thrown in by Vogue for no extra! How can you resist?

p.s. You might recognise the trousers from a previous Minerva project.

chambray shirt 2

Me-Made-May 2014: week 2

Will you look at that, another week been and gone.

I’m finding Me-Made-May a bit of a struggle at the moment. I just want to put on my Levis in the morning and not think about what to wear. It could be the weather, it’s been horribly rainy here this week.

Anyway, here’s what I wore in week 2:

Days 5 & 6:

MMMDays5&6

Day 5: Wearing some unblogged trousers which I will talk about soon, my giraffe shirt, and a jumper from Uniqlo (which also featured heavily in last year’s MMM, if I recall correctly).

Day 6: Gah, what a terrible photo. I got up too late for Alex to take my picture in the morning so had to settle for a late-night picture in the dark. I’m wearing my blue jeans, my leopard print top, and an old grey cashmere man’s jumper that I reshaped on my overlocker and added elbow patches to. Not that you can see any of that in this picture.

Days 7 & 8:

MMM7&8

Day 7: Wearing an unblogged knit pencil skirt, made from the same fabric as my Plantain, a new shirt which I’ll blog about this week (it’s Vogue 8728), and a cardigan from Cos.

Day 8: Once again I got up too late to take advantage of the in-house husband photo studio, so here’s a super glamorous selfie taken in the disabled toilets at work. I’m wearing my green skirt, a shawl I knitted years ago, and a jumper from Uniqlo. Also, my tights have hearts on!

Days 9, 10 & 11:

MMMDay9&10&11

Day 9: I’m wearing my tartan skirt, my stripey Hemlock top, and my favourite cardigan from Cos. Check out my amazing multi-tasking abilities, drinking tea while getting my picture taken like a boss.

Day 10: Saturday, hooray! I did practically nothing on Saturday and it was great. A weekend where I don’t have to get on any public transport is a good weekend in my book. I did manage some sewing. I’m wearing my first pair of me-made jeans, an unblogged basic jersey top, and (say it with me now) a cardigan from Cos.

Day 11: Today I stayed in all day cooking and it was great. I’m wearing my blue skinny jeans, my stripey Hemlock, and my knitted Tinder cardigan. I was actually wearing my hideous (but comfortable) indoor slippers but I took them off for reasons of vanity.

So there we go, 11 days down. I’ve been too busy to spend much time in the Flickr group this year, which is a real shame as it’s a great place to get inspiration. The one person I have seen and highly recommend following is Sara from Mixed Emotions. You must check out her blog – I want to wear everything she makes.

Two Moss skirts (and bonus Hemlock)

I tried really hard to come up with a moss related pun for the title of this post, but sadly the brain cells are running dry. It is Sunday night after all.

I made my first denim Moss skirt in Nov 2012. It’s done valiant service but it’s nearly ready for the great charity shop in the sky. Here are a couple of replacements I sewed just before Christmas.

The first one is made from blue wool left over from this pencil skirt:

blue moss 2

The wool is a tiny bit too lightweight for this pattern, but it’s nice and warm. The top is another Grainline special, the free Hemlock tee. This is an amazingly fast pattern to sew, even for a slowcoach like me.

I added a small useless pocket as per usual. If you can add a tiny useless pocket, you should add a tiny useless pocket, that’s my motto in life.

blue moss 1

Here’s the second Moss, which is also made from leftover fabric, this time from my spotty trousers. I only just barely managed to squeeze the pattern pieces out of the remnant I had left.

spotty moss 2

I love this dotty skirt. I’ve been wearing it all the time. Winter is the only time I wear mini skirts, but luckily there’s no shortage of winter weather around here at the moment. As long as it’s cold enough to wear fleece lined tights, I’ll be wearing short skirts (second life motto there for you).

I’ve found it quite hard to adjust the Moss pattern to suit my shape, and I’ve hacked it around so much I’m going to have to print out another version, which is one advantage to pdf patterns. I think the secret for me is stretch fabric – probably why this dotty one is my fave.

I had the perfect big white button in my stash for the waistband:

spotty moss 1

Get your own Moss skirt pattern here. I can’t wait to see what Jen from Grainline comes up with next (and I still need to make an Archer shirt…)

Minerva blogging network: Leopard print Plantain

What is it about elbow patches that’s so appealing? You can’t see them when you’re wearing them. They bring up memories of geography teachers. And they’re not very useful, unless you salute people for a living, or have another job where you frequently bend your arms at a sharp angle.

But somehow they still make a garment totally irresistible. They’re the main reason I sewed up the new Deer & Doe Plantain top for my latest Minerva project.

top 2
You can see my post on the Minerva Network here, and buy the kit for this project here.

The fabric is a really nice thick double-knit, with thin stripes on the reverse. I turned up the cuffs to show the two sides:

top cuff

Here’s the enhanced elbow patch close-up. You can see the major error I made with this top, which was to make it way too tight.

I should have sized up as this fabric isn’t very stretchy. It’s still wearable, but if I make it again with a thick knit I’ll reduce the seam allowance.

back of top

I finished the neckline with stretch lycra binding from Minerva Crafts which is my new favourite thing. This pattern has a very low neckline, it must be the French influence. I hoicked it up an inch when cutting out.

Here’s the front where you can see my standard ‘take the photo already’ face.

top 1

And that’s everything. Apart from one last thing – I miss blogging!

I’ve been so busy in January with a new job and various other New Year type things that I haven’t had a chance to write any posts.

I have tons of sewing projects to post about and lots of half-finished screeds in my head, but no time to get them out into the world. This sucks. Hopefully I’ll be back to a regular blogging schedule soon.

p.s. did you see the Great British Sewing Bee starts again in two weeks?? I am seriously, sadly excited about this.

2013: A Sewing Review

Hello and happy 2014! My blogging muscle feels a bit rusty. I’ve been in Scotland since Christmas Eve, eating at 4 hour intervals (plus snacks), and watching classic musicals on TV. I’m not sure how I’m going to get my brain back into gear for real life but a blog post seems like a good place to start.

I’m a bit late, but I wanted to join in the year-end review mania currently sweeping across sewing blog land. Here’s my attempt.

Top 5 sewing successes

Based on what I wore the most:

Faves

  1. Giraffe print blouse from a Burda magazine pattern. This is a surprise late entry! I didn’t like this at all when I sewed it, but I discovered it looked great with the top button undone and the sleeves rolled up and I’ve worn it a lot.
  2. Vintage Maudella shirt. I’ve made a few shirts over the years but this is the first one I’ve been pleased with.
  3. McCalls 6355 dress. This is probably my most worn item this year. It’s so comfortable and simple, and it was ridiculously easy to sew. The fabric was from the magical Tottenham warehouse, which I plan on visiting again in 2014.
  4. Blue skinny jeans. Wore them to death this summer and they’re a bit tired and saggy now. But it was good while it lasted.
  5. Emerald green skirt. I was particularly pleased with this because it was a rip-off of a designer skirt I saw online and it worked out perfectly, which almost never happens. The fabric was perfect.

From the evidence of this, I need to make more separates and use more geometric prints.

Top sewing failures of 2013:

sewing failures

  1. I have still massively FAILED to make a jumpsuit, after talking about it in, er, February. Blogging about potential projects seems to be the kiss of death for me.
  2. I am bad at reusing patterns.Then I put off sewing new patterns because I know I’ll have to make fitting changes. This seems a bit short-sighted.
  3. My biggest sewing disasters this year came from mismatching pattern and fabric. My yellow skirt wasn’t crisp enough to hold pleats, and I ended up having to re-jig it. My denim skirt was way too heavy, and the bias hem I did constantly flips up.
  4. I also need to take into account what I actually wear. My second pair of jeans are languishing in a drawer because I can’t be doing with brown. The skater dress I made ended up way too short to be practical.
  5. I need to take better photos. Don’t think I’ll be able to do much about this until it starts getting light for more than 2 hours a week (sometime in mid-May judging from last year’s weather). I’d quite like to do a whole blog revamp as well but my design skillz are somewhat lacking.

Wedding bells

Weddings seem to be the only time I dress up nowadays, and in 2013 I attended three (as well as my own, but I didn’t make a dress for that), and managed to finish a new outfit in time for each of them – a pink New Look shirtdress, a floral number also from New Look, and a Pretty Woman style spotty dress from a vintage Maudella pattern.

wedding dressesNext year I have at least two nuptials lined up, so I need to start planning…

Top 5 blog posts of 2013, according to WordPress:

  1. Where I buy fabric in London and online – I need to re-write this. If I’d known it would get so many views I’d have spent a bit more time on it.
  2. 20 Top Tips for Topstitching – Probably the only genuinely useful post on this blog.
  3. Psychedelic jungle By Hand London Anna Dress – I have fabric to make another one of these; one of the top patterns of the year I reckon.
  4. The Great British Sewing Bee – Can’t wait for the 2014 series!
  5. The Scientific Sewing Enjoyment Chart100% scientific nonsense.

I really feel like my sewing has improved 100% this year, and blogging has been a huge part of that, particularly being part of the Minerva Network which has been loads of fun.

I’m so grateful to everyone who reads this blog, even if you’re only doing it because we’re related, or if you enjoy laughing at my strange facial expressions. Thank you all anyway. Here’s to a brilliant 2014!

Man’s (failed) shirt: Burda 7045

Here’s a cautionary Christmas tale.

If you offer to make a shirt for someone else, you need to make a muslin first. Yes, muslin making is tedious beyond belief, but if you don’t do it, you might spend hours making something like this:

photo

Only for it to be received like this:

shirt too big

I handsewed 12 buttons for this shirt, which I believe is the dictionary definition of ‘labour of love’, so I’m pretty gutted that it didn’t work out.

The pattern is Burda 7045. If you want to make your own version, heed my warnings:

  • Collar A looks normal on the envelope, but in reality is a monstrosity of David Frost proportions.
  • The sleeves are also massive, and the cuffs would fit round the upper arm of most men.
  • There aren’t any back pleats included in the pattern.
  • This shirt also doesn’t have a rounded bottom hem. I had to wing that.
  • However it DOES include neck measurements on the pattern instructions. Of course I found this out after I’d sewed this whole shirt. I didn’t even realise men bought shirts by their neck measurements – it never comes up in womenswear…
sleeve too big
Demonstrating the muckle sleeve

The back doesn’t look too bad. I did a narrow shoulder adjustment, but think it might need even more – are men’s shirts supposed to sit slightly off the shoulder?

gingham shirt back

It’s a real shame this didn’t work out, as the fabric was sent to me by Terry’s Fabrics and it’s a lovely, medium weight woven gingham. The small checks mean you don’t have to match up the side seams, and it feels really substantial. Tempted to buy more to make myself a blouse for the summer.

It’s nice to find a source for gingham in lots of different colours, as I find the stuff you get in fabric stores is often nasty polycotton.

So anyway, as Alex wouldn’t wear this, I tried to give it to my friend (also confusingly called Alex) when he popped round for a visit. He seemed to enjoy the shirt at first:

alex busting some moves

But 5 minutes after this he was saying the shirt made him ‘look fat’, so I fear it will never be worn (I made him take the shirt home anyway as it was depressing me to look at it).

There are two things I learned from this experience.

1. Always make a muslin first, as already discussed. I’m making my second attempt in this gorgeous Paul Smith cotton which can’t be wasted on another failure.

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2. There is a gap in the market for a modern men’s shirt pattern! Every guy I see on the street in London is wearing a slim-cut checked shirt of some kind, but there aren’t any perfect patterns to make them.

This pattern needs to have back pleats, a yoke, a small collar with the option to button it down, and normal sized cuffs (with a cutaway edge). It should explain all the professional RTW methods like sleeve plackets, flat felling and the proper way of sewing the yoke.

Yes, I know I could collate all this myself, but wouldn’t it be handy to have it in one envelope? Colette have done a good job with their Negroni, but I don’t see many guys wearing this style of convertible collar, whereas the standard shirt is everywhere. Indie pattern designers of the world, I challenge you to come up with this holy grail!

Aubergine crepe New Look 6070 dress for the Minerva Blogging Network

I’d like to put in a vote for purple to become the official colour of Christmas.

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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.

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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.

new look 6070 dres back

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!

new look 6070 dress

Sew Over It Giveaway! Ultimate Shift Dress, Ultimate Wrap Dress, 1940s Tea Dress

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.

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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

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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

photoGridImageI 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:

Sew Over It Tea DRess

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!)