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Posts Tagged ‘dressmaking’


Remember Dolly?

Well, she’s gone through puberty rather rapidly:

That’s kinda balanced out those hips a bit, but her shape does look rather ridiculous!  (Well, I suppose, my shape does look rather ridiculous!)

I’m quite happy with her shape and size now, though I probably need to put a little padding on the hips (they’re the right size, but mine aren’t as smooth – they need to start sticking out a bit higher up) – at the moment it doesn’t matter too much as my current plans are for blouses and full-skirted dresses.

Anyway, working with Dolly has taught me a few things, so here’s how I did it:

1) The form doesn’t come with much in the way of instructions for adjustment, by chance, I checked the Adjustoform website – that has the information we need to adjust our form!

2) The Diana has numbered dials that are supposed to show the circumference in centimetres.  They’re not entirely accurate, so don’t rely on them!  I measured me, I measured Dolly, I adjusted, I re-measured Dolly, I checked my measurements, I adjusted again, I measured again … and so on until I was happy.

Not 100% accurate!

3) That chest area.  Yeah, so.  I thought it wouldn’t work, but I wanted to check what the under-bust measurement would be if the full-bust measurement was correct – I was right, the under-bust was far too big.  I think that, like most patterns, dress forms tend to be made to a B cup.  I wasn’t made to a B cup!

The solution …  I adjusted Dolly so the under-bust measurement matched mine.  I then measured from the base of my neck at the front (roughly at the hollow between the collarbone) to the botton of my bra band (centre front) to check where that should sit and marked that measurement on Dolly with a pin.  When I put the bra on Dolly, I made sure it lined up with that pin.

Then I got out the stuffing!  This was the filling of an old pillow that had already been pulled apart.  Instead of pulling out a single wad, I took out small handfuls at a time and gradually built up the padding inside the bra, shaping it and trying to make it a smooth, realistic shape all the time, until it felt about full.  This essentially means groping the filled bra repeatedly!  Feel free to film this stage and watch it any time you need a laugh.  I measured Dolly’s assets and filled a bit more, measured and filled until she was just right.

Of course, the flaw with this way of working is that you end up with boobs that only go as far as the top of the bra cup – and boobs don’t tend to do that!  It’s a good idea to check the high bust measurement in comparison with your own.  With the tape measure taught across the bra straps, Dolly’s is the same as mine, but there is a gap between the tape and her body.  I think a temporary solution could be to put a layer (or two) of batting across the upper chest, above the bra cups, which could be tucked under the bra straps.

Please mind the gap.

I’m losing weight at the moment (slowly and steadily, no radical transformations here!), but when I’m fitting back into my old jeans (again, just one size down, nothing radical!), I’m going to try to make a cover for Dolly.  The Party Dress has a guide to draping a simple body block, so I’m going to grab some calico, a friend, a long zip and some padding and get personalising Dolly.  In the meantime, though, she’ll be fine as she is.

And the first bit of fitting will be …

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So, for today, here’s the rest of that haul!  Two more patterns and some more fabric.

So, that fabric – this was a purchase of love:

Again, I couldn’t get the colour quite right in the photo, but it’s a soft mauve-grey – this tiny picture shows the colours a bit better:

Those flowers – it’s like some sort of sea-urchin blossom tree!  So cute.

I have a metre of this fabric, but I can’t decide what to make with it – I could go for another blouse from that Maudella pattern I mentioned in Part 1 or I could go for something in Sew a Metre (AKA One Yard Wonders), which I bought the other day:

I just can’t decide!  I really want to show off this pretty fabric, but I’m not sure what the best way would be – any thoughts?

As for the patterns – here’s one:

Another Ebay bargain (£4!).  It is missing the trouser pattern pieces, but that length and width of leg does nothing for me, so no great loss!  I mostly got it for that hooded top – it’s too cute!  Perfect for a breezy spring day or a summer’s evening.  Lush!

And the final pattern, which I instantly fell in love with – there’s something just so pretty and simple about it:

Luckily, I only had to pay £6.70 to win the auction (wewt!) – another bargain pattern!  I love the two envelope pictures – that cerulean blue is just gorgeous and I love the idea of the contrasting fabric in the inverted pleats.  I think I’ll need to do a little re-sizing as it’s a teen pattern, but it should be quite close – plus I now have Dolly to help out.

And thus concludes that haul – I also got some other bits and pieces, like curved needles, stick-on Thimble Pads (which just seem to fall off my finger after a little while – is that just me??) and large cover buttons to make a cushion like this one from Marks & Spencer (with that velvet that I mentioned the other day):

(One of the main reasons I bought Sew a Metre is because it has a pattern for a smocked cushion in the round very much like this!  Huzzah!)

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Well, this might not quite qualify as a haul, as these things were bought a bit at a time over the past week or two, but I thought I’d share them with you all together.

I’ve had my beady little eye on Ebay lately, specifically on bargain vintage patterns.  I have a couple of simple rules for myself when buying vintage patterns:

  1. Only buy it if you love it.
  2. Only buy it if it’s cheaper than or the same price as a modern pattern.  (Unless it’s super, super special.)
  3. Only buy it if you’ll wear what you make with it!

And I only tend to look at 50s and 60s patterns, since I just love the styles of that era (I don’t watch Mad Men, but I would happily raid their early 60s wardrobes!).

I’ve mentioned my baking a few times recently and the other week I made a batch of cupcakes for my friend’s birthday (lightly spiced cakes with lime and coconut icing – NOM!), which invariably ends with me wearing as much flour and icing sugar as the recipe contains.  I’m also a fan of chilli and various tomato-based pasta sauces.  There’s no escaping it, these things require an apron!  Which brings me to my first pattern:

It’s Marian Martin 9091, which the seller said was from the 40s or 50s.  More importantly, it’s just so pretty.  As soon as I saw it, I had instant pattern lust.  But, according to my rules above, I wouldn’t day any more than £10, including postage.  It was lucky I got it for £9 including P&P, then!  Phew!

Remember my teaser from the other day?  Yep, that’s the full-length version made up already.  I’m feeling too ill to pose in it, so pictures soon, I promise!  It’s a simple pattern, so it came together really easily.  Look how simple the pattern pieces are:

The only down side of the pattern was all the bias binding.  I had a bit of a brain malfunction when cutting bias strips, so they were too narrow to use in my bias binding maker, so I had to hand-fold something stupid like 7 yards of the stuff (meh!).  Then came the attaching.  Those scallops!  They’re pretty, but a pain to stitch bias binding to, especially as I basically made up how to join the ends of the bias – I’m sure there’s an easier way, but for some reason I thought I’d make it up instead of looking it up!  Still, it looks OK:

Do you have any suggestions for a different way to finish the edges?  I was considering just hemming them instead, but then I’d have to ease the curves in and I’m not sure that would look very neat.  I’d really like to make these as gifts for people, but the bias is a massive pain in the arse and I’m really not sure what to try next time!  I’m also planning to make the half-apron version for sewing (maybe I’ll add some extra pockets, too).

Anyway, on to the next pattern:

Maudella 4378 – a super-simple blouse.  This was an uber-bargain – £1.84 including postage!  Wewt and huzzah, I say!  The thing I love about this pattern is that it looks really versatile – I can picture it made up in so many different ways – and I can picture it tucked into any of my high-waisted skirts.  Very wearable!  Here’s a bit more detail:

And I’ve already got some plans for this blouse using this super-cute cotton print (sorry, I’ve washed it, but haven’t ironed it yet!):

I couldn’t get very good light for a great photo, I’m afraid, but the background is off white and the spots are dark blue.  And I’m hoping that the red anchors will be set off nicely by these buttons:

I have to admit, I have a real soft spot for sailor style, so I can’t wait to make this one!  There were some gorgeous little anchor buttons in white, blue or red as well, but they were £1 each.  £1 each!!  They would have looked fabulous, but I really can’t justify paying £1 per button rather than 10p per button, however pretty the buttons (and especially on a pattern than appears to use 10 of them!).

The other pattern I got was for this fun dress, which again looks pretty simple:

I’m not usually into later 60s styles, but the A-line skirt with that inverted box pleat just called to me (perhaps becauses of how flattering A-line skirts are).  And considering I got it for £3.25, it was a good deal!  I’m also thinking that I could make this up as a skirt, too, and those long sleeves have me thinking about nice woolen winter dresses – all my dresses seem to be summery, so they would be a great addition to my wardrobe!  Actually, another possibility would be lowering the neckline slightly and making a sleeveless woolen version to wear over sleeved shirts.  In a dream world, something like these (very expensive!) wool pinstripes from MacCullock and Wallis would be great:

Hmm, so many ideas for this one!

There’s one more pattern and a couple more fabrics, but as this post is pretty long, I’ll be back with them in part 2!

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We Have Productivity, Captain!


See, all that work on Tilly’s Sewing Productivity Project wasn’t just procrastination!  I’ve spent a couple of days sewing over the long weekend (though now I have coldy-migraine-y badness going on, so bleh!).

Speaking of Tilly’s project, she has collated an excellent list of tips from the various participants: go look up some tips for sewing productivity.  I might make these into a pretty list to print out, laminate and put on my pinboard!

As for what I’ve been doing, I made a super-simple dirndl skirt (sorry, I’m feeling too ill to model it!  Also, it’s a bit crinkled, as I’ve been wearing it!):

The fabric was £1 from my craft class – the zip actually cost more than the fabric!  The photos really don’t do this fabric justice – it changes so much in different lighting and at different angles, from a turquoise-green to a golden orange and even a strange, almost sagey green.  Very odd.  There was no pattern – dirndl skirts are so simple and easy, you just use a couple of rectangles and some gathering.  I did use this tutorial to help me work out how to do the waistband:

As I was a bit tight on fabric (it was basically a scrap that was just big enough to get two rectangles for the skirt with a long strip coming off it that I used for the waistband), I used bias binding for the hem, which I also used a decorative topstitch on:

I used the same stitch on the waistband, which also features my first ever zip (shock, horror!):

Using Michelle’s tutorial from Sew, Mama, Sew made the job easy, though I basted the zip in place instead of using glue.

And there was another pretty thing made over the weekend, but that’s for another time.  In the meantime, here’s a little teaser:

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So, last week (week commencing 11th April).  No sewing.  But I did have a big uni hand in on the Friday, and pretty much all my time at home was spent working on this, lesson planning, eating or sleeping.  I didn’t even do any cleaning or load the washing machine (and you could tell from the state the of apartment!).  The weekend was spent applying for jobs and writing something else uni-related.  In short, it was a stressfully busy week.

It’s now the Easter holidays, so no uni or work (teaching placement at a college) this week or next.  But, plenty of homework – meh.  So far this week I have had a day of well-earned relaxation (after weeks of stress with that uni project and covering teaching), watched The Other Boleyn Girl, bought the notions for a dirndl skirt made with fabric from The Textile Workshop (for £1!!!!), shortened the straps on my summer dress (it was gaping a bit at the front and I wanted to wear it in this lovely spring weather) and I began the Grand Clearing of the Store-Room of Doom.

I’ve been putting off sorting out the store-room for a loooong time because the enormity of the task made it so overwhelming (I could barely get the door open) and I thought it would take be a good couple of days.

It didn’t.

It actually took me most of Wednesday and I still had time to cook a yummy dinner (meatballs and roasted vegetables in a tomato sauce).  It’s very nearly finished – I just need some wall shelves putting up and for the guys to go through some stuff found in there.  And it looks amazing (but pictures another time – when it’s completed) – I can’t believe I’ve managed to cut down the junk and fit so much into such a small space.  I’m pretty proud of myself (and thankful to Ikea!).  It’s inspired me, in fact – I’m rearing to go and can’t wait to get a desk in there where I can leave my machine set up all the time, below a pinboard covered in fabric scraps and inspiration images.

I actually wanted to get started on the dirndl earlier in the week, but I was put off by getting the sewing machine out.  Yeah, lazy or what?  I also didn’t really want to leave the sofa, where I was spending time with the Gent.  Yeah, pathetic or what?!  Because he works nights/evenings and a large part of the weekends, our timetables aren’t exactly hamonious.  Some days I only see him when he gets home at 4am and when I get up for work a few hours later.  So sometimes the idea of getting up and going off to to the table to work at a noisy machine with my back to him isn’t exactly appealing when we could be watching a film together or putting the world to rights.

What I did do instead, was adjust those dress straps – it was hand-sewing, so I didn’t have to leave the Gent, or the sofa and I could carry on half-watching the film.  Result!

The Other Boleyn Girl was an OK film – I like Natalie Portman (though not Scarlett Johansson) and I’m generally predisposed to like historical dramas – though not great.  But the costumes, however accurate or otherwise were rather lush.  I’ve found myself warming to Tudor style lately (the earlier Henry VII stuff, not so much the Elizabethan ruffs) – I think it’s the square necklines of the gowns (such a lovely shape) and that triangular silhouette of women with those wide sleeves and skirts.  Oh dear, sewing attention deficit strikes again!  It was pretty late at night and I was planning to go to bed after the film, but it did get me thinking of stitching and costumes and even thinking about designing modern clothes with a Renaissance influence.


What I’ve Learnt (so far)

Scaredy Cat!

I psych myself out of projects.  I was overwhelmed at the thought of clearing out the store room and put off doing it.  I still haven’t made the Gent’s waistcoat: truth be told, I’m scared of cutting up the lovely, expensive wool I bought – and especially on a pattern I have made up myself.  I’ve got some silk taffeta and vintage brocade pre-washed and ready to go for any project I want, but I haven’t used them yet: perhaps I’m just too scared to cut into that pristine, lovely, expensive, difficult-to-get-hold-of fabric.  Ah-ha.  We might have hit upon something!

How to solve it, though?  Well, that’s the tough part and I don’t really know how I’ll solve it until I try, but I do know what I’m going to try.  I already prepare and plan copiously (I always make a toile, adjust the pattern and read the pattern directions over and over) to try to minimise mistakes, so I’ve already done all I can and everything else is just worrying.  And the biggest lesson I’ve learnt in life (but seem to have failed to apply to sewing) is that worrying doesn’t help anything.  Except for anxiety and no one wants that, right?  Right?  Right!  So, if you’ve got the fear, then do your prep and then get over it.

A Bird in the Hand …

I should always have a hand-sewing project on the go.  If I didn’t have those dress straps to sew, I probably wouldn’t have done any sewing that day with the dirndl skirt, even though I really wanted to.  Sometimes it’s a matter of practicality (getting a noisy sewing machine out when a group of you are watching a film is pretty anti-social) and other times it’s just my mood (I just want to relax and be productive, is that too much to ask?!).

Monkey See, Monkey Do (or make)

Seeing pretty gowns on The Other Boleyn Girl had my mind full of ideas.  Seeing pictures and films with lovely clothing inspires me.  Perhaps the problem is that a lot of the time, those pictures come via the internet and we all know that if it isn’t the Root of All Evil, the internet most definitely is the Root of All Distraction and Destroyer of Productive Intentions.  Damn you, internet!!!

Only joking, but it really can be a problem.  Even if I go online meaning to just look this up or do that one little thing, I will invariably find myself saying ‘oh, is it bedtime already?’ hours later.  Perhaps I can harness that inspirational power of pretty pictures and channel it away from the internet.  As a teenager, I used to have an inspirational notebook full of pictures from magazines (before the days of widespread internet use!  Yes, there was once such a time!  Yes, I am that old!).  Maybe I should start one up again and print out those inspirational pictures I find online and sketch my ideas and stick in fabric and trim samples.

And this is definitely a very good reason to add to my collection of films with lush costumes.  Huzzah!

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We all have days (weeks … months … years?) where we’re less than productive, where our motivation is non-existent and where we just can’t seem to muster the energy to do much more than vegetate in front of the TV or computer.  And there are those times where we seem to have been constantly busy, but don’t seem to have actually achieved much.  I hate those times.

Well, the lovely Tilly over at Tilly and the Buttons has come up with a rather interesting idea to see if we can combat this lack of productivity: The Sewing Productivity Project.  Essentially, it involves closely monitoring what you do over a couple of weeks or so, when you sew and how you feel before, during and after sewing and producing a report/series of reports on what you find.

Now, you’ll notice that I have been hugely busy with PGCE work since September (I have two ring binders plus a box file full of uni work, never mind all the marking, the lesson preparation, the meetings, the office politics(!), the reading, the theories, the feedback, the observation …), so I have been horribly unproductive in terms of anything non-teacher-related, including writing (A Thief & a Gentlewoman and this blog!) and sewing.  Though, I suppose that can be expected with all that work for the qualification.  You might also have noticed that I tend to set myself high standards and ambitious goals.  Add these two things together and the lesson for me is that in terms of productivity for non-essentials (that is, anything non-teaching/PGCE-related), I have to be realistic and not set myself unrealistic goals.  At the moment, any sewing productivity is an achievement for me.

In the next few days, I’m going to give some highlights of the past couple of weeks (even thinking back to before the Productivity Project started) and look at what I’ve learnt …

First off, I haven’t told you, dear reader, but I have been taking a ‘mixed craft’ class on Fridays taught by a friend from my PGCE course.  Yes, 2pm to 6pm on a Friday I have allocated sewing and crafting time.  The first lesson was on 1st April and we learned how to applique and she went over some basic sewing machine skills (there are only 5 of us on the course, but we have quite a range of skills – my friend on the course hasn’t used sewing machines before).  It was actually helpful to do those basic machine skills – I found out that somehow I’ve been putting my bobbin in the wrong way round all this time.  Really don’t know how I managed that!

The classes so far have been brilliant – they take place at The Textile Workshop, which has lots of different teachers, a shop selling lots of bits and pieces and there are even bins full of various scraps and pieces of fabric that are either free or 50p for a small piece or £1 for a larger piece.  The classes have left me very inspired afterwards and I’ve really wanted to get my machine out as soon as I get home, but so far I’ve been too busy with uni work to do anything outside of class.  We will be covering: applique, free machine embroidery, fabric manipulation, making a cushion cover, making a tote bag, wet felting and lots of other fabric-based bits and pieces!

On 7th April, I was lucky enough to win Abby’s giveaway over at Stay-ing Alive – wewt!  I have a $25 voucher for Burnley and Trowbridge – double-wewt!  This got me thinking about sewing, even if I didn’t have the time to do it (see below) and left me plotting and planning what to do with that voucher … I still have decided, but I have some ideas (zone-front pierrot jacket in this lilac taffeta, anyone?).

The craft lesson for that week was free machine embroidery: I made a picture of a tea set for my mum as a Mother’s Day present (sorry, I forgot to take photos before I gave it to her).

What I Have Learnt (so far)

Focus and A Time and a Place for Everything

Thinking back to my free machine embroidery class … I really enjoyed being able to work on one thing for almost the full four hours and our teacher commented that I had my head down and focused for the whole lesson, while others were getting up and taking breaks.  This reflects what I tend to do with uni work and what I used to do when drawing (which I used to do a lot) – once I get started, I keep going for hours with the bare minimum of breaks.  Once I focus, I work and work and work.  However, like clearing out the store-room and writing, it’s starting that is the problem for me.  Doing the mixed craft class means that I have invested money in making and that I have an allocated time and place, set up, ready and waiting for me, complete with friendly people also there to make and chat.  Having that dedicated time and place has made me sew and left me inspired afterwards.

Crafty People

The outside influence and company has also helped, I think.  That’s surprising, because although I’m quite a sociable and friendly person, I do have a tendency towards solitary pursuits.  Since I was a child, my favourite pastimes have been reading, drawing/painting, writing and various crafts.  Pretty much exclusively, these have been done alone.  The reading and drawing are often done with a person in the same room, but they will be doing something else and I will be focused entirely on what I’m doing.  In the craft classes, though, I have been in the room with others working on related projects and, while I’ve been super-focused on my work, I’ve still interacted with them, offering praise of their work, receiving comments on mine or just generally chatting while working.

But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by being motivated by working with others – after all, am I not constantly inspired and motivated by all those blogs linked to on the right?  And behind those blogs are people, bloggers, sharing their work and themselves with the blogosphere.  Reading and commenting on blogs is interacting with other people, albeit once removed.

I love Paperchase!

New Stuff

It’s probably not very healthy (and is certainly not at all healthy for my bank balance), but I like new things (new to me, that is, not necessarily brand new) and they get me inspired to use them.  I’m one of those people who, when they get new something new, has to use it now.  Really, I put on new shoes straight away.  I rush home from Paperchase to use my new pens and notebook.  I will even sit at home alone, hair unwashed, make-up undone, wearing sloppy jeans (or even PJs!) with my new bright pink lipstick on, just because it’s new and it would be rude not to use it immediately.  So, the thought of spending my Burnley and Trowbridge voucher has me excited and whenever I buy something new and sewing-related, it does get me productive.  Maybe I can harness this in a way that won’t bankrupt me … it’s certainly something I need to think about and work out a way of managing.

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Back in the summer I fell in love with this dress from Miss Selfridge:

That collar, those little cute button details and dogtooth check – what’s not to love?

Oh yeah, the fit.

As soon as I saw it, I was in love with this dress – I walked past its window on my way to and from work for weeks and it haunted me all that time.  So I finally went in, prepared to buy it, especially as it would be good for work, home and even going out with some dressy accessories – that’s a hard-working dress!  But when I tried it on, it really didn’t fit well – tight on the boobs, loose everywhere else – and for £45, I wasn’t going to put up with a poor fit or faff about fixing it.

What’s a girl to do?  I saved photos from the website and have been on the lookout for the right fabric ever since.  I haven’t found it yet, but I have found a similar pattern:

The photos look a bit bleh, I know, but you get a better idea from the back drawings:

I’m thinking – full skirted version with the button tabs and adapt the top (perhaps using the bodice from Simplicity 2444) to make it a regular sleeveless bodice and then mess around with calico until I work out that asymetric collar.

So, I’ve got my eyes out for the fabric in the meantime.

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