Black and White Marthe

I have a project to share with you today that's been floating around in my mind for months.  Earlier this year I was wasting time on Pinterest (as I often do!) and came across this photo.

I fell in love with the top straight away and decided I'd have a go at making my own... as I'd never find the actual one for sale anywhere.  (Strangely, since finishing my version I've actually seen this one for sale in a shop near me.  It was really poor quality, not as nice as mine!).

I knew the first thing I needed to do was to find some lovely lace, the other fabrics being simple enough to find.  I spoke to Lisa at White Tree Fabrics and told her I'd like to make a version of this top for one of my projects for their blog team, and straight away she sent me some samples of fabrics she thought would be suitable.

The lace she sent was this beautiful Random Flower Guipure lace, together with some white chiffon and some black ITY spandex jersey.  All gorgeous fabrics, and all perfect for what I had in mind.  I duly asked Lisa to send me some of each, and then they sat in my cupboard for some time while I worked on other projects and tried to find a pattern that would be a suitable starting point.

I was on the verge of drafting my own pattern when I came across the Republique du Chiffon Marthe top.  It was quite close to what I was looking for, and I realised that if I changed the gathered peplum to a semi-circular one it would be even closer.   I drafted a semi-circular peplum myself, making the inner edge the same length as the bottom of the Marthe bodice, and the peplum itself about 8 inches deep.

I planned on just using a panel of the lace over the join between the chiffon and the jersey, but even with two layers of chiffon my stomach was clearly visible, and to be honest, no one wants to see my stomach.  I decided to stick with the two layers of chiffon and add a complete semi-circle of the lace over these.  To cut this I laid my peplum pattern piece underneath the lace, pinned it in place and then used it as a guide to cut around the flowers. 

Most of the construction was done on my overlocker, but the lace was sewn on by hand after being pinned in place.  I actually put the top on my mannequin while I pinned the lace in place, it really helped to see if I'd got it where I wanted it. 

I wasn't sure how to finish the neck of the top, I really wanted a clean, simple finish so I knew a band wouldn't work.  I drafted a facing and attached that with a long, narrow zigzag stitch on my normal machine.  I'd hoped I could get away with just tacking it down at the raglan seams, but it still flipped out at the front, so I ended up topstitching it down with the same long narrow zigzag stitch, about an inch in from the edge.

The final top is quite different from my inspiration photo, but I'm really pleased with how it's turned out.  I just need the right occasion and the right weather to wear it now!

Thanks must go to White Tree Fabrics for providing me with the fabrics I used to make this top.  Now I just have to decide what to do with the lace I have left over.  I think there's enough for another top if combined with some other fabric. 

This week...

Firstly, another instalment of Sew Photo Hop on Instagram.  Here are my photos for this week:

Top row: Day 15 - secret corner of shame (or one of mine anyway!); Day 16 - Tiny Vs Big - the smallest and largest buttons in my stash, followed by the smallest and largest sewing machines I own; Day 17 - Proudest Achievement - I made my sister's wedding dress and also my bridesmaids dress and my mum's outfit for my sister's wedding

Bottom row: Day 18 - Sewing Resolution - it's all about the trousers for me!; Day 19 - boldest fabric; Day 20 - Learning and Practicing - some of my students work from the free motion embroidery workshops I teach; Day 21 - Shades of summer - I don't do pale/light colours, so these are shades of summer to me!

After I posted the free motion pictures on Instagram a couple of days ago I had a couple of people ask about a tutorial.  I do have a tutorial on my blog - click on the tab at the top of the page - but I will hopefully be updating it and adding to it in the near future.

The other thing I've been doing this week is experimenting.  Since I did the skirt block pattern drafting course I can't stop drawing/designing outfits I want, and I've had a double breasted waistcoat or jacket on my mind recently. 

I bought this pattern on Etsy, which I think I'm going to use for a winter coat, but in the mean time I've been experimenting with using it for the basis for a waistcoat.  I've always loved waistcoats; I think the fitted shape is quite flattering for my figure and I like the idea of the slightly masculine look softened by a pretty blouse or shirt.

I started by tracing the pattern off to about hip level and making a muslin without any other alterations. 


The uneven hem length was accidental - due to inaccurate measurement of where I stopped tracing - but I really like it.  As you can see, I need more width, particularly in the back, but I expected this as the pattern is actually at least one size too small for me. 

The shoulders will be narrowed and the neckline lowered, probably to just above the second pin down.  I was considering lowering it to the third pin, but I think I'll go higher which should give me the option to wear the top buttons unfastened and folded back to create a mock lapel type look.

Some sketches of the options I'm considering.  So far option 1 for both front and back are the front runners.

I'm undecided whether to lengthen the centre back panel to match the sides - I quite like it shorter, but I'm not sure if it accentuates my bum too much.  Bear in mind, the finished waistcoat will be dark grey and will probably be worn with a matching skirt or trousers, dark skinny jeans or black trousers or skirt.

I was also thinking about adding an accent to the front with either one button or one button hole a different colour to the rest, kind of like these examples:

Kaiser Chief's Ricky Wilson wears a lot of waistcoats.  I love the contrast of the green top button on this one... and the contrast buttonholes.

Of course, Sherlock is known for the red buttonhole on his amazing overcoat.

I think I'll leave the final decision on contrast buttons or buttonholes until nearer the end... although I was thinking of doing bound buttonholes, so I'd have to do that at the start.  Not sure yet. 

What do you think?  I'd love to hear your thoughts on my design (?!) process.

Minerva Crafts Blogger Network - Kwik Sew 4111

For my Minerva project this month I chose to make another dress.  I picked a pattern company I'd never used before - Kwik Sew.  I have to say Kwik Sew patterns have never really appealed to me before, but I fell in love with K4111, which I think is a new release. 

I love the wrap skirt and the little pleats at the waist, not to mention the cap sleeves.  I love a cap sleeve, although the pattern calls them 'flanges' - not a very attractive name!

Once I'd chosen my pattern, it was time to pick some fabric.  I chose this printed viscose (it's almost sold out now, so be quick if you want some!).  I loved the vibrant colours against the black background.  It is gorgeous stuff, really soft and drapey.  Perfect for this dress.

Size-wise I used a bit of a mixture.  Kwik Sew patterns are sized XS - XL, and as usual my measurements fell across several sizes.  I used the size small for the shoulders and neckline, grading to a medium at the bust and waist and then a large for the hips.  I ended up having to take the dress in under the arms when it was almost finished, so I could probably have gone with a small at the bust as well, grading out to a medium at the waist. 

Strangely I had to shorten the front bodice a bit.  I'd actually been worried that it might pull across the chest, but it was much too long.  I think I took a good inch out, grading to nothing at the side seams.  This and the underarm alteration were done once the dress was almost complete, as I didn't bother to make a muslin (I'm getting really naughty about not making muslins recently!).

I also lengthened the skirt by about 2 inches - so beware if you're tall that this pattern will come up short.  I'm only 5'3" and I found the skirt too short for my liking, mind you I like my knees to be covered. 

I'm very pleasantly surprised with how well this dress turned out.  Having never used a Kwik Sew pattern before I wasn't sure what to expect, but the instructions were good and everything fit together as it should.  I love the combined neck and armhole facing, it makes for a very neat finish inside. 

As always, thanks go to Minerva Crafts for providing me with the materials to make this dress.

This week...

This week I've been continuing to participate in House of Pinheiro's Sew Photo Hop on Instagram.  Here's what I posted for days 8 to 14.

Top row: Day 8 - Sewing playlist; Day 9 - Stash; Day 10 - Would exchange closet with
Bottom row: Day 11 - Bucket list; Day 12 - Motivation; Day 13 - Sewing space; Day 14 - Style

You can read more about each photo by going to my Instagram feed

I've been dabbling a bit with fashion design/outfit design this week.  Some of you may know I dreamed of studying fashion design when I left school, but my parents didn't want me to.  I used to spend hours and hours drawing outfits, and I've had another little go this week.  Here are three outfits I'd like to be wearing this Autumn:

Left: Black wrap blouse with stand up collar and olive trousers with black lace stripe down leg.
Centre: Sewaholic Gabriola olive/black leopard print maxi skirt (already made) and Lily Sage & Co Branson top.
Right: Self drafted camel skirt with exposed zip, camel and black stripe top and black cropped jacket.

Yesterday - a couple of days after sketching these outfits - I spotted the newly released Anderson blouse from Sew Over It. 

I think it's perfect for the blouse in my first outfit.  I'd even be prepared to forgo the stand up collar I sketched.  This pattern was released as a pdf yesterday, and is on sale for £5.00 until 20th August.  I'm buying my copy today.  It will be my first Sew Over It pattern, so I'm very excited to try it.

I've also been making a wrist pin cushion, after reading a scary article about a woman who inhaled a pin she'd been holding in her mouth.  I always put pins in my mouth, and as I don't really fancy having major surgery to my lung to have a pin removed from there, I'm going to do my best to use my cute new rose pin cushion instead.  (I do realise that the chances of inhaling a pin are pretty slim, but better to be safe than sorry!)

What have you been doing this week?

Rose pin cushion

I have a very different type of project to share with you today.  As you probably know, I don't often make "crafty" things.  I love admiring other peoples, but handmade home accessories and the like don't really fit into my - and most definitely my husbands - style or taste.

However I have been meaning to make myself a wrist pin cushion for a long time.  I actually bought this pattern - the Rose Pincushion Cuff by Michelle Patterns - ages ago and then never got round to making it.


However, I was spurred on the other day after I read this article about a woman that inhaled a pin into her lung after holding it in her mouth - something I do all the time (putting pins in my mouth, not inhaling them, thankfully!).

I dug out my pattern, found some fabric scraps and set to work.  Here's my version:

I'm pleased with it, but I have to say it was fiddly.  I think that's why I don't enjoy "crafty" sewing as much as dressmaking.  Each petal is stuffed with soft toy stuffing, then sandwiched between front and back pieces which form a base, stitched around, and turned out (that was difficult!) and then the base is also stuffed. 

Stitching the rose onto the wrist band wasn't the easiest thing I've ever done either.

I'm pleased with how my rose turned out - it's difficult to tell until it's finished whether you've used enough stuffing or too much.  This is actually my second attempt, the first one was unevenly stuffed and I'd positioned the top layer of petals too close to the edge of the circle.

I'm hoping it will help me stop putting pins in my mouth, but I don't think I'll be making another one. 


This Week...

I've had a week's holiday from work, which was very much needed.  I'd planned on doing lots of sewing.  I did manage some sewing, but I've also done an awful lot of procrastinating, particularly yesterday when I woke up from a strange dream and spent the whole day feeling anxious. 

So without further ado, here's what I've been up to this week.

I've been taking part in Rachel at House of Pinheiro's Sew Photo Hop on Instagram.  It's been a lot of fun so far, I've found lots of new and interesting people to follow there.  There is a different theme every day, here's my first 7 days:

Top row: Day 1 - Hello; Day 2 - Can't live without; Day 3 - Colourful
Bottom row: Day 4 - Work/play; Day 5 Silhouette; Day 6 - Pattern that changed my life; Day 7 - Sew up close

I made another Sewaholic Gabriola skirt, this time in some gorgeous olive/khaki and black leopard print rayon voile.  There's not much else to say about this than I said in the post about the first one I made, I love it so much.

I went to Ikea for a picture frame and came home with a sewing kit (as well as a picture frame).  I didn't need it, but it was only £10, I couldn't not buy it.  

The Ikea picture frame was for this, a free motion embroidered beach hut for my sisters wedding anniversary gift.  They have a holiday home on the coast in Norfolk, so I hope they like this.

Finally I've been lusting after this jacket/top from Chanel and desperately trying to work out if I can hack an existing pattern into a coat with a similar neckline and front. 

What have you been up to this week?

Adventures in Pattern Cutting - Skirt Block

I've mentioned a couple of times recently that I went on a pattern drafting workshop a few weeks ago.  It was the first of what I hope will be several more, and we started off by making a skirt block.

I always have trouble getting skirts - particularly straighter styles - to fit me well, as I have a big difference between my hip and waist measurements, so I was really keen to be able to draft a block that actually fitted me.   For reference, on the day we took our measurements my waist was 78cm and my hips 111.  As you can see, a difference of 33cm - just over 13 inches. 

I was quite surprised to be working in metric measurements - I never do, except for my 15mm seam allowances! - but it's quite liberating.  I've no idea what the metric measurements equate to in imperial, and I'm not really that keen on doing the conversion to find out.

We started by drafting a block once our measurements had been taken, which we then made up in muslin.  The basic block is really a close fitting pencil type skirt with no ease.  Mine fitted perfectly straight away, which never happens when I try to make a skirt from a commercial pattern. 

Not the most flattering of photographs, but hopefully you can see that my straight skirt block fits pretty well.

Then we went on to make an A-line block, and then doing a bit of dart manipulation to remove the darts from the A-line block completely.  This is where things got really interesting.  Looking at the shape of my dartless A-line pattern I was convinced that it wouldn't fit me.  Our tutor told me it would. 

This is my A-line dartless block.  As you can see, it doesn't fit.

Above is the dartless A-line block, which I made up in muslin this afternoon out of curiosity.  As you can see, it doesn't fit.  There are "empty" lumps of fabric between my hips and waist.  In the centre photo you can see where I've tried to pin them out, but I don't think this would really work very well. 

I wonder if it's because I have such a large difference between my waist and hip measurements that this block doesn't work for me?  I'm not that bothered to be honest, because I don't mind using darts to get the shaping I need.

I thought it might be useful to compare the two A-line blocks, so I laid them on top of each other.  The darted one is a proper block, with no seam allowances while the dartless one underneath does have seam allowances. 

A-line skirt block - back (left) and front (right)

Comparing the two blocks side by side you can also see the differences in the length of the side seams. 

Darted A-line block on left; dartless A-line block on right

The darted block has side seams that are within a couple of millimetres of being the same length.  The dartless block has side seams that are 35mm longer on the back than the front.  When sewing the muslin up I had to ease this in.  I wonder if that contributed to the empty spaces above my hips?  Perhaps I drafted it incorrectly, although I don't think I did.

I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and am looking forward to using what I've learned to experiment with drafting a skirt for myself.  I'm also hoping to do a follow up workshop later in the year with the same tutor where we'll learn more about altering our basic blocks. 

Have you tried drafting your own patterns, or would you rather stick to commercial/independent patterns that are already drafted for you?