Fade to Grey

Fade to Grey

Hello sewing friends. Thanks for all the love for the Jonis in my last blog. Despite my moans about the neckband, they have had a lot of wear already. And so, onto my latest make – yes, it is me, you didn’t recognise me in a plain dress, did you? Plain grey? Me? No print, no flowers or purple swirls, no feathers or spots or stripes!! And yes, I am a little out of my comfort zone!!

The pattern is the Fringe dress by Chalk & Notch. It’s a dress I hadn’t heard of until I saw the version made by my Instagram pal @like_my_granny. It is a downloadable PDF of many pages, which means it needs time and space to stick it together and trace it out.

I made view A, with the button placket. View B has a notch neckline. My grey fabric is a cotton chambrey from TrixieLixie, its light and drapey and I needed to pay attention to the right and wrong sides, as it was easy to muddle them up. Compared to some of my recent makes, the Fringe dress was a little more complicated, with more pattern pieces and more stages, but it was quite soothing to lose myself in the process of making it. That’s part of the joy of making our own garments, isn’t it? The making is nearly as important as wearing!

After sewing the darts with the waist ties, and the sleeve cuffs with the button tabs, and the inseam pockets, and gathering the skirt and attaching it to the bodice I tried it on. Oh dear, I know it is supposed to be a relaxed fit, but this was enormous.  I couldn’t put my hands in the side pockets, as they were so far down my thighs that they were almost on my knees!! This poor dress needed some serious structural alterations.

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I took the skirt off, opened the front bodice darts, took out the waist ties. I chopped a whopping two and a half inches off the bodice and an inch off the skirt. I resewed the waist darts making them an inch wider before reattaching the skirt. Finally, I had a dress that fitted – it still has a relaxed fit, but at least now it doesn’t look like I am a toddler wearing a grown up’s borrowed clothes. I sewed the button placket closed as the buttonholes don’t need to open – despite them being the best buttonholes I have ever managed on my old machine.

I wasn’t sure what buttons to use and asked for votes on my Instagram account. My button options were bright red, pearly red ones, pearly purple, bright blue or grey metal ones. Metal won the day, making my grey dress even more grey! Despite being a cotton dress, I think I will get some winter wear out of it, with tights and boots.

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I am already thinking of another, view B with the notch neckline, perhaps in a blue and white ikat print. So, my foray into plain fabrics didn’t last long, did it? Whether you are sewing a plain or a printed fabric, happy sewing to you.

You can follow Sara on instagram @saraknitsandsews

 

The Tale of Two Joni dresses

“Hello, this is Joanie, I’m sorry, but I’m not home,

But if you leave me, your name and number,

I promise, soon as I get in I’ll phone”

Hello there, sewing friends, who remembers that little tune? It got to number 6 in the UK charts in 1978? It’s a catchy little song about a chap whose girlfriend (yes, Joanie) is killed in a car crash and he is so keen to hear her voice he calls her landline to hear her answer phone message.  This may sound odd, but in 1978 having an answer machine was a big deal, trust me!

Anyway, as I sewed the first Joni dress I had that song going around my head, not just because it is catchy, but because I feared the dress would be a bit of a wreck too! The pattern is from the latest book Stretch by Tilly and the Buttons, it contains seven patterns all designed for stretch fabrics, starting with a simple tube skirt and ending with the trickiest pattern – Joni, a dress with a twist in the bodice.  I sewed it in a beautiful Art Gallery Fabrics cotton jersey from TrixieLixie, it’s a lovely dark navy with a white feather pattern on it [Petal and Plume Panache Profundo – Jersey].

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The patterns in the book come on thick white paper, so I traced it using greaseproof paper. Once my fabric was cut I started to add the clear elastic to stabilise the shoulders and waist of the bodice pieces, and this, dear readers, is where my troubles began.

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My overlocker just chewed it all up (don’t worry, this was a test piece!) so I ended up having to use my regular sewing machine, with a jersey needle and zig-zag stitch. I found leaving a long tail of elastic helped to keep it in place when starting to sew.

Once the bodice is twisted, the neckband needs to be attached. This is where the tears (and swearing!) really started. Now, I usually find the instructions of Tilly patterns clear, well-illustrated and easy to follow. But I really struggled with this stage. I scoured the internet for reviews and tutorials and got lots of tips from friends on Instagram. I managed to get the neckband on, but it’s not perfect and it was a bit of a fudge! There was a gap between the end of the band and the top of the twist, on both sides, which I folded in and hand-stitched down. The rest of the dress came together easily – I love it when you seam the sleeves, bodice and skirt all in one go. My first Joni was finished, and I do like it, honestly I do, it’s a great shape on me, with a swishy skirt. But some of the seams felt bulky, and that neckband finish irked me, and it all felt less well-made than garments I have made from woven fabrics. So (and I am sure you will understand this, sewing friends) what did I do? I jumped straight back on the Joni horse and cut out another. This is another fabric from TrixieLixie, a lighter jersey with a spots and flowers pattern [Bromley Jersey]. I bought it during our recent #WalesSews meet-up, and I know it was really popular. (Those of you who were there, I am looking forward to seeing what you all make with it!)

This time I used regular white elastic instead of clear at the waist, and ribbon to stabilise the shoulders (much less bulky) and I added the neckband so it is visible, with a zig-zag topstitch. I lengthened it by about 2 cms, and joined it at the centre, which gave me a V above the twist, but I don’t mind. It’s still a neater finish than the first dress.

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And here ends the story of my two Jonis, thankfully with a cheerier ending than that catchy song. Neither are perfect, but I will wear them happily because I like the shape on me and I like the swishy skirt. Now, if I could only get that song off repeat in my head…!

You can follow Sara on instagram @saraknitsandsews

Wales Sews Meet Up

Well, at the risk of sounding like Enid Blyton, what a jolly splendid day was had by all. Last year I met with three other Instagram sewists in Cardiff, we had a mooch round TrixieLixie and then ate cake and drank tea in the John Lewis café. We had a lovely time, and all agreed to do it again soon. Well, it’s taken us a year, and this time I thought there might be one or two other sewists who might like to join us, so I posted an announcement on my Instagram account – and, well, wow!

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I had replies from over 20 local-ish sewists, and yesterday, on a mild sunny Saturday, 17 of us met at TrixieLixie.  I say met, it was more like an invading hoard. We poured into the shop – don’t worry, Tracy and Stewart were expecting us, and had the kettle boiling and plenty of cakes and bikkies laid out. There were sewists from Llanelli, Swansea, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Newport and Cardiff, of all ages, from university students to retired grandmas.

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It was such a joy to meet the people behind the makes that we knew from IG posts. Some of us had communicated online for years without ever meeting face to face. There were squeals of ‘ooh, you finished your Cleo’ and ‘how did those buttonholes turn out?’, ‘can I see your lining?’  etc. In fact, a sewing meet-up is the only place where you can stroke each other’s clothes, examine seams etc without ending up with a police caution!

After much stroking of fabric and rummaging through all the notions and patterns (TrixieLixie now stock Merchant & Mills and Deer & Doe patterns – but that’s a whole other blog post!) and a lot of purchases, we made our way into the city centre (taking Tracy with us, leaving Stewart to tidy up the shop!). We had another good old mooch around the haberdashery department of John Lewis, before heading up to the top floor café, where they had set aside tables for us to sit, and talk, and eat, and talk and talk.

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There was lots of laughter, and some tears (@made_by_tea agreed to be @mummabmakes’  Sewing Wife, aww) and a lot of discussion about how sewing and Instagram can bring people together, especially as a grown up, when it can be difficult to make new friends. We all agreed to meet up again, soon.

Thank you to TrixieLixie, for your hospitality, and for helping to make new friendships. Happy Sewing!

 

You can follow Sara on instagram @saraknitsandsews

Spring Green – in Autumn??

Hello, Sewing friends, thank you so much for all the kind responses to my last blog. That purple Miette skirt has had so much wear this summer, it is definitely a happy skirt. Here in Cardiff, autumn is beginning to make its presence felt. But, like a stubborn toddler I am ignoring it, sticking my head in the sewing sand, making another summery skirt and resisting the lure of tights and boots. Let’s face it, ladies, we are going to be pulling on those 40 deniers for months to come, so whilst there is a glimmer of sun in the sky I am going to make the most of every bare-legged second.

So here is my latest season-defying skirt – it is New Look 6346. A simple button front, A-line skirt that comes in two lengths – 18” and 24”, and suits most woven fabrics. I used a beautiful, bright spring-green and white floral Moda cotton from TrixieLixie. It is quite a stiff cotton and I thought it would work well with the A-line shape. I decided to cut the 18” length, then fearing it would be a little short for my chubby knees, added an inch and a half, which sits almost at knee- length on me.

The skirt construction is perfectly straight forward, made up of two back pieces, two front and the four-piece waistband. The button bands are made by interfacing & folding over the front edges of the two skirt fronts. I had my usual nervous moment when it came to the buttonholes – after years of faking it with poppers or faux plackets (yes really!) I have worked out that although my trusty old Singer does do a four-step buttonhole, but she doesn’t like going 1,2,3,4, oh no, my old girl goes 2,3,4,1! Since we worked that out, we manage just fine!

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So far so good, but – and there always is a but – the one thing I struggle with, when it comes to mainstream patterns (commonly known as the Big 4 – Simplicity, New Look, McCalls and Butterick) is working out the correct size to cut. Quite an important thing to get right, I am sure you will agree. I know from talking to others that I am not alone with this problem. This certainly happened with this skirt. I looked at the garment size measurements on the back of the packet, and I looked at the finished garment measurements, usually found on the actual paper pattern – yes it really does say 10 ½” of ease!

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No wonder people get confused as to what size they should cut out. If a pattern has this much ease, then what size should you cut? My measurements put me just outside the size 8, but with that amount of ease, could I get away with it? I decided to cut the 10. After this initial dithering, the skirt came together quickly. My machine co-operated beautifully when it came to the buttonholes, and I sewed the hem, the inside of the waistband and the buttons by hand.

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When I finish a garment, I always ask myself, would I make it again. In this case, yes, I think a denim version would be nice. In the meantime, if you see someone inappropriately dressed for the Autumn, be kind – it could be me! Happy Sewing.

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You can follow Sara on instagram @saraknitsandsews

A PASSION FOR PURPLE

Hello sewing pals, thank you for all the nice comments following my last (first) blog post. It was heartening to see so many people had read it. And by that, I mean real people, not family or friends who could not refuse!!

So, which comes first for you, the fabric or the pattern? Well, in the case of this skirt, it was the fabric. TrixieLixie have bolts and bolts of gorgeous, colourful Kaffe Fassett cottons, but this one in particular yelled at me from the shelf, its purple loveliness was irresistible. I have always had a bit of a thing for the colour purple – perhaps it stems from my crush on Donny Osmond when I was five. Each Osmond brother had a signature colour, and Donny’s was purple.  Thankfully for Donny, my love for the colour has outlived my love for him!

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Anyway, on to the skirt. I originally thought I would sew a top, but when I got home I decided it would make a fine skirt, but sadly I hadn’t bought enough, so had to make a return trip to TrixieLixie to buy some more (tough, I know!).  Then I saw that the prolific blogger and my lovely pal @sewistella had made a Miette skirt, in blue patterned cotton, and I wondered why I had never tried this pattern.  So, I made third trip to TrixieLixie as they stock all sorts of independent sewing patterns, including lots of Tilly and the Buttons and I knew they had it in stock, thankfully the shop is not far from my house, though I think three visits in a week means I am entitled to my own mug in the staff room, what do you think?!! [Mmmm… not sure about that – Ed]

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As with all Tilly patterns the instructions are clear, with good colour photographs. The skirt is a simple wrap around, the wrapping taking place at the back, so there is none of the gaping you get with front wrap skirts. The skirt fastens with two very long ties, one of which threads through a gap in the waistband. You can see Mabel, my dressform, helpfully modelling all the lengths of tie & waistband, prior to sewing up.

The gap in the waistband is reinforced, like a buttonhole. I made a half-hearted attempt at pattern matching the two front pieces, but I didn’t waste too much time and worry over it as the bands of pattern are not straight, the ties hang down at the front, and if I keep twirling then no-one will notice some slightly dodgy pattern matching. I overlocked all the edges and hand stitched the hem and the inside of the waistband. No stitch in the ditch for me – I am far too sloppy a sewist, and anyway, I rather enjoy some peaceful hand sewing, with a nice mug of tea and a detective on the TV.

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This is the perfect Summer skirt for the sunny weather we have had in the UK recently, but I am already thinking that this would make a good Autumn skirt too, in a heavier fabric (a plaid perhaps? Or a nice coloured denim?), it would be great lined, worn with knee-high boots – what do you think? Have any of you made a lined Miette? Hmm, might have to nip down the road to TrixieLixie to look at more fabric ….

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You can follow Sara on instagram @saraknitsandsews

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Hot weather sewing, and what to wear during a heatwave!

 I like to sew whatever the weather, I also like to sit in the garden when it is sunny so I usually have some embroidery on the go, however this summer I have been inspired to do a bit of quilting and I am doing it by hand! It is a very portable project so I carry it around in my bag and get it out whenever I get the opportunity.

Firstly a bit about my inspiration; My Mum and I paid a visit to Bath’ The Victoria Gallery’ to be precise, to see an awe inspiring display of Kaffe Fasset quilts, cushions and samplers. Absolutely gorgeous! Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photo’s so here is a picture of the poster;

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I really recommend this exhibition, not just for the fantastic Kaffe Fassett display but also the amazing Candace Bahouth ceramics, they are stunning – if you don’t know her work you need to google it right now!

As we were walking around I said to Mum, I should’ve worn one of my Kaffe Fassett garments, she laughed and pointed out what was on the dress that I was wearing! KF appliqued flowers of course! We have a huge range of KF fabrics in the shop and on our Big Blooms fabric website . Not only was I wearing one of my super cool for summer Washi dresses, Mum was wearing a Barcelona skirt that I made for her!

 

Sooo……. back to the summer project, I think it is going to be a yoga mat, well that is the plan but who knows?

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Talking of super cool summer clothing, the Washi dress is currently my absolute favourite, so far I have made 3 and my fabric of choice is cotton lawn so they are nice and thin to keep me cool and the drape is lovely. I seem to be making my way through all the Liberty tana lawn that we have in the shop at the moment, the green one is my latest make, the bicycle print one I made last summer. They are being rotated almost daily at the moment as it is very hot in work!

What summer sewing are you doing at the moment and what is your favourite outfit to wear during the hot, hot weather?

TrixieLixie Fabric and Haberdashery Boutique

 

 

 

 

 

Club Tropicana

Hello Sewing Friends,

When the lovely people at TrixieLixie asked me if I fancied writing a blog for them, I said ‘who me?, no, couldn’t possibly’, and then went home and thought ‘well why not?’, and so I did!

Hopefully more Club Tropicana than Agadoo!

 

So, who took part in Me Made May this year? Did you stroll around in co-ordinated and elegant outfits, or did you (like me) find lots of gaps in your wardrobe?  Whilst I am always drawn to a floaty, flowery frock, I realised what I really need are nice basics – skirts, t-shirts and especially tops.

At first glance New Look 6217 doesn’t really jump out – it is a top, skirt, trousers and jacket combo, it looks a little bland but, trust me, it’s worth a second look. The top has only 3 pieces; a front cut on the fold and two back pieces with a centre seam. There is a hint of grown on sleeve, so it doesn’t feel too vest-like.  So far I have made this pattern four times in various cottons. The first was a little snug on the bust so using good old kitchen greaseproof paper I traced the front piece and did a FBA, following the tutorial on the Curvy Sewing Collective website.

I made this top in a lovely Moda cotton that I bought from the TrixieLixie sale bin (go and have a rummage, you won’t be disappointed!). TrixieLixie is a wonderful shop in Cardiff, it is bricks & mortar and online. It sells dressmaking fabric, quilting fabric, patterns and notions, and more importantly you get friendly (and very patient!) service and helpful advice.

The fabric is a vivid green, purple and orange tropical print on a white back-ground. I only bought one metre, which is slightly under what you need for this pattern, and decided to make a cropped version, ready for warm summer days. Perhaps I was inspired by the tropical pattern, and memories of Wham and those boxy, cropped tops we wore in the early 80s, with high waisted jeans, trying to look like the girls in Bananarama! I merely folded my pattern pieces at the lengthen/shorten line and pinned onto the fabric before cutting out. I think I shortened it so it was 17” from neckline to front hem – which sounds very short, but then I am only 5’1”.

I had just enough to make myself some bias binding to edge the neckline. I have tried the continuous construction method, but I just end up with wobbly edges and lumpy seams, so I used the joining strips method, which I find a little tidier. I think the binding gives interest to the neckline. In fact, I think it took longer to make the binding than to make the whole of the rest of the top!

The back of the neck fastens with a button, and my overflowing button box gave me a choice of four – so of course, I went for the biggest, shiniest, orangeiest button. For the button loop I used a length of narrow ribbon (I always cut the hanging loops of the inside of my RTW, so I have a jar full of short lengths of coloured ribbon). To be honest, the neckline is so wide that you could probably do without the opening – but why deny yourself a pretty button? Even if you can’t see it!

I overlocked all the edges, apart from the neckline, and machined the seams, I even machined the hem on the sleeves, though I did take my time to hand stitch the hem of the body.

So here it is, my Club Tropicana (New Look 6217) top in fabric from TrixieLixie. A simple pattern, a simple cotton top, but definitely worth a second look!