Sunday, 24 April 2016

Simplicity 1504 - Pachyderm Pyjamas 1

"Are the elephants afraid of the mice?" asked Mr B whilst taking the photos.

My most recent project has been some pyjama bottoms made from Simplicity 1504 and elephant print cotton lawn (which I saw in John Lewis last weekend at £10 per metre - I paid £4.99 per metre off eBay!).

(I had to borrow Mr B's crumpled pyjama top when I realised I didn't own a white top)

They are experimental, I ultimately want to make a pair of Liberty tana lawn, to test out fit and a couple of techniques.  I've had this project in mind for quite a while, inspired by Puck from the TV programme Crimes of Passion (I can't find any image online to illustrate), and bought the pattern last summer.  I had a number of reservations about the pattern, they will become clear, but it was the closest to what I wanted that I could find at the time.

I cut an adult size medium based on my hip size shortening the leg by an inch.  I made a skirt from Simplicity 2258 last year and really liked the pocket so I used that instead of the pocket included.  I also used bias strips, made from the leftover fabric from a previous make, to highlight the pockets and ankle cuffs.

The major issue is the front crotch length! There is a lot of excess here - I guess this is because it is a unisex pattern.

I made Mr B try them on to confirm this - he needs the length because of the jumble he keeps down there, I do not.

Other more minor issues are my inability to get the bias strips to show evenly, the width at the ankle (I was hoping for something slightly narrower) and the finish of the waist band.

So I've got some thinking to do - please feel free to offer advice.

  • What's the simplest way to get rid of the excess in the front crotch?  Can I cut a wedge out of the pattern? (will that mess up the waist band?) Should I just shorten them front and back by about an inch above the crotch?  Should I use the crotch line for a smaller size?
  • Can I slim the leg down?
  • Should I just use a different pattern (Simplicity 2258 includes trousers) and use the ankle cuff idea from these?
  • I want to make a matching top.  The adult size XS would give me an ease of about 7 inches at the bust so would it be better to use the child size L which has a more sensible 5 1/2 inch ease?  My bust measurement is 33" and I think I'm probably smaller than I was when I was 16!  I want short sleeves so arm length isn't an issue, I'd just need to check body length maybe?

So many questions! Help!

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Circa 1930 - McCall's 7154

My copy of Sew Today magazine arrived yesterday.
There's actually two new Vogue patterns I like!
And a double page spread showing McCall's 7154.

It is a beautiful 1930's evening dress with great details.  Unfortunately I don't have anywhere to wear exquisite gowns to and I'm not sure how flattering the skirt would be on me.  I didn't want this to stop me so before Christmas I set about making the bodice into a top to wear with jeans.
Here's how it turned out...

I think this is a way of making the design much more wearable but as usual I didn't really leave myself enough time.  I'll get it over with and show the unfinished insides of shame now.

I used a wine coloured silk crepe de chine which was lovely to sew with.  I don't think I've made anything with real silk before and was surprised at how tough it was to cut and iron - I couldn't get some of the creases out no matter how hard I tried.  The back seam wouldn't press flat at all.

I cut the over-bodice wider and longer and the under-bodice slightly wider at the back.  I couldn't figure out quite how to eliminate the zip in the original, I think if I was going to try this again I might cut the over-bodice back on the fold.

I really love the pleats at the shoulder and the cut outs look really beautiful but you have to sew very accurately and clip to the corners fearlessly.

I didn't quite manage to get the bands attached smoothly at the front which I am blaming McCall's for as nowhere in the pattern does it tell you how to do this!  Honestly.  Step 22 tells you to leave the ends free.  Step 54 sort of tells you what to do with the back band edges but its really unclear and I wasn't putting in the zip anyway. No step tells you how to attach the front bands.  Do they proof read their pattern instructions at all?


So as long as you don't look to closely this is a really lovely top and I'm now on the look out for other great 1930s gown patterns to convert.
What period details do you love?  How do you incorporate them into your wardrobe?

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Sister of the Bride - Simplicity 2253

I briefly mentioned in my last post the dress I made to wear to my sister's wedding so I thought I'd write about that in more detail today.


My original plan was to make Vogue 2509, a vintage Sybil Conolly design, but I was struggling with the fit and then couldn't see past the hideous duvet cover I was making the toile out of (note to self: use plain fabric for toiles in future).  I really struggle to find good quality fabrics nearby and didn't have the time for a weekend away fabric shopping.  So I decided on buying a dress and spent a day in York trying on what seemed like a thousand dresses that didn't fit.  By this point there was only a month to go and I was getting a bit worried as I still hadn't been able to finish the bridesmaid dress either.
So I decided to by some navy cotton sateen and make a dress that I had made before.  I wasn't going to be the dress of my dreams but it would do.  So I tried on a couple of old dresses and decided on Simplicity 2253.

Image result for SImplicity 2253

My previous version, pre-blog, was made of a teal polyester dupion fabric.  I remembered that it went together surprisingly easily and it still fit so I could just go straight ahead and cut it out.

The only thing I didn't like was the skirt, it's cut straight but almost looks A-line so I pegged the hem and added a back vent.  I also finished the hem with Liberty tana lawn bias binding to make it a bit more special. And accidentally put the zip in the wrong side of the dress which is the kind of thing only my mother notices.

And I was really pleased with the result, it fit really well and I was able to wear it to two weddings in quick succession.

I colleague of Mr B's said, when looking at photos, that she would have thought it came from Coast.  She buys a lot of dresses from Coast.  I'm taking it as a great compliment.

Obviously since the weddings I've seen lots of beautiful fabrics and patterns, its always the way.
What do you do if you are planning an outfit for an event?  Do you buy the pattern or the fabric first?

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Learning to sew the perfect pencil skirt - Style 2888

I think I've made the perfect pencil skirt!

I've had the pattern (Style 2888) since 1998 and it was one of the first I made (not the first, that was a disaster and a story for another time).

My Mother made it for me first and between us I've had at least a dozen skirts made and I think my sister has had at least one.  There's nothing special about this pattern but it did teach me to sew darts (there are 6 if you don't line the skirt, if you do there's 12) and put zips in successfully - two things that I've never thought of as being challenging probably because of all the practice with this pattern.

I don't think I've made Style 2888 up for over 12 years but I came back to it as I bought a metre of fabric for £1 (a John Lewis sale bargain) and wanted to make something simple.  I was pleased to find that one version had been cut to a 14 so it was still big enough for me.  I had adapted it in the past to have a centre back seam but this time also used the bottom of the pegged and vented skirt from the dress I made for my sister's wedding (I'll write about that soon).

I lined the skirt and sewed the zip in by hand.

I wore it to a formal dinner at my old university college, over 18 years after arriving there with the original (lilac tweed) version in my suitcase.  The dress code said 'Lounge Suit' which I think is tricky for ladies but this seemed to fit the bill judging by what I could see of the other guests and students there - outfits were hidden beneath academic gowns for most of the evening.

So in conclusion:
  • This was a very cheap make - in fact the thread cost more than the fabric! Well under £10.
  • I'm ridiculously pleased with the finish on this skirt and will be making more.
  • If you are learning to sew my advice would be to buy a cheap pattern off ebay, not necessarily something super easy but not too complicated either, and repeat it over and over!  Practice makes perfect. 

Friday, 19 February 2016

Back again - Vogue 8847

So its been a while since I last posted.  I wasn't really in to what I sewed in 2015, I think I put too much pressure on myself making a bridesmaid's dress, trying to make the best dress ever to wear to my sister's wedding, taking the vintage pledge...
But I've missed writing about what I've made, 2016's sewing seems to be going well so far and looking back I actually made some pretty good stuff last year. So I'm going to try and get going with the blog again.

My first make of 2016 is a second version of Vogue 8847 (which seems now to be out of print).  I really liked the style of this but I've realised brown really isn't my colour so after being worn only once the first version has been donated to charity (along with a beige cardigan which made me look so ill I honestly started to feel a bit unwell whilst wearing it).

The fabric was an ebay purchase which I had very low expectations of as it was cheap and polyester but when it arrived it was so lovely.  The weight is good, it presses well but doesn't crease badly and the colours were exactly as shown in the listing (its still available).

via ebay
I love this version of the dress so much more and have been wearing it to work - had I thought about this in advance I would have made view B perhaps as it is slightly longer.

So there we are.  Back again.