Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Handmade Grey Formal Jumpsuit

This is quite a special sewing project and I've been looking forward to taking photos of it and writing a blog post about it for a while. I don't often get the chance to sew something for a smart event but I really enjoy making formal wear. It means I get the chance to explore different sewing techniques that I wouldn't normally use and to focus on fit. Last time I made something like this was my prom dress in 2019 which is still one of my favourite and proudest makes.

I needed a few formal items of clothing to take with me to University, and so of course decided to make them. This jumpsuit is the first of those items, and it feels so fitting to be writing about it on my blog which has been a constant over the past few years. It's been a long time since I made this Coco top! Sewing has kept me grounded throughout my exams and remains an incredibly special hobby to have. I'm not sure how much dressmaking I'll be able to do next year, but I'll be able to continue wearing the clothes that I've made.

This jumpsuit wasn't actually intended from the start at all. At the beginning of summer my sister asked me to make her prom dress, and I went to Fabric Land to buy a cheap drapey fabric to use as a toile. I drafted a bodice based on what she wanted but didn't add the skirt to it as her prom was cancelled last minute. I had always planned to reuse the fabric and I really liked the bodice so decided to keep that the same. Seeing as the fabric was going to be a toile for a prom dress, it was the right weight to make a formal dress. I could have just added a gathered skirt to the bodice, but the thought of a dramatic maxi-length jumpsuit was too good not to make!

So I decided to add trousers to the bodice. I knew that I wanted them to be long and wide-legged, and I thought of the Rae Pants by Named Clothing. It's a pattern that I've wanted to make for a while and seemed to be perfect for a jumpsuit. I constructed the trousers as per the instructions but sewed the waist to the bodice rather than to a waistband. The bodice and trousers pair so well, I don't think you could tell that they weren't designed together.

The fabric I got was really cheap but it feels lovely, one of those surprisingly good Fabric Land finds! It's a viscose and drapes beautifully, something I wanted to make the most of by adding gathers to the waist seam. The trousers also have a pleats in them which work really well in this fabric.

Because my bodice was self-drafted and not intended to go with the trousers, it was really important to me that the bodice darts and trouser pleats line up to make them seem like an intentional match. My favourite detail is that the trousers lie flat between the pleats/darts and then the gathers begin after the centre panel. I think it also makes the jumpsuit smarter not to have gathers the whole way around.

I'm very proud of the jumpsuit bodice, which I self-drafted using my dress form. It always takes a while but the fit has turned out really well. Because I've used a plain fabric the darts provide interest as well as fit, and I added a centre front seam to give a similar effect. The back bodice also has two darts in it that draw it in at the waist. The risk of adding gathers was that the jumpsuit wouldn't fit so well and therefore look less smart, so having a close fitting bodice makes a big difference. The invisible zip contributes to getting a great fit and the bodice is also fully lined so the neckline and armholes are neatly finished.

The Rae Pants have a really clever design in which the slit up the centre front of each leg is hidden by the pleats. I included a slit in my prom dress too but this is such a good way to make the design a bit different. Walking in this jumpsuit feels very cool thanks to the wide legs and floaty fabric! I knew from the start that I wanted the trousers to be full length and I find it funny to think that had I made this a year ago I would have definitely made them cropped. The first long wide-legged trousers I made took a bit of getting used to but feel completely normal now. I think it's a mix of getting more confident with what I wear and changing fashion trends. 

I love this jumpsuit so much and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to make something special and different and fun! It's so strange to think that I'll be wearing it away from home, but I'm happy to be able to bring the clothes I've made with me to University. 

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

DIY Square Neckline Top

As evidenced by the large number of plain t-shirts that I have sewn over the years, I’m a big fan of making wardrobe staples. I prefer using plain fabrics to prints because I know that these will get a lot of wear and they’re easy to pair with clothes that I already own. I recently made a couple of sleeveless turtleneck tops using Craft Cotton Co’s cotton jersey range and I’ve worn them so much (finally, a top that goes with more than one pair of trousers!) that I wanted to make another plain white t-shirt. I realise that most people probably don’t want to reuse exactly the same fabric immediately after completing a sewing project, but like I said I’m a fan of wardrobe staples and I’d rather make five tops from the same fabric that all get worn than five tops in different prints that I don’t like so much.

Obviously I didn’t want to make something too similar out of the same fabric, and the great thing about jersey t-shirts is the ability to make something that looks completely different with just a few tweaks to the base pattern. For example, this top looks completely different to my turtleneck one as the sleeves, hem length, looseness of fit and neckline have all been changed. 

A design that I’ve been wanting to try for a while is a square-necked t-shirt. It’s a really lovely neckline shape, probably used more commonly in woven blouses and dresses but adding it to a jersey t-shirt makes it feel more casual. I also love how it looks in a white jersey; I think it’s a t-shirt that I’ll be able to dress up or down depending on what I pair it with.

Hacking a basic t-shirt pattern into a square neckline was pretty simple. I started by measuring how far along I wanted the square to go, and also how deep. When it comes to hacking a pattern like this I’d always recommend taking out less fabric rather than more, you can always make the square cut out larger but the reverse isn’t possible! I’m pretty pleased with the depth of the square that I ended up with and I like the slight trapezoid shape of the bodice, meaning that the angle is obtuse rather than a sharp right angle up to the shoulder. The only thing that I would change next time is that I made the neckline a bit too wide at the shoulder and the sleeve slips down slightly from time to time, although it isn’t a massive problem.

After cutting out my bodice pieces I also drafted a 1.5” deep facing which I sewed around the neckline and flipped to the inside. I then topstitched around the neckline to secure the facing, leaving a deep hem that I really like the look of and taking care to keep the stitches neat around the corners.

I initially wasn’t sure what the back of this top should look like, but decided to copy the front and make this bit square too. It actually goes down a bit deeper than the front, and I think a nice alternative could be to have a high front neckline with a square cut-out only at the back.

I tend to always finish sleeves in the same way but for this top I chose to make them a bit longer than usual, ending them just above the elbow. It’s a good way to balance out the lower neckline, and I think it also makes the top a bit smarter. I left a 1.5” hem on the sleeves and on the bottom to mimic the neckline, the kind of detail that to me really finishes a top. I actually made this top a few months ago so I can honestly say that it’s been worn a lot. I’m wearing it here with my black Lander Pants, but I also really like it paired with my balloon jeans.

Monday, 30 August 2021

Floral Viscose Vikisews Nola Dress

Sometimes I'm just in the mood to sew myself a summer dress out of the prettiest fabric I can find. I don't wear dresses that often, but I've become much more converted to them since making my own and I really enjoy sewing them. The construction process of making a dress is so satisfying - so much time and focus goes into the bodice and neckline and then the side seams are sewn up and all of a sudden you have a finished dress! 

For this dress I used a pattern that I bought a while ago and have been wanting to make for ages, the Vikisews Nola Dress. This was my second time using a Vikisews pattern (I've also made the Courtney Dress) and the process went quite smoothly, although the instructions are all in Russian and google translate's version of events was... odd! Either way, the pattern came with detailed photos for each step so I just followed those. I found out afterwards that the Nola Dress is one of the few patterns that Vikisews has translated into English, so I definitely kicked myself for having bought the Russian version!

Floaty fabrics are ideal for a dress like this, the design of the looser skirt that comes out below the bodice is so pretty and I don't think that a cotton would do it justice. Because of this I knew that I wanted to use a viscose fabric. I'm always on the lookout for pretty viscose fabrics and I thought that a floral print would be perfect with this dress. I was set on this viscose from Felicity Fabrics as soon as I saw it, I could immediately picture the pattern and fabric paired together. 


Viscose has a reputation for being a slippery fabric that's hard to sew with, but so long as enough pins are used I don't think it's much harder to handle than other fabrics. Also, any issues with the sewing process are definitely made up for by the fact that viscose drapes so nicely! The puff sleeves were one of the details that drew me to this pattern and they are held perfectly in place by the fabric. I've never sewn puff sleeves like these before but they were really fun to add on; there's an elastic casing on the inside of the sleeve which adds a really neat finish too. I think the combination of elastic and gathers could be a little too much on a longer sleeve but with these short sleeves it feels just right.

As well as the sleeves, I really liked the back bodice details of this pattern. More specifically, I love the shirring panel. Shirring isn't a technique that I've used much in the past and I was a little worried about how it would turn out. In my experience bad shirring can ruin a garment and I really didn't want to destroy such lovely fabric! In the end I was pleasantly surprised at how simple the shirring was to do. I used this tutorial which explained it well and practiced on a fabric scrap before the real thing. One thing I'd recommend is to sew each row of shirring without cutting the thread at the end. I can definitely see how shirring can become addictive, I might be adding it to all my makes from now on!

This is a really small detail but I like the fact that the shirring panel doesn't go all the way across the back. Instead, there is another panel on either side which provides a curved shape up towards the shoulders. 

This dress has so many pretty details! There are three ways in which gathers are created: elastic on the sleeves, a drawstring at the neckline and gathering above the skirt. The gathers worked really well in this fabric and I love how they bring everything together.

I'm so pleased with how this dress turned out! Making five more of them is probably unrealistic in terms of how much I wear dresses but I'm very tempted to sew one in every colour. I think the bodice would be really pretty as a top tucked into jeans too.

Monday, 23 August 2021

My Handmade Holiday Wardrobe

I always enjoy packing my handmade clothes to take with me on holiday and being able to wear something I've made always makes me smile. I've also found that limited packing space means that holidays are a great opportuntiy to pair my makes in ways that I don't at home. Usually, holidays also give me a chance to wear summer makes, although this year we went to Scotland and the weather was not in our favour! 
Last time I did a handmade holiday roundup was in 2017 and it's nice to be able to look back and see how much my sewing has improved. Whilst we did miss the heatwave that the rest of the UK experienced I also did a roundup of a week of handmade outfits at the start of summer so I have at least been able to wear a few warm weather items this year.

My Gingham Lander Pants have been a favourite of mine since I made them. I usually wear them with a plain white t-shirt, but I brought this orange t-shirt with me on holiday and I thought that the two went well together. I made this t-shirt quite recently out of leftovers from this top and it was a really great one to wear on holiday. We were on the Isles of Mull and Skye for the most part of the holiday and this t-shirt was perfect for walking and cycling.

This outfit is a pretty accurate depiction of what I wore most days for going on walks or cycle rides. I really like being able to wear a handmade t-shirt even if it's hidden under a jumper (which it almost always was - it was cold!). I made this stripy boxy t-shirt in 2019 and it's a really simple one that's easy to throw on.

We finished our holiday in Edingburgh which gave me the opportunity to wear my Lander Pants again. They weren't quite warm enough to wear on most days as they're made from a cotton fabric rather than a denim but they were perfect for walking around the city. 

Zadie Jumpsuit

I'm so happy that I got to wear my Zadie Jumpsuit! It's still a little out of my comfort zone for wearing everyday so it was one of the first things that I packed to take with me on holiday. This was another good one for wearing around Edingburgh.

Black Lander Pants

I really enjoyed wearing my gingham Landers in Scotland but regretted not bringing my black denim pair with me too. I made sure to take them with me when we went to visit my Grandparents and as predicted I wore them a lot. The top that I'm wearing them with here is also handmade and is a new favourite that I've worn a lot since making, I'll share the blogpost for it soon.

Friday, 13 August 2021

Floral Vikisews Patterns Courtney Dress


Sewing projects are often a strange mix between those that turn out exactly as planned, those worse than planned and those better than planned. This dress was the latter of these. It's not that I was expecting it this dress to turn out badly, more that I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I do! The sewing process was tricky in terms of fit which is always slightly demoralising, but I'm very pleased that I persevered with it. 

The pattern that I used for this dress is the Vikisews Courtney Dress, which I've made once before as a top. I mentioned more details about using a Russian pattern in this post, but in summary the step-by-step photos provided were enough to understand the construction. I really love the bodice of this pattern and always planned to make the dress version. The different panels give the dress a lovely shape and also provide a great opportunity for topstitching, which I added to all the seams.

A simple adjustment that I made to the pattern - which makes a big difference to the dress - was to level off the back bodice. On the original pattern the back bodice is curved around the arm and comes up about 2" higher (you can see this clearly on my Courtney Top). I chose to have the back bodice go straight across, which I find much prettier. All it involved was folding down the pattern piece at the armhole and changing the facing shape.

The cotton fabric that I used was great in terms of holding its shape but not quite so good when it came to unpicking. I had to baste and unpick the front skirt panels several times to get the fit right and each time the fabric frayed a little more, This wouldn't be a problem if I made the dress again as I now know the changes to make to the fit and would be able to sew it correctly without the need for unpicking, but I was a little worried that the skirt would fall apart! In the end it was fine, and adding the topstitching to the seams also helped to secure the fabric so that it wouldn't continue to fray. 

I did really enjoy sewing with a cotton fabric, which isn't something that I often do. I tend to use jersey fabrics for tops and jumpers, with drapey fabrics such as viscose for skirts and dresses. The closest I come to using fabric without any stretch is usually denim, but cotton is even nicer to sew with! Cotton is also a great fabric to use when it comes to pressing the seams, it's nice to be able to give everything a crisp, neat finish.  

I'd definitely recommend using a cotton for this pattern, it's a good stable fabric that will allow the dress to hold its shape. However, I did make a mistake in deciding to omit the interfacing in the upper bodice. When I made this pattern previously I used a linen fabric which was more heavyweight and didn't require interfacing. With the cotton, the curved edges of the bodice wouldn't stay in place and the whole thing just looked untidy. I unpicked the curved edges from the front bodice and, rather than adding interfacing to these, I cut a new set of the pattern pieces out and interfaced those. The result is so much better, I actually can't believe how much of a difference the interfacing made!

It was the fit of the skirt which caused several issues when making this dress. I knew from making the bodice previously that it was a little tight across the back, so I added 1" to the centre back seam when cutting out the pattern pieces. This allowed me to make any adjustments after trying on the dress before adding the zip. I also thought that the skirt might be too tight across the hips so I added a bit of extra width to that when cutting the fabric and basted the side seams in place. The extra fabric I added across the hips is what caused me to baste and unpick the seams several times, fraying the fabric and adding to my frustration. It was definitely worth it in the end though, I'm very pleased with the fit and now I'll know the adjustments to make for next time.

One of my favourite little details of this dress is the mini split I added to the skirt. I hacked the skirt pattern pieces to have three panels at the front (this is something that I did on my prom dress and this midi skirt) and I love having the panels and topstitching there. It made sense to add a little split as a nod to the panelling which is otherwise concealed by the busy print. I finished the dress with deep double hem which makes the whole thing feel very neat and professional.

I actually intended this dress to be a wearable toile of my prom dress. At this point I don't think prom will be happening, but I'm very glad to have made this dress anyway. I've now made the necessary changes to my pattern fo fit correctly next time, so I'd definitely like to make it again. I only ever wear dresses in the summer and even then infrequently, but I do love being able to wear dresses that I've made. This one will join my floral Shelby Dress that I made last year and I'm looking forward to wearing it.

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

Sunday, 1 August 2021

Tilly and the Buttons Freya Top - Sleeveless Turtleneck Hack


A few months ago I shared the details of a white sleeveless turtleneck top that I made. Well, I was so pleased with how that top turned out that I immediately made an identical one in black! Given how much I've worn both tops over the summer I thought I'd share some more photos of the black version, it's become a top that I reach for again and again.

I can't really say I prefer either the white or black fabric as both colours are really easy to wear. The white top is great as it goes with so many pairs of trousers, but I really like the elegance of the black version. I've made black t-shirts before (this one was worn a lot) and I definitely want to make a few more as they go well with busier trousers. I really love how this top looks with my gingham trousers, and trousers like these ones are also good for pairing with plain t-shirts.

To make this top I hacked my much used copy of the Tilly and the Buttons Freya top. Rather than simply leaving off the sleeves, I changed the shape of the armhole slightly and narrowed the shoulder seam to give the top a nice shape. I went into more detail of the changes I made to the pattern in this post, but in summary it took a lot of pinning and cutting tiny snippets of fabric to make the curve deeper bit by bit until it was just right!
I actually made a long-sleeved black Freya turtleneck back in January, and knowing how much I've worn this one over the summer months has made me think of new ways to wear the long-sleeved one during winter. I have found the sleeveless one much easier to wear and I think it's because the length of the other one is a bit odd - neither short enough for it to sit well on a jeans waistband nor long enough to tuck in - so I might change the hem.

As for the hem on this top, I'm very happy with how it turned out. For the white version I used a shop-bought bias binding and it worked very well, so I made my own jersey bias binding from the black fabric. Jersey tops are tricky to hem so this was a good method to use. The armhole is also finished really neatly with a band of fabric that was folded in half and sewn right sides together to the armhole (like a neckband would be). It means that the t-shirt is well finished around the neck, arm and hem which is definitely worth doing on an otherwise very basic top.

I'm so pleased with both of my sleeveless turtleneck tops and have worn them a lot with high waisted trousers such as these flares, these wide-legged jeans and my balloon jeans. I particularly like the shape of the armhole and would like to make a couple more similar tops with neckline variations. It doesn't get that hot where I live so the balance of a sleeveless turtleneck works pretty well during the summer but I  think that making the same top without the turtleneck would be great hotter days.

Sunday, 25 July 2021

Viki Sews Patterns Courtney Dress - Top Hack

I rarely purchase sewing patterns as I much prefer hacking the ones I already own or self-drafting patterns from scratch in order to create a pattern that matches the design I have in mind. Sewing patterns are also expensive, so I prefer to only buy ones that I know I'll make again and again (like my Lander Pants) or that I wouldn't be able to draft myself (such as the Dawn Jeans). However, when Viki Sews patterns had a flash 50% sale a few months ago I decided to purchase and download a few patterns, including the Courtney Dress

The design of the bodice is what drew me to the Courtney Dress pattern. I've seen quite a few tops with corset-y designs recently, in other words lots of seams and a fairly close fitting bodice. What I liked about this design is that the bodice has an extra level of detail which made this top a bit different. I also immediately pictured this pattern in a floral fabric for summer, I thought flowers would compliment the feminine design. Craft Cotton Co have such a wide range of floral cotton fabrics that it took me a long time to decide which one to go for. Most dressmaking patterns call for drapey or stretchy fabrics, so it was nice to make something out of cotton as there are so many lovely cotton prints available My only brief is that I wanted a pretty floral and in the end I went for this rayon linen fabric which was exactly what I had in mind. Much like cotton the linen held its shape perfectly when it came to the bodice construction, and interfacing helped to ensure that the upper bodice stands upright.

The first thing to note about Viki Sews patterns is that they are a Russian company. Although they have recently launched some patterns in English, the ones I purchased were all in Russian. It isn't just a challenge for the instructions, I actually found the website itself quite hard to navigate in a different language. Google translate is definitely a big help, although I found that the app's camera feature wasn't much use when it came to deciphering which pattern piece was which. In the end, the actual sewing process wasn't any harder for the lack of English instructions as the photo diagrams are really clear and even without those I would have been able to guess the order of construction. The main difficulty lay in labelling each pattern piece, but now that I've made this top I have my pattern pieces labelled in English for next time. Overall it was fun to try out a new pattern company which has some interesting and slightly different designs, especially as their patterns are very affordable - I paid £2.50 for 3 patterns thanks to the sale!

I always like to add topstitching to makes and the seams of this pattern were perfect for doing that. The topstitching adds a really neat finish and also forces the seams to lie flat. I really love how all the features of this make tie in together, having thin straps adds a delicate feel to the bodice which is mimicked by the pretty flowers on the fabric.

As mentioned the pattern is actually drafted as a dress, but I thought I'd get more wear out of mine as a top which I could pair with jeans (I'm wearing it with my balloon jeans in these photos). Simply cutting the top at the waist seam would have made it too short and the proportions a bit off, so I decided to add pleats to the bottom. I'm not usually a big fan of pleats and ruffles but I think the pleats work really well here. The rayon linen was a joy to sew with as it pressed so well, meaning that the pleats and hem are really even and neat.

To finish the top I added an invisible zip down the centre back, my preferred closure for makes. I'm pretty pleased with how invisible the zip is and I think that another closure such as buttons would have been too busy, detracting from the fabric and bodice details. The only thing I didn't think about when I changed the pattern to a top is that the zip can only be as long as the bodice so won't open as far down. I didn't realise this was a problem until right at the end, when it turned out to be a bit of a squeeze getting the width of the waist seam over my shoulders! I'm torn between redoing the zip as an open ended zip (which would take time and I also don't like the look of open ended zips compared to invisible ones) or just accepting that this top takes a while to get on and off.

When I first started making this top summer weather seemed like a long way away and the holidays felt even more distant. Now, I've finished my exams and the sun is shining so I'm looking forward to getting lots of wear out of my finished make!