Friday, May 29, 2015

Simplicity Blogger Challenge - Best dressmaking project category

Well that was a slightly longer than anticipated blog break. As often happens in life, time to sew has been short recently so what free time I did have has been spent sewing (and Instagramming) instead of blogging. I have a few projects I need to post about but I'm going to start by writing about the Simplicity Blogger Challenge.


A while back Simplicity posted about a competition; they were offering a choice of 1 of 3 patterns and in return they wanted to see what awesome garments sewing bloggers could come up with. In their words:

"Your challenge is to use the above patterns as a basis for your own bespoke creation. The only rule is that there are no rules!

Using the pattern as your foundation, go wild with fabric, colour, nips here, tucks there and feel free to accessorise to the hilt! Whether fabric is your forte or your signature style is more haute couture, simply show us what you’re made of and stamp your very own style on these patterns."

I decided to enter the "Best Dressmaking Project" category. The pattern selected for this category is a shift dress - New Look 6145. It's not a style I have really sewn before, but being 7 months pregnant I'm already thinking about post-pregnancy clothes, in particular looser and semi-fitted styles that might be more forgiving as I change size afterwards. 

A simple shift dress pattern really allows interesting fabric to shine and I felt I had just the thing in my stash. The fabric I chose is a vintage sari. I just adore the purple colour, and the lovely gold border really deserved to be a feature in the dress. I cut the front of the dress from the most highly patterned part of the sari - when worn traditionally this is the loose end that is often left to drape over the shoulder. I cut the back and the sleeves from the main section of the sari. This section had less patterning which actually made it easier to work around the back darts in the dress. 

I used the gold border as my hem on both the main dress and the sleeves.

 The fabric is quite lightweight (closer to a chiffon or voile type) and due to its age, a bit fragile so I decided to swap the facings for a full lining. I stitched the darts in the fashion fabric and in the lining separately to reduce bulk, but then sewed through both layers of fabric to insert the back invisible zipper and join the side seams. This should reinforce areas of stress and also make it easier to adjust the side seams when I can tailor it to my body.

Fit-wise, I started with a size 10 and made my usual fit alterations - forward shoulder, swayback and full bust adjustment. Being pregnant kinda got in the way here but I was inspired to sew, so sew I did! I won't be able to finesse the fit for a little while but I think (hope!) this style will require less adjustments than a pattern with more design lines to think about. 

So here you go, this is my entry into the Simplicity Blogger Challenge. I think the shift style allows the fabric to shine, and a dress like this needs no more accessorizing than a pair of heels and a stack of gold bangles. What do you think? And did you enter this challenge?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pattern pyramid winner

So I will be sending the pattern pyramid on to....

Please drop me an email with your postal address! You can contact me via: sewstylishblog (at) gmail (dot) com

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The pattern pyramid!


Well hello there, you poor neglected blog. After having an awesome fun-filled summer I was quite looking forward to getting back into the new routines that September brings. Unfortunately the new routines just meant more busy-busy-busy. I have been sewing, but internet time has been minimal. Getting my little one settled in her new school took longer than I anticipated - she is loving it but if truth be told she is still struggling with tiredness now that she is attending full days at a school a little further away and she has homework to do every week!


Anyway I have been meaning to write this post for ages because I was lucky enough this summer to be the next recipient of the pattern pyramid. For anyone who doesn't know the story, about 2 years ago Karen of Did You Make That was gifted a big box of vintage patterns and she decided to share the love with the sewing blogosphere, you can read her original post here The basic premise is that you get to pick one from the box and then send the box onto another lucky blogger and so on....

 What did I pick?

I couldn't decide between Vogue 2412 and Butterick 5846, the Vogue coat had amazing pattern artwork and the Butterick dress had been on my wish list for a while. 

So I kept them both and added three vintage Style patterns from my stash as a bit of cosmic balancing. There were some really gorgeous styles that luckily weren't my size so that did make the decision a little easier. I'm not sure which I will sew first - I would love to make the coat and I even found a lovely wool plaid with a brushed back which would be toasty warm, however... I can only find the colourway I like in a big department store at nearly £30/m, while the independent store has the other colourways for £10/m. So either I'm going to have to adjust my plans or wait for a good (i.e. at least 50% off) sale in the department store!

So the rules are:

  • Anyone, anywhere can enter the giveaway by posting a comment below by midnight GMT Tuesday 7th October BUT you must have an active blog.
  • I will announce a winner next week. If your blog/email address is available through your profile, I will message you. If not, please keep an eye on this blog. If I don't hear from the winner within a week I'll have to pick someone else.  
  • I'm happy to post worldwide. 
  • I will post the box of patterns onto the winner, who can pick a pattern to keep for themselves, then host their own giveaway. If you have any patterns you want to add to the box that will help the fun go on even longer.
  • The patterns haven't been checked for completeness - its the luck of draw!

Tempted? Well here are some of the beauties that are still waiting for new homes...

Smart suits...

Gorgeous dresses...

And if 1960's McCalls patterns are your things, there are a few to choose from...

Sunday, August 03, 2014

The Oonapalooza parade

Just a quick post written on the Blogger ipad app so apologies for any formatting errors. I'm away at the moment and hoping to get this posted to coincide with the end of the Sewcialists Oonapalooza month. When the July theme was announced, it really grabbed my attention. The opportunity to sew bright colours and prints, and to try some new ideas really piqued my attention. I planned one project and ended up sewing 4!

So here goes with my quick round up:

Breaking myself in gently with some basic shorts

Maybe sewing shorts doesnt seem that revolutionary but I should explain that I haven't worn RTW shorts in about ten years as they just don't fit. I'm still learning about fitting but I think i have a long lower torso, swayback and high hip thing going on. RTW pants and shorts are a pain to fit. I started with a basic New look pants pattern, made a muslin and shortened to shorts length before cutting into a leftover piece of stretch cotton sateen. Result- shorts that fit!

Oona inspiration: bright florals, pattern hacking

Tie-dye silk, I mean c'mon people! Any excuse to sew tie dye silk!

This outfit started with the fabric. It is totally out of my usual choices but I fell for it in the shop, and the guy started dropping the price until I was walking away with 1.5m for £15. And its pure silk in the most amazing vibrant turquoise and pink. I sewed a basic kimono jacket using a tutorial from the Elle Apparel blog. Its a simple enough design to let the fabric sing. Another local fabric haunt of mine, Calico Laine, had some awesome hot pink linen/cotton so with my shorts pattern tweaked I decided to knock up a second pair to go with the kimono. I see this as being a "beach to bar" laid back summer outfit. I have already worn the kimono over a basic black dress a couple of times, its great for keeping the sun off my shoulders.

Oona inspiration: bright patterned fabrics, pattern hacking, sewing without a pattern, letting the fabric do the talking.

Never walk away from awesome fabric, no matter how it presents itself to you

I found a size 26 jersey dress in my local charity shop. Im about a 12/14 so there was no way it would fit. But the fabric... Oh my the fabric! Purple viscose jersey painted with a metallic gold ikat-type design. And i think the dress had never been worn. At first I thought about removing the sleeves and just taking in the side seams. But I prefer a dress with a waist seam and I had plently of fabric to work with. I used the Kitschycoo Ladyskater bodice pattern and added a basic gathered skirt with the remaining fabric. I tried to draft tulip sleeves from the original sleeves but they went totally wrong and I didnt have enough fabric to rework them. No big deal, I just zigzagged clear elastic to the armhole seam allowances, flipped it under and topstitched. I love how this dress turned out. I would definitely go hunting in secondhand and charity shops again. Its a great opportunity to be creative and if you can find garments cheap enough there really isn't much to lose.

Oona inspiration: bright prints, sewing without a pattern, trying something new, making it work!

Thank you to the Sewcialists group for coming up with a great challenge and thank you Oona for the inspiration!

Monday, June 09, 2014

Reflections on Me Made May 2014

Well its over! (and has been for over a week, please excuse my delay in posting!) Although I ended up being pretty poor at taking outfit photos, I am pleased to say that I wore me-made for all but three days in May.

What did I learn?

* I absolutely could not do MeMadeMay without my Deer and Doe Plantain tees (of which I now have 5!) and my Kitchycoo Lady skater dresses (I have 4) and my handknit scarves. These are my wardrobe staples.

* I wear jeans a lot. Like A LOT.

* I grab the same separates and co-ordinate them the same way most of the time. One reason I didn't take many photos is that I just felt quite uninspired and uninspiring.

Why did I choose RTW on three days?

* We had a random hot day and I wanted to wear a jersey maxi dress (I made up for it by sewing one the next day, pics below).

* My sports team were doing well and I chose to wear a branded jersey.

* I had a lazy day where I just had to wear leggings.

What are the me-made gaps in my wardrobe? Going forward, what should I concentrate on sewing?

In no particular order...

* Leggings/casual trousers: I'm not sure if I'm up to sewing jeans, plus I have a couple of RTW pairs which I love and don't yet need replacing. I could sew more bottoms such as leggings or casual trousers that might get me out of jeans on occasion.

* Maxi skirts and dresses could also replace the jeans.

* A summerweight jacket/coat, such as the Deer and Doe Pavot, would be a wardrobe staple and get a lot of wear

* Summerweight pjs. I sewed a couple of flannel pairs but they are too warm for this time of year.

* Woven tees/unstructured blouses would feel a little smarter than my knit tees, without being overdressed.

* Tunic/loose dress to wear over leggings. I got so obsessed with trying to get "fit" right, that I made every garment fitted. And that's not what I want to wear every day.

* Hoodies are my go-to loungewear. I really want to sew the Seamster patterns Avocado hoodie.

* Underwear

Any progress towards these goals already?

* I sewed a maxi dress! I used 2 metres of viscose print jersey from Minerva Crafts and (surprise surprise) my Deer and Doe Plantain tee pattern! I was going to use McCalls 6559 but I decided to lay my already-fitted Plantain tee pattern over the top to compare fit. And then I thought, why not just use the Plantain tee pattern in the first place, and lengthen it to match the McCalls pattern? So that's what I did. The only thing I forgot to do is to raise the neckline slightly to compensate for the weight of the extra fabric pulling it down. It's not obscene, but I would raise it next time if I sew it again. It's also not the most fitted of dresses, but I was hoping for a loose drapey maxi dress so I'm fine with the end result.

* As luck would have it, I received a surprise gift this week and it was the Great British Sewing Bee book, which comes with several dressmaking patterns including leggings! Now to check the stash/shop for appropriate fabrics.

* I traced off and cut out a Japanese tunic dress from one of the Stylish Dress books. It should be quite quick to put together.

* This week saw a knicker sewalong hosted by Measure Twice Cut Once. So one of the reasons I am posting about Me Made May so late is that I have spent the week sewing underwear! I'll do a  proper post about that in a few days but I have somehow managed to sew 6(!) pairs this week and use up mostly small scraps of fabric from my stash.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

MyImage and B*Inspired magazines

Gorgeous sunny weather hits for a whole 24 hours and my thoughts instantly go to summer sewing. I've spent the last few weeks digging weeds in the garden and attempting to make it nice for summer so I think I need some sewing time now.

 I recently got a piece of lightweight viscose knit from Minerva crafts. I bought it for another Deer and Doe Plantain tee however the print is so large that it really needs to be sewn into a summer dress, but I cannot pick a pattern. At first I thought of the popular McCalls 6559 maxi dress but then I received a copy of the latest MyImage pattern magazine. There's a couple of cute dresses in the issue, including a maxi dress with a bit more waist definition than the McCalls and a cowl neck faux wrap dress. I also really like the trousers and the princess seamed collarless coat.

You can browse the mag preview here or check out the outline drawings here. I have never sewn a MyImage pattern before - their pattern sheets looks less scary than Burda but their written instructions (which are in English, French, German and Dutch) look just as minimal.

At the same time as I got MyImage, I also got B*Inspired by Poppy - a kid's pattern magazine. This one is totally new to me, I'd never even heard of it before. The instructions are in 5 languages (all of the above, plus Spanish). The pattern sheet and instructions look really similar to MyImage. The kids' garment patterns are really cute with lots of little design features but there's also a few crafty patterns like bags, bunting, a floor cushion and even a teepee! I haven't sewn one of these pattern either, so perhaps I should start with something simple to see what the drafting is like?

My one gripe with both magazines is that you have to check carefully to see if the pattern you like is available in your size. With MyImage, the regular range starts at 34 or 36 or 38 and goes to 44 or 46 or 48. There are also 3 plus size patterns included going from size 46-56.

With B*Inspired by Poppy, there are 2 designs for kids sizes 56-86, 3 for sizes 80-140, 3 for sizes 92-152, 2 for sizes 104-164, 2 for sizes 116-176 and 1 for sizes 128-176.

Both mags offer a decent size range (i.e. from kid's size 56 which is newborn, upto kids 176 which is approx age 13) and there is plenty of overlap but if you have your heart set on one particular design it's definitely important to check it comes in the size you want.

I sense a trip to the shop for tracing paper come Monday. Enjoy your weekend!

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Sewing the Snow Queen - Elsa from "Frozen" dress

Not unlike many little girls, my kid and niece are totally obsessed with the Disney movie "Frozen", and in particular the Snow Queen, Elsa. Its popularity means that the dress-up costumes from the movie are sold-out or being sold for extortionate prices on Ebay. What is a sewist to do, eh? Well, sew some of course!

First I set about modifying my pattern. I used Simplicity 2817 which is the child's Cinderella/Snow White pattern. I used the basic bodice, cut on the fold to simplify it. I have watched the movie often enough to study the costume and to know that I would have to lengthen the sleeves and draft a pointed hem, reduce some of the fullness in the skirt, and draft a cape.

I got my fabrics and supplies from a couple of different places.

Abakhan has a great range of satins at all price points. I picked the cheapest which is fine for kid's costumes and at under £2.50/m is very reasonable in cost. I live local to an Abakhan shop so I could go compare all the shades of pale blue/turquoise and choose the best option for Elsa. I also purchased dancewear lycra to use as the bodice back (not cheap at £10/m but I bought 1/2m for two dresses, and had lots leftover), and some nude poly lining to use for the upper bodice front.

Minerva crafts had this gorgeous sequin voile and some pretty snowflake sequins which helped give the basic shell of the costume it's iconic "Snow Queen" look.

Finally I purchased "Frozen" ribbon from Ebay to make sure everyone knew this was an "Elsa" dress.

The first task was to build the front bodice to make it look like a corset with a sheer layer on top. I layered nude poly lining with turquoise satin and then sequin voile. I took the opportunity to stitch a couple of snowflakes under the voile layer.

I cut the back on the fold from dancewear lycra. Although the Simplicity pattern has a zippered back, I wanted to make a dress that a child could more easily put on and take off by themselves. The shop-bought costumes mostly appear to have a woven fabric front with a stretch back for this very reason.

The sleeves and cape were cut from the sequin voile only. I gathered the top of the cape by simply stretching the lycra back as I stitched it on. I cheated a little and used the selvage as the top of the cape so there was not the need for additional hemming there.

The skirt is cut from satin only. To maintain the stretch in the back bodice, I gathered the back skirt by stretching the lycra to its maximum while stitching the satin skirt piece to it. The front skirt was gathered the normal way (by stitching two rows and pulling threads up). The skirt pattern as drafted has side front seams which lent themselves very well to creating the side split in Elsa's skirt.

I stitched a wide hem on the cape, which allowed me to catch a few more snowflake sequins in the hem for added wintery sparkle.

I sewed two of these costumes over the course of the last fortnight or so. It was really quite rewarding to sketch out ideas, source fabrics, modify patterns and see the costume take shape. There is something quite liberating about sewing something as frivolous and fun as a dress-up costume. As I worked I totally found myself thinking that I understood why people like cosplay because it really is fun!

The best bit of all was delivering the costumes to two very pleased little girls, one of whom chose to wear it for her birthday party this week, which makes me happy that I set out what I hoped to achieve. Happy sewing!