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.


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!

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.

Hemming knits on a regular sewing machine

I've spent most of the afternoon today shortening some bridesmaids dresses, what fun in the heat!  As they are made from some very nice but quite slinky jersey I thought I'd document how I did it and make a little tutorial for anyone who's interested.
I've been sewing knits for years, and didn't realise until I started reading sewing blogs that you were supposed to be scared of sewing knits!  I never have been, mind you I spent years making roller skating outfits out of leotard lycra on a normal machine. 
The only bit that sometimes catches me out these days is hemming, and I've therefore devised a method that works for me.  I'm sure I'm not the only person who does it this way, but here goes.
You will need:
  • The garment you want to hem.
  • Thread, and 2 bobbins wound with the same thread (or 2 reels of thread and 1 bobbin).
  • A twin needle.  Mine is a 3mm one.
  • 1/2" wide strips of lightweight iron on interfacing.
First, insert the twin needle into your sewing machine and thread it up.  You'll find your machine comes with a spare removable spindle for a second reel of thread.  Mine goes in a little hole in the top, like this:
Next cut strips of lightweight iron on interfacing just under 1/2" wide, enough to go around the hem of your garment. 
Trim and level the bottom of the garment, making it 1/2" longer than the desired finished measurement.  I wanted this dress to be 1 1/2" inches shorter, so I cut 1" off.
Carefully apply the interfacing to the wrong side of the hem.  I say carefully, because you need enough heat to set the glue on the interfacing, but not enough to melt the synthetic jersey.  Of course, if you're using cotton jersey then this is not such a great concern, but do a small test piece on an off cut first, just to be sure.
When you've applied your interfacing all the way round, it's time to turn up the hem.  You will find that the fabric will quite naturally want to fold at the top of the interfacing, giving a nice smooth edge.
Pin the hem in place.  If you're feeling brave you can probably skip the pins, but I like to use them just to make sure things don't move out of place while I'm stitching. 
As we're using a twin needle we want to stitch the hem from the right side, so put your pins in that way.  This always seems strange, because it's the opposite of what you'd normally do.
Position your hem under the machine foot and start stitching.  I used the edge of the foot as my hem guide and stitched slowly.  I find twin needles sometimes skip a stitch here and there if I go too fast.
And here's your finished hem:
This is what the hem originally looked like, so you can see that from the outside at least you get a fairly similar result.  The stitching on the original hem is slightly wider apart, I think 4mm rather than the 3mm twin needle I have.  I forgot to photograph the wrong side, but it looks like a little zig zag stitch.
I hope you've found this little tutorial helpful.  If you use it and it works, I'd love to know.

I Made This - the Oonapalooza dress

I could have sworn it was only a couple of days since I last posted, but apparently it's just over a week.  How time flies!
I have a new dress to share with you today, my contribution to Oonapalooza.  Although it doesn't reach Oona's dizzy heights of awesomeness, it's quite different to what I normally wear and the fabric is pretty amazing. 

I had originally planned a maxi dress, but then fell in love with Papercut Patterns Midsummer Nights Dream dress.  I did lengthen the skirt a few inches, but it didn't feel as if it was going to be right as a maxi.  It's more of a midi dress.

Having made a muslin of the bodice I very nearly abandoned this pattern as I really couldn't see how I was going to make it work.  However after some careful thought while driving to work one morning (which incidentally made me miss my junction!) I decided I really wanted to sort it out. 
The problems I had with the bodice is that it doesn't appear to be cut for people with boobs.  When I made it up as per the instructions I had a huge amount of gaping around the front armhole and nowhere near enough coverage there.   On my muslin I pinched out quite a large dart which improved matters no end, but it still didn't seem to give enough coverage.
On my second muslin (I never make more than one muslin - it just shows you how much I wanted this dress!)  I added about 3/4 of an inch to the front armhole to give more coverage, and also moved the position of the straps outwards, so they fell more in line with where my bra straps sit.  This made things feel a lot more secure.
When I made the bodice up in my fashion fabric - which is some sort of poly crepe de chine that was only £5 a metre from my local fabric store - I decided I wanted to line it.  I cut matching bodice pieces from some lightweight black lining I had left over from another project, and instead of binding the top edges of the bodice with bias tape I sewed them right sides together then turned them out and pressed as normal. 
The armholes are bound as per the pattern instructions, and instead of a dart in the armhole I loosely pleated the fabric for a softer drape that echoes the pleats at the waist.
I had to shorten the bodice by about an inch, and as the front bodice pieces and the skirt are both on the bias at the waist seam I stabilised the waist with some clear lingerie elastic.  It doesn't pull it in much, but it stops it stretching out.
I had a bit of trouble with the hem, and actually had to cut my first attempt at a rolled hem off.  The first attempt was machine sewn using this method, and puckered terribly on the back of the hem where the edge was on the straight grain.  On the second attempt I used my rolled hem foot, and by taking things VERY slowly I managed a passable attempt.  It's not perfect by any means, but I don't suppose many people will be crawling around on the floor looking too closely!

I wore this for the first time on Tuesday evening, when we went out to dinner for our wedding anniversary and I felt very glamorous and dare I say it - just a little bit Oona-like!
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I'm in... Are you?

I'm a bit funny about getting involved in bloggy things online.  I see things going on, sew-a-longs, vintage pattern pledges, what have you, and think "Oh, that looks fun", but I never actually seem to get around to joining in. 
That's about to change though, as there are a couple of things going on now, or in the not too distant future that I'm definitely going to participate in.
The first is Oonapalooza, being run by the Sewcialists blog. 
I'm sure you know the amazing Oona Balloona from Kalkatroona - if not, why not?!   According to the Sewcialists, this is what Oonapalooza is all about.
I'm not sure that my contribution will be as loud and joyous as some of Oona's, but I'll give it my best shot!  I have some rather loud fabric that's waiting to become a fabulous dress, so we shall see.
The second "event" is not until September.  It's One Week, One Pattern 2014
Last year was it's inaugural year, the brainchild of Tilly, but this year Jane of Handmade Jane is taking over the reigns.  One Week, One Pattern (or OWOP) for short will run from Saturday 6th September to Friday 12th September and the aim is to wear garments made from just one pattern of your choice, every day for a week. 
It will probably come as no surprise to you that I'll be wearing By Hand London Anna dresses for the week.  So far I've got 4 versions and I might even have time for one or two more before September. 
Are you planning on participating in either of these events - or any others? 

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2nd Blogiversary Giveaway Results

Hello friends.  I hope you all had a good weekend, whatever you did.
I managed to get some sewing in along with shopping for garden furniture and entertaining my parents for dinner.  And I took a bit of time out to draw a winner of my 2nd blogiversary giveaway.
I had 11 comments telling me which of my Me Made items you like the most.  As some people commented directly on that post, and others commented on my "I Made These" page, I printed all the comments out in time/date order they were made and allocated each a number.
I then used a random number generator to choose the winner, which was number 9 on my list.
The 9th comment was made by Gail, who said:

Congratulations Gail and thank you for your lovely comment.  Please drop me an email (I thought I'd got your email address, but I can't find it!)
The most popular item was the Sailboat Anna dress that Gail picked, followed by my maxi Anna.  Those 2 between them got over half the votes, and they are definitely two of my favourites as well.
Thank you to those that commented, its interesting to see what your favourites are. 
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I Made This: By Hand London Victoria Blazer

Recently I bought the By Hand London Victoria blazer pattern, with the intention of making it up in some gorgeous black broderie anglais.  Because the fabric is so lovely, I wanted to make a muslin (I will freely admit I don't ALWAYS make a muslin, although I do more and more often now).  I went to my cupboard and got out the bag of fabric I use for muslins, only to discover I had less than half a metre left!  Ooops, time to visit Ikea for some more.
But as so often happens I was desperate to sew, so I hunted around for something else to use.  My eyes fell upon a remnant of furnishing weight linen that I bought a while ago from a local curtain shop, just because it was pretty.  I thought I might make it into a bag or something.  However it seems it was destined to become a muslin for Victoria, and a very wearable muslin at that.
I literally had about a metre of this fabric, so no pattern matching could be done, and I had to omit the collar and cuffs - although I really like it that way.  I'm planning on making my "real" one without the collar too, although I will use the cuffs I think. 
As you can see from the photos above and below I added a dart at the hem on each front, in line with the neck dart.  I did this because the fabric is quite stiff and it stuck out quite a lot at the front.  This has shaped it in a bit, and hasn't really made that much difference to the intended shape. 
I'm very pleased to say that quite early on in construction I realised I wasn't going to have to make any fitting alterations at all, and that my muslin was indeed going to be wearable. 
I did however cut a much smaller size than I would normally to make it more fitted.  I would normally wear a size 12 in a jacket, which on this pattern has a finished bust of 44 1/2 inches.  I ended up cutting a size 8 for the body and a 10 for the sleeves, as my arms are not the slimmest.  I'm more than happy with the resulting fit.
The jacket body is lined with some basic beige acetate lining - which is all my local fabric shop stocks - that I rushed out and bought as soon as I realised that this wasn't going to be consigned to the scrap heap.   I finished the armholes with matching bias tape, enclosing both the outer fabric of the body and sleeves and the body lining for a neat finish.

I couldn't resist that last photo opportunity, but don't worry, I won't be wearing my new jacket to do the gardening.  (I don't DO gardening!)
All in all, I'd call this a resounding success, and I only hope my next one - which is currently under construction - turns out as well. 
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