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.

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……….?

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.

Suited and booted

JacketMy latest creation has certainly given me some new challenges and also a few familiar elements I haven’t done for quite a while. I decided to make a trouser suit for a couple of reasons, the first being the challenge (here I go again giving myself far too much to think about) and the second being the wear I will get out of it at work. There is nothing more disappointing than making something, being really pleased with the end result, feeling fabulous in it and never getting the chance to wear it. The pattern is Burda 7134, the fabric is a grey tweed wood blend suiting from Minerva Fabrics. The suit is fully lined, complete with a slit on the back hemline, slits and buttons on each sleeve and fully lined flap pockets on the front.Jacket

It all started with cutting out the 24 pattern pieces for the fabric, lining and interfacing (not a small task by any stretch of the imagination). Initially the construction started well, sewing the front princess seams and the back seams and then I came to a grinding halt with the lined pockets; something I haven’t done before and unfortunately to my horror the instructions were very limited (this pattern is for advanced sewers who know what they are doing and I’m clearly not one of them). Time to turn to my twitter sewing friends for some much needed advice. I must have spent two weeks (around my day job) putting those little beauties in but I got there in the end. Onward with the creating the collar and attaching the facings to the jacket, constructing the lining and putting it all together. The next problem I faced was finding ten buttons two different sizes, I visited many shops and markets with no joy and finally found some online (what is that all about?) I finally revisited buttonholes with shaking hands added the buttons, label was inserted and that was that.   Or so I thought and then I washed it and the shoulder pads decided to head south on a journey to the bottom of the jacket, lining was then unpicked and the shoulder pads were inserted once again (securely this time).Jacket

Time to make the trousers, these compared to the jacket were a doddle, sewing a few seams, the waistband and buttonhole, the most difficult part of the construction was the zip and even that was straightforward, there isn’t anything more I can say about them really, I struggle to get excited about a pair of trousers.Suit

I have to say this suit gave me the challenge I was looking for and accelerated my sewing talent in the process, even though there were times when I really didn’t think I was capable of mastering something I haven’t achieved before.  Although I must admit now I feel the need for making something simple next time, I was going to make an evening dress (something else new for me) but first a couple of separates.