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!).

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.