Saturday, 15 January 2022

English Paper Piecing Quilt Update

It's a new year, which means it's time for another update on my English Paper Piecing quilt! This quilt has been my EPP project since 2019 and it's brought me a lot of happiness hand sewing it together over the years. My last update was in February 2021, and whilst the colour scheme hasn't changed drastically two rows have since been added so it is a lot bigger now. 
Most importantly, it's now nearly finished! I have been saying that for a while and considering it's been three years in the making nearly finished does not mean finished soon, but I will now be adding the final row to the right hand side of the quilt. I've decided to add two more rows to the bottom to make it the right size to fit a bed rather than a square shape.

Despite multiple attempts this was the best photo I got of the entire quilt. My parents were supposed to be holding it straight, so they can be blamed for the lack of photographs... You can still see the colour gradient pretty well here, although I tend to think of the blue as the top left corner rather than top right. I've put together all the updates I've done on this quilt in one place, making it easy to see just how much the colour gradient has changed over time. It now looks mainly pink to me, but for a long time it was definitely blue. This is what the quilt looked like a year ago, and this was it two years ago.

I love writing these updates and seeing how much my quilt has changed over time. People are sometimes taken aback by the fact that I'm still working on this three years later, but it was always intended to be a long-term project and I've added to it continuously over those three years. Last term at Uni I made the next set of blocks and this term I've brought the entire quilt with me to attach the next row. It's very big now and not easy to store, but it certainly adds a lot of colour to my room. Even though it's still in progress it's nice to look at (but not to sit on, there will invariably be a needle somewhere!).

Friday, 31 December 2021

Top 5 Favourite Makes of 2021

Making a list of my favourite handmade clothes is always a nice way to consolidate my year of sewing and look back at all the things I've made, rather than always planning the next project which is often the case with sewing. I've made a lot of things that I love this year and have worn a lot, here are my favourites: 

This year I had a really urge to make a pretty summer dress. It's too cold most of the year for me to wear something like this but lovely when the occasional heatwave does come along. I love how pretty this pattern is when made in this fabric, and this dress brings back happy memories as I wore it on holiday in the summer.

This was also one of my proudest makes of the year. I'd been thinking for a while that the Named Clothing Rae Pants would work really well as a jumpsuit, and when I had the need for some more formal clothes this idea came to mind. I love how it turned out, and it works especially well in the viscose fabric that I used. This jumpsuit is obviously an occasion rather than everyday item of clothing and it was really fun to make something a bit more extravagant.

Hacking a jeans pattern was a risk that I took, but one that paid off better than I imagined. Balloon jeans are a trend that I liked the look of and challenged myself to make a pair by hacking the Megan Nielsen Dawn Jeans pattern. It took a lot of trial and error in terms of pinning the darts in the legs and I wasn't sure that they would work out. They did work out, and these jeans have ended up being one of my most worn makes this year! 

Another one that I'm really proud of, this was definitely a lockdown make. I made this jacket entirely out of fabric leftovers, using the corduroy fabric from these jeans and the leftover sherpa from this jacket. It includes parts that are made from pieced together fabric scraps and even an old pair of jeans when I ran out of corduroy! The best part is that I love this jacket, and it turns out that my sister does too and has borrowed it regularly...

Another pair of jeans, and another make that I've worn constantly this year. When I made these jeans at the start of the year the wide legs felt slightly out of my comfort zone and I wasn't sure how much I'd wear them. Come the summer, wide-legged jeans were everywhere and I wore these constantly. These jeans also permitted me to master the fit of the Dawn Jeans, meaning that it's a pattern that I can now use again and again.

As ever, sewing has provided a wonderful escape this year and I've made some things that I'm very pleased with. I've also continued to enjoy writing this blog, and it still feels amazing that people actually read it!
I've now had this blog for 5 years and my sewing has evolved so much in that time. You can see my favourite makes from 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Next year I plan on making more jeans, as those are the handmade clothes I wear the most, and probably some more t-shirts too. As I manoeuvre spending time away from my sewing machine whilst at Uni, my English Paper Piecing provides the perfect portable sewing project.

Monday, 27 December 2021

2021 Sew Down

It's the end of the year, which means a run down of my 2021 makes! This is something I've been doing since I started my blog and I always enjoy reflecting on the past year of sewing. This year I've made three pairs of jeans, three dresses, a jacket and many other items of clothing.

Proudest make: I found it really difficult to choose just one make for this category. This year I've thrown myself into longer, more involved sewing projects which I can really get stuck into with simple makes like t-shirts in between. This jumpsuit is one of those more complex makes and I'm very proud of it, especially becasue I drafted the bodice myself and hacked a trouser pattern for the lower half.

Proudest make: The other sewing project that I'm particularly proud of this year is this sherpa-lined jacket. I made it during lockdown at the start of 2021 and set myself the challenge of using only scraps. This means that the hood and facing are made from tiny scraps pieced together, and I used an old pair of jeans on the back bodice and sleeves where there wasn't quite enough fabric. I wrote a step-by-step process of how I made this jacket here.

Most worn make: As I become better at fitting and sewing for my style I get more and more wear out of the things I've made. I wore this black sleeveless turtleneck top contstantly during the summer, I really love it. Other makes that I've worn a lot include both these jeans and these ones, my white turtleneck top and this white t-shirt

Least worn make: I've generally worn the things I've made this year a lot, but I'm disappointed that this jacket didn't quite work out. I spent a long time getting the smaller details right but the fit of the arms is off  (it's sometimes a risk to self-draft patterns) and I should have used a rib fabric for the cuffs and hem band. 

Most unexpected make: Not quite as unexpected as making scrubs which I put in this category last year, but I still didn't think at the start of 2021 that I'd manage to knit a proper garment! This knitted vest is the first item of clothing that I've managed to knit and I'm very pleased with it.

Last year's favourite: No surprise here, my gingham Lander Pants were one of last year's makes that I wore the most this year - including on holiday. These were one of my favourite 2020 makes and remain one of my favourite things that I've ever made. I also continued to get a lot of wear out of my black lander pants, this jumper and these joggers which were all made in previous years.

Most used pattern: I tend to only buy patterns for items of clothing that I couldn't draft myself and jeans are one of those. I made three pairs of jeans this year, starting with this wide-legged pair where I perfected the fit of the Megan Nielsen Dawn Jeans and have since altered the pattern accordingly. I also used the Dawn Jeans as a base to make these balloon jeans, which I've worn a lot this year too.

Favourite fabric: I don't think I visited any fabric shops outside of my local area this year, which is a shame as it's something I always enjoy doing. However, I have had a lot of success with ordering fabric online. This viscose from Felicity Fabrics that I made my Nola Dress out of is my favourite fabric that I worked with this year, it's so pretty and I love the dress.

I'll be sharing my five favourite makes from this year later on in the week. In the meantime, here are my end of year sew-downs from 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Tuesday, 21 December 2021

Vicky Knits V-Neck Vest

The last time I shared a knitting project, which was also the last time I knit anything, was in 2017! Almost five years later I've managed to knit a simple item of clothing rather than a pair of gloves, meaning that if this trend continues I should manage a complex jumper in another five years... 
Knitting has been something that I keep meaning to pick up again but somehow never quite get round to doing. I think my problem has been choosing patterns that are much too complicated, in lockdown I managed to knit most of the front panel of a cable jumper before facing defeat when it came to the neckline instructions. There seem to be a lot of clear, simple sewing patterns available but fewer easy knitting patterns that I actually want to make.

I've liked the look of vests for a while but didn't want to buy one as it seemed like something I should be able to learn to knit, and when I discovered the Vicky Knits vest knitting pattern it seemed like a good opportunity to give knitting another go. It was so much more simple to make than what I've been trying to do before! I've realised that not only are unclear instructions a nightmare for beginners, but using chunky wool makes a huge difference.

This pattern is made using two colours of chunky yarn and 10 and 12mm knitting needles. It meant that this vest came together very quickly - it only took me a few weeks, and I think that if I'd discovered this pattern in lockdown I probably would have made ten by now! I chose dark and light grey coloured yarns which I think go well together and are colours that I wear, although I would quite like to make a pale pink or blue version too.

The trickiest part of this pattern was picking up the stitches around the neckline and armholes and creating the v-neck, and whilst I'm not entirely sure how I did it I'm very pleased with the result! One of my favourite features is the split just where the colours change, a nice detail. I'm wearing this vest with my black Freya turtleneck and I think they pair well together.

I'm thrilled that I managed to make this vest and will definitely be making more. Next time I'll add a few rows to the bodice as it's a little short. I was worried while making the vest that it might turn out too short but didn't want to alter the pattern the first time I made it. I'm also on the search for more beginner knitting patterns using chunky wool, I'd quite like to make a cardigan. 

Saturday, 4 December 2021

Tilly and the Buttons Stretch - Sparkly Bibi Skirt

I had been thinking for a while about what to make out of the fabric leftover from when I made this sparkly turtleneck. It's such a cool fabric and I really like the top I made, so I didn't want to waste the leftovers. I didn't have a lot of fabric left so I initially considered making another version of this top, but the idea of a sparkly skirt kept coming back to me. I made quite a few short skirts when I first started sewing but the only one of those that I still wear regularly is this one, so it felt like a fun project that would also fill a wardrobe gap.

I've had the Tilly and the Buttons Stretch! book for several years and have made the Stella hoodie a few times and the Freya top too many times to count, but hadn't used the Bibi skirt pattern. I'm not a huge fan of the pattern samples that were photographed, but looking at the line drawings I thought the pattern had the potential to look quite different if it was made in a uniform fabric and a bit shorter. It also seemed to be a good pattern to use for the stretchy sparkly fabric that I had, meaning that I could make something really simple without fastenings.

I didn't have a lot of fabric leftover but I just about managed to squeeze this skirt out of it. It helped that this skirt is made up of panels, meaning it's easier to place the pattern pieces irregular shaped fabric. I also wasn't concerned about cutting the pattern pieces all the same way up which is sometimes necessary depending on the fabric.

This was such a simple make and came together very quickly. I really like the look of the panels and they made the skirt really easy to fit. The front fit pretty well without adjustments but I did make a few changes to the back of the skirt. To get the fit right, I tried on the skirt inside out and pinned the seams together to see how much fabric needed taking in before sewing the seams up. Thanks to the panels and the stretchy fabric the changes were easy to do and the skirt fits well.

I didn't really want to add on a waistband as I preferred the look of the skirt with the top just folded over. However, simply doing that wouldn't have worked as the waist needed taking in a bit to stop it gaping at the back. The solution I came up with was to add bias binding around the top edge of the skirt. I cut it a few inches shorter than the circumference of the top and then stretched it as I joined the bias to the skirt. I then turned it to the wrong side of the fabric and sewed it down, resulting in a neat finish inside the skirt and only a row of stitching showing on the front.

I'm so pleased with how this skirt turned out. I love the fabric and I think it's a really fun addition to my wardrobe. I wore it to a Christmas party last week, so it's already been put to good use!

Sunday, 28 November 2021

DIY Ribbed Halterneck Top

My sewing plans before leaving for University revolved around formal outfits and 'going out' clothes. I've already shared details about the former makes, which included a jumpsuit and a black velvet dress. This top falls under the second category, I made it with the intention of wearing it in the evenings. I should add that when I made this top it wasn't the middle of winter, it actually snowed yesterday morning so a sleeveless top doesn't feel like quite the right thing to be writing about!

The design for this top is based off of a ready to wear top, which is often where I find inspiration. I own a lot of t-shirts but nothing that was really to suited parties. I really like the halter neck design of this top, it's a style that I'm often drawn to and used when I made my prom dress. My favourite detail of this top is the fact that the front panels are fully lined, meaning that the only visible seam on the inside is the horizontal one in the middle (the bottom panel is cut on the fold). It makes it really neat inside and is ideal when using a lighter-weight fabric like this rib.

The back simply has a rectangular panel of fabric, again it's fully lined. I've been on a roll with upcycling old garments lately, having recently transformed this top into this turtleneck. This lilac rib has a similar story to the pink one, I liked the top that I made from the fabric at the time but wasn't wearing it anymore so decided to make it into something new. You can see the old top here, I really like the colour of the fabric so I'm glad I got to make something else out of it.

The lining comes into its own around the armhole and neckline, making sure that the seams are all hidden. I'm really pleased with the shape of the neckline, it's often hard to know exactly how steep to make a curve when you're drafting a pattern but I think it turned out well. Overall this was a really simple, speedy make. It's not the kind of thing I'll wear everyday but I'm looking forward to having it for the summer!

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Vikisews Patterns Courtney Dress in Black Velvet


If you read my blog post on the grey jumpsuit I made you'll know I was in need of some formal outfits to take with me to University. I wanted to bring something long (hence the jumpsuit) as well as a shorter dress so that I'd have something different depending on the occasion. I was especially keen to make two items of clothing that could be worn in different settings - I didn't want something overly smart that I'd only wear a couple of times so neither the dress nor the jumpsuit are that formal. I think there might be a ball at some point too, for which I have this prom dress that I made a few years ago if I don't have time to make another.

I really love the jumpsuit I made and it feels like something a bit more special, but I wanted a simple dress to take with me too. I don't own a lot of dresses and the ones I have made tend to be more summery - this blue floral one and this black one. Seeing as Uni starts in the autumn I needed something that could be worn with tights (those dresses are viscose so don't really feel like winter outfits) and that was a bit smarter.

It was my mum's idea to make a velvet dress. She suggested that I go to Fabric Land to try and find something quickly as I needed to make the dress before I left. Fabric Land is definitely not the kind of place I'd go to for fancy fabrics but it turned out to be perfect for both my jumpsuit and this dress. Considering how much effort I put into choosing a fabric for my prom dress, this was much easier! I chose a black velvet which I think works perfectly. It's a short dress so I can wear it to casual events but the fabric is smart enough that it works for formal dinners. 

I actually wasn't sure about the fabric whilst making the dress. Something about it felt quite underwhelming, maybe because of how plain it is. I also initially added a lining which really didn't work: the velvet has a slight stretch to it but the lining fabric I bought wouldn't budge when I put it on, making the dress much too small. There was a moment of panic when I tried it on with the lining and couldn't get it on, but luckily the dress fit perfectly once I removed the lining! 
I also really like how the velvet looks now that the dress is finished, there's something quite sophisticated about it. I couldn't decide whether or not to add topstitching and in the end added some to the bodice but not everywhere, which I think was the right decision.

Like I said, this dress was made with University in mind. However, earlier on in the year I had planned to use this pattern to make my prom dress. The prom planned for this year wasn't a big event like the one two years ago for which I made a lovely long dress so I had a shorter, simpler dress in mind. Anyway, I made a toile of the Vikisews Courtney Dress and even purchased some fabric to make my prom dress with. The prom was then cancelled, and I decided to keep the fabric for something else rather than making it into a dress. But, in the disorganised way of events run by teenagers, we had our prom put back on at the last minute. By last minute I mean a couple of weeks before hand, so there wasn't a lot of warning! 
Finishing my formal dress in time for prom seemed like the perfect thing to do, it meant that I could get more wear out of the dress and avoid having to get something separate for the prom. Seeing as I had already toiled the Vikisews Courtney Dress I knew I had a good chance of my altered pattern requiring minimal fitting. I also really like the design of this dress so I'm glad to have finally made it with a purpose in mind.   

Making my floral Courtney Dress was a bit of a nightmare. It required a lot of fitting and the fabric is really too thin for a dress. This time, I had perfected the fit of the bodice and knew that I wanted the skirt to be less tight around the hem. I'm so happy that the fitting paid off, I had a couple of moments whilst making this dress where I wasn't sure if it was going to work but the final product is just what I had in mind.

It's really hard to photograph the black fabric but the back has seams running down it like the front making it fit really well. The dress is finished with an invisible zip, always my preferred method of closure.

I think I've finally managed to do this pattern justice! The velvet worked so well, especially for making a more wintery dress. I also think it's a good one for dressing up or down, it's neither really casual nor really formal. In terms of wearing these formal clothes, I wore this dress to prom and I'm also going to an event this evening where I'll be wearing it! I also wore the jumpsuit during my first week of University and really loved it.