Friday, 22 August 2014

I Made This: Polly Top

Happy Friday everyone!  I'm working from home today, and having a nice relaxing time too.
I have a new top to share with you today.  It's the Polly top from By Hand London and is highly recommended by me.
I initially downloaded this free pattern as I was looking for potential patterns to use for a class I'm hoping to teach.  I wasn't sure if this would be a good one to use, or if Colette's Sorbetto would be better.  Having made both patterns now, my preference is definitely the Polly top.  I'll tell you why shortly.
As you can see I've made mine from a single fabric, rather than having a contrast panel in the front.  You can still see that there is a panel there, it's just a lot more subtle.
There are no darts on this pattern, instead the curves of the front panel provide all the shaping at the front, while the back is just a gentle A-line. 
The pattern itself went together very easily - once I'd taped together the 30 sheets of the pdf download.  That's my only gripe with this pattern - there were pretty large borders around the sheets, it could definitely be made to fit onto fewer pages.
I used French seams for the shoulders and side seams, and for the front panel I used a standard seam, trimmed the seam allowance down and finished it with a small zigzag stitch.   I was a bit worried about how easily the curved front seams would fit together, but with plenty of pins they matched up perfectly.
I then topstitched my front seam, both to make the seam allowance lay flat, and to make it stand out a little bit more.

I wanted this top to be work appropriate so I made some changes to the neckline.  As drawn, the front and back necklines are rather low, and the armholes cut in somewhat. 
As we are not allowed to wear sleeveless or revealing garments in the office, I raised the front neckline by just over an inch and the back neckline by a good couple of inches.  I also widened the shoulders so the armholes aren't too revealing.
Below are photos of the pattern pieces as I altered them.  The green highlighted lines show where I should have cut for my size.


So why do I prefer this pattern to the Sorbetto?  Well, mainly the shaping.  I know many people love the Sorbetto, but I find it too boxy on me.  Polly seems to be drafted for my shape and I think it's generally a "cooler" style than the Sorbetto. 
I think you do need to use a nice drapy fabric for this pattern.  I used a heavy-ish polyester georgette which worked really well.  I'm not sure I would like it as much in a cotton lawn or quilting cotton, but then I'm not a great lover of cotton fabrics for anything to be honest!   I much prefer the drape of a crepe de chine (whether synthetic or natural fibres) or a viscose.
I'll definitely be making more Pollys.  I have some gorgeous ivory silk with random black splodges on that I think would work really well, and I also have enough of my Oonapalooza fabric left over for a top.  I may well use one of those fabrics to make the pattern as intended with the lower neckline and armholes, as neither of them are fabrics I would wear to work.   I'm not sure I can see myself making this with 2 contrasting fabrics though.  Perhaps if I found just the right ones... never say never!
Have you made this pattern?  Do you think you'd prefer this or the Sorbetto?  I'd be interested to find out.  
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Monday, 18 August 2014

Minerva Blogger Network - Charlotte Skirt

For my Minerva project this month I decided I’d start looking towards the cooler weather a bit and also try to fill a gap in my wardrobe.  Up until now I didn’t have a black skirt... now I do.
I decided to use the By Hand London Charlotte skirt pattern, and make the plain version without peplum or hem frill so it would be useful for work.

The pattern description on the By Hand London website says that “this skirt has been designed with an hourglass figure in mind, allowing a generous amount of ease at the hips”, so I being generous around the hips myself I thought the shaping would be perfect.
And it was.
(I really need to get my photographer better trained so we don’t have garden hoses and watering cans in the background!)
As I’ve found with other By Hand London patterns, everything went together very well.  The double darts in both front and back give a lovely shape, and accommodate the large difference between my waist and hip measurements perfectly.
I only made one change, and that was to the hem.  The muslin I made was way too long – so I chopped 4 inches off the length.  I then realised that because the skirt is so tapered, when I turned the hem up there was no way I was going to be able to sew it without it puckering.
I toyed with the idea of making a separate hem facing, but changed my mind and cut it in with the main skirt pieces.  The little sketch below will hopefully give you some idea of what I did.
After deciding how deep I wanted the hem – 2 inches – I measured this amount below the finished length and drew diagonal lines reflecting the taper of the skirt.  When folded under the hem matches the taper perfectly and I was able to hand sew the hem without it showing at all.
To add a bit of secret interest I finished all the seam allowances with bright pink bias tape so the inside looks nice and pretty.
The fabric I used was black stretch cotton sateen which is perfect for this pattern as it is nice and firm with just a small amount of stretch.   The kit includes 1.5 metres of this fabric (in case you want to add the peplum or hem frill), the Charlotte skirt pattern and an invisible zip.
Excuse the wrinkles, I'd been wearing it to work!
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Monday, 11 August 2014

Learn to sew with me

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you'll probably have guessed that one of my favourite patterns is the By Hand London Anna dress. 
To date I've made 4 versions of it: 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Now I'm very excited to announce that I will be teaching a class on how to make your own Anna.
A few months ago I was asked by Rae at Fabric HQ if I would be interested in teaching this class (she knows how many times I've made the pattern!) and I was thrilled to be able to say yes, I'd love to!   After some discussions over dates we've settled on a three part workshop in September and October, which will be held at Fabric HQ's lovely new premises in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire.   You can see more pictures of their new place on their Facebook page.
I know that not many of my readers are local enough to be able to attend, but if you are interested (or know someone who might be) you can read more about the workshop here.
I'll also be teaching a freemotion machine embroidery class in November and Rae and I are cooking up plans for an Introduction to Dressmaking class. Details of these workshops are yet to be finalised, so aren't yet on the Fabric HQ website, but I'll let you know when they are.
I'm both very excited and a little nervous about teaching this class. 
I'd better go and make myself another Anna and actually follow the instructions rather than go off on my own route, so I know what I'm supposed to be teaching!

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Thursday, 7 August 2014

My sewing corner

Hello there. 
I did try to write this post yesterday, but Blogger didn't want me to for some reason!  Never mind, here we are today instead.
I haven't got any sewing to show you today I'm afraid.  I have been sewing, but it's been alterations for other people - apparently I know a lot of short people who like wearing maxi dresses, because all I seem to have been doing is turning up maxi dresses!
I don't like doing alterations, but there are a few people I find it hard to say no to.
In lieu of sharing a newly completed sewing project with you, I thought I'd instead show you where I sew.  I'm lucky enough to have a dedicated sewing space, a corner of the larger of our 2 spare bedrooms.  (The smaller of our 2 spare rooms is my office, as I work from home).  My poor husband says he feels like I've taken over the house - I think he's joking!  Anyway it was his idea that we created my sewing corner.


As you can see, I have quite a bit of space.  My table/desk/whatever you like to call it is made up of two 4 cube Ikea Expedit units, with a length of shelving board across the top.  This isn't fixed down, so I can move it forward to put the cables of my sewing machine down behind it.  I don't move my machine that often - probably only to go to a monthly "sewcial", but it's handy to be able to move it easily if I need to.
My overlocker fits perfectly into one of the cubby holes in the unit - it's in the top right cubby hole of the left hand unit.  I keep sewing books in the bottom left of the same unit, and have 2-drawer inserts in the other 2 spaces.  The ones under the overlocker are filled with overlocker threads, instructions for both the overlocker and my regular machine, and the power cable and other overlocker bits when they're not in use.
The other Expedit unit has 2 baskets at present - I think I've got a couple more somewhere.  One holds fabric that I intend to use in the not too distant future, and the other holds PDF patterns and other patterns that are too big to go in my pattern boxes. 
The small white filing cabinet is also from Ikea and holds general sewing notions, zips, bias binding, interfacing and various other bits and pieces.

The majority of my patterns are in boxes on the shelf above my sewing area, categorised into "dresses", "separates", "vintage" and "other".  The "dresses" box is full to overflowing, whereas the "other" box only has one pattern in at the moment.  As you can see, there are a few that need filing away again!
On this shelf I also have a couple of boxes of fat quarters and other scraps that I use for my machine embroideries and a couple of boxes of knitting yarn. 
In between the shelf and the desk I have a couple of picture shelves - Ikea again!  When I bought them they were going to have pots of pens, scissors, etc on them, but they're not quite deep enough.  Instead I use them for notebooks and pictures, like this Becka Griffin Alphabet of Sewing print and an all important clock!

I love seeing where other people sew, so I hope you've enjoyed this little tour round my sewing space. 
I realise I'm very lucky to have a dedicated area for sewing.  It's wonderful to be able to walk away and leave everything out, rather than have to waste time putting my things away then getting them out before I want to sew again.
Do you have a dedicated sewing space?

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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Bluebell & Brook

Have you heard of Bluebell & Brook?
I hadn't either until last week.  I was spending a random evening browsing the web - I can't even remember exactly what I'd been looking for - when I stumbled upon their website.
They are a small family run company specialising in a selection of fabrics, haberdashery and indie patterns. 
The fabrics in particular attracted my attention, they have some very pretty fabrics in designs I hadn't seen elsewhere, at very reasonable prices. 
Of course, some of it was begging to join my stash.  I was quite restrained and only bought 2 metres of this lovely songbird print satin
and 2 metres of this geometric print jersey, both from the "soft and drapey" section of the website. 
One thing I really like is that they sell fabric by 1/2metre increments, which a lot of online retailers don't do.  I know I ended up with whole metres in this purchase, but sometimes I don't want to have to buy that extra half metre, particularly if the fabric is pricy.  These were very reasonable, and in this case I did want 2 metres of each, but its great to know I can buy by the half metre if I want to.
My order was dispatched really quickly and arrived well packaged, with even a little notecard from Judith, the owner, thanking me for my purchases.  The fabrics themselves are lovely.  Both are very soft and drapey as expected, and the jersey in particular has a wonderful feel to it.  It's going to be delicious made up into a dress for winter.
I'll definitely be shopping with Bluebell & Brook again, there are more fabrics I have my eye on, including this green dogtooth check and this Amy Butler babycord.  Wouldn't they both be great for winter skirts?  I can't believe I'm even thinking about winter when it's as hot as it has been here the last couple of weeks.  Never hurts to be thinking ahead though!
Disclaimer: I received no compensation, financial or otherwise, for this review.  It was written purely because I was impressed with the quality of the service and the fabrics that Bluebell & Brook provided me with.

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Thursday, 24 July 2014

I Made This - BHL Victoria Blazer with a frill

I have another finished project to share with you today, one that I'm very happy with indeed.   I'm also very excited because it's my first project for the lovely White Tree Fabrics blog team.
Some months ago I spotted this jacket on Pinterest, from Katy and Laney
When it came time to choose my first project for White Tree Fabrics, I decided to try and recreate it, albeit in black.
I chose some gorgeous black embroidered lawn and premium black viscose lining and decided to use the cropped version of the By Hand London Victoria blazer.  Here's the result:

I made the blazer using the same alterations as my first one (which was actually a muslin for this version).  The frilled peplum was drafted using the information given with my inspiration version, although a little less deep as I wasn't going to be hemming it.  As the fabric had a lovely scalloped edge, I used that as the hem of my frill. 
Instead of the cuffs given with the pattern I used a strip of the scalloped edge of the fabric here as well to echo the scalloped hem. 
As you can see I lined the sleeves as well as the body this time, as I wanted to maintain the same look throughout the blazer. 
The embroidered lawn was a dream to work with, it sewed and pressed beautifully and the finished blazer is amazing to wear.  It's very lightweight, which is perfect for this lovely summer weather we've been having recently, and gives just enough coverage to take off that air conditioning chill when worn in the office. Because of the softness of the fabric it feels more like a cardigan than a jacket.
I love the ruffled peplum!
Thank you so much to White Tree Fabrics for providing me with the materials to make this.  I know it will get lots of wear!

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Monday, 21 July 2014

Minerva Blogger Network Project - Stripy Bag

For my July Minerva Blogger Network project I decided to make something other than an item of clothing.  Much as I love making clothes, I was desperately in need of a(nother) project bag for my ever expanding collection of unfinished knitting projects!
I spent quite a long time on Pinterest looking at bag patterns, and finally decided to go with this reversible box tote, which is a free download from Very Shannon.
It's even pictured with knitting in it, so I knew it was the one!
For my fabric I picked some blue and white mini striped denim for the outside, and some blue, pink and lilac flag print cotton poplin for inside.  I had one metre of each of these fabrics, together with 1 metre of medium weight interfacing.
Here's what I did with it.

As you can see, I didn't add the pocket - I was going to put one inside, but I forgot! - and my bag isn't reversible.  What I did add was a free motion embroidered and appliqued picture to one side.

I've been doing free motion embroidery for a couple of years and love it.  I used scraps of fabric I already had in my stash, but Minerva have a great selection of fat quarters if you wanted to pick up a few to give this a go yourself.  I have a tutorial here on my blog giving you the basics of the process if its something you've never tried before.  Be warned though, it's pretty addictive!
If you don't fancy the free motion embroidery but want to embellish your bag somehow, how about trying some of these padded felt motifs?  These birds are very sweet.
The fabrics included in the kit give you more than enough to make 2 or 3 bags, so you've got plenty to experiment with!  I did use almost all the interfacing on this one, so you might need to pick up more of that if you want to make several bags.
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