Sunday, 31 July 2022

Handmade Viscose Midi Skirt

A few months ago, I purchased 2m of this pretty viscose fabric which I made into a cowl neck dress. I'm so pleased with how that dress turned out, and I think a large part of its success can be attributed to the fabric. Like with most sewing projects, I had an small amount of fabric leftover that didn't look like it could be used for much, but I didn't want to waste it. Spurred on by the UK's recent heatwave, I decided to try and use whatever I could to make a skirt. One of the nice things about sewing with leftover fabric is that it doesn't matter whether or not the project works out - if would have become nothing had I not tried to make something from it. 

Whilst I didn't need all of the fabric to make this dress, the Sicily Slip Dress pattern is cut on the bais so the pattern pieces can't be manoevered in a way that would economise on fabric use. I had two akwardly shaped pieces of fabric to work with, which was just enough to cut a skirt back and front from. The seam allowances are pretty miniscule in places (fortunately hidden by the french seams) and I had to include the selfrage, but it worked! I would have liked to have cut the fabric on the bias to make the skirt hang as well as the dress, but I had so little fabric that I had to ignore the pattern grain altogether. However, because this is a viscose fabric the skirt still has a nice drape to it.

I've made two midi skirts before, a green one and an orange one, both of which I've been wearing a lot this summer. For this skirt, I wanted to try a slightly different style - lower waist, no split, just below the knee length. To achieve this, I decided to use the bottom half of the Sicily Slip Dress pattern. The pattern has notches to indicate the waist, making it easy to know where to fold the pattern in order to turn it into a skirt. Because there are literally two pattern pieces, it was ridiculously quick to sew - it took me a morning to sew the whole thing, including cutting the fabric.

Having looked at this style of ready to wear skirt, I decided to use a narrow elastic to finish it at the waist. I attached the elastic using a zig-zag stitch, folded it over twice to hide any raw edges, and then used a zig-zag stitch again to secure it. I usually obsesss over a neat finish without visible stitches but I actually think that this was the right way to sew the waist of this particular style of skirt.

I'm so thrilled with how this skirt looks - from leftover fabric and a few hours of sewing. It's definitely the kind of style that I want to wear at the moment, and having made it I know I'll be able to use this pattern again. Whilst I love the dress too it's definitlely smarter, and I know that this skirt will be a great everyday item of clothing to wear throughout the summer.

Thursday, 30 June 2022

A Week of Handmade Outfits - Summer 2022

Creating round-ups of how I wear my handmade clothes is always one of my favourite things to do. I think it's nice to see how things actually get worn, and for me it's also a way of assessing which items of clothing get a lot of wear. I tend to write blog posts soon after finishing a project, before I've had time to actually wear it, so this is a more accurate reflection. I made a similar roundup last summer, and those clothes are very much still being worn (especially this beloved skirt). You can also see my handmade holiday wardrobe from 2020, and way back in 2017

I made these jeans at the start of 2021, back when I was unsure about the width. I ended up wearing them constantly last summer and they've been on repeat again this year. Whilst I generally like to wear them with t-shirts, a hoodie is a more realistic pairing for the UK summer weather! In the photo, I'm wearing the jeans when my sister came to visit me at Uni which is a lovely memory - this particular moment was on an evening walk.

Living away from home means I can't ask my mum to take photos of my handmade clothes every five minutes, so I've had to settle for some student accommodation mirror selfies! In addition to the pale blue jeans above, I wear the black wide-legged Dawn Jeans that I made at the end of last year all the time. These are ones that I wear all year round, not just in the summer. I'm wearing them here with the square necked t-shirt that I made last year, which as predicted became a wardrobe staple. It's kind of replaced this white top which I love but is falling apart.

These trousers are the unexpected winner of this summer. I finally tried them on over Easter having left them in my wardrobe unworn since I made them - I didn't love the length, and they were too big round the waist. I have an unnecessary aversion to wearing belts with handmade trousers, I think because it feels like I've failed with the fit, but I'm trying to let that go. It turns out all I needed was to give them a bit of time, because I now love them! It might be something to do with changing fashions, but I think the length is so perfect with my converse and I'm delighted to have a pair of cream trousers. I've worn these so much over the past two months, and despite one incident involving tomato sauce they've stayed remarkably clean. 

I definitely want to continue making even more pairs of trousers, including more jeans variations. These balloon jeans were a bit of a risk when I made them, as I hacked a different pattern and kind of made them up as I went along. I've really enjoyed wearing them over the past year, and in the summer I think they pair really well with my sleeveless turtleneck tops.

We got a mini heatwave this June! My Vikisews Nola Dress was the first thing I pulled out to wear when it got warm. I just love this dress, I love wearing it and I'm so proud of all the intricate sewing details. It's also one that I often receive compliments on, so I get to tell people that I made it!

The other dress that I brought with me to wear on warm days was my True Bias Shelby Dress. I really like the fabric and style of this dress, although I would now like to make a midi length version. This photo was taken during a much needed revision break walk, determined to catch the last of the day's sunshine after hours spent in the library.

Finally, a repeat of two of my all-time favourite makes, and proof of just how much I wear them! This is one of my favourite summer outfits, I really do love these jeans. Because of how much I liked both patterns, I have also made this exact outfit in an alternative colour way - black jeans and a white top!

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Sewing Masin Sicily Slip Dress

Amongst the hours of revision that defined my Easter break, in addition to making the most of family and friends, I decided that the time I spent sewing should be dedicated to something that was fun to make. Not something that I necessarily needed, but something that I wanted to sew just because. I have really liked the Sicily Slip Dress pattern for a while, but put off making it as I never thought I'd have an occasion to wear it. However, I'm determined to start wearing dresses more frequently during the summer. I also thought it would be a good addition to my collection of formal wear, other recent additions to which include this jumpsuit and this black dress.

The cowl neck is obviously the main feature of this pattern, and one which I've seen more and more of in RTW recently. It's one of those designs that I had no interest in ever wearing a few years ago but have started to really like - probably a subconscious reaction to seeing more of it! I wasn't sure how the cowl neck would come together before I made this dress, and just assumed that the the fabric would be hemmed across the top. This pattern is much more clever than that! The fabric is doubled over to form the cowl neck, meaning that it hangs perfectly and the wrong side doesn't show at all.

This is the first garment that I've made which has been cut on the bias, and it's definitely a feature of the dress that I love. The drape is so pretty, especially in the skirt which isn't actually that wide but has a satisfying 'swish' all the same. I did leave the dress to hang for a few days on my mannequin before hemming it, but didn't actually find that the hem was uneven after that time.

This dress has so many pretty and delicate features, and I really took my time over the finish. I used this trick to turn the straps the right way, which worked perfectly in such a fine fabric. The armhole is also edgestiched at the side seams are sewn with a French seam, so there are lots of careful touches that make the dress feel professionally made.

With such a simple shape, the fabric has a large role to play in this dress and I'm very happy with the one I chose. As mentioned, I wanted to make something just for the fun of sewing, and that included purchasing both new fabric and a new pattern for this project. I am really not a fan of PDFs but like this pattern so much that I chose to make it anyway, and once again used this printing service to avoid sticking together pieces of paper. The fabric that I chose is a floral rayon, very lightweight which is a must for the drape and the neckline. 

Considering how put together this dress feels, I was quite surprised at how quick it was to make. It only actually has three pattern pieces - the front and back bodices, and the back facing. This was definitely the kind of sewing project that I needed, and I'm so happy with how it turned out. I'll definitely be making this pattern again, and might hack it into a top version too. The only thing I'll possibly change is to make it ever so slightly longer - I'm not particularly tall but the dress finishes just below the knee on me, rather than the midi length I was expecting.

Friday, 29 April 2022

Vikisews Nola Dress - Top Hack

It has taken me forever to get round to writing about this top, but I think it's one that's worth the wait! This top was a very spontaneous make using fabric from my stash. I made the Vikisews Nola Dress at the end of last summer, and after finishing decided to try hacking the pattern into a top. 

Ages ago, back in 2019, back in pre-COVID times, I went to a fabric market in Bordeaux where I purchased several pieces of fabric that ranged from 0.5-2 euros per metre - in other words, very cheap! Such cheap fabric obviously isn't great quality, and this white jersey that I bought even came with multiple holes in and odd pieces of fabric sewn together to make one continuous length. But it has proven to be perfect for the kind of fabric for experimental projects where I'm not sure if the result will come together and don't want to waste more expensive fabric.

Considering how cheap it was, the white jersey that I used for this top actually feels quite nice to wear. It's lightweight and drapey, so I thought it would work well for a pattern that is intended to be made out of viscose. The last time I used this white fabric was to make this twist top, which somehow ended up being one my most worn makes ever! It's kind of falling apart now, the fabric wasn't really cut out to be worn and washed that often, but I'm very pleased about how long it did last for.

One thing I didn't consider when making this top is that adding shirring to jersey fabric would make it very stretchy. The shirring is very necessary in order to take the dress on and off, but jersey fabric is stretchy anyway and I definitely could have taken this top off without the shirring panel. I do really like the look of the shirring, so I'm not displeased to have it there. The only annoying thing is that the top ended up quite a bit too big at the back, so I did have to take the shirring panel in quite a bit in order for it to fit.

I'm very pleased to have managed to grasp the skill of shirring though, particularly on jersey fabric which is trickier to sew with. One of the main points to consider when making this top was that the back panel needed to be hemmed before the shirring was added. The pattern is designed to have a skirt added, so I extended the back panels and shortened the front skirt to turn it into a top.

My favourite features of the dress I made are the gathers on the sleeves and at the front, and I'm so pleased that they look good in the jersey fabric too. I don't think it would have worked with a heavier weight jersey or a less drapey cotton jersey, particularly the sleeves which require a light weight fabric for the top gathers. 

Despite making this top fairly soon after the dress, I forgot that I had to take the shoulders in on the dress. When I tried it on unadjusted, the top was much too low and the shoulders needed to be brought up. It's a fairly simple adjustment, solved by sewing the shoulder seam with a wider seam allowance, but I'd already sewing the sleeves in and overlocked them which was very frustrating! I had to unpick the sleeve at the shoulder, re-sew the shoulder seam and then re-attach the sleeve. It means that the sleeve actually has more gathers than it would normally because I had more fabric to gather into a smaller armhole after adjusting the shoulders. I'll try to hack the pattern before sewing it next time to adjust the shoulders without changing the shape, but I do quite like the additional puffiness of the sleeve. The only thing that irritates me is that the shoulder is now slightly less wide than it's intended to be and the sleeve slips down slightly. Again, I'll try and change this next time by shortening the shoulder pattern piece before cutting out the fabric.

I'm very pleased with this top, it was a spur of the moment make and a pattern hack that I hadn't tried before but I think it turned out well. I prefer to save the prettiness for a summer dress, but I think that the plain white works well and I like how it pairs with my black Dawn Jeans to counter the femininity a bit. It's always nice to have slightly more interesting tops for the summer, and because this one is made of jersey it's comfortable to wear and should be easier to wash than a cotton blouse.

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Handmade Square-neck Ribbed Top

I'm always on the search for rib fabrics to use to make t-shirts and tops. Ribs are often heavier in weight than cotton jerseys, meaning that they provide better structure and can feel nicer in quality. A lot of rib fabrics tend to come in simple colours ie black, white, grey to create neckbands and cuffs, whilst I prefer making the entire garment out of rib and so look for something a bit more intersting. This rib from Minerva fit my brief perfectly, providing not only a pretty dusky pink colour but flecks of gold that make it less ubiquitous.

This top is a direct copy of a RTW one that I own, and I am so pleased with how I managed to translate the design. Like I always do when it comes to copying garments, I used a basic t-shirt pattern and altered the most important details. For this top, that was the neckline and a curved hem. I then added three strips of fabric to the front bodice to provide faux-panelling. The centre strip is sewn on in a straight line, whilst the two on the side begin straight and curve off into the armhole.

Adding strips of fabric is a much simpler way of imitating a corset-like style. It's also much more comfortable because the top is made out of jersey. After cutting out my pattern pieces, I cut three strips of fabric which were 1" wide, pressed in 1/4" on each side, and pinned them to the front bodice. The middle strip was pretty easy to place as it just goes down the centre front, but the side ones took a bit of careful positioning, pinning and altering to get the shape right. 

I actually ended up sewing the neckline of this top twice. The first time, I tried to finish it by attaching bias binding which I topstitched down on the right side of the top. I think this would have worked in a different fabric, but with a stretch fabric and such a thin neckband the stitching just looked messy. Rather than cutting a wider neckband, I ended up sewing this one to the right side before hand sewing it down on the inside of the top. It was definitely worth taking the extra time over, it provides a neat finish to the neckline and lies nice and flat.

The curved hem is quite a small detail  but one which I think makes a big difference. It isn't a drastic curve, but gently echoes the curve of the panelling which is a nice detail. The fabric and design of this top turn an otherwise very simple t-shirt into something a bit more interesting. It's a garment which should be able to transition between everyday wear and the somewhat ambiguous 'smart casual'!

[This fabric was given to me by Minerva in exchange for a blog post]

Monday, 28 February 2022

Black Denim Megan Nielsen Wide-Legged Dawn Jeans

When I got back home for the Christmas holidays, one of the first things on my mind was getting back to sewing. It's a long time, a whole term without a sewing machine! I wanted an involved make that I could get stuck into but which followed a pattern so I didn't have to spend too much time thinking. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in another pair of Megan Nielsen Dawn Jeans. During the winter months I often get slightly demoralised about the fact that it's too cold to wear most of my handmade wardrobe. I like to wear my handmade clothes as often as possible, but most of them aren't suited to the colder weather (or to me, I'm always cold!). This means that jeans are one of the items of clothing that I get the most wear out of all year round, and subsequently they're very enjoyable to make as I know they'll be worn.

I've made quite a few pairs of Dawn Jeans at this point, but the pair that I have worn the most are my light blue wide-legged ones. When I made them a year ago the style felt slightly 'out there' for me, but I ended up wearing them constantly throughout the summer and I now can't imagine not wearing wide-legged jeans. This definitely won't be the last time I make the Dawn Jeans in this view as I'd really like a mid-blue denim pair, and I'd also like to try the more tapered version of the pattern.

The best part about using a jeans pattern that I've made several times before is that I no longer have to worry about the fit. I've altered my pattern to tailor it to me, and the changes I've made are mentioned here. For jeans, having a pattern that fits takes the project from potential frustration to the perfect level of intricacy.

I love the inside of these trousers so much. Although you can't see it, I regretted using a cheap zip on my other pair of jeans (I think they were made in lockdown so I didn't have the option to buy another) and have since purchased some much fancier YKK zips. It means that the bronze rivets, zip and button all match too. I also always make an effort to add hidden elements to my makes which make me smile, and chose to use a gorgeous William Morris print for the pocket linings. Finally, how amazing is the label?! The Kylie and the Machine label advent calendar was at the top of my birthday wishlist this year and I had the best surprise everyday in December opening it. I think the bright pink goes so well with the black and green.

I'm very happy with the fit of these jeans, as well as with the length. As trousers have become longer I've been unsure of where to hem the ones I make, but just below the top of the shoe feels about right. I actually initially hemmed these about 1" higher, but after wearing them for a day the flash of ankle every time I walked bothered me. They were stuck at a length that was neither full length nor ankle length, and I'm glad to have taken the time to re-hem despite the irritation at having to unpick.

Of course, it wasn't enough to add one label - I wanted one visible on the outside too! I love the concept of these 'You can't buy this' labels and have added them to various makes: this jacket, these Landers, these joggers, this skirt. I'm also very pleased with how neat the my topstitching is looking in this photo, it's always something I take my time on even in a coordinating colour.

To finish off a pair of handmade jeans I try to always add rivets. They elevate the make from handmade to professional, and on this all-black pair add a nice contrast colour too. These bronze rivets were actually left over from when I made my first pair of jeans back in 2018, they're from Prym. For both my light-blue wide-legged pair of jeans and my mid-blue balloon jeans I went for silver.

It's taken me a while to write this blog post (spending my days writing essays tends to mean that more writing is low on my priority list by the evening!) but I can confirm that I've worn these jeans constantly since making them. To the extent that I'm not sure what I used to wear - I've worn these at least twice if not three times a week since January. As spring rolls around I'm hoping to be able to get back into sewing more tops, but I wouldn't be surprised if another pair of trousers make their way into my Easter holiday sewing plans.

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!).