Sunday, 26 April 2015

Handprinted Southport dress

My last post was about this handprinted fabric and I cut into it as soon as it was washed and ready! I bought this Southport dress pattern from True Bias not long after it's release as it's currently on offer until the sewalong starts and I think it's a good staple pattern to add to my collection.

I did have to make some changes from the off because I knew the skirt would not work on my shape. I only printed as far as the shorter length skirt to save paper and ink (the file is quite large due to the maxi length). The shorter skirt is quite short and very straight and this does my thighs no favours, so I added 18cm to the length and opened it out to make a slight (but not too full) A-line on the front and back. I have a feeling that I may have saved myself a job by printing the maxi skirt and shortening it, as this looks to have a slight flare, but oh well!!!

Since making the dress I have noted some amendments for future versions. Nothing that bothers me too much, but the front bodice is a touch too short which makes the skirt hem rise up. This is not a modification that I normally have to make, so it's probably worth checking that this is long enough for you.

FYI - I made a size 8.

Also the armholes and neckline were a touch too deep, so once I had started adding the bias facing I tried it on and decided to make it a binding instead to retain the seam allowance. I feel more comfortable with this extra coverage and think the straps would have been too narrow for me otherwise. Unfortunately I had added ease into the bias to fold it back as a facing, so it does gape a bit. When I add bias as a binding I make it a bit tighter, so that it pulls it in and sits flat.

I decided to omit the front button band on this version and instead cut on the fold using the centre front guide. I guess I'm rebelling against the fact that I've had to wear front opening garments for the last two and a half years for nursing, but it's a cute feature and I'll definitely try it at some point. I also added a closed casing with inserted elastic instead of a fabric tie at the waist. The main reason being that I was feeling lazy and I like to just pull things on without thinking about little fastenings.

So, those are my thoughts and changes, but overall I think that this is a great little pattern that I can see being very versatile. I am thinking of making a black silk jersey version with a t-shirt top using either my Maya pattern or the Grainline Scout tee. I have seen some really cute dresses that I have pinned to my pinterest board for Maya top/Ilsley skirt combinations, but may use this pattern instead. This dress below is from People tree.

The other great thing about this pattern is that I now have a base for a cute woven tank. I have been wavering between the Grainline tiny pocket and the Wiksten tank for ages, but with a few mods, this one could be 'the one'.

Oh god, here is a good shot of how much the bodice rides up at the front! It looks a bit maternity here, but it may be how I'm standing.

So hopefully this a helpful account of my experience with this pattern and I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot of this one around this summer. I love having something new to add to the stash!

I was hoping for glorious sunshine and summery shots, but instead donned tights with sandals. Here's a goofy shot to finish!!! Roll on summer!

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Low tech printing

I have been playing around with lots of print ideas lately trying to find ways of producing satisfactory results with very basic means and I thought I'd share some progress so far. I am printing mainly 2 metre lengths at a time to produce something useful which is tricky to manoeuvre around my dining table, but not impossible!!! These are all for personal use, but shall provide inspiration towards something else.

FYI - I use speedball fabric screen printing ink throughout!

This first idea couldn't be any more low tech! It is a stripe design made up of hand painted crosses on grey chambray (with the odd minus sign dotted around). The stripes are painted by eye following the fabric grain and using a ruler down the edge to start me off with an even-ish spacing. All I used was a paintbrush, some ink, a ruler and a lot of patience!

This next one is a screen print using a small thermofax screen. Thermofax screens are a lot more lightweight than regular screens, so perfect for small designs or using in space deficient areas. I got some vouchers for my birthday and ordered a few small screens to use for various projects and they are proving very versatile. They are also easy to store as they are really thin which is a bonus! Claire who runs Thermofax screens is very helpful indeed, so if you were thinking of getting your own designs made up then email her with any queries before placing your order. If you are unsure about anything then she will be sure to help you out. If you don't want the hassle of designing something then they do have ready made designs to choose from.

Oops, made a printing boo boo on the left hand side!

Not sure if it's clear, but I marked the length of fabric with chalk guides for screen placement, so once I was set up with the screen I was ready to go.

This is what the screen looks like.

The next print I made and am still working on is this one which is made using a simple stencil. I have two very large packs of opaque thin plastic sheets that my dad rescued from a council skip from a building job he was working on many, many years ago which I used for my stencil. I'm so pleased I have found a new use for it! I guess it would have been used by architects or for some kind of drafting/design?

I marked my design in pencil and cut it out using a scalpel. The great thing is that it's completely washable and the detail bits don't bend out of shape, so as long as I store it well should be re-usable for a fair time yet. 

I taped the stencil to my fabric and dabbed the ink on with a spongey brush thing. I have, until now, been cutting up household sponges, but this is much better and less messy.

Hand for scale!

So, that's what I've been up to and I just wanted to show you really that you can get pretty nice results from some fairly standard materials. As with any creative undertaking it's all about the play and experimentation. Be bold and try new things and you may really love the results! These are all made just for the enjoyment of it and maybe it's making you look at your plain lengths of fabric a little differently! ;-)

Saturday, 18 April 2015

bright orange skirt and white printed top

My third vintage item towards my vintage pattern pledge in as many weeks! Obviously I am a serious repeat pattern offender here. If I like a pattern then I am unlikely to only use it just the once and this is my second version of the vintage Simplicity 4899 wrap skirt, but this time with some significant mods.

After wearing this version around I felt the wrap at the back just didn't sit very neatly and constantly needed re-adjusting. I love the overall shape however, so I eliminated the wrap in favour of a plain back with lapped zip fastening. Fortunately the pattern has the centre back clearly marked, so it was just a case of adding a seam allowance to this and cutting two back pieces.

The other element that was a bit niggly on the first version was the straight waistband. I turned to the shaped waistband of my Evan skirt pattern instead, as I know this fits me really well and sits perfectly in place without any weirdness.

I cut the outer waistband in the main fabric (a Scottish waffle wool fabric from fabricland) and the inside waistband in a perfectly co-ordinating orange silk that has been a scrap in my stash for ever and matched the orange so amazingly it was clearly meant to be. I even had enough for my pocket linings, so was pretty pleased.

The wool was quite bouncy, so I used a clapper when pressing to really make them lye flat. When I say clapper, I actually mean a wood offcut from the garage! I think the overall finish is quite contemporary looking and the pockets are, yet again, the star of this skirt.

The top is a white Irish linen Maya top (yawn, another repeat pattern), which I printed with a big circular motif. It is cropped a couple of inches shorter than the shortest length on the pattern to show off the details of the skirt.

This whole outfit was made on impulse, but had a lot of thought behind it at the same time. I have had the orange wool in my stash for a while now and wanted to make the most of it, as it's the most awesome colour and weight in real life. I half thought of making a jacket, but couldn't visualise it and this skirt is the most perfect skirt I could have imagined. It always feels so good to cut into precious fabric and for it to turn into something wonderful doesn't it? The top is standard and is something I have wanted to make for a while. Practical, wearable, not much else to say on that one!
 Why the sudden need to make an outfit? Well, I was meeting up with some fabulous sewing ladies this weekend and just wanted something new to wear. I obviously didn't neeeeed to make anything, but I wanted to and they are items that can become part of my everyday wear.
Whilst I was in London there happened to be a Cloth House sale going on. They are basically clearing their dead stock to consolidate everything into one shop instead of two premises. This meant that the lines they are no longer continuing was going for crazy cheap prices and I ended up buying a lot of jersey at £1p/m. I'm not sure if I'm interpreting this correctly, but if it is discontinued and old stock then does that mean that this is a sustainable fabric purchase? It's there to sell of, they are not replacing it with more, so am I getting that right or am I bending the situation to suit my desire to shop sustainably?

Friday, 17 April 2015

Vintage wrap top

Onto my second vintage pledge already and it's another wrap!

This one comes from an old magazine and is featured on a few blogs, but this is the one I found first. It's not a pattern, but a tutorial that is originally from Life magazine, but all the links to the article I have found seem to be broken.


It's so simple, but elegant. I knew as soon as I saw it that I wanted this to be my next vintage pattern pledge make. It's a similar idea to the walkaway dress, but nicer!

I have not followed it to the letter, but I haven't strayed too far away from the original. I mean it's a rectangle, so I haven't gone crazy!!!

I didn't want to wear something quite so figure hugging, but wanted to play with the idea, so I have kept it loose fitting and rather than adding ties have added a side button fastening.

and rather than back ties I added an elastic strap. Before you recoil in disgust at this monstrosity, let me assure you this has been removed!!! After about half a hour of wearing the top the elastic bugged me so much I cut it off and machine sewed the flappy fabric wrapping from the front to the back piece. It's loose fitting so is easy to pull on and off without any fastenings. It's become less wrap around now and more woven t-shirt.

This is what I have now done. The stitch line is on the back and goes through to the edge of the front wrap starting a few centimetres from the hem and ending a few centimetres above the line of the top button.

I may add ties to a future version, but I am happy that I haven't on this one as I appreciate the looser and cooler fit here and also feel that front ties would limit it's flexibility to wear with more garments.

 It's interesting what you gauge with wearing an item and if you choose to have a go at this top then it's all about putting your rectangle over your head and deciding where you want to place your fixtures and fittings. It's fun to play or experiment and it just goes to show what you can do with no paper pattern and simple shapes. You could even bung a couple of rectangles onto the sides for sleeves!

Here's what I looks like flat. Ok, so it's not entirely like this now since I removed the elastic and sewed it shut on the side seams, but you get the idea. I even think that this would look nice with the edges sewn up to under the arm to make a rectangle t-shirt or tunic.

The neckline I borrowed from the BHL Anna dress and is so pretty. I simply bound it with bias tape.

Here's some diagrams of the fabric dimensions and construction.

For my measurements I measured from the highest point of my shoulder to my waist. I then added 3cm for a shoulder seam allowance and small hem. The shoulder allowance is optional, but I was using a directional print so needed a seam there.

For the width I measured my waist and subtracted 10cm (this includes allowance for the double turned edges), so that it was wide enough for a wrap, but not too wide that it would meet in the middle.

All edges were double turned with a 1.5cm allowance and the shoulder was French seamed.

The button holes and button placement were judged once I had it draped on the body, so is down to personal preference.

So that's it really. I only used half a metre of fabric, as I got the front and back out of the width of fabric and used a ready made binding for the neck so super economical and zero waste!!!

I know there are sewists who don't like to work at all without a pattern, but it's fun! When I was learning pattern cutting at uni we were encouraged to drape with big shapes and see what happened and this is kind of like an introduction to that. It frees you up from the constrains of body blocks and can lead to really interesting forms should you explore the idea further.

How about you, would you have a go at this?

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Stretch cotton Evan skirt

Spring is here and tights are off! I love dressing for winter, but there is something so satisfying about being able to wear dresses and skirts without tights!

This Evan skirt is one of my pre-final pattern samples. The only difference from the final pattern is the length of the split. This one's a little shorter and more modest by about an inch or two. I have also put belt loops on this one, which I have left off of the line drawings for view A.

I have already worn this quite a lot with navy tights and a cropped jumper, but love how it looks with my watermelon printed top from last year (another pre-final pattern sample from the Maya pattern). This is the outfit I'm wearing now, so I thought I'd take a few quick pics.

The fabric for this skirt came from my lovely friend Lucy and is ex-barbour. She also sent me the cotton drill for my Freemantle/Maya coat mash up. It is a really vivid dark turquoise in real life, but the colour keeps getting sapped from the photos for some reason and I'm not good enough to know how to adjust any settings. It is quite thick and feels like it contains a good amount of spandex, as it has good stretch and recovery. Lucy thinks it would have been used for jegging type trousers, so it's good stuff!

It is quite difficult to sew the pintuck details on the pockets on a fabric of this thickness, but on the other hand they are highlighted quite well. The stretch did make this a little difficult to sew and my topstitching is not going to win awards here, but overall it is a great skirt and nobody is going to get that close anyway.

Yay for spring and summer and being able to have bare legs again. These clogs are out of hiding again and it's time to pack away the feather down coat and big boots (did I speak too soon?).

I hope everyone else is getting some positive energy from the sudden turn in the weather. I shall close with one last picture of my behind just to show off those pintucks a bit more.... Ta ta for now x

Sunday, 12 April 2015

My first vintage pattern pledge - skirt simplicity 4899

I have been making this skirt for aaggggeeess. I cut it out some time in February I think (not sure when), but it was in the midst of making Evan skirt samples and finalising that pattern, so I was all skirted out before I started. I almost went off of it completely, as I felt like another skirt was the last thing I needed, but I picked it back up again a few weeks ago and removed it from the WIP pile.

The pattern is Simplicity 4899 and was leant to me by sewing pal Jenna who made it up last summer here. It's such a great little pattern that I will certainly make up again in a denim (surprise) and is dead easy to construct with no zips. I was actually annoyed with myself for leaving it on my pile for so long as this really is a quick make.

The fabric is an ebay purchase and was listed as a vintage wool twill, but there were several colour ways available that all look to be sold out now. It has a very soft brushed finish and is quite narrow in width. The print runs in both directions of the cloth (up and down), which meant that I could cut either way. I'm not sure I'm particularly fond of prints that do that when it's pictorial like this, but it doesn't bother me too much. I opted to not try and pattern match the centre front seam and cut as per the pattern, but I regret this now. The pattern has you cut the side seam parallel with the grain and the centre seam off grain, but I should have followed my instincts cut the centre front with the grain to allow it to match. I would have cut on the fold, but the fabric was too narrow for that. It's not clear in the above picture, but the centre front seam looks a mess!

The skirt is a wrap around which fastens with buttons on the back (I have yet to sew these on...oops). You can see the wrapped panel better down in the next photo. When I was cutting it did not look like it would offer enough coverage, but when I'm wearing it I don't feel I'm in danger of exposing myself. Maybe best not worn on a really windy day...

Despite my car crash of a centre front seam, I did take particular care over pattern matching the pockets. I love the pockets of this skirt and they are really easy to do.

I'm meeting up with some sewing ladies next weekend and am thinking that this may be the perfect outfit to wear if the weathers half decent. It's comfy and soft, but I feel like I've made a bit of an effort to look nice.

I am slowly getting back into skirts having given them some distance since having children. They seemed like hard work whilst I was still breast feeding, or at least harder work than throwing on a dress or jeans and shirt, but now I'm past all that I'm back on the skirt. The only problem is that my waist does not seem to like my old skirts and has not reformed back to it's pre-baby state, so I need lots of new ones. Oh well!!!

Friday, 10 April 2015

Chambray Mathilde blouse

Happy belated Easter everyone! I have just come back from a glorious sunny week in Wales(Pembrokeshire to be exact) and the weather has been fantastic and such a surprise considering what it has been like in the lead up to us going away.

As I was getting ready to pack I was struck by an unbelievable desire to sew a new top. It was the kind of irrational, panic sewing that I imagine every sewist gets struck by from time to time. I literally taped the Mathilde blouse pattern together during the kids naps the day before we went away and cut and sewed it after they went to bed.

Luckily for me it all went together pretty easy and I finished the insides with tidy French seams to save me using the overlocker. The only seams that aren't enclosed are the armholes which are finished with a zig zag stitch.

A design choice which was born from both saving time and personal preference was to make the sleeves bell instead of cuffed. I'm really pleased with the silhouette and think I shall probably do these in future if I ever make this top again.

The fabric is hand printed by moi using stamps carved with shapes I used to create my Maya pattern cover. It is all inspired by my garden and the shapes were created when I was looking out of my window one day, so there you go! I have made no attempt to pattern match, as this is not printed to an exact repeat and that kind of thing does not keep me awake at night!!!

I did feel that the back of the armholes were a wee bit close when I first tried it on, but when I went to wear the top felt a lot better in it, but looking at this picture of the back makes me think I was right in the first place, so would maybe make some adjustments here next time.

To further save time I sewed buttons on the back, but did not make buttonholes so they are completely non-functional. This is not a problem as the top fits easily over my head without unbuttoning. They are reclaimed from an old cardi, so I took great pleasure in re-purposing them!

The verdict is that I love this top and was so glad that I made it for the holiday. I wore it on no less than 3 days of the 6, so it was definitely worth investing my precious last hours at home sewing instead of doing anything useful for anyone else ;-)

Here's a snap of the family in their entirely weather inappropriate clothes. We did take the kids jeans off after this and roll their sleeves up for a paddle in the sea!

I hope you all enjoyed the weekend bank holiday and sun too!