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.

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!

Windswept and interesting

What can I say……? I am ever so slightly windswept and the neckline on this dress is rather interesting.   Full FrontI haven’t really decided yet if this particular look is really me, my other half thinks it definitely isn’t “what about for a Saturday afternoon trip out somewhere nice”  I ask, “not with me” came the reply, “what about for the office, I think it has its place there”?!  Some will love it and some will hate it, for now I am sat on the fence.  Anyway, the pattern is Simplicity K2146 inspired by Project Runway, which incidentally was another freebie off Sew magazine a few months ago, if it’s free these things have to be tried.

Funnel sleeves complete with v-shape cuffs

Funnel sleeves complete with v-shape cuffs

I chose a twill medium weight fabric with a slight stretch, which was suggested on the pattern. The dress comprises a back concealed zip, two darts and a vent on the hemline. The front is made up of three fitted panels to give the shape around the top half and of course the unusual neckline, which is lined. The neck also has a facing on the inside (facings are not my thing) this one in particular doesn’t lie flat as the detail on the front is so heavy it tends to be insistent on trying to pop the facing out of the top.  Last but not least the funnel sleeves with a v-shaped cuff, we can’t forget those little beauties.

I found the dress, in general, easy to put together after the false start that was the three pieces that construct the neck.  I don’t think any garment would be complete for me if I didn’t have something that doesn’t really work and I have to unpick it and start again.

Three piece neckline

Three piece neckline

I shall leave you with a little taste of what is in store next, I have been doing a spot of multitasking this week, working on two garments at the same time (check me out) my next creation is ready for putting together now, after lengthening the trousers and sleeves by three inches, oh it is massive.   All will be revealed in my next post, all I will say is it definitely isn’t for the faint hearted.

The dress that wasn’t and still isn’t

One of the things I have noticed since viewing other sewing blogs is that we are all capable of creating sewing disasters, it doesn’t matter how hard we try for some reason, things sometimes just don’t want to go right.  Well, this dress is mine, this is the second attempt I have tried after seeing it on another blog (and I must say the lady who made it looked lovely in it).  I bought the pattern Butterick 5676 some time ago and decided to use the fabric suggested, which is a Ponte, it has a gorgeous soft and smooth feel to it and a slight stretch.  Front Full View As the focus of the dress is the topstitching I initially wanted to use a dark colour so it would stand out but decided quite quickly that I didn’t like it, I then moved on to grey, green and brown and finally decided the safest option was to go with one that matched the material.

Tipstitching

Topstitching that is carried through the front and back seams

I found the whole process quite difficult, matching seams and topstitching but I was reasonably pleased with my handy work, until once again, for the second time, the neck completely failed me.  On my first attempt I used the suggested facings including interfacing (4 thicknesses no less) and the neck gaped.  So this time I decided to use only one thickness of fabric rather than two and used bias tape instead and there is still a gape around the neck edge.

On the plus side the sleeves went in very well,  although I think they are too long to be three-quarter and too short for full length, I also think the dress on the whole is too tight.  There we have it folks, my sewing disaster, this dress was not meant to be, for me anyway but I thought I would share the experience.

The madness that is Vogue V8705

A front ViewIt feels like an age since I updated my blog, there has been a very good reason for it. I decided last month that I needed a challenge, having created a few tops recently from knitted fabric I felt the need for something a bit different that would give me something to think about and test my sewing skills. I shall share with you the journey that was Vogue V8705.Full Back View

It all started with 14 pattern pieces, each transferred into single, double, quadruple pieces of fabric of all shapes and sizes.  Initially it was quite straightforward until I had to attach one of the sections to another. Then I realised that each seam and the topstitching had to lie in the same direction or I would lose at least 2cm of fabric and the sections wouldn’t fit together.  Luckily I realised that very early on in the process and only had to cut out one new piece.

The most nerve-racking thing about doing a new project and something that is totally different is fear of the unknown, as the dress progressed some parts didn’t seem to have a purpose and I didn’t really know until it was finished if I had done something wrong!

Close up back view

The back has a concealed zip which to my surprise went in first time without a problem, given that I was working with knitted fabric and there was a seam through the middle I had to match, I presumed at least three attempts would be necessary.Full Front View

The sleeves gave much head scratching, these were attached and taken off four times, the straps were all sewn double thickness and had to be turned inside out and positioned in the correct places and adjusted to suit, then finally the majority of the topstitching had to be done, as well as the hem.

I can definitely say without a doubt, this garment has been the most exciting, nerve-racking and rewarding one to date, a huge smile spreads across my face every time I look at it.