Made by Me!

Sunday, 22 November 2015

My New Winter Coat

I wanted a simple one colour winter coat to take me through the season, something I could whip up without much time, without difficult fastenings and that would go with anything in my wardrobe and convey a touch of elegance. I thought about a couple of different patterns before getting hooked on this one - the new Lisette coat pattern which you can get hold of on Oliver and S. The shawl style is very elegant and I could definitely see myself wearing it. My only reservation was that it wasn't a coat made for closing with a belt (and if you did anyway would it still look good or all bunched up...??)  With this in mind I think it would probably have limited use for me.

The second coat is not so far off the Lisette coat design, however this Burda coat has less fabric at the front of the coat and has a belt included - to me its a little more user friendly for cold winters. I first saw this pattern a couple of years ago but it was when Rachel from House of Pinheiro made it up in a shocking pink that I fell in love with it again. Take a look at her version here. I nearly passed up on this coat to start with as I really don't like the way it was styled in this picture but taking a moment to look past the patterned material and the way the model is wearing it you can see the potential of the design.  Its always inspirational to take a peek at how other people sew things up, not only is it useful to gather helpful fit and design information but it can also give you additional ideas for fabric choice and style that you may never have thought about before.

Now whilst I like both of the coats above, maybe I can make of them up next as I have always wanted to be a lady with lots of for every occasion.....I finally decided to make this Burdastyle one which I kept coming back to again and again. It is a coat of simple construction but it has a really nice basic shape.

I have to say that whilst I generally hate Burda patterns due to their lack of decent instructions I think the quality of their winter coat designs are brilliant. So many to choose from; a style to suit everyone.

Now on to the fabric. The pattern calls for fulled fabrics, knits and fibre fleece. Fulled fabric is a felted wool that has the same appearance on both sides and it looks slightly matted. You can use a blended fabric such as loden which tends to have polyester in it or as I did a 100% boiled wool. I got mine from Dragonfly Fabrics who hold a load of different (and very beautiful) colours. I suggest using their sample service to be sure of the colour you get as they can look a little different next to your skin.

Grey Melange Boiled Wool - Dragonfly Fabrics
Petrol Boiled Wool - Dragonfly Fabrics
I chose grey melange although the Damson was a close second and I have chosen the gorgeous petrol blue for my next coat. I know grey isn't the most exciting of colours and it unintentionally mimics the Burda style one in the picture so perhaps not the most original but it was a real attempt to make something I will wear immediately and that goes with everything - I think I made the right choice. Time for colour on the next one!


I have heard a number of things about pre-treating wool. Some fabric shops have told me on more than one occasion that you don't need to pre-treat but so many other websites and fellow sewers have said the opposite. Basically due to wool having the potential to shrink when heat is applied through pressing or cleaning techniques I figured it's better to treat the fabric prior to cutting. You can do one of the following -

- Steaming the wool with a hot wet, ringed out towel in a tumble dryer. Put it on a high heat and stick the wool in the dryer for about 30 minutes. You may want to serge the edges of your wool first. It sound scary but it works!
- Steaming the wool with your iron, hovering above the fabric.
- Washing on a cool machine or hand wash (this is dependant on wool type but you can do this with boiled wool). Obviously if you plan to wash your coat you need to treat it as you plan to clean it in the future.
- Dry cleaning.

I chose to pre-treat by steaming the fabric with my steam iron. A laborious job, but great for getting a free facial! As the fabric came all folded up it not only helped to pre-shrink but also to take out the creases in the fabric. The steam literally melted the creases away before my eyes. You then need to leave the wool out to dry, flat on the floor or in my case the only surface big enough, my bed.

I made a couple of adjustments to the pattern - firstly I added pockets. My first coat, which I made last year, has no pockets - I omitted them mainly because when I tried to add some the wool started to stretch so I decided it best to leave them off. HUGE mistake! Every time I wore it I just wanted to put my hands in my pockets.... SO annoying!! Needless to say it isn't worn so much anymore - that's how important a pocket is on a winter coat! Anyway this time I added side seam pockets big enough for gloved hands and I reinforced the pocket openings with staytape to stop it stretching. I didn't really know about the wonder of using twill or staytape when sewing my last coat and it really would have solved my pocket stretching issues. I considered welt pockets on this coat but I think I made the right decision as the way the coat is wrapped over the body I felt they may not fall flat when wearing it.

The second adjustment I made was to add a lining. I felt a winter coat of just wool would be annoying to take on and off easily due to having no slippery surface to move against, I thought it could be itchy and most importantly not so warm without another layer to insulate. If you want more info on which linings to use on your coat take a look at my post here.

I improvised a little at the cutting out stage. Using the pattern pieces I cut out a second back panel in a satin back crepe and worked out roughly where the coat folded over at the front when on and  cut that width off of the front panels. I always do this type of thing by eye and keeping my fingers crossed and it seems to have worked pretty well so far! When the pieces were sewn together I pinned the lining on to the coat to check that it worked and chopped some excess off of the corners at the top front of the coat. When I was happy I serged the edges to stop them fraying and then hemmed the bottom of the lining. I pinned the lining back on to the coat and just pushed the serged edges under to hide them. I then hand sewed the whole thing in to the coat, securing at the shoulders and armpits. It worked pretty well although for some reason the bottom hem whilst measured perfectly doesn't fall quite evenly so I wish I had hemmed it when on the coat rather than before putting the lining on. But being lazy I cannot be bothered to alter it now and to be honest no-one has noticed yet as its hidden from view!

Another adjustment was to sew the sleeve edges. For some reason the sleeves came way past the end of my wrists by a good two inches. I must have super short arms! But I used the excess length to add a design feature, sewing two lines of stitches around the wrist openings to create lines that emulate the stitch lines down the back and side seams of the coat. This coat has a nice feature which requires flat felled seams to be sewn on the main seams. A flat felled seam - whilst the rather vague instructions don't describe them so well - is when you reduce the seam bulk on one half of the sewn seam allowance by trimming it back and then you take the untrimmed side and bend it over the reduced bulk, folding the larger section over and under the trimmed allowance to conceal it. You then sew the seam closed close to the edge of the folded over allowance. It looks like two parallel lines from the right side. A little detail you see on a lot of expensive coats so it's rather nice to see it on this coat. Also if you don't line this coat a felled seam makes the innards look nice and neat as well. It was a little annoying with this fabric because due to its thickness it was tough to do well. A little cheat with boiled wool, instead of folding the fabric over and under the trimmed seam allowance you can fold it flat, sew as you would with the felled hem a short distance from the seam line and then trim the excess close to the stitches. I honestly couldn't tell the difference and as the fabric doesn't fray it means you can do this easily and it saves tonnes of time! Plus if you put a lining in no-one will ever know!! Shhh!!

Lastly I didn't add a belt made of self fabric as I thought it would easily stretch out and I didn't make one out of leather but utilised an old leather belt I bought eons ago in Accessorise. Looks like hoarding some stuff can come in handy!! I love the shape the belt gives the coat as its quite wide and I think it adds a little bit of class to the coat.

All in all I really love it. I have worn it every day since I finished it last weekend and have received many compliments about it. I think its an easy coat to make, it took about 12 hours including the lining, without it I could have finished it in half the time and been happy with wearing it. I would wholly recommend the coat for beginners as there is nothing too daunting in the design. There are no tricky fastenings and it allows you to make something that looks complicated without needing to break a sweat!

So will you be sewing a winter coat this season? If so what is your pattern of choice?

Saturday, 24 October 2015

The Fraser Sweatshirt - Finished!

Over the past couple of weeks I have patiently been sticking together PDF patterns, tracing out pattern pieces and cutting out fabric in readiness to sew up a few new items for my winter wardrobe. My boyfriend has been struck down with a nasty bout of shingles and so is spending most of his time resting in a dark room, which also houses my sewing machine, so whilst twiddling my thumbs all alone of an evening I have been getting my sewing fix from prep work! This weekend I have managed to sneak a few hours sewing time in now he is feeling a little more like himself and from the nice little stash of things I built up ready to sew, the Fraser sweatshirt was the first to come together. I even made it just in time so that I had something to wear to work the next day now the weather has dipped in temperature. And so with three compliments from work colleagues as soon as I took my jacket off in the morning I present my new Fraser Sweatshirt.

The Fraser sweatshirt is one of the new patterns from Sewaholic and you can make it in three views, View A has a contrast yoke and sleeve panels that come to a point at centre front and centre of the top of the sleeve. View B has a plain front and three quarter length sleeves - and this is the one that I have sewn. View C has a sewn in collar detail with short sleeves. You can mix and match the sleeve lengths to make up many different styles but this is how the different versions are shown on the website.
My quilted black jersey fabric is from the Fabric Godmother and when I last looked they still had some left. This online shop has quickly become one of my new favourite places to buy fabric but if you blink you can miss the good stuff. The fabric is thick and feels luxurious and soft. It is of a much superior quality to the fabric I used on my last sweatshirt, the Capital Chic White Russian which I have almost worn to death - and the fabric really hasn't stood up to the test of time, but I guess that's what you get when you buy something unknown from EBay! I am also hoping this fabric will be much warmer so it will be more useful when it gets chiller.

I have not normally worn that many sweatshirts in the past but I am really coming to love them. They are so versatile, can be dressed up or played down and can look rather chic. And this one was so quick and easy to make up I think I can sew up a few more to add some good basics to my winter wardrobe. It took all of four hours to complete, one of which was spent remonstrating with my overlocker, and I feel the end results were well worth it.

Fit wise it is a closer fit and shorter in length than my Capital Chic sweatshirt but I like the snugness of it. I can't comfortably fit more than a vest top or t-shirt underneath but as long as the fabric withstands the chill it should get a lot of wear. It sits nicely on the top of the hip and especially in this black fabric it looks quite smart I think.

Putting it together was easy. No setting in of sleeves, its all done flat, and you don't need an overlocker to make it. The pattern is made entirely to sew on a sewing machine which is great if you don't have an overlocker at your disposal. I did still use mine to finish off the edges but my fabric tended to fray a little so it looked neater inside. You could however just zigzag stitch or use an overlocker foot on your machine. This is also the first time I have actually used stay tape. Having seen my last sweatshirt stretch slightly out of shape I suddenly realise how important this is in the construction process. To use it you cut the tape to length, omitting the seam allowances on either end of the seam, you then position the tape on the wrong side of the fabric, in the middle of the stitch line (so a little away from the fabric edge) and only on one side of the fabric before sewing the shoulder seams together. This makes for a really sturdy unstretchable seam. An important step in making jersey garments I realise and one I shall not scrimp on in the future.

Similarly to the Capital Chic sweatshirt you use the self fabric for the neckband, waistband and cuffs. It means these bands aren't super elasticated but I actually prefer them when they are this way. It also saves having to buy additional ribbed material and I actually think it looks more modern like this.

All in all I love this pattern and would recommend it. Now on to the other gems I have waiting in my stash....Happy sewing everyone!

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Tilly and The Buttons Bettine Dress - Finished!

When the new Bettine dress from Tilly and The Buttons popped up in my email one day it was an instant gratifying pattern purchase. It is a very simple dress, aimed at beginners, but the shape is so lovely and its such a wearable every day piece I think it has broad ranging appeal. Basically Tilly gets it spot on again with another lovely design.

Now I cannot believe I started making this at the beginning of August with every intention to finish and post it soon after starting it but alas the demon job has got in the way. I have basically been swallowed up in every single way by it and not had a moment to sew or see friends or do much more than eat, sleep, work repeat. I also re-decorated my bedroom just after the last post and bought a new sewing desk from Ikea only to find it broken and with no car to take it back for ages. I realised not being able to sew in my down time is like taking away a little bit of me. So it is around 6 weeks after finishing most of this dress that I have finally got a down day, hemmed the dress and taken some photos to post the results for you to see. I am only a little distraught that it is now cold and rainy outside and so this one will need to be put away until next!

The fabric I chose was a cotton from my stash; a creamy background with blue wavy lines and odd dots on it called 'Meadow' by Leah Duncan for Art Gallery Fabrics. I am trying to avoid new fabric purchases and therefore reducing what I already have. I bought this cotton well over a year ago with an Anna dress in mind but didn't quite get round to making it up. Such is the way of life when it comes to the endless tick list of patterns you want to make up at any one time!

I am in the middle of a size 4 and 5 in this pattern so rather than cut out the paper pattern I traced the whole lot out - as carefully as I could - in between the lines. Thankfully it is a relatively simple shape to trace so I managed to do this quite easily. Actually I rarely cut out the original pattern unless I am feeling really lazy or have run out of tracing paper and cant wait to sew the pattern up. I used to think I never wanted to make up the same thing more than once but over time I have realised how wonderful it is to be able to revisit a well loved pattern and as I may change sizes its good to just use the size I need for now. And as the Bettine feels like it may make more appearances in future summer wardrobes I wanted to keep it nice! I also have this little thing in the back of my head that hopes one day to have a little girl who loves sewing and will be ecstatic with joy when I hand over a load of (what will be) vintage patterns to her when she is old enough to appreciate them. Silly huh!?

So construction wise it was simple, quick and really satisfying to make (although the hours of making were stretched over weeks!). In total it took just under a day to do from start to finish, which means it can be quickly whipped up when needed. I loved the kimono sleeves which I always think are super flattering and the cuff detail at the end of the sleeves is lovely too. Although I couldn't find any exciting buttons to sew on to the cuff tabs. I only have one gripe and that is it is super snug to put it on and take it off. It definitely fits fine when its on and I have no problems with the actual way it sits on me when wearing it but I cant say I don't get that back of the mind panic thing trying to get it on and off - like when you try something on in a changing room and realise you cant manoeuvre yourself out of it without help! I cut the right size so I am assuming that's the way it is meant to be - anyone else found this? Maybe its just the fabric choice and it doesn't allow enough give. The only thing I worry about is ripping it at the seams one day... mmm. Maybe my bum is just a little too big!! Anyway. I do like it very much. Its a lovely shape and a great summer staple. The next time I make it up I would widen that bottom hem a little - maybe to take away the real tulip shape of the bottom of the skirt and I think I would like it slightly more if it were a straighter edge. I would also lengthen the skirt as I don't think I appreciated how short it was and whilst I do like it I wouldn't normally wear something that short in the leg.

What do you think? Planning on sewing up the Bettine any time soon? Maybe one for autumn!

Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Ultimate Vegas Outfit Challenge

It was a month ago that I decided to take part in the 'Ultimate Vegas Outfit' challenge to style an outfit that I could wear at one of their amazing looking Vegas hotels. I don't normally partake in things like this but looking through the pictures of all their Vegas hotels I had some inspiration for my perfect outfit to take me from day to night. Now someone take me to Vegas!! It has to be said that I also liked the fact that the other bloggers taking part in this challenge seem to be fashion bloggers and by sewing my outfit I thought I could approach it in a slightly different way. Plus I have had a sewing dip recently and it gave me just the push I needed to engage my brain and get back into it again.

So what springs to mind when you think of Las Vegas? For me I have never personally had the good fortune to go there but it's definitely on my 'tick list' of places to visit - maybe on an American style road trip from LA along Route 66. I imagine it to be baking hot (well its in the middle of a desert isn't it?!), hugely over the top, very glam (you cant think Vegas without thinking Rat Pack) and basically super fun and flamboyant. I wanted to make something that represented this, something frivolous and full on that would keep me cool in the sun but be dressy enough to wear in the evening. I chose the Bellagio as my inspiration; imagining myself having a meal whilst gazing at their infamous fountains from the veranda at the Picasso restaurant and then ending the evening with a cocktail or two in the Hyde bar with their huge window looking out on to the lights of Vegas.

Picasso restaurant - courtesy of Vegas.Com
Hyde Bar - courtesy of
The inspiration for my skirt is the Rachel Comey Bossa skirt in a beautiful plumy purple colour. I hearted this skirt with much intensity for over a month but decided I couldn't afford the £355 price tag, and so in an attempt to right the wrongs of the past and never having the courage to try and replicate things without a pattern I made my own. First time!! And I am dead proud of myself even if I do say so!

It's a long midi wrap skirt with a wide frill that runs around the bottom of the skirt, curves round at the front and joins the waistband creating something that reminds me a little of flamenco dresses. The skirt then ties with two long cotton ties (which took ages to turn out and drove my a little bit mad!!). 

I really love the fabric, an Atelier Brunette gem in soft lawn called Shine Green Coral. It is definitely more blue than green though... I am a wee bit colour blind but it doesn't look as I thought it would when it turned up in the post. Whilst it doesn't quite fit into my new ethos of only making things in plain fabrics I don't think its too busy or over the top pattern wise. I ordered three meters and basically made up the pattern as I went along, measuring and pinning directly on to the fabric and cutting freehand with no real pattern to work from. And in the end I used practically all of it on this skirt, so no wastage!

Lastly my lovely top is made from the free Workroom Social Tate top which can be found to download here. I found the fabric in a remnant bin in a local shop. Its a funny feeling cotton. It has a slightly raised design on the fabric and it has a little bit of a sheen to it. 

My machine hated both the fabric and the cotton I used to sew it together and so its not necessarily the best bit of sewing I have ever done, but I  have to say I do love it. It was a super easy pattern to follow. I think I only changed a couple of things. I didn't add the zip in and the back as I thought it was too much on this simple top, instead I made a loop from plaited thread and sewed a flower button on the other side of the top. In retrospect it gapes a little now so I probably should have used a better fastener or sewed it all the way to the top - I think I can still get my head through it - but it still works ok. I also started with the top slightly longer than in the pattern as I was worried to show any belly but when I tried the skirt on with  it I realised it was far too long and made me look boxy so I shortened it considerably. The only thing is that the pattern doesn't have any sizing instructions on it, just finished sizes, and so going by what I thought included reasonable ease I cut out a size which was in the end about an inch too wide either side. Easily rectified but I think it would help to add this on to the pattern to make it clearer.

Taking the skirt for a spin :-)
So what do you think? I hope you like my first foray into making something without a pattern!  Happy sewing everyone!

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Self Drafted Pencil Skirt

This has been a long time in the making, sitting on my sewing table being sewn little by little in the last month in between a hectic work and social life, and then it took me an age to get around to blogging about it so apologies for that. It was my final handmade outfit made almost but not quite in time for Me Made May. I wore it to a lovely wedding in the Isle of Wight this weekend so excuse the slightly bedraggled me in most of these pictures, I had very little sleep this weekend.

This skirt is a simple pencil skirt, made from fabric in my stash and drafted from my personal skirt block – nothing fancy but just what I needed in my wardrobe. I love the colour of this fabric, and the batik print. It makes me feel like holidays are on the horizon.

I have so much of this fabric in my stash, having bought it to make the By Hand London jumpsuit then quickly deciding the pattern wasn’t for me. I am trying to be more thoughtful with my fabric purchases now, buy when there is a need and desire to sew something specific, not in the hope I will find something to make from it, and most importantly definitely don’t buy for something I am not even sure about making (I include patterns in this too – I have a number of patterns that I realise I am never going to use. I may love the designs but they just don’t suit me which is a total pain and waste of money). I still do this ‘of the moment purchasing’ occasionally but I can honestly say I am getting better at it.

I decided to line the skirt with black lining to make it more comfortable although really in retrospect I should have chosen a lighter colour as I am sure you can see it peaking through at times, but again I was busting my stash (and saving my wallet). I always think a lined item feels more finished and helps to stop the fabric rucking and wrinkling as much. Plus I couldn’t be bothered to change the serger thread so I have white seams on the interior of an orangey skirt. Best to cover them really! I made a facing for the inside of the skirt with the lining attached to this. I sewed them together in a roundabout, clunky way – not ideal but I got there in the end. I made up the skirt lining as per the outer skirt and then made the facing. I then measured the facing and cut the unnecessary fabric off the top of the lining. Worked well but it’s a rather long winded (and wasteful) way of doing it. I just didn’t have any paper to cut out a separate lining pattern so just improvised in my own special way!

I realised at the zip stage that I didn’t have one of the right length in my sewing box. No problem. After a quick google and a few over, over stitches 9 inches down the longest zip known to man I had shortened my first zip. I actually can’t believe I haven’t done this before, I usually just wait to buy one, but it’s so easy!

So what do you think? I really like this skirt. Its so simple but I believe in sometimes just letting the fabric do the talking!!

I think I will knock a couple more of these lovely skirts up in plain colours, maybe move the darts and make it a little more interesting. I know I can do a bit of pattern manipulation if I try…. I must not be scared!! Happy Sewing everyone!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

My Me Made May 2015

This year I have finally participated in Me Made May, although I admit in a less engaged way than I had originally planned. When I made my resolutions for this year I was adamant that I wanted to get more involved in the blogging world but having had time at the end of last year to devote to sewing and the blogosphere in general that was easy, now with a full on knackering commute and work schedule this year, my resolutions are slipping slightly in more ways than one! I joined the Me Made May movement a little into May, having forgotten it was May already…how is it already June?? Time is FLYING!! I pledged to wear three items of handmade clothing per week. I started off feeling a little restricted in my attire choices from the off, I think from my recent posts you will see I really am rethinking my wardrobe and sewing choices as well as feeling most of my favourite Me Made items were summer clothes (and we lacked good May weather here in the UK). All in all this meant a slightly precarious month of May trying to find a way to wear more of my handmade items and not totally achieving it. I kind of failed to wear three items a week, it was more like two, meaning I didn’t really achieve my goal. However I don’t feel like it’s a fail, more a real confirmation that I have a whole load of holes in my wardrobe which need plugging. The items I wore the most and in rotation during the period of May were my Erin culottes, my Wiksten Tova (I just love this top!!), my Wiksten tank, (both made prior to the blog) my White Russian sweatshirt and my Papercut Patterns Rigel bomber, which is far too warm to wear now so I am glad I could wear that during May before packing it away until Autumn. I have taken photos of my various outfits but I won’t bore you with repeats. Here they are below.



I really enjoyed the challenge of Me Made May and it definitely got me thinking about what I should wear every day – trying to make a more conscious effort to go for my handmade rather than shop bought items was an interesting process and a frustrating one when I couldn’t find what I wanted in my handmade wardrobe. I know some people have so much handmade stuff that its super easy for them to dress entirely in their own creations every day but I know that isn’t my situation. I guess if it becomes that easy to do the challenge it isn’t really for you anyway. I want to work towards a more thorough wardrobe for the rest of this year and maybe by May 2016 I will be able to participate with more of a sense of purpose, being able to actually show off more of my handmade items.

The real thing Me Made May highlighted for me is that I wear only a small section of my handmade wardrobe and whilst I know as mentioned above, that some of this is because I seemed to just make a whole load of summery things last year, I feel a little ashamed of this. I know it’s not a new revelation but it still stings to realise something you spend so much time doing isn’t really yielding the results it should. I really need the seasons to be reflected in my wardrobe, more staples, and as mentioned in my previous post more plain items to go with other things. I will try and learn from this experience and carry forward my plan to create a more versatile wardrobe over the coming months! Bring on Me Made May 2016!!

Did you participate in Me Made May? Did you achieve your goal, not quite make it or break through and wear much more than you originally pledged? It would be great to hear your experiences.