Sunday, August 03, 2014

The Oonapalooza parade

Just a quick post written on the Blogger ipad app so apologies for any formatting errors. I'm away at the moment and hoping to get this posted to coincide with the end of the Sewcialists Oonapalooza month. When the July theme was announced, it really grabbed my attention. The opportunity to sew bright colours and prints, and to try some new ideas really piqued my attention. I planned one project and ended up sewing 4!

So here goes with my quick round up:

Breaking myself in gently with some basic shorts

Maybe sewing shorts doesnt seem that revolutionary but I should explain that I haven't worn RTW shorts in about ten years as they just don't fit. I'm still learning about fitting but I think i have a long lower torso, swayback and high hip thing going on. RTW pants and shorts are a pain to fit. I started with a basic New look pants pattern, made a muslin and shortened to shorts length before cutting into a leftover piece of stretch cotton sateen. Result- shorts that fit!

Oona inspiration: bright florals, pattern hacking

Tie-dye silk, I mean c'mon people! Any excuse to sew tie dye silk!

This outfit started with the fabric. It is totally out of my usual choices but I fell for it in the shop, and the guy started dropping the price until I was walking away with 1.5m for £15. And its pure silk in the most amazing vibrant turquoise and pink. I sewed a basic kimono jacket using a tutorial from the Elle Apparel blog. Its a simple enough design to let the fabric sing. Another local fabric haunt of mine, Calico Laine, had some awesome hot pink linen/cotton so with my shorts pattern tweaked I decided to knock up a second pair to go with the kimono. I see this as being a "beach to bar" laid back summer outfit. I have already worn the kimono over a basic black dress a couple of times, its great for keeping the sun off my shoulders.

Oona inspiration: bright patterned fabrics, pattern hacking, sewing without a pattern, letting the fabric do the talking.

Never walk away from awesome fabric, no matter how it presents itself to you

I found a size 26 jersey dress in my local charity shop. Im about a 12/14 so there was no way it would fit. But the fabric... Oh my the fabric! Purple viscose jersey painted with a metallic gold ikat-type design. And i think the dress had never been worn. At first I thought about removing the sleeves and just taking in the side seams. But I prefer a dress with a waist seam and I had plently of fabric to work with. I used the Kitschycoo Ladyskater bodice pattern and added a basic gathered skirt with the remaining fabric. I tried to draft tulip sleeves from the original sleeves but they went totally wrong and I didnt have enough fabric to rework them. No big deal, I just zigzagged clear elastic to the armhole seam allowances, flipped it under and topstitched. I love how this dress turned out. I would definitely go hunting in secondhand and charity shops again. Its a great opportunity to be creative and if you can find garments cheap enough there really isn't much to lose.

Oona inspiration: bright prints, sewing without a pattern, trying something new, making it work!

Thank you to the Sewcialists group for coming up with a great challenge and thank you Oona for the inspiration!

Monday, June 09, 2014

Reflections on Me Made May 2014

Well its over! (and has been for over a week, please excuse my delay in posting!) Although I ended up being pretty poor at taking outfit photos, I am pleased to say that I wore me-made for all but three days in May.

What did I learn?

* I absolutely could not do MeMadeMay without my Deer and Doe Plantain tees (of which I now have 5!) and my Kitchycoo Lady skater dresses (I have 4) and my handknit scarves. These are my wardrobe staples.

* I wear jeans a lot. Like A LOT.

* I grab the same separates and co-ordinate them the same way most of the time. One reason I didn't take many photos is that I just felt quite uninspired and uninspiring.

Why did I choose RTW on three days?

* We had a random hot day and I wanted to wear a jersey maxi dress (I made up for it by sewing one the next day, pics below).

* My sports team were doing well and I chose to wear a branded jersey.

* I had a lazy day where I just had to wear leggings.

What are the me-made gaps in my wardrobe? Going forward, what should I concentrate on sewing?

In no particular order...

* Leggings/casual trousers: I'm not sure if I'm up to sewing jeans, plus I have a couple of RTW pairs which I love and don't yet need replacing. I could sew more bottoms such as leggings or casual trousers that might get me out of jeans on occasion.

* Maxi skirts and dresses could also replace the jeans.

* A summerweight jacket/coat, such as the Deer and Doe Pavot, would be a wardrobe staple and get a lot of wear

* Summerweight pjs. I sewed a couple of flannel pairs but they are too warm for this time of year.

* Woven tees/unstructured blouses would feel a little smarter than my knit tees, without being overdressed.

* Tunic/loose dress to wear over leggings. I got so obsessed with trying to get "fit" right, that I made every garment fitted. And that's not what I want to wear every day.

* Hoodies are my go-to loungewear. I really want to sew the Seamster patterns Avocado hoodie.

* Underwear

Any progress towards these goals already?

* I sewed a maxi dress! I used 2 metres of viscose print jersey from Minerva Crafts and (surprise surprise) my Deer and Doe Plantain tee pattern! I was going to use McCalls 6559 but I decided to lay my already-fitted Plantain tee pattern over the top to compare fit. And then I thought, why not just use the Plantain tee pattern in the first place, and lengthen it to match the McCalls pattern? So that's what I did. The only thing I forgot to do is to raise the neckline slightly to compensate for the weight of the extra fabric pulling it down. It's not obscene, but I would raise it next time if I sew it again. It's also not the most fitted of dresses, but I was hoping for a loose drapey maxi dress so I'm fine with the end result.

* As luck would have it, I received a surprise gift this week and it was the Great British Sewing Bee book, which comes with several dressmaking patterns including leggings! Now to check the stash/shop for appropriate fabrics.

* I traced off and cut out a Japanese tunic dress from one of the Stylish Dress books. It should be quite quick to put together.

* This week saw a knicker sewalong hosted by Measure Twice Cut Once. So one of the reasons I am posting about Me Made May so late is that I have spent the week sewing underwear! I'll do a  proper post about that in a few days but I have somehow managed to sew 6(!) pairs this week and use up mostly small scraps of fabric from my stash.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

MyImage and B*Inspired magazines

Gorgeous sunny weather hits for a whole 24 hours and my thoughts instantly go to summer sewing. I've spent the last few weeks digging weeds in the garden and attempting to make it nice for summer so I think I need some sewing time now.

 I recently got a piece of lightweight viscose knit from Minerva crafts. I bought it for another Deer and Doe Plantain tee however the print is so large that it really needs to be sewn into a summer dress, but I cannot pick a pattern. At first I thought of the popular McCalls 6559 maxi dress but then I received a copy of the latest MyImage pattern magazine. There's a couple of cute dresses in the issue, including a maxi dress with a bit more waist definition than the McCalls and a cowl neck faux wrap dress. I also really like the trousers and the princess seamed collarless coat.

You can browse the mag preview here or check out the outline drawings here. I have never sewn a MyImage pattern before - their pattern sheets looks less scary than Burda but their written instructions (which are in English, French, German and Dutch) look just as minimal.

At the same time as I got MyImage, I also got B*Inspired by Poppy - a kid's pattern magazine. This one is totally new to me, I'd never even heard of it before. The instructions are in 5 languages (all of the above, plus Spanish). The pattern sheet and instructions look really similar to MyImage. The kids' garment patterns are really cute with lots of little design features but there's also a few crafty patterns like bags, bunting, a floor cushion and even a teepee! I haven't sewn one of these pattern either, so perhaps I should start with something simple to see what the drafting is like?

My one gripe with both magazines is that you have to check carefully to see if the pattern you like is available in your size. With MyImage, the regular range starts at 34 or 36 or 38 and goes to 44 or 46 or 48. There are also 3 plus size patterns included going from size 46-56.

With B*Inspired by Poppy, there are 2 designs for kids sizes 56-86, 3 for sizes 80-140, 3 for sizes 92-152, 2 for sizes 104-164, 2 for sizes 116-176 and 1 for sizes 128-176.

Both mags offer a decent size range (i.e. from kid's size 56 which is newborn, upto kids 176 which is approx age 13) and there is plenty of overlap but if you have your heart set on one particular design it's definitely important to check it comes in the size you want.

I sense a trip to the shop for tracing paper come Monday. Enjoy your weekend!

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Sewing the Snow Queen - Elsa from "Frozen" dress

Not unlike many little girls, my kid and niece are totally obsessed with the Disney movie "Frozen", and in particular the Snow Queen, Elsa. Its popularity means that the dress-up costumes from the movie are sold-out or being sold for extortionate prices on Ebay. What is a sewist to do, eh? Well, sew some of course!

First I set about modifying my pattern. I used Simplicity 2817 which is the child's Cinderella/Snow White pattern. I used the basic bodice, cut on the fold to simplify it. I have watched the movie often enough to study the costume and to know that I would have to lengthen the sleeves and draft a pointed hem, reduce some of the fullness in the skirt, and draft a cape.

I got my fabrics and supplies from a couple of different places.

Abakhan has a great range of satins at all price points. I picked the cheapest which is fine for kid's costumes and at under £2.50/m is very reasonable in cost. I live local to an Abakhan shop so I could go compare all the shades of pale blue/turquoise and choose the best option for Elsa. I also purchased dancewear lycra to use as the bodice back (not cheap at £10/m but I bought 1/2m for two dresses, and had lots leftover), and some nude poly lining to use for the upper bodice front.

Minerva crafts had this gorgeous sequin voile and some pretty snowflake sequins which helped give the basic shell of the costume it's iconic "Snow Queen" look.

Finally I purchased "Frozen" ribbon from Ebay to make sure everyone knew this was an "Elsa" dress.

The first task was to build the front bodice to make it look like a corset with a sheer layer on top. I layered nude poly lining with turquoise satin and then sequin voile. I took the opportunity to stitch a couple of snowflakes under the voile layer.

I cut the back on the fold from dancewear lycra. Although the Simplicity pattern has a zippered back, I wanted to make a dress that a child could more easily put on and take off by themselves. The shop-bought costumes mostly appear to have a woven fabric front with a stretch back for this very reason.

The sleeves and cape were cut from the sequin voile only. I gathered the top of the cape by simply stretching the lycra back as I stitched it on. I cheated a little and used the selvage as the top of the cape so there was not the need for additional hemming there.

The skirt is cut from satin only. To maintain the stretch in the back bodice, I gathered the back skirt by stretching the lycra to its maximum while stitching the satin skirt piece to it. The front skirt was gathered the normal way (by stitching two rows and pulling threads up). The skirt pattern as drafted has side front seams which lent themselves very well to creating the side split in Elsa's skirt.

I stitched a wide hem on the cape, which allowed me to catch a few more snowflake sequins in the hem for added wintery sparkle.

I sewed two of these costumes over the course of the last fortnight or so. It was really quite rewarding to sketch out ideas, source fabrics, modify patterns and see the costume take shape. There is something quite liberating about sewing something as frivolous and fun as a dress-up costume. As I worked I totally found myself thinking that I understood why people like cosplay because it really is fun!

The best bit of all was delivering the costumes to two very pleased little girls, one of whom chose to wear it for her birthday party this week, which makes me happy that I set out what I hoped to achieve. Happy sewing!

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Late to the party...

I didn't plan to join in with Me-made May this year. I didn't spend any time looking at the contents of my wardrobe, sewing basics and deciding if I could really wear a me-made garment for every day of the month. In fact I spent most of April sewing costumes for my kid and my niece, which was not ideal preparation. (But it does make for a fun blog post which I hope to get online tomorrow!)

May 1st dawned bright and sunny. I was heading off to a wedding in the afternoon and could not decide what to wear. I tried on the contents of my wardrobe and realised that the garments that made me happiest and fit the best were me-made. That in itself makes me smile as it shows a progress in my sewing that I hadn't really noticed before.

So I know I am ridiculously late to the party but here goes:

 'I, Helen of, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '14. I endeavour to wear at least one me-made garment each day for the duration of May 2014'

Here's the outfits that made the cut for the first three days:

Day 1: Deer and Doe Belladone dress for a wedding
Day 2: Kitchycoo "lacyskater" with RTW leggings for a post-wedding BBQ
Day 3: Deer and Doe Plantain tee with handknit scarf and dyed-by-me jeans for Saturday errands and fabric shopping.

I won't bore you with daily outfit posts here, but if you are interested I will be documenting outfits on Instagram (username: helensewstylish) and occasionally over at the Flickr group I don't really know if I will make it to the end of the month, but hey I'm going to try!

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Catherine jacket

When Meg and Michelle both knitted the Catherine cardigan, I must admit that I was very tempted to jump in and copy them completely. (You can read Meg's post here, can you believe this was her first ever sweater?!) A week or so later, Drops had a 25% off promotion and well... I took it as a sign and duly purchased enough Drops yarn to make my own version of the sweater. I chose camel brown with white accents.

The Catherine jacket is a free pattern on the Drops website. It is knitted in Drops Alaska (which is 100% wool) but I subbed that for Drops Nepal (a wool/alpaca blend). I knitted a medium, overall it is more fitted than I initially thought. I didn't plan to knit the belt but I actually like how it looks.

The sleeves turned out more fitted than I expected. I used a larger needle size for the sleeves as they were knitted in the round and I know that I often knit tighter in the round. But they are still quite snug. I note that someone on Ravelry knitted a medium body with large sleeves and this makes a lot of sense to me now.

The shawl collar comes up around the back of the neck, which makes it extra warm. Again, I referred to the knitters of Ravelry and opted to do fewer increases on the collar as some people said it ended up too loose at the back of the neck (if memory serves me correct, I did the first set of increases but not the second).

The cardigan is lovely and warm, and it saw a lot of wear during the colder months at the beginning of the year. Now the weather is warming up, it works as a top layer instead of a coat or jacket.

I had a little bit of white and a whole ball of camel left over at the end, so in the spirit of stashbusting I decided to knit a little Brambles bear for my nephew. The Drops yarns is super soft and snuggly so I hope he will enjoy cuddling it.
Bramble bear, using 1ball of Drops Nepal

Sunday, April 27, 2014


Me and my knitting friends came up with a stashbusting plan where you gain one point for every ball of yarn used up, and lose one point for every ball of yarn purchased during 2014. The plan is not to compete with the others (unless you want to!) but to end 2014 as close to your personal target as you can. Some people just want to have a zero balance, I hope to be somewhere around the -20 mark. So I have been dutifully using up yarn scraps and making sure not to add to the yarn stash (too much). I proudly watched my tally head into the minus zone (i.e. more yarn used than purchased)... until I realised that my fabric stash no longer fit into its small storage space. A quick review of the fabric stash, and I realised that far from cutting down on craft shopping, I had just switched my yarn shopping habits into fabric shopping habits. Oops. Added to that, I hate to throw away any fabric scraps unless they are really too small to use at all. And my fabric stash was getting (even more) out of control.

So over the last couple of weeks, I have been working on a few small projects which will hopefully make a bit of room in both the yarn and the fabric storage. The 4 year old has been the lucky recipient of most of my efforts (it is handy to have small people to sew for).

So far I have made:

From left to right

Floral yoked blouse
Fabric: An L-shaped cotton remnant that I picked up at a meet-up. I wanted to make a dress but the size/shape of the remnant was pretty limiting.
Pattern: A vintage Style pattern - I only had it in age 3 size but that was fine for my tall skinny 4 year old as I also shortened the dress to a blouse.

Linen trousers
Fabric: Leftovers of khaki Blades linen/cotton blend from linen trousers I made myself about 2 years ago. Thread and elastic from stash. I also added an iron-on mermaid motif.
Pattern: I wanted a basic elastic waist pants pattern so I used the pj pants pattern from Shwin&Shwin (more details and link below) as it was already traced, and I knew it fit and was a decent length.

A pair of jersey pyjamas
Fabric: 1 metre of Pocahontas print jersey from Minerva fabrics. I used buttons, elastic and thread from stash.
Pattern: Shwin&Shwin free download in toddler size 4 only. It's a pretty cute, straightforward pattern.
I was short of fabric so I shortened the sleeves and omitted the collar. I rounded the edges off to create a baseball jersey look at the neckline. The inner leg seam was a bit of a strange curve so I did straighten it out a little. The legs were too long but that's a good thing as I could turn up wide hems. The top pattern could have been an inch or two longer for my tall girl.

Hello Kitty denim skirt
Fabric: A couple of very small remnants of stretch denim from Croft Mill (many years ago). There wasn't much I could squeeze out of these pieces so I had to choose something simple with few pieces.
Pattern: Based on a pattern in the Young Image Spring/Summer 2012 kids magazine, it's a basic skirt with a waistband casing. Their ruffle had a facing, to create a sort of bubble skirt, while I left it as a plain old ruffle. I added a Hello Kitty motif and did red topstitching to complement it.

Joseph sweater 
Yarn: About a ball and a half of Cygnet DK. At £1.95/ball it was really economical. I had to buy buttons (stashbust fail) as I didn't have 7 of anything even vaguely suitable.
Pattern: Joseph sweater from "What to knit: The toddler years" by Nicki Van De Car (FYI it has errata on her website)

So that's 4 decent size scraps out of the stash, as well as a bit of yarn and a few notions used up. Kiddo is really happy with these little wardrobe additions, the pyjamas in particular went down a storm and she was wearing them about an hour after they came off the machine. I have two lovely dresses for me underway at the moment but they are going to have to wait as I have had a request for an Elsa costume or two (all the little girls love that Frozen movie!), and since one of those requests has come from my niece whose birthday is coming up, that has to take priority. That's it for now. Happy weekend!