Made by Me!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Sewing Challenges for 2015!

I have stumbled upon a couple of things in the blogsphere in the last couple of days that will help me to complete some of my New Years sewing resolutions in a fun and more purposeful way - and if you have seen the buttons appear on the right hand side of my blog you'll already know what I am talking about. I was flicking across different blogs looking at inspiration for my next make - a Papercut Rigel bomber jacket - and came across a Rigel Bomber challenge hosted by Ginger Makes. It seemed to be divine timing and so of course I have got myself involved. I think this challenge was initially talked about on her blog back in December last year but I missed that totally, however as I already have the fabric and lining I figured I haven't lost any time as I have everything ready to go.

I am using a quilters weight cotton fabric by Leah Duncan which is called 'City Lights Night', it has a black background with colourful dots all over it. Pretty isn't it?!

I have also found some black fleece fabric online and plan to make a winter bomber with a snuggly inside. I have a lovely handmade winter coat - with potential plans in the offing for another one after this coat is finished - but I lack a casual jacket in my wardrobe. I have been meaning to make this up and have had the pattern in my stash for yonks but I just haven't had inspiration to sew it up until now. And lets face it sewing it along with a load of other bloggers is a great way to get yourself motivated and to share progress.

From reading other peoples reviews of the jacket I think I will make a couple of amendments to the pattern - I will make the arms a couple of inches longer - as many people including Ginger say they come up short - and if they are too long it isn't hard to rectify. I am also going to enlarge the pocket bags as everyone says they are too small. I am in between sizes on this jacket and to make it easier I am cutting a medium and giving myself a 5/8 seam allowance (it only asks for a 3/8 on the pattern) so that the size falls in between a small and a medium. It also allows me room to let it out if the lining is too bulky. This is my only unknown on this jacket and I don't have enough to do a toile of the lining and outer fabric for a test.  I think the finished sizing's of the garment look fine for me though and I therefore I think I will forgo a toile on this. I may regret that but we will see!

This week my plan is to trace and cut the pattern and then cut out the fabric - both self and lining. I am not sure how much more I will get done but hopefully a basic stitch together of the outer jacket at least and I will keep you updated on how its going. The great thing about this is that I also get to tick off a skill on my list - welt pockets - and another item on my planned winter wardrobe.

Secondly whilst perusing the web I had a bloglovin feed pop into my email with a post from Handmade Jane about a vintage pattern year long challenge hosted jointly by A Stitching Odyssey and Kestrel Makes. Basically its called the 'vintage pattern sewing pledge' and anyone that wants to get involved just need to pledge how many vintage patterns they plan to sew up in 2015. I have pledged to make 4 vintage patterns - I have a 1950's and 1940's pattern already and a wealth of 70's patterns from my mum - some of which I may or may not attempt due to the rather bizarre styles and because my mum was clearly a lot skinnier than I was! This will also tick off some skills on my resolutions list. Nothing like getting on with learning new things to make you feel more creative. Here's to some fun sewing months ahead!

Mmm... just look at that strange mini skirt and flat cap combo from Simplicity. I wont be hurrying to make that one up any time soon!

And this one doesn't fit so would need some grading but I really love the wrap dress. I am becoming a bit of a wrap dress fan!

So are any of you getting involved in either of these challenges? If so do you have any ideas for creative Rigel's or have you got any vintage patterns you have been dying to try out?

Monday, 12 January 2015

Darling Ranges Dress Finished!

I know it seems as though I have been living under a rock for the last few years to have only just sewn up the Darling Ranges dress from Megan Nielsen but in fairness I think it was one of the first indie patterns I bought way back when I first started sewing, its just taken a while to reach to the top of the 'to do' pile. I am trying hard to gradually tick off the patterns I never got round to doing and I have seen so many people over the years who have made this up and there are some very pretty versions out there. For some reason its the pattern in my collection that I always pick up and put down when considering what to make - and so this time I made an effort to actually do it knowing otherwise it may unwittingly end up being unused for another year! 

After my last 'finished garment' post (Gertie's wrap dress) I said I always seem to do toiles now but for some reason - lets call it a hangover and general lethargy at the idea - I didn't bother doing it with this pattern. Something I completely kicked myself for when I started sewing the bodice together. My measurements fit the pattern exactly and the design was so simplistic I argued to myself what could go wrong.....?? Well the bust darts for one. They are so weird - they are huge and made my boobs look off centre as they were too short and pointy like something out of a Madonna video circa 1990. I tried steaming them over a ham but whilst that made the area more rounded the boob still had a lot of point to it and it still wasn't going to fall in the right place. In the end I picked apart the seams and a little of the serging I had done on the seam allowance, elongated the darts by about 1 inch and tailed them off a little more to avoid the severe end to the dart. If you look closely it still isn't great but I couldn't make huge alterations because it was far too late for that so a shambolic fix would have to do.

With belt!
Without belt!
At that stage I put the project down and left it for a while. I need a break from something when it refuses to go my way. The rest of the pattern was really straight forward and easy to put together though. I liked the way that the pattern used bias tape around the neck rather than facings and if I had enough fabric would have made some myself rather than resorting to shop bought stuff. It's a really clever little technique and not one I have seen before - but I think I would definitely use it again. If nothing else it's a fabric saver if you haven't got enough fabric left to make facings. Essentially you use bias binding to enclose the raw fabric around the neckline and then the plackets are folded over to cover up the end of the bias tape.When its finished it's all neat and enclosed...voila! Sorry the photos aren't great here and the fabric appears to attract fluff as well!

Now to talk about the fabric, this one is from Atelier Brunette and is called 'Bye Bye Birdie' in black - it's simple in design and really rather lovely don't you agree?? I know you are wondering why I so quickly avoided one resolution to think before cutting such a lovely fabric... well we cant all be perfect can we?! This fabric is a cotton which feels the same as a lawn in weight so its not too heavy. I can therefore see myself wearing this in the spring and summer as well - providing I get tanned legs as the whiteness of my skin can be a bit of a shocker to the eye!!

I think what I should point out here is that I am completely unable to dress in a seasonally appropriate manner and so generally will try and wear items that are not quite right for winter and layer myself with tights and thermals underneath instead - and even then not to a point of being warm enough. I never got winter dressing for some reason and my wardrobe has always been a little lost and confused at this time of year, maybe I am just always hopeful it will be warm soon and I can hold out just a little longer so there's no point in making anything too seasonal and cosy....mmm I realise this is stupid but hey...

Anyway back to the construction. It's the first time in ages whilst in the middle of making up a garment that I suddenly began to feel unsure of what the finished item was going to look like. Usually the vision of the finished piece is strong and I get so excited about the prospect of seeing the final piece and finally wearing it that it pushes me to finish it. With this dress I only really completed it because I didn't want an unfinished object staring at me from my fabric stash until I re-purposed it. That's how little I had high hopes for this dress. I think it's because half way through I suddenly thought it reminded me of dresses I used to wear ten years ago, and it felt a little like I was stepping back in time style wise. It's probably why I have subconsciously avoided making it for so long. I am not saying it isn't a lovely dress or a nice style but I realise that it just feels like something I owned a while ago.

I do think however that after all the worry it's turned out pretty well - not my favourite but not a complete fail either. It may not be the best fitting garment but it's a nice addition to my wardrobe. I really like the colourful buttons, which were bought a long time ago for a top for my niece. I deliberately bought far too many as I knew I would want to use them on something for myself in the future.

In fact this dress has been great for reducing stashed extras, buttons, thread and bias tape and hey an old pattern! I am not sure if I would hurry to stitch it up again but if I did I would want to do a toile to modify the pattern and make sure the bodice fit better. I will also probably be getting rid of the ties on the back of the dress as I think I prefer it with a belt. I wanted to show it both ways here though so you could see it as it was intended to be sewn together but I don't think you can really see the difference on the black fabric and in the back view I am also standing awkwardly! I also don't think the ties are really long enough - I just managed to tie them into a bow here but I would prefer something longer really. I also realised when I had finished photographing the dress that it pulled slightly on the buttons around the bust because I tied the waist ties at the back - another reason to get rid of them! I hadn't noticed this before but hopefully it wont stand out too much on the images.

So what do you think of the Darling Ranges dress? Hit or miss?! Would it be something that you would make? Or have you already made one up before? Be great to hear what you think. Happy Sewing everyone!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Gertie's Wrap Dress - Sewing Vintage Casual

Another part of my planned winter wardrobe is finally finished! I need to get a wriggle on with the rest of it otherwise it will be summer by the time I have finished! This dress is the wrap dress from Gertie's book 'Gertie Sews Vintage Casual' which I reviewed in this post. I made the dress from a beautiful fabric called Gnome Pants which is from designer Rashida Coleman Hale and her 'Moonlit' collection. It is a lovely lawn fabric and is soft to touch and has a lovely drape, and also on the plus side it is super easy to sew with.

When I reviewed this book I hadn't tried any of the patterns out yet but I already thought that I was likely to encounter fit issues as I normally do with Gertie's patterns - I had to change things to varying degrees on patterns from her Craftsy courses, Butterick patterns and the ones from her previous book. It's never in a major way but she seems to fit most patterns to people with broader shoulders than myself. It was for this reason that I did a toile - although I have to say I am getting to the point of doing them for most things now if I am the tiniest bit unsure of the fit on me and it really does help. A toile also means you can check the style suits you before cutting into your precious fabric and it allows you to try out any tricky techniques in the pattern or just to familiarise yourself with how the garment is put together before you do it on the real thing. Apart from the fact that I managed to draw out pattern pieces and make up a toile for the bodice back and front in a size smaller than myself on my first attempt, when I finally did make up the correct size I was pleasantly surprised that it fit perfectly with no need for any changes. This is a complete plus point for me and I am now more likely to dip into this book to make stuff knowing it should all fit just fine.

 Gertie's wrap dress

The wrap dress was a really easy piece to sew and nothing was too difficult so I imagine an adventurous beginner with a few projects under their belt would be able to cope with it - especially as there are no zips or buttonholes needed. There is a back bodice with darts and two triangular shaped wrap pieces with darts for the front bodice. As the front pieces are cut on the bias Gertie suggests a way of preventing the fabric stretching out that is more durable than stay stitching, she suggests putting a small piece of interfacing or stay tape on the seam allowance which is cut on the grain. I hope you can make out the picture here of the adhesive interfacing I used to see what I mean. It really made the fabric very sturdy and I would recommend doing it over just stay stitching if you make this dress. You also get a glimpse of my awful ironing board. I so need a new one especially as I cut through it the other day whilst prepping some fabric - if you look closely at the orange circle you can see what I mean...!

There is a wealth of information in this book which makes it more than worth the money spent on it. Gertie has really spent time making up a compendium of information that rivals any pattern book I have come across so far. I learnt one technique whilst making this dress which is crowding (or crimping) the sleeve cap to help ease the fabric into the sleeve. It requires you to lengthen the stitch length on your machine and then for you to put in two lines of basting stitches within the seam allowance. Whilst stitching you have to put your finger firmly behind the sewing machine foot and as the basting stitches are sewn the fabric bunches up behind, releasing only when the fabric is getting too much. The result is that the fabric comes out with a crimped look about it or a concertina effect which helps with ease when setting in the sleeve. The idea is that you should end up sewing more fabric into each stitch, thereby creating a smoother sleeve than you would if you pulled the basting stitches to gather and put in place a slight puff at the sleeve cap.  I have to be honest though and say it didn't work as well as I would have liked on my fabric, it seemed to resist heavy crimping and so when I tried to set in the sleeve it didn't look too professional. I ripped it out and put in a gathered sleeve cap instead and am totally happy with it. I like the idea of crowding though and would like to try it on a more responsive fabric - or it may be that I just need more practise...who knows! Nice to learn a new skill though!

The rest of the dress was pretty straightforward and I managed to make it up in a couple of days. I went out in it last night after just finishing it and it was lovely to wear and I felt very feminine in it - and its the first time in my life I have walked out the door in an outfit (dress and coat) made all by little me! My boyfriend thinks it makes me look a little like an eighties throw back with my material choice (and I realise he has said this about other things I have made come to think of it) but I just love the design. Its a versatile dress - I can keep it wintry with a camisole underneath and a pair of thick woolly tights or I can wear it in summer easily as the dress is made of a relatively thin material.

So what do you think? I am really happy with the outcome of this dress and I love wearing it. I love the collar shape and the the overall shape of the dress when it's on. It's really flattering. I think I am having a wrap dress moment as I have another couple of wrap dress patterns lined up to make; a 1940's vintage pattern (part of a tick list of techniques and skills I want to acquire this year from my resolutions) and a beauty from Sewaholic called Yaletown. I think they are super flattering and whilst I work off the Christmas belly I seemed to have acquired they are working well for me!

Whats on your sewing table? Anyone tried this dress or recommend any good wrap dresses to sew up?