Getting ruthless with my pattern stash

I’m not much of a hoarder, but like most I do accumulate stuff at a rate of knots. Moving continent has given us a great chance to have a bit of a purge and if I can’t take it, it’s either going in storage or to the Tooting Oxfam.

As we’re going to be travelling light I can’t take much sewing stuff. I’ll be buying a new machine in the US  and I’ve been thinking about what equipment I can take from my sewing box to get me started. This means some pretty straightforward decisions, but I’ve had to be ruthless with my many paper patterns.  The ones I know I’ll never make went straight to the charity shop. Then I had to choose what would make the trip and what would go into storage. I limited myself to taking ten essential and versatile printed patterns, with the aim of creating a capsule wardrobe.

So what made  the list?

  1. Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress – great office wear in the winter and makes a wonderful summer dress in cotton lawn
  2. By Hand London Anna dress – multi-purpose dress that works in all the fabrics, plus the instructions are so clear on inserting an invisible zip. I forget how to do it every time, but the BHL ladies help me through.5dafceed-c554-42e6-845d-6a2dd38025cel0001
  3. Tilly and the Buttons Cleo dress – I made one of these the other day and now I want more! Watch out for a post on this coming soon.
  4. Deer & Doe Chardon skirt – I wear my Chardons all the time – in the office and at home. You will be seeing more!Anchor chardon front
  5. Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt – I’ve worn my previous versions of this into the ground. Need more.
  6. Tilly and the Buttons Arielle skirt – this is purely a work skirt for me, but I love it as it’s so different to my usual fit n’ flare skirts.Arielle pose
  7. Sew Over It Ultimate Shirt – I’m taking the class at the moment and I’m pretty pleased with my progress. It’s a fitted shirt that will work best for smart/office wear.
  8. Grainline Archer shirt – it’s been in my stash for ages. It’ll be awesome for all sorts of casual wear.
  9. Tilly and the Buttons Agnes top – I haven’t made this one either, but it’s a wardrobe basic, and the online class will hold my hand as I get to grips with jersey.
  10. My copied Oasis top – I’ve made loads of these, but they’re so useful to have for layering under cardies.50s pleated skirt front 1
  11. Simple Sew Shannon trousers (free with Love Sewing magazine in Sept/Oct last year) – I haven’t made these yet but I will need some pants, and these wide-leg trousers will suit my eastern European shotputter’s legs quite nicely.
  12. By Hand London Victoria blazer – because I need something to throw over the top of everything.

So I may have gone slightly over my target of ten, but I’ll just have to sit on my suitcase to get it closed (and let’s not talk about the bonus home décor patterns I ripped out from some sewing magazines. They totally don’t count).

How about you? If you could only take a few patterns with you to a new place, which ones would you choose?

Me Made May round up and Walthamstow walkabout

Right. My first weekly Me Made May round up (only a few days early…). Let’s do this thing!

Petal side resize

Day 1: my petal sleeved Scout. This one was fresh off the machine that morning and of course I HAD TO WEAR IT STRAIGHT AWAY.

2nd

Day 2: chambray Cressida skirt. Despite having a productive day sorting out my stash, I didn’t actually get dressed till about 5pm when I decided to go out for a walk. I got halfway down the street and had to come back. Anyway, still love this skirt cos it’s awesome.

3rd

Day 3: silk top copied from RTW. This one’s holding up well – nary a crease in sight all day!

4th

Day 4: I can assure you that this is my most recent Anna dress. Unfortunately while out for my lunchtime walk a bird crapped on me, rendering the dress less than presentable. It leads me to think: what makes a garment lucky? Is it because something good tends to happen when you wear it, or does it become lucky because it features something lucky e.g. horseshoes, or in my case, bird poo? Either way, I’m buying a lottery ticket.

Walthamstow meet-up

Before Me Made May had even started, I joined a lovely bunch of ladies from the Fold Line for a fabric shopping trip to Walthamstow market. The day was organised by Kristy of Scientific Sewing and was so popular that 20 people showed up! It was great to catch up with people I’d met at other meet ups and/or sewing classes, and to chat with new people. Everyone was really friendly and talkative and we all had a good natter over lunch in the Chequers pub on the high street.

I’d never been Walthamstow for the market before, but I’d heard good things about the range and the prices. With the stash diet in mind, I went with a £30 budget and a list. And I mostly (mostly!) stuck to it.

Gingham square

Seersucker gingham for an Archer shirt

 

The famous Man Outside Sainsburys really lived up to the hype. He had the best selection of fabric on a single stall and was an effective salesman too – quick to point out that the sand washed silk I picked up (£7 per metre, destined to become a kimono and possibly a Sorbetto/self drafted top) came in several other colours and some recommendations for washing it. . I bought that silk and then wandered off to visit more stalls, but I went back for more, coming away with some gingham seersucker which will likely become a Grainline Archer shirt.

Silk square

Despite the crappy picture, this silk is beautiful.

I had a lovely afternoon, and I’m happy that I came away with some lovely fabric AND change from my budget. Definitely worth making a trip across town, now I just have to sew it all up!

Birds square

Birdy chiffon. £3 per metre. BOOM.

Border print square

This lovely border print is destined to become a fit n’ flare dress for one of those many weddings

For and against cutting corners in one dress

Sometimes you’ve just got to cut corners. Especially when you’re working to a deadline. Once again, I decided to make a dress for a wedding this weekend (you may start to notice a theme on the blog over the next few months – I have four to go to this year), and once again I was working on it with only a few days to go. So… I may just have busted out the Wundaweb and hemmed the skirt with it.

SO. USEFUL.

The dress in question is a By Hand London Anna dress made from some plum polyester crepe I picked up at a fabric shopping meet-up at Goldhawk Road the other week. I might be on a stash diet at the moment, but I had nothing suitable in stock for a wedding, so I figured I could let myself off (we won’t go into the 2.5m of Liberty-knock off cotton lawn I bought though). The crepe was pretty easy to work with, though it does fray to the point that my house is now covered in its sheddings, and it doesn’t like the iron all that much. Whenever I tried to press the seams open they just sprang straight up. Hemming this bad boy was going to be a chore.

I tried pressing and pinning the hem, but quickly realised that it wasn’t going to work. So I reached for the Wundaweb and it worked a charm in the most part. My hem stayed put, but where I was hemming over the seam allowance, the fabric was a bit too thick to melt the glue. I didn’t really want to take a chance with it all coming apart at the wedding itself, so I blind hemmed it with needle and thread anyway. The Wundaweb was worth it. I hemmed it on Thursday night as I needed the dress for Saturday and it still had to go in the wash. Wundaweb saved my sanity and this new Anna went in the wash on time.

 

This might have been after a few drinks…

When it pays to do things properly

On the other hand, sometimes cutting corners just doesn’t work. I lined the bodice with some matching cotton. This was going well until I tried attaching it around the waist seam… I messed up the pinning so the two weren’t eased in together properly, resulting in some unsightly bubbling. Nevermind, I thought, I will just smooth it out with the iron. See my comments above for why that wouldn’t work. My problem was that I had about an inch too little in the lining to fit on the waistband. I couldn’t leave it as was – the plain fabric would have meant that it would be really noticeable. The only thing for it was to unpick it, give myself a bit of extra space from the seam allowance, and stitch it back into place all over again.

The result is a dress that I’m really pleased with. I made some small alterations to the pattern after making a toile, so I think it fits pretty nicely now, and my bra straps don’t show under the neckline. The polyester crepe is a good weight for the winter which means my four centimetre hem has a good bit of swing (essential for the reception dance floor I think). It’s a dress that will get multiple uses – although I wore it to the wedding this weekend, it is going to be a brilliant work dress.

 

I like how the hem looks in this photo – nice and swishy

But what about the wedding itself? Well… we’re all feeling a bit fragile today. The bride, my friend Karen, had organised a brilliant day, but it was helped along by free flowing wine, a well stocked bar and some crazy shapes on the dance floor. It was a great chance to catch up with friends I haven’t seen in too long, and it was like slipping back into old times at uni, albeit with the addition of husbands and boyfriends. Karen looked so happy and so beautiful – she works in fashion so it was always going to be a stylish wedding, but her dress was stunning and suited her so well. It was a really happy day all round, and despite a sore head today (I had my first Jägerbomb last night – prob my last as well since they taste AWFUL) I think we’re all going to look back on the day with great memories.

 

Such a beautiful dress on Karen. The top of the bodice is feathers!

 

 

Rich, the groom, led the way with his tie around his head

 

 

Eye of the tiger, obvs.

 

Chicken run

Remember how after Me Made May last year I said I don’t really wear dresses? Well, it seems that’s all I’ve been sewing lately. After a quiet autumn with very little sewing done (if any at all), I’ve had a busy January at my machine, turning out two and a half. The extra half is a Sew Over It vintage shirt dress that I started at a class, but need to finish the buttonholes, but that’s not what this post is about.

Yesterday I spent a fabulous afternoon and evening out on the town at my friend Karen’s hen do. We started off with a very ladylike champagne afternoon tea in Mayfair, followed by drinks and games and then a trip round central London’s best… ahem… cheesiest bars on a party bus (it had the potential to be awful, but when it came to it, it was awesome). Karen is probably the most stylish of all my friends with an outstanding wardrobe, so I knew I needed a fabulous dress for the occasion, but after such a long break from sewing I wanted something quick and simple.

Hen do badge

I’m normally not a fan of anything that suggests that you’re on a hen do, but it was a large hen do and these badges really did help me to remember people’s names.

I bought the By Hand London Zeena dress pattern when it first came out last year, but despite the best intentions I’d never managed to make it up. I’d even bought some lovely double gauze from the Village Haberdashery for the purpose (they still have some in a different colourway)! The hen do was the kick up the rear to get it done.

The Zeena is billed as a beginner’s pattern with a full pleated skirt and a bodice with relaxed, kimono sleeves. I made up a really quick toile (seriously, it took me about three hours) in a straight size 14 in the shorter length and which really helped with the fit. It’s meant to be quite loose, but the toile showed that I needed to roll the neckline in a little bit and lengthen the skirt an inch and a half. I tried it with a belt (aka an iPhone cable… needs must) which showed that the bottom of the back bodice wasn’t sitting at my natural waist, so I shortened that by an inch and a quarter, blending it in to the front bodice.

Zeena front

These were taken this evening – I’ve had to give it a once over with the iron again, but it’s since gone in the wash. I might have spilled some wine on it during the evening…

I put most of the real thing together in about a day, all told, including a full lining. Since we’d be going round London in January I thought I’d like a little bit more warmth, cos let’s face it, even though double gauze can be nice and snuggly, it’s still quite flimsy. I used some black cotton lawn which sewed up very nicely – in fact the whole thing was stress free.

One thing I’m really pleased with about this dress is the hem. While I hemmed the lining on the machine, I blindstitched the outer shell, and it is properly invisible. Result! Obviously, having two layers of fabric means that you don’t have to go through the whole thing when hand sewing, so no visible stitching at all, even when they’re supposed to be teeny tiny.

I’m also quite pleased with the zip, but for other reasons. I started sewing it last Sunday, but had to leave it for a couple of days (important cinema trips and work got in the way) and in the meantime, all the lights in the kitchen failed. When the kitchen doubles up as your sewing space, it’s a bit of a bugger. I inserted the zip and hemmed the lining by lamplight and practically blinded myself in the process. It’s not easy to sew in the dark when your fabric’s black!

After dark sewing

After dark sewing- we left the lights on in the bathroom and the hall, and put lamps all around the kitchen, but it was still dark.

When I finished the dress I tried it on straight away without even bothering to iron it first. That was a bit of a mistake as when I looked in the mirror I thought it looked awful – it didn’t seem to sit nicely because of what I thought was too much bulk in the waistline, which I assumed was due to the lining. I was contemplating removing the skirt lining, but instead gave it the benefit of the doubt and popped it in the wash. I heaved a sigh of relief when I gave it a good iron and it fit perfectly. Phew!

Zeena back

The view from the back. With such a random pattern I didn’t bother matching. But isn’t the fabric cute! I love the gold motifs – like modern Japanese – lovely!

The dress held up really well throughout the hen do – from the afternoon tea, to the bus, to the bars. The lining worked a treat – I was neither too hot nor too cold, and one bar in particular was like stepping into London’s biggest sauna.

I think I love this dress – it’s simple yet classy, and versatile too! While its great for a party, the fabric design is also suitable for work so it’ll take me from the office to the bar too. I really enjoyed sewing it up, and I think I can see many others on the horizon. Yay!

Zeena on the town

On the town – just off the party bus and about to go into the first bar.

 

The [Jo]Anna dress

So pleased with this dress, I can't wipe the grin off my face.

So pleased with this dress, I can’t wipe the grin off my face.

Let’s just get one thing out of the way before I start on this post proper. I PUT AN INVISIBLE ZIP IN FIRST TIME! No tears, no swearing, no hurling an unfinished garment to the other side of the room. In short, it was a triumph. Phew. Now I’ve got that out of my system, let’s get on with the show.

I’m a lady of my word – last time I said I had my sights set on By Hand London’s Anna dress. I’ve seen so many versions of this dress all over the internet that I thought it was high time I added my contribution to the pile. I chose the knee length Version 3 as again I’d like to wear the dress to work at some point and I reckon I’d probably roll my chair over the hem of a maxi, resulting in hilarious yet embarrassing consequences. You know the episode of Miranda where she gets out of a taxi, closes the door on her dress which gets ripped off as the taxi drives away? That.

layoutAnywho, I used some red cotton with small black polka dots from John Lewis. I bought three metres just in case I made a cutting error (the pattern recommends 2.6m). However, when it came to laying out my pattern pieces I found I could be a bit more economical with the fabric than the layout guide suggested. The result – extra fabric for a future project! Boom.

Pattern alterations?
The only pattern alterations I made to my Anna were accidental (ok, they were full blown mistakes). According to my measurements a UK size 12 would result in a good fit so I went for it without doing a toile or anything. The pattern instructions were so straightforward that the whole thing sewed up like a dream. Since I love a neat finish I did French seams on everything apart from the centre back and I measured my hems, producing a very pleasing inside. I also managed to keep my seams pointing the right way, which is an improvement on the Zinnia skirt.

Ooooh, so neat!

Ooooh, so neat!

Queen of the Stupid Mistake
My first issue came with clipping the seam allowance under one of the armholes. I can’t have been concentrating that hard or something because I clipped past the seam allowance, past the stitching and about half an inch into the fabric. What. An. Idiot. After an initial panic I very calmly rectified my mistake. Because I’d cut through both the front and back bodice I reasoned that cutting more pieces out would mean starting the dress all over again. Really, life is too short for such faffing so I spent 20 minutes hand stitching it together. It’s under the armhole so you can’t see it when my arms are down and even when my arms are up you’d have to be looking for it. Meltdown averted.

See! It's tiny!

See! It’s tiny!

My second and final issue came with the zip. Inserting the zip was absolutely fine – almost dreamlike in comparison to my previous attempts – but I could have finished it a bit better. The instructions recommend tucking the neck facing over the top of the zip but when I was finishing the seam allowance on the centre back I zigzagged the two together, meaning I put the zip over the top of the two. This is no biggie – you can’t tell from the back, it just looks a bit messy on the inside.

Would I make it again?
Hell yes! This dress really was a pleasure to sew. I’d maybe add an inch to the bodice and take an inch off the skirt ‘cos my body is long in comparison to my short little legs, but I have so many ideas for different styles, fabrics and occasions. The next one is going to be another knee-length version with a navy blue skirt and a white bodice for work (one of my colleagues suggested some gold buttons for a nautical touch), and I’m going to have a go at a maxi-length version for the forthcoming summer months. It’d also make a fabulous evening dress for an event I have coming up in November, which may call for something a bit more challenging than cotton…

Anyway, here’s the finished article – check out my shoes too! £29 from Dorothy Perkins. Bargain.

I love those shoes.

I love those shoes.

This dress was brought to you by the Stuff You Should Know podcast (again). I’ve been catching up on episodes from last year, picking out things that interest me. Throughout the making of this dress I learnt about marriage, bitcoins, grief, police chases and a whole variety of other subjects (I must have listened to about 18 through the course of this sewing session). Still highly informative, still highly recommended.