Made by Me!

Sunday, 13 November 2016

The Sew Over It Pussy Bow Blouse - Finished!

It's a dark Sunday evening and I am cocooned in a snugly jumper and a pair of handmade Margot pyjama bottoms from Tilly's book, 'Love at First Stitch', trying to forget I have to get up for work tomorrow. I want to sew but I can't quite gather the energy to move so I thought I would type up my review of the Pussy Bow Blouse from 'Sew Over It' instead. It's a lot more glamorous than my current get up (although having only just made pj's for the first time they are so much nicer than shop bought ones and made in a lovely bright Liberty Tana lawn for some added luxury).

This pattern has been around for ages. How have I not managed to sew this beauty up before? It is in essence a pretty easy make, though I chose to make it in the most annoying fabric. I decided having never sewn anything in silk I would make an effort to rectify this and bought some of the most beautifully patterned and coloured dobby satin silk from the lovely Dragonfly Fabrics. Now I bought this a good few months ago but they still have some in stock so grab it here if you like it. The fabric features tree branches and lovely splashes of pinks, blues and other colours in the background. It is truly sumptuous. If you have not heard of dobby before then the first thing you notice about this fabric are the lines of  thread that punctuate throughout, which look slightly like small stitches in lines across the fabric.

The fabric is very fluid and drapey and so great for this shirt pattern but so difficult to cut out. I know now that there are much better ways to cut silk than laying the expensive fabric on carpet and cutting out with my scissors, but I am like bull in a china shop and just got on with it choosing to learn from experience rather than the warnings of others. I would avoid this technique as it is only by the skin of my teeth that the pieces I cut out were OK and if they weren't so great the mistakes were often hidden in the seam allowances. I spent ages laying it smoothly on the floor, carefully lining the fabric up and trying to pin the pattern pieces on without pulling the fabric all over the place. It took FOREVER!! The lines on the dobby silk were actually quite useful for positioning the fabric correctly and about the only reason the pattern pieces weren't all stretched out disasters...!

I went to the effort of hand sewing the pieces together, with a double whammy of pinning them with silk pins as well before putting them through the machine as I was worried they may slip all over the place. This worked well and everything sewed up nicely. It was especially important for the front of the shirt which is made up of two pattern pieces. I wanted to pattern match the tree branches and general pattern across the front. I am actually really surprised it looks this good due to the inaccuracies during cutting out, but it worked and looks pretty great if I do say so myself.

I sewed up the version with the lower neckline. The ties are sewn right to the bottom of the v-neck in this version and the tie hangs low on the shirt. You can style it with a big bow or leave the ties hanging down. I think it's a really flattering style. I love the way the sleeves pool at the wrist, the cuffs are small and delicate and the closure is a button and a loop of fabric. It is the epitome of feminine style.

I finished off the the seam allowances using a french seam to avoid fraying and to neaten the edges in a nice way. Silk deserves the classiest of finishes, don't you agree?! Annoyingly I managed to snip the fabric in one place whilst trimming the seam allowances back and had to quickly fix it with a small piece of iron on fusible interfacing. Its like you try so hard not to snip you involuntarily cause yourself to make mistakes.

I would like to make this up again in a more stable fabric as I think the finish would be better. I am not sure after hanging it in my closet that the hem isn't a touch wonky and on close inspection the v in the neck where the tie is attached wasn't easy to finish neatly with this fabric. Thankfully its hidden by the tie when its done up. And hey I am being critical as I am proud of this shirt. It is my first wearable silk item using a fabric I have been nervous of sewing up, forever. 

So what do you think? Have you made a pussy bow blouse before or are thinking of lining one up on your sewing list? Happy sewing whatever you are making!

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Wear Lemonade Dita Dress - Finished!

The Dita dress from Wear Lemonade has been on my 'must do' list for a while, though I only recently bought the pattern. I have been hearting this pattern company and their uber cool French style and the effortless chic of their designs for a while and eventually I had to give in and buy this pattern.

I think you can tell from my previous post about the gorgeous Elskan dress from Charlotte Kan that I love a good old batwing dress. The Dita is another dress that utilises this eighties silhouette but also features a really flattering wrap design. The dress is made to wear either with the v-neck at the front or the back which gives the dress a lot of versatility. I personally prefer the dress worn in the traditional way with the low cut wrap at the front, though this is only because I don't think high necks are my thing.

The reason that prompted me to eventually buy this pattern (other than loving the design) is because I was venturing to the posh bit at Ascot racecourse and needed a dress. I don't have loads of Ascot worthy dresses as my going out clothes rarely get more exciting than jeans and a top and loads of things from last year are frankly too small (sad face). The dress code for Ascot is pretty strict - dresses to be at least knee length, no strapless, halter neck or spaghetti straps and no exposed midriffs.....pah like any member of the public is going to get a glimpse of my midriff any time soon! But in all seriousness I was out of work and needed a quick, simple, cheap make that feels glam. So in walks Dita.

I wanted a drapey, flowing fabric but originally wanted something with a little body. I thought crepe would be a winter ready dress fabric that would have a lovely drape and would work well with the dress. I looked everywhere as I had specific ideas of what I wanted, which always means you can't find anything at all...! Long story short I came across the gorgeous digital tapestry crepe fabric on the Sew Over It website. It wasn't quite what I was thinking of but I liked its bold colours and in narrowing down my search I kept coming back to it. When it arrived, whilst I loved the colours, I was a little disappointed that it was more like a polyester silk type fabric - I also thought it was black not navy in the background though that is probably due to my computer monitor giving me a false colour representation. The fabric is very smooth, swishy and drapey but also really thin (should have read lightweight on the fabric description and believed it!). I didn't think a crepe was like that though so it was a real surprise, I always assumed it was a slightly heavier, rough feeling fabric. This meant I went through lots of pre-sewing thinking about whether to interline the fabric to give it more body or just to get on with it and sew... In the end after buying some black lawn to interline it with I decided not to bother because I wasn't sure whether it would work well and in honesty I was in danger of running out of sewing time before the big event.

Cutting this fabric out was a little annoying as it stretches slightly when you lay it out but with time and perseverance it was OK in the end. I think the skirt section on one bit was a little uneven but nothing that couldn't be hidden in construction. Sewing it was such a pleasure. I assumed it may slip all over the place but actually it was super easy to control and sew. The overlocker didn't really like it that much but to be honest sometimes it just throws a hissy fit and I have no idea why...

The construction is super simple as there are so few elements to sew together and there are no tricky techniques, so its perfect for beginners. In the end I whipped it up pretty quickly. The thing that took time was hemming the skirt as there is quite a lot of fabric. Things that you should be aware of with this pattern. The skirt is shorter than I would normally cut and sew, I lengthened it to the longest length available on the pattern and it was just right for me (just above the knee) but I would say if you are tall you may find it comes up a little short. The tie needed sewing down rather than just pressing, but this is likely due to my fabric choice more than anything. Without topstitching it looked a little 'baggy'. The biggest thing with this pattern is that the front falls open which can be annoying and the facing can pop out a little. I found that even when securing the front facing at the shoulders and at the waist it popped out and this is mostly due to the fact the front naturally sags which is part of the design. Wear Lemonade suggest a pin at the bust but I think this looks a little like it doesn't fit plus I wasn't sure this fabric would take kindly to having holes put in it. My preference was to purchase a lacy slip from M&S. Works a treat. So if the front falls open a little it doesn't feel like I am exposing myself to the world.

The best bits about this pattern are that its a really flattering design, it sews together impeccably and it has English translation alongside the French sewing terms. OK not all of it is perfect but its 99.9% perfect and so much easier than trying to decipher the French! Basically I love it so much and think after all my worries the fabric is just perfect for this pattern. I feel like I have a proper going out dress now. Just have to find another occasion to wear it!!

I hope you liked reading about Dita. What is on your sewing table today?

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The Elskan Jersey Dress - Finished!

I'm back! It has been a while ..... but I have very good excuses, promise! I got married and became a Mrs, had a lovely honeymoon and in the middle of all of that lost my sewing mojo with the sheer amount of logistical planning and stress inherent with planning your big day.... I didn't think it would create so much pressure!! Plus my camera broke but that just gave me an excuse to upgrade! But back to sewing...

After coming back from a hot, sunny Sri Lankan holiday I was immediately freezing cold as autumn had descended in my absence. I have a decided lack of winter clothes in my wardrobe and I seem to have put on weight since last year, though this could have been helpfully aided by the 3 weeks of constant curry eating..! I have been searching around for some cozy jersey makes to whip up and keep me warm in the cold season when I came across the beautiful Elskan dress from Charlotte Kan. Love at first sight!

The Elskan has a very eighties vibe to it which I am all over. I am loving the cowl neck and batwing sleeves (which I remember falling in love with when I was about 8 or 9). The way the top of the dress falls over the belly and comes down into a fitted skirt helps cover the extra curry podge but show off your better assets. It's basically super flattering, meaning its fast becoming a staple of my wardrobe because it makes me feel great. Until selling them on eBay recently (to buy more material) I owned a few jersey dresses from a few years ago that I will never wear again as the silhouette is straight up and down and I just feel pregnant in them. This has the opposite effect and I think it's a bit of a sexy minx of a dress!

I have actually been wearing my Elskan so much I didn't get round to photographing it until just now so its been in and out of the wash several times. I am happy to say that the Isabella wool jersey purchased from one of my fave fabric shops, Fabric Godmother, is brilliant for this dress and has lasted the test of time so far and still looks brand new. It hasn't pilled yet and I can wear the dress a few times between washes without it feeling like it has gone out of shape. Win, win. I hate making things up in what feels like gorgeous quality fabric only to take it out of the washing machine and find it looks old already. And I am not one to handwash...ever! I admit I am scared of buying jersey online as I rarely feel I know what I am buying and have often bought things that are not fit for the purpose of the garment I want to make up so it was a little bit of a gamble but it paid off. You need a single jersey with at least 50% stretch for this dress as there is a need for a lot of movement in the skirt and not all online companies mention the stretch for each fabric so hard to make confident buying decisions.

This dress requires a lot of fabric for what looks like such a small thing - about 2.5 metres. I made the long sleeved version but you can also omit the tighter sleeve section at the end of the batwing and finish the cuff at the elbow. I love both views. It can also be made into a top and I think I may make this next as I am pretty confident it would also be a flattering comfortable make. Although maybe I will make it in something a little brighter and more colourful next time. I went for black thinking it would be aid the illusion of a svelte silhouette!

The construction is very simple, it has a front and back and two sleeve sections (for the long sleeve version) which are easy to piece together and sew with the overlocker. The trickier bit is the back of the collar which requires sewing on a section of folded over jersey and finishing it with a twin needle topstitch. This is something that I have never done before so the chances of messing it up and having to live with it were high, but it turned out quite nice in the end. The only other elements of any nervousness for me was the hemming of the sleeves and skirt as I never been able to avoid wavy hem so I went into this part of the process with some trepidation. I found following a tip from another seamstress very helpful; lengthening the stitch and then pressing to set the stitches immediately after sewing helps avoid this problem. And it worked! I also made sure to baste all of my pattern pieces together before using my overlocker to avoid the use of loads of pins and to stop the fabric slipping apart in the machine (which it did in practice runs). I feel I may have turned a corner in sewing jersey with this dress and overcome a lot of fears. I feel raring to go on another jersey project now!

So what do you think? Will you be giving the Elskan a whirl?! I think she is a thing of beauty and hope to have many more of them in my life sometime soon!