Saturday, 28 February 2015

Weekend Doris dress!

I was a pattern tester! For the first time ever I was the tester for a pattern and it is this lovely Weekend Doris dress that I had the pleasure of trying out!

I'm not sure how well I did at the testing bit, but I sure do like the pattern. Suitable fabrics as per the pattern are supposed to have stretch in, but after reading the designers blog post about her success with a woven here I could not resist breaking the rules and trying out this lovely cord. This fabric is actually left over from one of my previous pattern samples and I even cut said sample up to make up enough fabric, but I'm really pleased I did as this is the cosiest dress in town!

The pattern itself is very easy to use and so reminiscent of vintage, easy sew shift dresses. It's a lovely shape and comes together quickly with no fit issues and has no fastenings. I got away with the no fastenings just about on the woven as it does pull over my head, but if you're worried about hair and make-up then you may want to pop a zip in!

The pockets are nice and deep, so perfect for shoving hands in and storing lots of hair clips and tissues (that's what I keep in my pockets). I lengthened the dress by approx. 20cm as I was unsure I would wear the pattern length. It looks better with a belt made up longer, but the shape curves in at the waist, so there is not unnecessary bulk to gather in under a belt.

The sleeves (apart from the length), were the only pattern piece I modified for a woven. After reading Jeanette's blog post I added about 10cm to the bottom of the sleeve width and drew a straight line up to the underarm. I also omitted the sleeve cuffs in favour of a turned up hem.

I think m version has quite a different feel to other tester versions I have seen due to the fabric choice and additional length (obvs), but I'm looking forward to making this up again in a linen for the summer. The only change I would make next time if using a woven would be to cut the neck band on the bias, but I had no fabric left to accommodate that for this dress. Alternatively it would look nice with a faced neckline or bias binding, who knows!!!
The pattern has officially been relased today, so pop over to for more details on how to get your hands on it.
BTW, I took these photos early last week, but am actually wearing this exact outfit right now! 

Monday, 23 February 2015

Freemantle cardi save

I have made another Freemantle cardigan, but this time I made some pattern mods to change the collar style lines, making them wider around the neck and extending them down the centre front to create a separate button band. In my head it was supposed to look like a granddad cardi with a shawl collar and I was going to insert elastic into the bottom hem to bring it in a bit (much like my sweater version here). Adapting my pattern in the time that it took for my husband to go and pick up the kids from the in laws was probably not my best laid plan, as I just marked out what I thought would work without referring to anything on the body and have subsequently ended up with a garment that looks nothing like I had in my head. I would have been better off just using the original collar piece of the pattern and extending that down for a button band, but maybe I should just get onto the pictures!

As you can see it's nothing like I just explained I hoped it would be! First of all the new collar shape extends out to my shoulders, which I did not consider when cutting that the seam would look bulky on the edge of my shoulder. This creates a weirdly 40's type of silhouette, which I'm not averse to. It looks acceptable now, but I did have to remove a couple of centimetres from the collar seam to make it sit there, as it was just dropping off the shoulder when I first sewed it. I had also sewn in the elastic as previously mentioned and it had a distinct 80's blouson look, which I was not at all happy with. It's funny how changing minor details has a big impact on the success or fail of a garment.

The next thing to do was to remove a few inches from the front hem and shape it down to the original back hem. It needed some shape to help the silhouette, as it was either too boxy or too swingy.

I'm so happy with the back!

I only had limited fabric, so I omitted the underarm gusset. I wouldn't recommend it for a woven fabric, as it does limit your arm movement, but this is a wool/polyester knit and also has no front closure.

Problems solved and this didn't have to be banished to the UFO pile! It was a close shave as there were times that this was, to put it bluntly, ugly!!! I'm wearing it now and it is one of those wool fabrics that is not at all itchy, just cosy and warm :-)

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

jeansy skirt

I am currently developing a new sewing pattern and it is based on an item that has a consistent presence in my wardrobe...the denim skirt!!! There is never not a denim skirt in my basic wardrobe and for years I have done that thing that everyone does (don't they?) and turned old jeans into skirts. I normally do the standard thing of unpicking the inside leg seam to create an A-line and inserting a triangle of denim to close the centre front and back, but my new pattern is actually the kind of skirt I would have preferred to have made, but for some reason didn't!

It is an A-line knee length skirt with western style detailing (a jeans skirt) that sits at the natural waist. I am still about a month or so from release, but this is the finalised design and there will also be a maxi length option in true nineties throw back stylee. Think 70's/90's vibe and that's pretty much where I'm heading with this, but don't let my labelling put you off!

In case you were wandering this sample has been made from completely recycled materials. I made use of the fabric from a pair of my husbands old jeans, a maxi skirt and some denim scraps left over from a previous project. The seams on the front panels are misleading as they are not part of the pattern, but in fact the outside leg seam of the original jeans. You all know by know how much I love denim and different tones of blue and I had been saving these garments to use on a special project such as this. I am also trying to be a bit more environmentally aware when producing samples, as I can tear through fabric perfecting a style. I am calling this a sample, but actually it's now my skirt.

The different blues do help to highlight all of the style lines, such as the pocket shapes.

I have whacked on some large back pockets. I can't stand pockets that are too small, as they make my bottom look more expansive than it needs to look!

I love recycling denim. It has such a divine feel to it and already has the worn look that I like. It is so easy to get hold of too. I mean I had been squirreling items away as and when, but similar items to the ones I cut up could easily be found in any charity shop. The quality of the denim is better and cheaper than buying the yardage.

Here are some examples of how you can also re-use old denim to make uber cool new clothes.

The first sample I made to check the details was this one made of a light weight chambray. Things have been tweaked since, but I love the lightweight of it. This will be perfect for the summer with stripey tops and clogs.

 So, there is still some work for me to do and I still need to try out the maxi version, but it is not too far from being a thing. I do however need a handful of testers, so if this looks like your kind of thing then pop me an email and let me know your waist and hip measurements. I am particularly looking for anyone with a waist that measures between 82-104cm. I hope to be able to send out the pattern by the 28th Feb and will be hoping for feedback a couple of weeks after that, so if you think you could be available then pop me an email at rillafree at Hotmail dot com.

I now have enough testers, but thank you so much for your responses! I am very grateful :-) xxx

Here are some mood images from my Pinterest board to leave you with. Loving the image with the trainers!!!

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Some refashioning

I don't know if you've heard of the One year one outfit challenge being hosted by Nicki of 'This is Moonlight blog, but it's got me to thinking how I can be a bit more sustainable with my sewing! I'm not going to take part in the challenge officially because I do not feel in a place where I can apply myself completely to the idea, but I think that it's a brilliant way to get people thinking about how and why they do things. With this in mind the following garments in this post are all made up of refashioned, vintage or scrap material.

This first item was previously this Maya dress. I think I only wore it once, maybe twice as a dress, but the sleeves were just too tight as they were and needed to be shortened to the point where they were wide enough to be comfortable. I did this alteration, but then whilst I was cutting away I also considered how much more wearable it would be if were a top, so chopped off the bottom too and re-hemmed it. I have been wearing it for two days straight now, so I would say that this was an alteration definitely worth doing. In fact the pictures are of me today in my 'actual' outfit!

I think I'll apply some of these changes to future Maya tops as I really like the slightly longer sleeve (it is approximately 2" longer than the pattern). The neckline is also slightly higher because I bias bound it without chopping off the seam allowance, which just gives it a slightly more masculine edge. I can't for the life of me work out why I hadn't made myself a chambray version already!!!

This is  dodgy Instagram picture of it layed out flat. I neglected to photograph it properly and now it's all wrinkly. I really like the plain bottom too and can see myself doing this again, as I sometimes feel annoyed with button downs and the way they peek open at the bottom. I think it's because I'm scared of revealing wobbly bits!

This next one is a special one, because it was made with some vintage fabric sent to me all the way from Australia. I've made friends with some lovely people recently and Jen is just the sweetest. The bib, sleeves and back yoke are also pretty special, because they're refashioned from a denim shirt that I used to wear a lot when I was breast feeding my son. Silly to get attached, but I am and the fit was never quite right on the hips. I felt sad to cut it up, because it seems so wearable, but it was too snug and I have been avoiding wearing it lately.

Here I am with the dribbling little man in our old flat! I seriously used to wear this aaaaallll the time.

Anyway, so this is my second incarnation of the Merchant and Mills dress shirt. The first one is here, but I ignored my advice on the first go and put in the back yoke gathers and I just don't like them! I removed the front pleat, which I do like (although had to sew a deeper seam on the bottom of the bib to make it sit flat) and narrowed the sleeves a touch, because they looked too gapey on this version

I really like the denim details and the re-using of the button placket (doing that again), so a success!

Last, but not least are some undies. I used the free pattern from SoZo. These are great and I'd already made a test pair from scraps to make sure they are comfortable to wear. I cut up an old nighty (stripes), a t-shirt and used scraps to make six pairs. I've currently only sewn three as they take a lot longer than I imagined, but the other three are sat by my machine and I plan to just make a pair every now and then. I am so proud of these even though they are so simple. Re-using old t-shirts feels fab, as there are few other uses that I can think of other than for use as rags! Maybe my imagination is not as developed as I hoped!!!

Overall I am not sure that sewing is a particularly sustainable past-time unless you are committed to using only vintage fabrics, but I am going to try and be less wasteful. I guess opening up the discussion and getting people thinking is a good start isn't it? Well done Nicki for coming up with the challenge!

Sunday, 8 February 2015


I finally got around to printing out this pattern and sewing up some basics!

For those who do not immediately recognise the pattern it is the free Plantain tee from Deer and Doe.

I have been collecting and squirreling some nice jerseys away for a while now and most of my RTW jersey items are ready to go on the big scrap heap in the sky, so what better time to start cutting?

Not going to go into too much detail here, as I made no alterations to the pattern in terms of fit. I really like the shape and how it skims over any bumpy bits, so had no cause to tamper.

This first one is made from a lovely wool/viscose jersey in a tobacco colour. It's lovely to work with and fine, but very stable. I started out sewing on a black neckband to go with the black patches, but it was all getting a bit retro Star Trek for my liking. The black jersey is also tissue thin and did not sew on evenly for the neckband. I simply cut the seam off and added the self-coloured one instead.

 This next one is my favourite! I cut them all with the cropped sleeve length as I only had a metre of each fabric to work with and added some cuff bands to this one in the contrasting black. The grey and black are the same viscose slub tissue knit jersey, but I used the Tobacco wool/viscose for the neck band, as I was unsure about getting an even finish using the black. It was a last minute decision, but I really like the three colours together.

I wasn't going to add elbow patches to any versions, but got persuaded after my attempts on the first one. I just stitched them on with a narrow zig zag on my sewing machine and luckily they fall in just the right place!

This last one is the same type of fabric as the Tobacco (wool/viscose mix), but this time in a Mustard colour which is fighting with the painted background for a place in this photo.

I added cuff bands on again, but deeper than the previous tee. This does make the sleeves a tad too long for me, as I am not a full length kind of girl. I just find they get in the way all the time when I try and do anything practical. I think I'll leave them, but my options are to cut them off and hem the ends as normal, or cut them off, reduce the depth and then re-attach so that they are a more acceptable (to me) length. Either way, it's a wardrobe staple.

I really like how these turned out and am definitely going to use this pattern a lot in the future. I think I may have finally made enough Hemlocks and for now I'm favouring the more feminine lines of the Plantain. I do really like RTW t-shirts still and am not opposed to buying them if I see one I like, but it's good to have a go to pattern. I sew like I shop, which basically means that if I like a style I want to replace it with exactly the same once it's worn out. The security of sewing my own means that I can always replace them, but change the colour or pattern of the fabric.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Arrowigan instead of an owligan

I am stash busting this yarn like crazy at the moment! This is some pink Rowan soft tweed yarn that I bought a long, long time ago in the sale. I had already knitted a tank top with the stone colourway and £20 for 10 balls I'd thought I'd got myself a bargain. Trouble is I don't wear pink!!!

I've experienced moments of doubt about whether I should hang onto this yarn, what I should knit with it and even whether I liked what I was knitting, but I have a finished object and that makes me happy. I have been super quick of the blocks and knitted up the owligan pattern that was relased by Kate Davies on Friday. This is one very quick knit designed for bulky yarn and 9mm needles, so is great for beginners wanting to try out a bit of cabling. My yarn was not as bulky and I knit the second size on 8mm needles, but it's worked out perfectly in terms of fit, phew!

Now onto my changes! There is a lack of owls!!! As well as doubts about my yarn, I also doubted that owls were very 'me'. I love them on everyone else, but don't think that I am very owly. I sampled a few different ideas using an arrow motif inspired by a recent obsession with a Guatemalan skirt of my mums. I kept my new cabled motif within the same stitch chart as the owl so that I knew that it would work with the pattern and got to work knitting it.

 I was a bit nervous messing with this design to be honest seeing's as this is an incredibly popular pattern and if it ain't broke why mess with it, but I am really happy with the yoke.

 As well as changes to the yolk I knitted a shorter body and sleeves than the pattern suggests. I really don't like full length sleeves on knits and hip length seems to be the most flattering on me with trousers, skirts and dresses.

I haven't yet settled on buttons, but I have sewn on these mother of pearl ones for now. I only had three in my button box, so will look for another five when I'm in town on Saturday. Although, if I see some nice cobalt blue ones that jump out at me I may get those instead and replace them all. There is a blue and a yellow fleck running through the yarn, so my idea of blue buttons is not completely random.

I'm still not overly convinced that this cardigan is me as I feel it's a bit twee, but it's certainly pretty and flattering, so therefore wearable. I have a feeling that if this was knitted in a mustard yellow or a terracotta colour then I would love it, but I don't have these in my stash!!!!