Sunday, 30 November 2014

Denim, bleach and francoise mark 2

I've been playing with the bleach again! I'm not sure why, but I look a bit annoyed in these photos even though I wasn't.


I totally stuck to my word in my last Francoise post and made another dress from Tillys new pattern straight away. I surprised myself actually, but I had some denim, saw this shirt and a plan started to formulate.


Denim and me are so good together. I just love it and the depth of colour and texture you can create just from wearing it. When you dismantle a pair of worn jeans, the seams start to expose the original dark colour of the denim. If you remove a pocket it leaves behind a shadow of where it once was. Denim tells a story like no other fabric. Am I going on too much? Probably, but I love that kind of story telling in a garment. Obviously the above shirt is completely fake, in that its story is manufactured, but that's what made me want to experiment. I wanted to create my own shades, depth and tones.

Where to start? I cut all my dress pieces out for the long sleeved version (minus the collar and lengthened by 6cm) and started to think about what I wanted to highlight. I started with the collar, because although I like the collar shape, it's perhaps a bit too pretty for me. instead I masked this shape off with parcel tape on the dress front. I also masked the hems of the sleeve fronts and dress front with a plan to bleach out the entirety of these pieces apart from these masked areas. I wanted it to kind of look like a collar had been there once, but later unpicked and that the hems had been let down revealing the true, original dark blue.


I didn't extend these features round to the back. The front was to be mostly bleached out, so I left most of the back piece dark to add contrast to the side seam. The back sleeve pieces are mostly bleached though with a dark blue stripe running down the top seam (like the seam's been let out). The final feature was a bleach stripe running down the centre back where the zip is situated and down the raglan shape. Here's some pictures of the finished garment to give you a better understanding.





As you can see the effect is not perfect, but it's definitely given me something to work on. I started applying the bleach diluted and in a spray bottle in an attempt to get clean lines between the light and the dark, but this didn't lighten the fabric at all. I think the solution was just too weak. It wasn't until I started pouring thick bleach directly onto the denim and rubbing it in with a sponge (rubber gloves on and done outside on the pavement) that I started to see any change in colour. It was very messy, did bleed beyond the tape (especially on the back) and has come out patchy. You can see where the bleach was poured onto the fabric and has gone lighter than the rest on the front of the dress.

Am I happy? Yes! I would definitely have preferred a more uniform colour or maybe an ombre effect, but that wasn't happening for me and I had to be quick, as there are few oppurtunities for using bottles of bleach in a house with two very small children.





It's kind of got a sporty look to it on the back which I like and I think it looks good with my boots. I'm not sure what my next Francoise will look like, but it seems highly likely that there will be one!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Some new jeans and feeling thankful!

First up the jeans!

These are the Named Wyome boyfriend jeans. Now, rather embarrasingly there is nothing boyfriend like about this fit on me! I do have rather curvy legs, but I still imagined there would be a little more room. Admittedly they were a little looser before they went in the wash, but not much more.


This pair of jeans were a bit of an experiment really. I started out with a natural coloured denim with the intention of overdying them once they were sewn in an attempt at creating a denim the colour I actually want rather than the limited palette that's available. The reason for overdying rather than dying the fabric beforehand is that this denim is the same that I used for my Albion coat and I found that it came out really patchy and needed two packets when I dyed the whole yardage. I hoped that by just dying a garment instead of a big piece of stiff fabric would result in an even colour. This story has a happy ending (thank goodness), just not the one I was expecting!

So, I'm going to the trouble of making some jeans and then dying them. You'd think I would at least toile these wouldn't you? Urm, apparently not!!! I dove straight in to making a pair based on my measurements, which I thought safe given the loose look on the model. It now occurs to me how skinny she is!!! I don't even know what size I made up, as 'Named' PDF patterns are supplied with only 2 sizes per PDF, which do not appear to be labelled with the size once cut out and I cut the paper pattern out months ago, so now have no way of knowing what size it actually is (gripe, gripe). I probably should have realised this at the time and marked my pattern, but didn't, so there! Anyhew, here's what they looked like before!


I chopped about 5 cm off the length before hemming. Once I tried them on and realised they were snug, the turn ups seemed to be unnecessary, so I made them ankle length instead.


I lost the instructions before making and have unhelpfully not saved them on my computer anywhere, so I improvised with the construction. It mostly worked out, but there are a few things I would change if I made them up again!

I bound the edge of the inner waistband and topstitched it down to reduce bulk. The binding and pocket bags are dark in preperation for the dye treatment!


I have this huge cone of thick cotton thread which I used for all the topstitching. I wanted it to match the denim exactly, so didn't want to risk using my usual poly thread.


This was the shade I used and had a dark wine colour as my bobbin thread. My machine doesn't like thick thread top and bottom, so I picked a shade for the bottom that I guessed would best match the end garment. I'm glad I did, but it did mean that there was no going back!


I've got to say, that although these aren't terribly made, they also aren't my best work. A combination of not knowing how they were going to fit or how well the dye was going to take kind of made me ambivalent during the sewing process. Also the lack of instructions (totally my fault) led me to make this weird looking waistband. I added an extra button, as I ended up with an unwanted extended flap that I couldn't be bothered to go back and correct. I kind of like it, but it does add extra time when going to the loo!


Evidence of my sloppiness! Look at that wonky back belt loop??? I also cut them way too short for a normal belt. If you look at the company sample image then they are nice and long. These work, but only with a slim belt.


You can see the white poly overlocking thread that was used on the insides. It did not take the dye at all, but at least it's not visible when worn. My son is in the bottom corner of this picture trying to drill my jeans for some reason!


So, all in all they have not come out how I imagined, but they are a beautiful colour and I actually like the fit. I'm not even sure that the 'boyfriend' fit is for me anyway, as I'm pretty sure it's not really flattering on my kind of shape. So, I will probably make these up again, but make a few adjustments (very minor) to make them a bit more comfortable. For instance, the crotch pulls a bit at the top of my thighs, which although only slightly visible in the small drag lines, feels annoying as the wearer. Maybe I should adjust the leg at the knee to accomodate where my calves curve out too, but I think that will depend on my mood.



Hopefully I can find a sturdy denim with a bit of stretch as this will make all the difference to the finished garment. As for the overdying process, I will definitely try this again, as I get frustrated with the lack of choice when it comes to denim. This is really thick too, so doesn't sag or stretch (which I hate) and it's always nice to give yourself more options.

We were waiting for a train when my husband took these photos, so I couldn't let go of my sons hand (impending danger and all), so I dragged him in for a sneaky photo. The light is soooo beautiful at this time of year.


Time for the thanks bit!

Although we don't celebrate thanksgiving, I am left feeling very thankful at this point of the year. It probably has something to do with the fact that my daughter turns one in a couple of weeks. It is such an important time to any parent, as you start to remember the excitment and the apprehension of what was about to happen. My sons birth was long and difficult, so I was kind of dreading giving birth again, but our bodies are amazing and she and I got through it and she is so beautiful. I am thankful every day that she and my son are in my life and they make me say smooshy things like this.

I am also thankful for finding this huge sewing community this year. The real point at which I felt that I'd found something wonderful was during May when I took part in me made May for the first time and bravely (I thought) attended NYlon14 to meet fellow sewists and bloggers. It was a complete revelation and has completely renewed my enthusiasm for sewing and design. I also happened to make an amazing new friend along the way. Jenna and I were already chatting on the MMM14 flickr group, but when she turned up at the London meeting it was clear that we were going to be friends. We completely clicked and now have a great friendship. There wasn't even a hesitation about going up to her and saying hello and she was wearing an amazing dress that eeeeverybody wanted to know about. Here's a pic of us both from that wonderful day! In the background is another lovely blogger who I had the good fortune to meet. I had geekily emailed Katherine during MMM14 to say I was writing a blog post about blogger styles I liked and would she mind me using some pictures of her. Totally cringworthy now, but she was very nice about it!


I have made lots of other online friends that I will hopefully meet in 'real life' one day. Sometimes it's hard explaining this phenomenon to my everyday friends about the fact that I chat to people I've never met on a daily basis and spend far too long on instagram with them, but it's brilliant! Thank yoooouuuu!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Silk velvet Maya!

Christmas is coming and this silk velvet has been burning a whole in my stash lately. This is one of my favourite types of fabrics actually and I especially love it in yellow gold, petrol blue, grey or burnt orange. I guess being a grungy teenager of the nineties means that velvet holds a special place in my heart! I didn't have any of those aforementioned colours, but I have been carting this green piece around for the last 10 years. I just love how soft and drapey it is and how it catches the light!


When I originally started putting together the Maya pattern I wanted to make up a version like this and had in mind all sorts of drapey silky versions, but for some reason or another have only just gotten around to trying it out. In truth, I have too many ideas and it's not possible to execute them all, with there only being 24 hours in the day and two little people depending on me for laughs, food and general servitude. I have just come to a bit of a standstill with other things however and felt like now was as good a time as ever!


It has pretty much turned out as I imagined, so no surprises. I made the top with the shortest hem option on the front dipping down to the curved hem on the back. I did originally sew on a pocket, which I later removed as positioning seemed impossible. The pile is too squishy, so it never stayed wherever I put it. Once the pins and hand basting were done I found it had moved to a completely different place. I even machined it on, but then unpicked it and had to soak and dry the finished top to remove the bruising to the pile. This fabric marks badly if you make an unwanted stitch line, so beware!


If you have never sewn with velvet at all before then I would say that this could be a challenge to say the least. This pattern is perfect for experimenting with challenging fabrics though, as there are few seams to contend with. Silk velvet is quite different to cotton velvet, but if you take your time then it should be ok! I found that pinning my pattern pieces to the fabric was much easier as long as I put the pins in a certain direction and always tried to work with the pile. Going against the pile causes the pattern to shift. Also, pin every seam or hem to within an inch of it's life and hand baste just to be sure that it will sew ok. I didn't baste the seams BTW, I only pinned, but handled it very carefully.

Other aspects to consider are pressing seams. You can give it a go if you have a velvet pressing pad (a mat with pins for the pile to sit in), but the likelyhood is that it will mark. If unsure test a scrap first and not your actual garment. I french seamed as per my instructions, but then topstitched the seam (like a false fell seam) towards the back of the garment to make it neat. Rather than use my facings I turned the armhole edges in, doubled them over, pinned and topstitched. For the neckline I faced it with some bias binding and topstitched it down.


I didn't really know how to style this to show off it's potential, as I will wear this with scruffy big cardigans and denim skirts. If I still worked in an office then I would definitely wear it with a pencil skirt and heels. Ok, so I worked in design establishments where it is fairly impossible to be overdressed, but I really think you could get away with this anywhere.

Maybe it's time to go through your stash and try sewing with that fabric that you've been avoiding! FYI - I shall never be tempted to try tricky silk chiffon!!!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Fancy Francoise

Another day another load of terrible photography from me!




God, I love this dress and I really wanted to look nice, but I somehow cannot find adequate backdrops in my brown 60's house! This is my sons bedroom, which is currently untouched with original wood effect vinyl walls and crazy (but kind of cool) carpet. It is a dark house and with the bad light of winter, photography is going to be even more dodgy than usual! I really hoped to get some decent pictures of this dress for the competition over at Tilly and the Buttons, but these will have to do unless some miracle happens between now and the 14th December and a better photo oppurtunity presents itself!

That said this is still a pretty photo heavy post, so get ready!!!!



This is of course the new Francoise pattern which came out recently. I don't know why, but I was unsure that the sleeves would look nice on me, but I think they do. Size wise I have said this before, but I do have a fairly standard set of measurements. I made a straight size 4 (probably about a 14) with no alterations apart from lengthening the skirt to just above the knee. I do not do short-short, so this sits about right for me and is as short as I'm willing to go!

Some silly photos for you!




Fabric for the dress came straight from the stash and as soon as I spotted the lace I knew this was what I wanted to use. I had a plan to use this pink lace and yellow taffeta together at some point, but no pattern that was suitable, so I was pleased to finally beable to put this semi-plan into action. The lace is underlined in the taffeta on the dress back and front and is left sheer on the arms for interest and a bit of cheeky peekaboo! The lace is a salmon pink corded lace and is a lovely quality, but was secondhand off ebay, so I can't recommend a supplier unfortunately. The taffeta was a £1 remnant from my favourite local market stall.


I have cut the dress so that the lace is slightly longer than the yellow  underlining to show off the shaping at the hem. All the seams are french, as I just couldn't visualise how they were going to look at the see through raglan and at the hem where the underlining and the lace meet, so thought this the neatest option.

I forgot to say before, but another change I made was to get rid of the top sleeve seam. I simply marked the seam allowance on the paper pattern piece and pinned the two parts of the sleeve together along this line and stitched a dart at the shoulder instead. I didn't want a seam there on this lace!

I was really rubbish and should have taken progress photos to show you things like getting rid of that seam. I also should have shown you the zip and how I sewed it. I machined it first to the yellow underlining as an exposed zip and then hand picked the lace layer on top. Although the side seams are stitched as one fabric, I have stitched the back seam of the underlining and the lace seperately to prevent any weird pulling.



There are so many oppurtunities for customisation with this dress and Tilly has put together a great pinterest board, but I was getting a bit overwhelmed by the possibilities. To stop this from becoming a UFO, I decided to just bind the neckline in yellow. I had previously spent ages looking at contrasting collars and embellishment, but in the end I think this is what works best and for me is more wearable.



The finished dress feels quite authentically vintage because of the fabrics I used, but I hope that the colours make it a bit more modern. I really love the fit and am keen to make another right away, but then I always say this and rarely ever do!

I'm going to wear this next month, as I am going on an afternoon christmas date with my husband. We still can't do evenings because of the olde breast feeding and dodgy baby sleep patterns, but an afternoon will do just fine and will be a brilliant excuse to dress up.

This is actually nicer than my wedding dress and if I were getting married again I'd wear it. You may think I'm exaggerating, but I'm really not! My son was only 6 weeks old when we got married, so with my baby belly and unpredictable new baby boobs, couldn't find a dress that I wanted to spend money on, so settled instead for a £37 topshop number. I don't even have it any more, because I washed it and it lost any structure it had. That coupled with the fact that I am using my 20 year old sewing machine that I got when I was at school should tug on your heart strings enough surely to vote for me and get me a new machine!!!! Please??? Ok, shameless begging over. I am British after all and that is considered pretty vulgar.

Just room for some more photos and then I shall bid you adieu! xxx


Sunday, 16 November 2014

NEW coat pattern - coming soon!

Hiya, I have been knee deep in coat samples lately and busy working on my next pattern release. I have mentioned on numerous occasions that I actually have two coat patterns in the works, but this is the first one to be near completion!


It is a coat and jacket with large proportions and room for bulky winter clothes and has a cocoon type sihouette. The feature I'm most excited about, (but can't be seen here) is the in built underarm gusset, which just makes construction a little bit more interesting and also allows you to lift your arms up (kind of important). It is hard to explain, but the gusset is designed as an extension of the front sleeve that wraps around to the back under the arm.

I have been through so many finishes and details, but have finally decided on the two views as shown above.

View A is a coat that finishes just above the knee, has veeery roomy welt pockets, wide sleeves that are cropped to just above the wrist and a popper front fastening. Think large poppers!

View B is a shorter version of the coat, but with a narrower full length sleeve that is finished off with deep ribbed cuffs and has a zip front fastening. My version of a bomber jacket!

Here are some happy snappies of my coat sample. I went for a bold houndstooth wool in keeping with the large proportions I mentioned just now. This stuff is snuggly as anything I can tell you.



These are the pretty insides. The main outer shell is underlined with a medium weight fabric for added warmth and all seams are bound with bias tape, so you can be proud to reveal your insides.


Here's a peek at my 'in progress' jacket sample. Quilting tip: use pinstripe fabric as underlining and use the stripes as a guide for quilting.


Lastly, here's a brief look at images that have been fuelling my coatspiration lately!



I'm really looking forward to telling you more about the coat. It is currently off for testing and should be ready mid-December (probably the worst timing with christmas and all). Can't wait!