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!

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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!

Revival of the peplum

Full I just adore the peplum dresses and tops that are in fashion once again. It all started in the 19th century and was at the height of fashion in the 1940s and again many times over the years that have followed.  I am so pleased to experience these divine garments now they have made another comeback this century, even more pleased to be able to make my own (I wouldn’t have been able to say that a couple of years ago). There are so many lovely patterns available this season, I chose Simplicity 1699 from sewing-online, it comes complete with jacket, a dress, blouse and trousers.Peplum

As I mentioned in my previous post I felt the need to make something simple this time but just as exciting all the same, I find myself getting giddy at each stage of the process these days, irrelevant of what I am making. On this occasion I decided to make the blouse and trousers, the fabrics are a heavy weight chemise with a cotton collar on the blouse and dark cream medium weight linen for the trousers from Abakhan Fabrics store in Manchester.  I have to say light colours only come out with me in the summer and even then they can make me feel nervous.

CollarThe construction of the blouse began with the princess seams and back darts followed by the raglan sleeves, (I was practically doing cartwheels when I put the sleeves in they were so easy, I almost unpicked them just so I could put them in a second time!) I then attached the collar, I went in my own direction next rather than following the pattern by attaching the peplum skirt.  I then inserted the concealed zip before adding the neckline;  I inserted the zip  first because I find it gives a neater finish at the top where it closes.  Last but not least the hem and voila another job done and dusted.  A lovely little summer top that can, in my opinion be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.  The one thing I would mention is the sizing is quite small.Full 3

Moving on to the trousers, these particular ones are extremely easy to make.  The construction was, in its entirety, as follows: inside leg seams, crotch, side seams and zip (I inserted a concealed zip instead of a side one) and some twill tape on the waist.  Again I chose a slight variation to the pattern and decided to put a facing on the waist, (made from the same cotton as the collar), which was much more comfortable.  Now these were quite the opposite to the blouse and were rather large, so needed some adjustment.

TopThere we have it, a couple of lovely garments for summer, for a fraction of the price I would pay on the high street.  I have also decided to make the jacket, (there is so much on this pattern I can’t help myself) the material is all ready and waiting but I will blog that another time.

Vintage glamour

Here we have another step in a new direction for me and I TOTALLY loved every minute of it!Full Front View Inside

The pattern is Burda 7132.  I was immediately drawn to the design, I very much liked the Audrey Hepburn style. The fabric is a medium weight wool mix courtesy of Minervacrafts. I had already decided before I hunted the fabric down that it had to be dog-tooth check.Front View with Jacket

The dress consists of two halves, the top front is made up of three front panels to create the shape (something I am becoming very familiar with). The skirt front has two pleats either side to create the wonderful box shape at the top (this helps to hide a multitude of sins in the stomach area). The back has a concealed centre zip and vent at the bottom. The neckline, being very straight, is slightly different from other dresses which I think adds to its individuality.  Finally it has little capped sleeves which are sewn on with their facing.  On the whole it was fairly easy to put together, the skill involved was matching all the checks.

Front View with LabelNow we move on to bigger and better things, the jacket. I can honestly say the construction was  straight-forward, the reason being the fabulous instructions put together by Burda. Anyway, this. after 14 months of sewing is the first fully lined jacket I have attempted and I was ever-so-excited with each and every step.  We will start at the beginning, each of the front and back panels are sewn together and the sleeves (still in half at this point) are attached. Then the top seams on the sleeves are sewn to create the overall shape, the collar is then inserted (4 times I might add, we know how much I love to unpick!).  After which the whole process starts again with the lining. The two are put together using the collar and its facing and turned inside out (I was very giddy at this point). Time to add the cuffs, do a bit of hand stitching and away we go.

Full Back View

I particularly liked the box pleats in the back lining creating a pocket to prevent it from ripping when I am doing joyous cartwheels in it later. The one thing I didn’t do was stitch the lining to the inside along the fold at the hem, this again I think will give more maneuverability.

I would say this is definitely another win;  some you do and some you don’t.  I would definitely recommend Burda patterns, I really liked the seam and marking numbering on the pattern pieces, it all adds to the enjoyment of making such a wonderful garment. I am chuffed to bits with how it all turned out, so much so that I have decided to make a trouser suit next, including another fully lined jacket, I think I will need another wardrobe soon to accommodate my new clothes.

Stepping into some rather large shoes

Now then, these little beauties are my first attempt at men’s attire. I don’t remember making anything “male” when I was first sewing many years ago. The pattern is Simplicity 3971 which to my amusement is a unisex pattern, you will understand my amusement when we touch on the sizing later in the post. I decided to start with a pair of PJs for two reasons, number one, my husband quite liked the idea of handmade lounge wear and number two, I was reluctant to make a pair of trousers or a shirt in case I had another sewing disaster which wouldn’t venture out of the wardrobe; at least with these, only a select few people will see them in the flesh.

The trousers were extremely easy, especially with an overlocker, sew the inside leg, middle seam, side seams, make the waist casing, insert the elastic and away we go, happy days.

The shirt was more difficult, although the pattern was very easy to follow and the construction was quite painless. I revisited button holes and inserting a collar, both of which I haven’t done for some time now. The hardest part was matching all the stripes. When you’re dealing with so much material, it can be quite daunting. As I mentioned earlier this pattern is for male and female, now my husband is 6’3″, he is not a small chap by any stretch of the imagination. I did a bit of measuring, added a bit of length on the arms and legs and definitely cut the pattern to a size medium, make no mistake folks these are indeed a size medium. (I think he was in short trousers the last time he wore medium clothes) and they still swamp him, huge is not the word!

Anyway, we think jammies are most comfy when they are not restrictive and have more than enough room to lounge around in.

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Two for the price of one

I thought I would share this little story with you all. For those of you who are in the know, you will chuckle and also for those of you like me, who aren’t in the know, you will be soon.

I received a message from my husband yesterday, telling me he had bought me a little present, oh I do like surprises, I couldn’t wait to get home to find out what it was.

My husband had decided to do a little secret detective work on my behalf following my recent decision to look into buying a new sewing machine. You see one of the things I seem to be lacking with my current machine is the art of double stitching, I have so wished that my machine had the ability to hold two needles at the same time, this became more apparent last year during my knitted fabric phase, when I would stitch the hem and then stitch another line close to the first one. (I will add this isn’t the only reason for wanting a new super-duper machine).

Twin Needle

My new found friend

Anyway my husband managed to find a twin needle and bought me one. You can imagine my surprise at the gift (going red at the thought) I didn’t even know they existed, now do I feel a right numpty? Oh very much so! Do I still want/need a new sewing machine? (rubs hands together) of course I do!

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My other little friend