Chic Cocktail Party

I hope lots of you will have heard of the lovely Sally of Charity Shop Chic‘s new and exciting pattern line Capital Chic Patterns. Sally has designed lots of modern garments for work and post-work cocktails. She has become a good friend this past year but had been working in secret on her pattern lines, with me unsuspecting that every time we met up she was wearing/testing a new design!

Sally offered me a free pattern to try (I’ll try my best to be objective in my review here) but sadly I’m just outside of her sizes. But that month’s Threads magazine had an article on grading so I thought I’d give it a go on some of her simpler patterns; I didn’t use the techniques in Threads but instead came up with my own easier method, which you can read about in my tutorial on Capital Chic Bellini Sew-along on Friday!
open collar

I made the Bellini blouse in a cotton lawn with a subtle contrast lace collar. It was the heat of summer and I knew I wanted a cool cotton blouse. I had the lace in my stash and went on a mission to find plain black fabric for the top, and then ran out as the pattern alterations meant my patterns were too wide to fit the fabric!

After enlarging the pattern to my high bust size I did my usual FBA, creating a horizontal bust dart, but looking at the pictures I probably need to ass a smidge more. When trying on the blouse the loose fit style was much too loose for me, so I took in very generous amounts at the side seams. The sleeves were also a bit snug, so I enlarged these a tiny bit and just sewed a rolled hem instead of binding. I’ve never sewn a rolled hem before but the instructions in the pattern were very clear and easy to follow. This made a really comfy shirt, with the perfect mix of smart and casual, but on future versions I’d have more buttons closer together (and not wear I tuck it in).blouse

I also made the Champagne skirt, in a textured digital floral print I picked up from the infamous Man Outside Sainsburys in Walthamstow market earlier in the year. It was my intention to enter it for Oonapalooza but I never got around to blogging it. I spent ages laying out the fabric before cutting it to get the best pattern matching, and I’m pretty pleased with the final result.champagne

I enlarged the pattern using the same tracing methods, including the flounce hem, and all pieces matched up after sewing; I didn’t mark the darts as I graded up, and instead just added them when I tried on the skirt. I fully lined the skirt, including the flounce, and attached them inside out at the hem, and used an exposed lace zipper on the back. I don’t normally wear fitted skirts so I had to think about how I was sitting and walking; this skirt is definitely not work-wear for me, but might be better in a stretch fabric.zipper

Tribute August: Handmade by Alison Skirt

This month I have been co-hosting Tribute Month on the Sewcialists blog (with Inge) so last week I knew I had to get my tribute posted in time. And then technology didn’t like me editing photos and then didn’t like me uploading them. So this post has been a very long time coming, especially because the inspiration is from January this year!

My inspiration for this make was Handmade By Carolyn. If you read her blog (go and have a look now…) you might be a bit surprised by the connection; we don’t wear the same silhouettes and we definitely don’t wear the same colours, but I still find Carolyn super inspiring. She makes everything she wears (including shoes!!), she spent a year drawing sketches of every handmade outfit she wore, and she sews investment pieces that are well made and well thought out.

The pieces that really caught my eye were her Alabama Chanin skirt and top. 

The overall look is really far away from something I would wear, but I loved the process of creating the fabric; One layer of fabric is stencilled in a pretty design and appliquéd to another under-layer, before the paint is cut-away to reveal the final intricate fabric. SO clever and so, so time-consuming.

I really liked the idea of creating my own fabric, and I especially loved the thought of playing with tone-on-tone designs, but I thought it would be best to stick with what I knew – regular embroidery- to begin with. When I saw the Sewaholic Gabriola skirt I knew that the panels would be great for playing with some subtle designs.

d

Well maybe not so subtle! I was tempted by this amazing pink linen on Goldhawk Road and convinced to buy it by Fiona. If Carolyn has her trusted colour palette she revisits, bright pink is definitely part of my regular summer wardrobe! I measured the panels on my finished blue skirt and then played around with lots of swirls, coils, butterflies, birds and paisley patterns (all from Doodle Stitching CD) to come up with a pattern, which I then traced onto the pre-cut fabric with carbon paper. The embroidery was done with chain stitch, back stitch and some French knots; the first panel was really fun to do, but it was trickier making sure the second panel was symmetrical enough.

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Once the embroidery was all done, sewing up the skirt was really quick (despite the long seams) since I had previously cut and interfaced all the pieces. I was worried how the linen would survive washing so I pinked and top-stitched down the seams and used my new-to-me overlocker around the hem before turning it up. In hindsight I could have taken the hem up a teeny bit more, as there have been some slight mishaps caused by tripping over my feet while wearing this.

a I couldn’t find a zipper to match the fabric at all so got a clear invisible zipper but it broke just after I inserted it (I’ve had another invisible zipper break recently, where the teeth ripped away from the tape, so maybe it is time I learned to do regular ones nicely). I was desperate to finish the skirt, following an emergency trip to get extra thread while hemming it, so decided to go for a deliberately contrasting lace zipper.

bThis definitely was a quicker option than the Alabama Chanin process Carolyn has used, but it was probably the best way to ease myself into the idea of creating my own bespoke embellished fabric. I should confess that I had originally planned to embroider the back panels but abandoned that idea while midway through the first front piece, so maybe it was best I didn’t start with embellishing an entire garment!

I timed this make for the end of the heatwave and sadly the weather in the UK is VERY autumnal at the moment so this skirt probably needs to go away* until the spring, but it was so much fun and so swishy to wear for a couple of weeks over summer.

*I only wear maxi dresses and skirts in the summer, but I have seen them advertised for autumn/winter. I would love it if someone could explain how one wears a maxi skirt in drizzly, cold weather without it getting super messy, and without the need for wearing heels!

 

Oonapalooza Birthday Maxi Dress

Technical difficulties meant I couldn’t blog my Ooonapalooza dress in time to be counted on Oona’s round up but I’m still excited to show you all this year’s birthday dress.

birthday a

There is a lot of love in the sewing world for African wax print fabrics, but usually the colours or designs aren’t me. Until I saw this fabric in one of the shops off Walthamstow market; purple, pink and turquoise! The poor woman in the shop had to search high and low for a piece of the fabric, until she decided to just give me the piece hanging on display. butterflies and oonapalooza 207

Sticking with the Sewcialist theme I knew I had to make an Anna maxi dress. At the By Hand London Kickstarter party there were so many wax print Annas I had to copy the cool kids.

butterflies and oonapalooza 243

With so many panels on the skirt I knew pattern matching was going to be tricky. I shortened the skirt pieces and they just fit on the fabric along the cross-grain. I folded the fabric so that the top cut edge matched the bottom layer as much as possible, then laid out the skirt pieces in the order they would be sewn together.

fabric layoutBecause the print is so zig-zaggy and jagged I think it worked! The back skirt pieces don’t match perfectly but they are close enough and the dress is busy enough it isn’t too noticeable.

birthday c

 

Having made Anna before (and done extensive fitting previously) this was pretty straightforward to make. I added a waist band as I think it looks better on me, and made the front slit start a good few inches lower down. It took time because the pieces and seams were so long and I did lovely French seams everywhere, which I then top-stitched down (and top-stitched on the other side of the seam too!) so each seam took double triple the time. I bound the neckline, armholes, hem and waist seams with purple bias binding so the insides are as nice as the outside.butterflies and oonapalooza 208

This is my first Anna maxi and I loved how elegant it looks, but super practical – the front slit allowed for sitting cross-legged on a picnic blanket and running around playing frisbee.birthday b

And of course, the skirt has awesome swishy, twirly-ness!butterflies and oonapalooza 305

The Portrait of a Stranger Blouse

In the first installment of “garments I’ve made ages ago but have been wearing too frequently to take pictures” is this voile blouse, which is really cool and comfy in this hot weather. It is Gertie’s Portrait Blouse (as made here and here) so other than moving the tucks so that the print matches up, there is nothing new to say about the pattern. Except that the fabric was a present from Gillian all the way in Canada!!!portrait back

Gillian and I are almost the same person on different sides of the ocean; we are both teachers of little kids, we both love polka dots and we both have similar colour palettes. When I posted pictures of my Aubergine Hummingbird skirt, Gillian loved the colour and since I had plenty I offered to send her some. In return Gillian showed me pictures of her stash, but it was all pretty and I couldn’t decide so I asked her to send me a surprise. She sent me this lovely, soft, buttery voile that is so easy and cool to wear. I made this blouse and I’ve worn it at least once a week since making it.

portrait front

 

This is definitely my most worn top of the summer and the colour fits in so well with my wardrobe. Thanks Gillian!

#100happydays (part 4)

I finished my #100happydays challenge a couple of weeks ago and here are the final 25 pictures.

#100 happy days 76-100 I definitely got in the habit of thinking about the day’s photo and it was a little bit weird when I didn’t have to do it (I know I never HAD to to do it, but I was determined to do all 100 days). So here in full glory is one hundred things that have made me happy (or grateful, pleased, content, or not-so-sad)

100 happy days

Picture 100 was taken the day I got discharged from the physio and she said I could try to knit again (as long as I take regular breaks every half-an-hour and keep up with strengthening exercises) so I’m hoping for a summer of knitting.

 

#100happydays (part 3)

The sun is out and my camera is charged, but I am stuck writing end of year reports so still haven’t got pictures of my newest creations! I am on day 90 of the #100happydays challenge and this round-up has two dresses I LOVE wearing so much and my first over-locked project (thanks to the super kind Miss Dibs for passing on her old machine to me)#100 happy days 51-75I can see the end of school work (for the academic year) is in sight, so hoping there will be some more frequent blogging around here soon.

 

#100happydays (part 2)

 

I have definitely got some of my sewing mojo back this half-term, but sadly the weather has been rather gloomy so I have lots of projects waiting to be photographed. If the weather doesn’t improve soon I’ll just have to take less-than-perfect pictures so I can show you pretty dresses.

I’m over half-way through my #100happydays project (this post is rather late coming as I am now on day 66) but it was really nice to look back through the month/term as it was a rather busy time.100 happy days 26-50I am quite surprised there were only 4 days of chicks, but you can see a couple of crafty projects I have been working on/was buying supplies for!

 

Stripy Swishy Gabriola Maxi-skirt

I’m a big fan of Sewaholic patterns and I always get a good fit with minimal (compared to other pattern brands) tweaks, so I was really excited to get the new Gabriola skirt.

gabriola 1

This skirt needs a lot of fabric for its swooshiness (especially on a taller person) so it took me ages to find something I liked and was happy to buy in multiple metres. This first (yes, the second is already under construction) was made with some blue cotton shirting from Stone Fabrics that has a subtle multi-coloured pinstripe (the stripes change from blues and purples to creams throughout the length of the stripe). It was a lovely soft fabric to work with and had a great flowy drape which was perfect for the style.

gabriola 2

Unfortunately the lightweight fabric didn’t drape so well around the waist as it seems you need a heavier fabric for something that needs to be fitted around a tummy! When I tried it on mid-construction with the interfaced waistband it was far from flattering; tight waist and bumpy seam-lines all over my stomach. So I decided to get rid of the waist band and interface all of the yoke pieces, to allow a nicer fit at the top with flowing fabric from the hips.gabriola 5

I was a little annoyed to have to do this as I had carefully French-seamed all the seams and top-stitched them down with careful double rows of stitching and the insides were looking AMAZING. I cut out out new yoke pieces (both top and bottom) and interfaced them, then sewed them to the new waist line as a facing (and top-stitched to the bottom of the yoke so it didn’t flap around). The structure at the top is much more flattering (not that you would know in the picture below).

gabriola 3

I’ve worn this skirt a lot since making it (these pictures were actually taken last Bank Holiday weekend, but I didn’t like them (despite my awesome hair I did myself) and wanted to get some where I looked less podgy, but then eventually decided last week that I didn’t care that much and people will be more interested in my pattern modification than the size of my tummy) and I’ve found the perfect partner to wear with it on hot summer days. I’m wearing this with my Self Portrait top which is really cool and floaty to wear. It is so much nicer that a t-shirt that as well as cutting out my second Gabriola yesterday I also made another portrait blouse using some yummy voile from Gillian.gabriola 4
If you swap the real shoes (beginning of May was warm but not that warm) for sandals, then I think this will be my go-to outfit for the summer.

Me Made May 2014

If you search back through this blog, you will find that my second ever post was about Me Made June 2011. It feels like a lifetime ago that I started this little blog and even weirder to think that once upon a time the sewing blog world was just something I read about. To quote myself

“One of the reasons I decided to start my own blog was seeing the Me Made June challenge on So Zo… What Do you know? The challenge is to wear handmade items every day in June. I sorted my wardrobe and counted (at the time) about 20 different items and thought it would be something I could just about manage. “

I loved the challenge of the Me-Made or Self-Stitched months and they really helped focus my sewing hobby into a way of creating an actual wardrobe, turning it from a pastime into a way of life. Last year my challenge was to wear all me-made garments (excluding bras, socks, tights and sports wear) each day , and after a few emergency knicker and trouser sewing sessions it was easily managed. At the end of May I actually filled a huge IKEA bag with all the RTW clothes I hadn’t missed over the month, and unpacked a couple of dresses and cardigans I still loved.

Most of the clothes I wear are me-made (or a few years old) and in previous years I have found myself frantically sewing up a me-made version of something I already own. This goes against my normal approach of tweaking and refashioning, as it seems silly to sew up a new pair of work trousers (that will be covered in paint or dirt (seriously, on Monday I was covered in mess before lunchtime)) when there is a perfectly good pair in the wardrobe. Now I know I can be totally me-made, it doesn’t mean I have to for the sake of it.

A challenge wouldn’t be a challenge if it were something you had already done or something you knew you could do pretty easily. We tell the kids at school that if something is easy you aren’t learning so this year…

 ‘I, Alison of anotherlittlecraftycreation, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’14. I endeavour to wear at least one ENTIRELY Me-Made Outfit (with the exception of shoes and socks) a week for the duration of May 2014′

What this means is that a) I will have to have a (me-made) pyjama day once a week or b) I will have to finally make a bra that I am willing to wear inside or outside of the house. I think I may have forgotten to tell you, but in February I did a bra making course! The bra I made was finished well but was not the sort of garment I wear to give me the most support. The next week I traced a pattern from an existing bra and made another, but there were some weird fitting issues. I have copied a different bra to make another pattern, this time marking on the sewing lines not seam lines and so far it is looking good…fingers -crossed it looks okay when I try it on. If not, then it’ll be pyjamas for me!

“I think I’m gonna go inside and sing myself some more karaoke. ‘Cause God knows that’s what I want to be doing, singing myself some more karaoke.” (aka Sew Dolly Clackett)

One of the things that helped me get back at the sewing machine was #SewDollyClackett organised by Sarah of Rhinestones and Telephones; it is a sew-a-long competition inspired by Roisin of Dolly Clackett to celebrate her awesomeness and her upcoming wedding. I’ve got to know Roisin in real/twitter life and she is as lovely as everyone says :-) And her fiancé Nic is also good at fabric shopping with a good eye for a fun print.

I love Roisin’s style and for the past year I have been thinking “Would Roisin wear this?” when looking at fun fabrics and deciding if they are suitable for grown-up clothes. People who know me in real life will have heard me defend my outfits by saying “but my sewing friend Roisin would wear…!” There are loads of great dresses on her blog, but here are some of my favourites (all pics from Dolly Clackett)…sew dollyPolka-dots, bright colours, gingham, animals (not animal print!), big flowers,… so much inspiration.

The first dress I made was fabric I already had; navy and white elephants. This print is fairly subtle for Roisin, but was a tester for a bodice mash-up combining the Sewaholic Cambie with the Simplicity 2444 bodices (details on how I did this to follow soon).  Annoyingly the fabric was printed off grain so I had a tricky job making sure the elephants lined up all the way around, but it made hemming easier as I could take it up by 2 elephants. This dress is really comfy to throw on, it feels like a t-shirt but with the

elephants

Next was the dress I was most exited about because the fabric has baby ducks on it!!! I saw the fabric on The Village Haberdashery blog but thought it would be too OTT for a dress, then when I saw it in person Annie almost convinced me it would work (they also have pink Bambi and blue foxes!), but I couldn’t stop thinking about it all week so knew I had to have it. The pattern is By Hand London’s Anna with a full gathered skirt (a Dolly-Clackett mash-up) which I wasn’t overwhelmed by in the autumn but after wearing again recently I grew to like. ducksI spent a long time matching up the ducks across the centre back and am really pleased with the result. I lowered the back neckline by a couple of inches as I wanted an invisible zipper to show off the pattern matching, and that was the length I had (too impatient to go into town to buy one!). The skirt has some subtle red rick-rack around the hem: a deliberate design choice and not at all because I forgot to add seam-allowances when measuring how much fabric I’d need to buy!

Finally I knew I needed some gingham or polka-dots to channel true Dolly Clackett style, and when I found this fabric I knew it was perfect for the challenge – tape measures that look like gingham! I made a classic Cambie dress and re-discovered how amazing the pattern is to sew, cleverly hiding away all the insides. I added a plain waist band as I had had enough check matching by this point (the tape measures are all slightly different widths, and a little flat piping/band around the neckline, but I’m not convinced how well it works from these pictures. I liked the dress when I was wearing it, but looking at the photos I’m not sure it is the most flattering…

checksAn adjustment I made was to pleat the skirt instead of gathering it at the waist. I pretty much folded along the lines of the tape-measures (to quote Roisin “I’m smug because I’m calling a pleated rectangle a ‘self-drafted skirt’ “) so that the pattern is un-interrupted along the waist band. And I lined up the waist band with the tape-measures for a white border. Patrick and May would be impressed I think!

So there you go, three Dolly Clackett dresses in a week! Luckily I took a leaf out of Roisin’s book and sewed up some tried and tested patterns so there was no fitting, just quick sewing. There are so many amazing dresses in the flickr group it will be tough for Roisin to choose a winner tomorrow!

*The title of this post is in tribute to Roisin’s wacky post titles and one of our shared loves…