January 17, 2015

Bonne année!

Many happy returns, dear readers, I wish you all a fruitful 2015. I think for most of us it is fair to say that any year, in retrospect, was a mixed bag. I feel like I really progressed in my sewing; I found my knitting mojo again; I travelled loads. I made it to my third year teaching full time and still cycle most places. I had alot of good concerts, one shaky and one fantastic; I played out of my skin in two different competitions, came third in both and didn’t give a damn.

I’ve just been looking back through this last year’s makes, looking for my favourites, but I love and wear them all! I made tonnes of separates over the last two years so I’m naming 2015 the Year of the Dress! Dresses make things very easy. Other than the few wool shifts that I made (quite some time ago now), I don’t really have any simple day dresses. Everyone’s situation and wardrobe needs is different but maybe you feel the same way… I put together some inspiration for you!

As mentioned here, I searched long and hard for a good princess panel dress. I ended up going with New Look 6124, but other options I found along the way include the Aydan dress by Named, which has sleeves and the Attaché dress by Lisette (Simplicity 1666 – I made both the top and the dress version and found the dress just too flared to really want to make again).

But what if princess panels are too busy for you? You just want something simple, maybe to show off a really nice fabric? I found this a while ago – New Look 6302.

I really like the little jacket that goes with this. The only downside to this pattern is that it’s not lined, but if you’ve never sewn a dress, this is a really straight forward sort of pattern to start with. I like this Burda pattern for similar reasons.

It’s a petite pattern so measurements such as armhole depth, torso depth and so on, are more in proportion with a petite height. I really like how you have the option to make only the skirt, and the dress has sleeves. The main reason I haven’t tried this one out yet is because I always worry that this sort of style, with the long sleeves, would be just overpowering.

Speaking of sleeves, I have always loved the Hazel dress by Victory Patterns.

The high collar and bow mean that you can still have attractive details if you leave off the sleeves. I like the colourblock option, too, though I would worry about finding complementary fabrics too much to actually make this up!

Sticking with bows, another that I love (and have and am dying to make up!) is the La Sylphide blouse and dress by Papercut Patterns.

This is a deceptive pattern. For a start, I loathe the way all of the Papercut patterns are styled. I think maybe they’re going for a gritty, cutting-edge sort of look but they all just look bedraggled to me?! It’s a real shame because when their last collection came out, I totally discounted it because of that. I have since grown to really like many of their patterns, though have yet to make one up. La Sylphide is good value for money because you can make a blouse with a peplum, a full dress or just the skirt part of the dress. I really like all three options – the blouse would be lovely with a little pencil skirt, and the skirt is perfect for summer.

Another lovely, more casual option is Colette’s most recent offering, the Dahlia dress.

Like all of their patterns, it is really pretty but there seem to be some fitting issues! I’ve read a good few reviews that say that the neckline is a bit strange and there’s a problem when lifting your arms in any way. Luckily for us, there’s a sleeveless option and I think this version would be lovely for summer.

Speaking of summer, a super hit last summer was Grainline Studio’s Alder.

At first I was a little non-plussed at its release, as it’s quite similar to the Archer shirt. But I do like the ruffle skirt option, I think it’s so quirky and fun! We don’t get much weather for sleeveless dresses, even in the summer, but I think this would be nice with a little cropped cardigan, don’t you think?

Keeping with the shirtdress theme, I can’t leave out Named’s take on it from their last collection, the Wenona.

It’s one of the few shirtdress patterns I’ve seen out there that actually has the option for just the shirt. You’d think it would be kind of an obvious thing to include, right?! I love this pattern. I love the pleating option, and I lovelovelove all the possibilities opened up with the panelling, especially down the sleeve. You could keep it simple but do lots of coloured topstitching to highlight it. Or, you could use up some fabulous precious scraps and really show them off. I think I’m going to need to make one of these next Autumn. While I’m on the topic of the Named patterns, you should really just check out all of their dresses here. They really offer something a little bit different. Having made quite a few of their patterns now, I can unreservedly recommend them; their fit and drafting is the best that I have found amongst independent designers.

Last, but by absolutely no means least, we cannot forget little Bruyere by Deer and Doe! What a smashing pattern! (See my version here)

Now, I know it’s more of a tunic than a dress, but there’s nothing to stop you from making it a bit longer. Like all of Deer and Doe’s patterns, they fit just as they say they will and always have beautiful feminine touches. I love the fitted bodice and the small pleats in the skirt on this one. I think I will definitely be making another one of these! It is such a versatile top to pop on over leggings or skinny jeans.

I hope that has whetted your appetite and that you will join me in sewing up a few!

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June 25, 2014

Autumnal June outfit

Filed under:Blouse,Blouses/Tops,Dress,Finished Objects — Aileen @ 12:03

I completed this early last month but didn’t have a chance to take photos until today.

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Sorry it’s a bit dark! The dress is a very dark navy wool crepe. It’s the Dakota dress from the Finnish company, Named Patterns. I’ll confess, I was blown away by their first pattern collection last winter. I really hesitated in committing to making up any design, though, because they are so fashion-forward and I didn’t know if it would suit me. Thank God for the internet! Seeing many reviews convinced me it was worth a go.

So, the dress! It has many panels and a shirt-like hem on the skirt, making it really swingy and comfortable. It also has a shawl collar.

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Since it’s meant to have something worn underneath, I didn’t bother over fitting the sleeves.

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I made an error when joining the bodice pieces. Unfortunately this was after I overlocked the whole thing so the bodice ended up a touch snugger than intended. It’s still possible to get into without any kind of closure, which is great, and I can only imagine how comfortable this would be in a heavy knit.

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And the blouse? Also from Named! It’s the Fran blouse – an unusual item with kimono/batwing sleeves and a long bow.

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I got the fabric in Japan and figured I’d get much more use out if it as a blouse! I’m excited to have used it already. The only difficult part about the blouse was tracing the pattern from the print out. With the sleeve combined, it’s sort of an awkward shape. This is mostly on me, though, because I don’t have big paper right now. Anyway! I love this blouse.

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You can see how much room there is under the arm. I thought that might be annoying but it’s not. I think this style works because it is well fitted everywhere else. It was a really quick make, mostly because you have the option to just turn under the fronts to make the button bands. They do provide extra pattern pieces in case you don’t want to do that. My only error was not giving a little extra room at the hips. You can see is a bit pulled at the back.

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However, this is only an issue when I’m wearing it out over something fairly bulky – over tights or leggings, it’s fine and I probably well never wear it like that anyway. I prefer it to be pretty fitted through the waist for tucking in.

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Look how long the ties are!

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I had to look up a video to see how to tie them properly!

Since this was my first time using this company’s patterns, here are a few thoughts. Firstly, I personally like how paper economic their PDF patterns are. They overlap the pieces and you trace it off. Some people don’t like that. I’m not a huge fan of how you only get 2 sizes nested per file because if you’re between two sizes that are in two different files, I don’t even know how you would get around that. Thankfully I don’t have that problem right now.

I think they’re fairly pricey but they’re impeccably drafted and the instructions are excellent. Add on top of that the unique design and aesthetic and basically, you get what you pay for. Between these two designs that I’ve made up, the only thing I take umbrage with is their sleeve opening finish. It’s rubbish. They have you make the slit and sew down an unfinished edge. I cut plackets and finished them properly. On the Fran blouse, they have you use the unfinished seam as the opening. Because I french seamed the lot, that wasn’t practical so I finished that seam as normal. Then, I cut a separate slit and moved the pleat. I finished the slit with the placket and sewed the little cuff on then. A little more time consuming but it will survive the wash better!

If you’d like to give these a go, they’re currently on sale for Midsummer!

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June 19, 2014

A dress and some spinning

Filed under:Dress,Finished Objects,Spinning,Stash Down — Aileen @ 18:23

Ah, summer is here! I would have posted before today but – weather. It’s been so lovely here that I have only left the house to go to the supermarket. My week has run a little like this: practice, coffee in sun, practice, water in sun, chores, tea in sun, practice, fruit in sun…rinse and repeat!

I have been sewing, too, though that has come to abrupt halt. More after I tell you about this:

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I made this yesterday in about an hour. I used my favourite-so-far t-shirt pattern, the Alexander pattern on the Tessuti website. It’s a download and what I love about it is that it comes with a petite size! No futzing around for narrow shoulders! I adore the fit so I decided to extend it into a dress, using the shape of another dress as a guide for the general shape and length. I forgot to include extra for the hem so it’s a bit shorter than I intended.

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The fabric I got for mega cheap from Minerva fabrics, I think about £4/m. Seriously, if you’re looking for cheap jersey (why is it soo expensive here?!), check them out! I was hoping it would be more like a Ponte but is a touch more like a sweatshirt fabric, it’s not quite as elastic. However, it does the job and will be really cosy come Autumn, too.

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So… Right as I stepped away from sewing my hems to press them, my sewing machine suddenly started to sew at top speed of its own accord. It was both frightening and spooky in equal measure! I dashed over to switch it off only to be met with a long, slender snake of smoke coming from the foot pedal. I disconnected everything and left it be. It still works fine, though I can still smell something when it’s running so I’m not inclined to use it in its current condition. I don’t want to damage the main motor.

Upon further internet reading, ‘foot failure’ is common. It is possible to replace the capacitor that has failed but as the pedal is a closed unit, I either need to run the risk of breaking it while trying to open it or pay to have it serviced. From what I could find out, they tend to be just replaced as a unit. As I know that my service man charges a set fee to investigate anything (and I thoroughly dislike dealing with him), I decided to cut out the middle man and sourced a new replacement online. I should have it soon.

Anyway, have you all been enjoying the world cup? I’ve been using it as a good excuse to dust off my spinning wheel and start working through my modest, but beautiful, fibre stash. You may recall that I participated in two fibre clubs a few years ago. Some I spun up immediately but others have had to wait their turn. I started spinning up a silk hanky a while ago – I finished it earlier this week and decided to cast on with it immediately.

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Wow, I was not expecting silk to be so challenging to spin. I’ve heard others describe it similarly. I thought, ok, maybe it’s slippery? I can deal with that. Turns out that silk is super, super sticky. Almost grimy. Not only that, but it is really hard to draft evenly in any way. It’s very stiff. It was an interesting experiment but I’m glad it’s done. Needless to say, it is not my finest example…but I do like how it’s knitting up.

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Here’s my latest project. It’s a beautiful superwash merino from Laura Hogan. It practically spins itself! I’m spinning this as fine as I can control with a hope to making socks. We’ll see!

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December 23, 2013

Eve of the Eve

Filed under:Dress,Finished Objects,Knitting,Sewing,Skirts — Aileen @ 23:09

I’m home for Christmas. In talking with others during the weekend about Christmas, it struck me just how varied and personal each and every one of our Christmases are. However and whatever you celebrate, I wish you a peaceful yuletide and safe passage should you be travelling.

Now, blessing imparted, let me tell you what I’ve been busy with. I had very little making required for present-giving which, though unstressful, have the rest of my making an unexpected demented edge.

Firstly, prompted by a dismal day wherein I mortified myself with my very worst playing in front of a panel of distinguished musicians, I retreated to This is Knit. Truly, there is no place more comforting. I bought the biggest, woolliest wool I could find and cast on the moment I got home for a giant cowl. It was an epic knit.

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… and one that practically consumed my head.

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Unfortunately I kind of like turning my head from time to time so I ripped it out and have almost finished a longer and shallower version!

Secondly, I decided last week that it would be fun to make an outfit for Christmas day: something festive but rewearable, something fairly snug but unrestrictive. I’ll show you the whole thing when I wear it in the day itself. For now, here’s a peek at the skirt.

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I was about to finish the top I made to go with this but craziness took over. I ordered this cheap jersey to make a muslin but when it arrived, it was surprisingly pretty. Queue crippling expectation to make a good job of the muslin (thus defeating the purpose of the muslin, which in my book is where I get ALL my mistakes out of my system). Thankfully, despite my many (many) mistakes, it has turned out quite wearable. Better photos soon, I hope!

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As for my tiny piece of required knitting, the ribbed hat I knit for my dad feel out of my bag in the taxi to the train and I didn’t notice until pulling out from the station. Curses!!!

Christmas Eve is usually a busy, satisfying day here with plenty of hoovering, baking and last minute visits and errands. However you fill your day, have a good one and stay out of the weather if you can (a depression of 926 is due to pass just to the north tomorrow!).

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October 28, 2013

October Outfit

Managing to sneak in with this just before the end of October. Phew! I’m feeling extremely frustrated right now because I spent quite a while taking lots of photos of all the things I have finished up since I last posted… but 75% of them were out of focus. I use an old camera of Alb’s because it has a remote control but when I take out the battery to charge it, the settings on the camera reset. Oh well, lesson learned! At least I realised before I had completely finished and so have a few things to share today.

My most recent finish was this cozy outfit. I showed the flannel in my last post and here it is, as a shirt/tunic.

Pattern: Simplicity 2246 (Lisette Traveller Dress). I’ve made a few of these Lisette patterns and I love them. Sad to say, I think most of them are going out of print, so if you’ve been hmming or hawwing about picking up one, do it soon. What I love most about them is that they are a true petite fit. I am about a 35″ bust and picked the size for 36 1/2″ finished measurement – it fits great and has enough room for a long-sleeved top underneath should I so desire.

I made a few modifications, but I kept the recommended length of View B, the tunic.

I cut an extra cuff piece on the bias, traced off the bottom bit of the sleeve that’s meant to be turned up. I also lengthened the sleeve so that it’s full length and that the cuff stays turned up. You may be able to make out from the photo, I also cut the pockets on the bias. I’m not a huge fan of sewing on pockets, mostly because they’re exposed and difficult to get exactly right. These took me a long time to get to my liking. In hindsight, I should have used a very light interfacing for the whole pocket to keep it from stretching out.

None of my photos that are in focus show an extra modification I added – a wedge piece at each side seam at the hem. I tacked the sides together to check the fit before I overlocked it and found it very tight across the hips. If I wanted a straight skirt on the dress view, I guess it would be ok to let it out a bit from the waist down. But for a tunic, I need to be able to move freely, so I added in a wedge tapering from the waist out to about 10cm at the hem on each side. This alters the overall silhouette, making it a bit more baggy than intended, but I think that adding a belt will help.

The other part of this outfit is the leggings! I have never made leggings before and truth be told, I am suspicious of the whole leggings-as-pants trend. However, whilst looking for something completely different, I came across a large selection of Jodhpur material on Textile Express. It is pretty much what you want for leggings, you know? I never really thought about it before then. I bought 2m since it was so cheap which is enough for a test pair and then another pair in case the test goes badly.

I used the Espresso leggings pattern from Sewing Cake. It’s more a template based on measurements that you take yourself. I was intrigued, to say the least. I sewed them mostly straight on the overlocker, using the machine only to sew down the hems and waistband, so it was a really quick project. I sewed one leg, tried it on and freaked to find that it was reallllllly small! But I finished it off and found that actually, they fit perfectly. Here is an out-of-focus photo to show the length and fit from the back.

The service from Textile Express was very good and I can recommend the navy jodhpur fabric anyway. It’s pretty dense – I was not expecting how unbelievably warm these are. They’re like thermals.

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