A dress fit for a Queen

Seasons Greetings one and all!

Formal Evening Photo You will already know of my cruise this year on board the Queen Mary 2 (I’m sure I have mentioned it once or twice recently).  This was a very special holiday to celebrate by husband’s 40th birthday and as such I felt the need to create two very special dresses.  Actually, I will rephrase that, I decided to make one dress which I finished a couple of months ago (you can read all about it here).  The dress was such a success my daughter decided she would not be upstaged by her mum and wanted one too.

Full Length FrontSo I went on the hunt for something just right for a teenager who is never out of sweats and joggers (no mean feat I can tell you).  I decided to make Simplicity 2253 a gorgeous dress inspired by Jessica McClintock.  It is very similar to the first dress in that it comprises of front panels to create the bodice and is off the shoulder with added detail to the front.  This dress as with the previous one has two different lengths, my daughter chose the shorter length and the fabric which is Duchess satin, bought from Abakhan Fabrics in Manchester.

ReverseThe construction was very simple, all front and back panels are sewn together to create the design.  The skirt comprises of a back centre seam and front and back darts, which is then attached to the bodice.  One of the main differences between the two dresses is the cute little sleeve which sits underneath the lovely folds of fabric on the shoulder.  The dress is partially lined, which is attached around the neck edge and armholes, it finishes just below the waistline.

Finally there is a concealed zip and folds of fabric which cascade around the shoulder seam to add a lovely finishing touch.Front

I am very proud and pleased as punch to say my daughter loves her dress and wore it with pride (twice) on our cruise; she even mentioned wearing it to her prom next July.  I am sure with my new found ability to throw the odd evening gown together I will be able to rustle up something else by then.

Happy holidays everyone!

Tis the season to be jolly

FrontHere we are again my friends it’s almost Christmas.  I can’t believe how fast this year has gone. It doesn’t seem like five minutes ago since I was writing my blog post about the creations I made for Christmas last year.

This year I have to admit I have recreated a top I made last year because it was so comfortable to wear, looks good and it can be dressed up or down, to suit the occasion.   The pattern is Simplicity 1716 made from Bamboo jersey fabric which I bought from Calico Laine. Cowl Neck

Not much to say about the construction, 3 front and back pieces and sleeves.  The front has pleats at the shoulders to create the cowl neck along with the extension which laps over to the inside.  The back has a centre seam and neck facing.  The sleeves are set in but I decided to create little gathers at the cap instead, all extremely easy to put together (although the jersey did have a mind of it’s own and wanted to go in the opposite direction to me!)Shoulder seams

There we go, I managed to squeeze in a little blog post before I set off on my jollies later this week.  It definitely is the season to be jolly and this week will be no exception aboard the Queen Mary 2 taking in the sights of Brussels and Paris, I am wondering if I will have enough room in my suitcase for my sewing machine?! Failing that I have had plenty of tips about various fabric shops I can visit along the way.

A bouquet of flowers

1 FrontMy relationship with this dress began many months ago when I watched Great British Sewing Bee in April this year.  I was in awe of all the contestants who had the guts to not only make wonderful creations under the scrutiny of judges but to do it on the TV in front of millions of viewers too (sends shivers down my spine at the very thought).  One of the finalists made this dress as her last creation and immediately I thought, I have got to make me one of those.  I bought the pattern Simplicity 1874 straight away but due to other projects I already had in mind I didn’t start making it for a few months.2 Reverse

Now I will share with you the most magical experience of my sewing journey so far. It has been such a joy, the familiar excitement of creating something new (and much much more).  The fabric I used to make the dress is Duchess satin (it’s luscious!) I interlined it with cotton, a variation which I decided to do myself to give more definition to the bodice, it was also part lined.  The construction began with cutting out somewhere in the region of 40 pattern pieces (I have to admit cutting out doesn’t really tick my box, but it is always worth it). All the front bodice panels were put together first then attached to the front skirt.  The back was then created with each piece sewn individually and then put together to create the detail.  This was attached to the skirt, as with the front.  The lining, which finishes at the hip line was sewn together next and attached to the bodice around the neck edge and underarm.  The most difficult part for me is usually the zip and with using such a lovely delicate satin I was very nervous about inserting it but I have to say it went in first time without any problem (wahoooo!) All that was left on the construction was the hem, a little bit of hand stitching and there we have it – job done. 3 Flowers

No, no, no, most definitely no. The pièce de résistance of this dress are the flowers, the little beauties.  I started off following the pattern, creating the various sized petals and tweaking them, building up the design, as I created more and more I added leaves, twisted the petals to create little buds and before I knew it I had a full-blown bouquet on my shoulder – it is a work of art.4 Close Flowers

I knew this dress would be special before I even started it, although I have never been (and never will be) confident enough to assume it would turn out really well.  As the end was in sight I decided to have it photographed in a different way than I have previously, I called upon the my extremely talented brother in-law to help me out.  What a wonderful job he has done.  I feel about 10 feet tall and probably won’t come back down to earth for some time.  I often look back to a couple of years ago before I started my sewing and wonder what filled me with so much excitement then…….as the saying goes what you haven’t had you don’t miss.5 Rose

And that, my friends, is my story. I always have to have another creation ready and waiting for me to rush headlong into, how on earth can I follow that you may ask, well funnily enough my daughter took a liking to my dress and I have found just the right pattern for the job……..

It’s all about the buttons

1 FontSince my last creation I decided to make another dress from a pattern I have used previously, with added design modifications of my own (check me out).  The pattern is Simplicity K2146 inspired by Project Runway (another freebie from Sew Magazine).  Like other patterns in this range it has a few different variations of the dress and little add-ons to boot.  I basically used the pattern pieces for the shape and sizing and that was all.  The fabric came from Abakhan Fabrics once again, when I was on yet another little shopping spree in Manchester.

Hogo Boss Dress

Hugo Boss Dress

The construction on the whole was fairly basic, I wanted to keep the design simple but make the dress bold with colour and style.  Once cut out I put the pattern away and made the dress on my own instruction (what was I thinking listening to myself?!).  The front panels with the gorgeous princess seams were sewn together first, then I attached the side sections to be back.  I then made the tab, I must  let you all know at this stage of the process I had another visit to Manchester and just happened to stroll past the Hugo Boss shop and was promptly stopped in my tracks when I saw a dress in the window with a rather large price tag on it that wasn’t a million miles away from mine in design, at this point I was toying with the colour variation on the tab, in the end I decided to stick with my original choice.

TopThe whole process (excluding the tab) had to be done a second time for the lining, (did I mention that the pattern doesn’t call for the dress to be lined, but I chose to line mine?)  I attached the lining via the neckline, right sides together and topstitched the inside.

BackThen came the biggest design change of all, the back centre, which I created using a button finish.  This of course eliminated the back zip, centre seam and the vent.  I stitched both left and right centre seams to the lining using the 5/8th allowance, which made the dress into a pocket.  Then came the sleeves, oh yes indeedy, how I love set-in sleeves and these were no exception with an absolutely unforgivable first attempt but as usual I got there in the end.

Finally eleven buttonholes and buttons were put in place to finish off the back.  As the weeks have passed and Autumn is now upon us I didn’t think I would get the opportunity to wear my dress just yet but the weather has been glorious this weekend and my daughter told me I looked so nice in my dress I should wear it today on my mooch about town, so that’s exactly what I did.

Hello Dolly

It has been quite a week with a very exciting experience for me, that completely took me by surprise (I have only just stopped fluffing my own feathers) or maybe not as I am bursting to share the news with those of you who don’t know already.  There I was minding my own business when I received a tweet from one of my sewing pals, that just said congratulations?! I couldn’t wait to open the picture she had attached to it to find out what was going on and there it was in all its glory, my very own mention in Sew magazine (begins to dance around the room once again).  I have recently made a dress from a Simplicity pattern that was featured in their June magazine and as with all my creations I take pictures at various stages during the process. I decided to share one of my dressmakers mannequin “Dolly” wearing Simplicity K1913 in the early stages with SewHQ and Simplicity on twitter, I didn’t give it another thought (I’m always sharing pictures with anyone who seems remotely interested) and low and behold who turns up in this months issue……..? Dolly in all her glory, she is so proud and I am also extremely proud and pleased as punch that they thought my creation was perfect.

Sew MagazineMoving on with even more exciting news.  I have been toying with the idea of creating a logo for some time now but couldn’t really decide what I wanted as the face of willowwears.  It dawned on me this weekend, who better than Dolly to do the job (after her recent claim to fame).  She is without a doubt absolutely perfect for the position. She has been with me since April 2013 after I bought her from my lovely friend at sewing-online.  She always does such a fabulous job and is a great help to me I definitely would be lost without her.    Designing the logo  was the easy part (not much to think about really, the main feature had been decided),  editing was a different matter but I got there in the end.  I was going to have it created by a professional designer but my other half folded his arms and gave me the “you know you can do it” look.

There we have it folks – willowwears gets a makeover, I hope you like?!

Logo

A little bit crafty

3" & 4" pin cusions

3″ & 4″ pin cushions

I have yet another little ditty to share with you this week, which is again steering slightly away from the norm for me. I noticed a couple of months ago, one of my sewing friends has a rather fabulous pin cushion so I decided to tell her so “I’ve got to get me one of those little beauties, it’s gorgeous” I said. Rather than telling me where she got it from she suggested making each other one. My first reaction was, what a great idea, my second reaction was, I make clothes I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea how to make a pin cushion!

At the time I was in the process of making a couple of projects for sewing-online and didn’t really want to multitask by starting something else (that is my excuse and I am sticking to it). The weeks went by and I continued to make my clothes, still conscious that I hadn’t attempted to start the pin cushion (talk about elephant in the room).

Prompted on by my husband I decided to finally take the bull by the horns and have a go, Firstly I looked into what would be needed to stuff it and then the design itself. Due to this being my first attempt I decided on a basic one, constructed from four pieces of fabric, all of which are leftovers from previous garments I have made. These are all sewn to create a rectangle, the corners are then brought together leaving one of the seams free for the innards. This consisted of part rice and part soft doll stuffing, I used the rice for two reasons, one being to weigh it down at the base and the other to absorb any moisture to stop the pins from rusting. The middle was pulled tight with cotton and the button put in place to give a decorative finish, and there we have it a cute little pin cushion, which has now been sent to my friend (along with some dressmaking fabric) and gratefully received.

Fabric received from one of my friends

Fabric received from one of my friends

Knowing I was about to receive a pressy in the post from another of my sewing friends, I made another pin cushion and sent that in the post too, It has been an exciting week swapping fabric and goodies with my new found sewing pals, it all adds to what has become a fantastic and rewarding pastime. It will be great to see what they decide to create and just as much fun deciding what to make myself out of my new fabric stash.

The pin cushion received from my friend

 

Two left feet

Foot

The little beauty in all its glory

Evening everyone, I thought I would share this little tale with you all, you never know, one of you may come across the same problem I did, or you could read this and think what a numpty.

You might recall I bought a new sewing machine a couple of months ago (whispers under my breath) after my old sewing machine had a melt down and refused to load the bobbin.

I totally love my new machine, it is so quiet I can’t always tell if it’s sewing or not, I have to pause every now and again just to check.

Inserted zip

My concealed zip, fits like a glove

However, I have been struggling of late to insert concealed zips, so much so that they have been unpicked many many times (much more than I normally unpick and that is saying something).  I do eventually get the zip in but not without a fight.

So I decided finally to investigate the problem, surely it couldn’t just be me doing something wrong over and over again, could it?!  After taking a closer look, the foot was out of alignment, which would explain why the sewing on the left was always a few millimetres away from the teeth and the sewing on the right of the zip hit the teeth..  I contacted Janome and asked the question. “Oh you must have the wrong foot” came the reply “you have more than one concealed zipper foot” I said. Apparently I have a horizontal rotary hook model and as such I need a different foot, I went on a mission to find one and the rest as they say is history.

My new foot pictured above has made my zipping life so much more fun, the one I inserted on my last creation went in like a dream, happy days are here again.

Sew retro

2 Full Today I am as giddy as a box of frogs. Why, you may ask? Well I shall share with you the reason why.  It all began with the purchase of Sew magazine back in May this year, which included a free pattern (yet another freebie for me!)  I haven’t bought a pattern in what seems like ages.  Anyway, the pattern is Simplicity K1913,  I made the dress out of (what I would describe as maroon) linen, from Abakhan Fabrics in Manchester, I have taken quite a liking to linen this year, last year I had my phase of loving any fabric with a stretch, this summer it most definitely is linen.  So easy to sew even with a tendency to fray, my overlocker loves it and it doesn’t pull or snag easily,  I think its fab.4 Top

The biggest achievement on this particular creation for me is the variation; I have mixed and matched the 4 different dresses and I have also added my own changes (check me out!)  The construction began with the bodice, sewing the princess seams, side, shoulder and back seams, the pattern then called for the bodice to be lined (my first change), I decided to fully line the dress rather than just the top half to enhance the the style. This meant I continued with the construction of the dress before I lined it.  On with change number 2, I had already decided on the straight skirt but preferred darts and pleats rather then the gathered waist. With ruler and tailors chalk to the ready, some careful measuring and marking was in order.  To my relief, once pleats and darts were in place the skirt fitted perfectly to the bodice, the darts in the skirt back match the back seams of the bodice (fluffs feathers and prances around the room like a peacock).

3 ReverseOnce the skirt was safely attached to the top half, I moved on to the collar, time for change number 3.  The pattern called for the collar to be sewn on to the front of the dress; I chose to sew it to the neck edge where the lining was inserted.  What followed stopped me in my tracks (although through no fault of my own, just pure ignorance), let’s just say I had to buy another concealed zipper foot, I will share the story of that little ditty in another post.  Whilst waiting for my new foot I added the extra details, change number 3,  the six buttons along with the tab instead of the suggested tie belt.  Once the zip was inserted in the back (the easiest concealed zip I have ever put in I might add), I added the label, created the vent and hemmed the skirt, all done and dusted in just over a week.1 Full

I am so pleased with this dress for so many reasons, it actually worked without the usual hiccups and head scratching moments, it looks so retro and most of all it is partly my design.  I did have another variation in mind (or rather my husband did) but by the time “we” decided on it it was too late to go back, make way for my next creation………….

Something rather special

3.FullThis year my husband is celebrating a rather important birthday (I have been sworn to secrecy on exactly which one I’m afraid). We have decided to celebrate by embarking on a family cruise around Europe (exciting stuff). This gave me the perfect opportunity to make one of the fabulous dresses from Simplicity 2442; this is the second pattern I received from sewing-online. Once again I set myself another challenge and again it was more of a challenge than I first thought. The pattern consists of various different versions of the same dress, different lengths and different necklines, it was decided that the halter neck with a short puff skirt would be just right for my new model (my daughter).1.Close up

The fabric is a gorgeous crepe backed satin, bought from Abakhan Fabrics in Manchester; the dress is fully lined with various panel sections and a centre back zip. The construction began with the bodice. a few pleats and tucks here and there, followed swiftly by the straps and the back sections, it was all much too easy, then came our first fitting – massive is the only word I can use to describe it because I cut to her usual size. Not one to be defeated so easily, I took some more measurements and reduced everything in size. I then moved on to the waist panel, which consisted of a lined section and a gathered midriff drape, I decided this wouldn’t work with  the satin being slightly thick, so I  hatched an alternative plan.

4.BodicePlan B had a style all of its own (the only one of its kind).  First I needed to make the skirt and the lining, which consisted of 7 panels of material and lining. The lining was a few inches shorter to create the lovely puff effect at the base, with added elastic on the inside to bring it all together. The skirt was then attached to the midriff followed by lots of hand stitching attaching the sequin bands around the middle.  Last but not least inserting the zip, I had realised early on there was no messing with this satin, no unpicking a million times as I normally do (slight exaggeration), I knew the zip had to go in and it had to go in first time, so I opted for a lapped zip instead of a concealed one (another sewing  experience I haven’t had for many years).2.Front

There we have it ladies and gentlemen a beautiful simplicity pattern transformed into a rather lovely evening gown.  I realised this time that I have so much to learn about fabric and how to treat it, when to use it and when not to use it depending on what you are sewing.  The satin is divine but I have to admit that I can’t wait to move on to a fabric that can be well-handled without growing a fringe.  I totally love the dress and it looks even more special because of my daughter, I think it is fitting for a formal evening on our cruise and her prom next year……….although knowing me I will probably have made another one by then!

All boxed off

Front This little number is another garment from the Simplicity pattern 1699 which I received from sewing-online.  I have already made the peplum blouse and trousers which can been seen on a previous post here.  I love this pattern because it has so many gorgeous garments  on it.

The decision to make the jacket came after I purchased the fabric on an impromptu visit to Abakhan fabrics in Manchester.  I love to have a good rummage through their bargain bins and often come away with fabric that, at the time, has no real purpose.Neckline  I particularly like the crochet effect and think it works really well on the jacket (I can’t say what it actually is as I haven’t got the foggiest idea – it looks good though).

Anyway, the jacket is lined on the body with the mid-length sleeves having no lining.  The construction I could have almost done with my eyes shut it was that straightforward, it started with the back centre seam, followed swiftly by the shoulder and side seams for both fabric and lining.  I then attached the lining to the jacket through the front, neck edge and hem, it was turned the correct way around through the armhole.  Finally the sleeves, these have a couple of little pleats on the sleeve head, which gives some fullness at the top.  The pattern suggested adding a trim around the front and neck edge and also in a pocket position on the front but, because the fabric is a little out of the ordinary to begin with I didn’t need to add anything more.Sleeve

Another garment all boxed off, I have coupled it with a dress made last year, the first thing I made after starting sewing again, you can see the post for the dress here. Now I must stress it was the first blog post I did, therefore it is extremely brief as I didn’t have the guts to waffle on the world-wide web that I have now (it was only a matter of time before the real me presented itself), you will also notice that at the time I didn’t have the confidence to put my head on photos………Jaclet(grins) so much has changed in such a short space of time!  With each day that passes on my sewing journey I grow evermore grateful for the opportunities that it gives me and also all the wonderful people I have come to know, on top of the pure joy that comes with each and every (well almost every) creation;  I wonder what will happen next……….?