Any excuse for a posh frock

As always, I’m catching up on posts to share with you all! I know most of you may haveIMG_0194 seen, but a few weeks ago Crafty Sew and So in Leicester hosted the first ever (and hopefully not last) Dressmakers Ball! Held in the beautiful City Rooms, I snapped up a ticket when the event was first announced – how often are there fancy events to make clothes for?!

I had originally planned to make New Look 6393 using a reversible gold, pink and green floral design I had picked up from the Rag Market in March (you can find it in my instagram feed), but then I went to China and fell in love with an incredible sequinned tulle in Shanghai (as I mentioned in my last post). As soon as I could get on to wifi I ordered Simplicity Amazing Fit 1606 so it would be on the doorstop once we arrived back home! I knew I wanted to use the sheerness of the tulle to its advantage and I liked the classic cocktail dress styling on this pattern.

I’ve never used an Amazing Fit pattern, but after my experience with 1606 I will definitely be using others! The Amazing Fit range has been drafted specifically to include different options on the pattern to accommodate different cup sizes or body shapes. Simplicity patterns are drafted for a B cup as standard, but 1606 includes pattern pieces for A, B, C and D cups. I used the D cup bodice patterns, and I was very impressed – for IMG_0198the first time probably ever, a dress fit more or less perfectly straight out of the packet! I made a few very minor tweaks at the top the side and bust seams to take it in a bit across the chest, but I could have got away with leaving as it was – if I had bought RTW that fit like that I wouldn’t have complained! I had to shorten the back waist because of my sway back my back waist isn’t level with my front waist, and I also shortened the skirt a little, but otherwise didn’t have to do any difficult fitting at all. It was brilliant!

I made view D with the overlay, and chose to make the under-dress in a black duchess satin from John Lewis. I wanted something stable and comfy to wear, and at just £8 a metre this fit the bill. I lined it in some cheap cotton lawn that came from John Lewis too. I used the sequinned tulle for the overdress, placing my pattern pieces so that the design extended beyond the top of the under-dress bodice.IMG_0254

As I’ve not sewn with sequins before I did a bit of research on the best way to approach it. This guide from By Hand London was really informative, but I ended up winging it and not doing anything I was supposed to! I used my normal machine and used a slightly thicker needle, and only unpicked and trimmed sequins in a few places. I didn’t really have the time to remove every sequin from every inch of seam allowance, and definitely did not have the inclination. The only time this laziness caused any problems was when I inserted the invisible zip. The seams were a bit too bulky so I did reduce bulk here and got the zip in on the second attempt! 1606 is a straightforward, easy sew and I think a halter version might need to be made over the summer!

I was really pleased with the finished dress, even though it turned out I had shrunk a bit since I did the original fitting and did have to hitch it up a few times throughout the evening! I received lots of really lovely comments from other guests at the ball which was really lovely. I felt comfortable and I thought I looked pretty cute, so it was definitely a success all round! I took very few photos, and the ones I did were rubbish haha! I had a really fabulous time, got to hang out with some of my favourite sewing people – fingers crossed there is a ball in 2018!

Bonus photo – deeply attractive outtake. Didn’t want you think my life was all glamour…

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Fabric from China

20170525_191331Following on from my recent post about fabric shopping in China, this is just a brief summary of what we picked up on holiday, as promised!

My first purchase was this beautiful silk from Beijing. I liked it because it’s a slightly more modern take on a traditional floral print. I suspect it is a digital print but I love the different greens in the silk. It isn’t the best photo I’m afraid because of the lighting in my sewing room but it is a gorgeous grassy green base in real life! I only bought a metre but I don’t have anything in mind for it – maybe a simple cami top or some luxury pyjamas (the Tilly and the Buttons Fifi pattern might work).

My next purchase was in Wuhan and I picked up this crisp, summery white and neon 20170525_191424print cotton. I think this will probably be another Sewaholic Granville shirt, but this time with little sleeves? I picked it because I loved the little pop of neon orange in the print.

My final two purchases were from Shanghai. The first was this mid-weight crepe with a sort of Chinese/Japanese traditional print of flowers and lanterns. This currently destined to be a kimono type cover-up but I’m not certain how much wear that would get and I wonder if a more simple shell top like New Look 6217 might be better to make the most of the print.

The final purchase was this incredible sequinned tulle net that some of you may have already seen on my instagram posts from the Dressmakers Ball a couple of weeks ago! I saw it and I had to have it. It has a black background with beautiful turquoise blue and rust orange sequinned decoration in what I think is an underwater coral-type design. When I realised how cheap it was (£2.27 a metre – I know!!!) I snapped up 3 metres. I’d gone away with one dress in mind for the ball, and came home with another dress entirely! I’ll show you all the dress I made using it in my next post.

If you have any suggestions on what I could make with the silk, cotton and crepe I bought, let me know in the comments!

 

A successful Hemlock

I made another Hemlock tee! OK, I actually made this ages ago… I’m catching up slowly I promise!Photo 04-12-2016, 15 17 40

This second version was far more successful than the first and is yet to fall apart, unlike my first stripey attempt! This is a quick post really as I made it up in exactly the same way as last time, with no adjustments to the pattern. This time the biggest difference was the quality of the fabric I used.

I’d picked up this plain black cotton jersey from Goldhawk Road last year with all intentions to make it into a skirt (the Lindy petal skirt), but as I didn’t have a huge wealth of experience sewing with stretch fabrics, I’d been ignPhoto 04-12-2016, 15 18 23.jpgoring it in my stash. However, since my first Hemlock had come together so nicely and turned out so well (before it started to disintegrate anyway) I was chomping at the bit to have another go and end up with something wearable! Thankfully, the fabric you can get on Goldhawk Road is normally pretty good quality so I can always rely on it!

I don’t really have anything else to add haha! This is a really great t-shirt pattern, but if anyone has any good pattern recommendations please let me know. I have recently bought the Grainline Studio Lark tee pattern and I also have a t-shirt pattern from La Maison Victor, but I am open to all tips and suggestions!

 

Fabric shopping in China

Some of you may already be aware of this if you follow me on instagram but last month I went to China! It’s a trip Hayden and I had planned for a long time and it really was an incredible trip – when can I go back?!

We visited Beijing, Xian, Wudang, Wuhan and Shanghai, and naturally I wanted to do some fabric shopping whilst I was away. Being aware of the luggage/weight restrictions on our flights, I knew I’d be a little limited about how much I could bring home, and I actually ended up only buying 4 pieces (and I plan on doing a brief post about those someone worry!). I do have buyers regret about 2 fabrics I didn’t buy though. Maybe I should go back…

Beijing

We only visited 2 fabric shops in Beijing. I hadn’t done any research about fabric shops in the capital city because I didn’t want to turn the trip into a fabric buying trip, but we did stumble across 2 by accident. The first one is near Qianmen Commercial Street, just near Qianmen Gate. It had a sign saying ‘Silk King’, but ,Chinese censorship being what it is, I unfortunately can’t give you more information! It wasn’t far off the beaten track and they had a good range of both traditional style and modern silks. I found 2 really beautiful floral prints and bought a metre of each, with 1 in mind for me and 1 in mind as a gift for my mum. I paid about £25 for a metre of each, which I know is a lot for silk even back home, but then how often do you get to actually buy silk in China?!

The other shop we stumbled across was the Rui Fu Xiang Silk & Cotton Shop on Wangfujing. This is a big pedestrianised shopping street with some big name brands, but though a slightly inconspicuous doorway is a large fabric shop. I didn’t pick up anything here but it’s nice to rummage.

Wuhan

My lovely friend Megan from Pigeon Wishes had told me there was a really good fabric market in Wuhan so I hit google and found this really great post about it. I should point out, however, that this post was written about 4 years ago and the street has definitely changed – only a few seamstresses and tailors remain on the street itself but the indoor fabric market is definitely still there! This market covers 2 floors and sells predominantly dressmaking and suiting fabrics. I only picked up a couple of metre of a cotton print from Wuhan. I think it was 60 yuan, which works out to be about £6.75. I know you’re supposed to haggle but I’m afraid I paid the asking price – in my defence, it was so cheap that it seemed a bit greedy to get it cheaper!

Shanghai

When researching things to do on our trip, Hayden had actually found out there was a fabric market in Shanghai called the Shanghai South Bund Fabric Market. Now the confusing bit about this market is that it is in 2 buildings (or there are 2 fabric markets over the road from each other – either way it’s amazing). When you walk from the metro station, which is only 5 minutes round the corner, the smaller of the 2 buildings is closest to you – there is only 1 floor in this one although there are signs for an upper floor and escalators but this doesn’t really exist! Prices here were also cheap – I got a beautiful traditional-ish Chinese floral print on a grey crepe that was about £3.36 per metre (30 yuan) and an incredible sequin tulle net that was the ludicrously cheap price of £2.24 per metre (20 yuan) that I could not resist. Once I had a full bag we crossed the road to the other market. This one is 3 glorious stories of fabric and seamstresses and tailors clamouring for business and is definitely worth a visit. I though the prices in here were marginally more expensive but definitely still cheap! I didn’t pick up anything in here but Hayden picked up a gorgeous cotton double gauze.

I think next time I might take a spare empty suitcase next time…

May sewing plans

What a month. In my April post I did say I was going to have a very busy month – I went to China! As I was away for 2 weeks, I did pretty much no sewing at all over April. Before we flew out I was busy prepping and packing to go away, and then when we got back I was jet lagged and then I caught a cold (which I’m still nursing, cough sniff) so I haven’t had much energy over the last few days! However this month is a little bit more calm so fingers crossed I can get more done! I have a few goals for this month:

  • Finish my dress for the Dressmakers Ball! I’ve done the fitting, I’ve assembled most of the dress but I need to work on the lining and the overlay. I did not pick an easy fabric for the overlay (it’s going to be horrendous), so that is probably going to take the longest amount of time! Don’t worry, I will be writing a post about later in the month and will reveal all then!
  • Make the Valentina t-shirt from La Maison Victor. This was a goal for March but I just never got round to it. Hopefully it’ll be a quick make!
  • Make another Sewaholic Granville shirt. I’ve made 3 versions of this now so fingers crossed this will also be a quick make. I picked up a really great summery cotton in China.
  • Make another Simplicity 2255 shirt. I made this a year or so ago but I picked up a really great crepe from Adam Ross at the Birmingham Fabric meet organised by Samantha and Bianca that I think would suit this pattern nicely.

 

April in review

The only goal I achieved in April was to toile my dress for the Dressmakers Ball. I didn’t catch up on any posts or do any cataloging of fabric but I did pick up a few great fabrics in China. Keep your eyes posted for a post soon! Plus, I won a competition! Crafty Sew and So, the sewing shop in Leicester responsible for the Dressmakers Ball had run a competition on instagram and I was lucky enough to be randomly selected! I don’t need an excuse to spend £££ on sewing things haha.

April sewing plans

March has flown by! Thankfully I have had a surprisingly productive month and I’ve done a lot of sewing (and a bit too much fabric shopping, whoops). However I have a very busy April ahead of me so I only have 3 goals for the month:

  • Finish sorting my fabric stash. Yep, the same goal I had in January and February! I haven’t made any progress at all this month, and if anything have made it worse when rifling through the tubs to find fabrics! Hopefully it won’t take long to finish. I don’t plan on tackling the scrap bin though, it seems like a waste of time sorting through dozens of scraps when it’ll be more fun hunting for the right scrap for the right project!
  • Catch up on a few blog posts. I currently have 11 in draft that need work, so if I could get a few published I’ll be happy – most of them are catch-up posts left over from last year!
  • Do a toile for my Dressmakers Ball dress. I have the pattern and the fabric but I really want to nail the fit. I haven’t made a proper cocktail dress and I want to make the most of the fabric.

March in review

March has been a really good month and a lot of this will be on the blog in the next few weeks. I made another Ogden cami, a t-shirt for Hayden, the Threadcount cardigan and altered some jeans. I also made a pair of short pyjamas which wasn’t something on my original list but are something I hadn’t realised I needed! I didn’t make the Datura blouse and the Valentina tee though, I just ran out of month! I am hoping to get these soon though!

 

March sewing plans

It’s that time again folks! I always forget how quickly February comes and goes. I feel like I barely had a chance to get going with anything at all! I’m hoping for a productive March – I’ve got my diary next to me to help keep me organised! I want to cram a lot in because I will barely have any time in April to do any sewing at all and what time I do have will go towards making a frock for the Dressmakers Ball in May!

  • Make another Ogden Cami. I’ve made 2 already but I bought some great mystery synthetic fabric in a Parisian coupon shop that has been earmarked as an Ogden since November!
  • Make a t-shirt for Hayden. While in Paris last year I picked up a great khaki-olive green jersey and I’ve seen a good Burda pattern for it that I want to buy (should probably put buying that on here too!)
  • Alter some jeans. Some of you may remember I had a small fiasco buying jeans in January – I found some but they stretch into ‘mum jean’ territory in less than an hour of wear so I want to take the legs in a bit to make them fit better. Anything but having to go jean shopping again…
  • Make the cardigan from Threadcount 1607 that was one of my #2017makenine plans. I’m hoping it’ll be a quick make with little fitting as I never wear cardigans done up anyway.
  • Make the Valentina top in the recent special plus size edition of La Maison Victor magazine. I love the interesting V-neck detail but I’m a bit worried about all the tracing (already being lazy, whoops).
  • Make the Datura blouse from Deer and Doe! I have the pattern and the fabric but do I have the time…

February in review

I feel like February wasn’t as successful as January was but I did achieve about 60% of my list. I did make 3 different versions of New Look 6483 (bar a few slip stitches and losing the buttons, nightmare) which will be on the blog soon, I did buy the Datura pattern and I did get around to fixing my peacoat, but I only caught up with 2 posts instead of 4 and I definitely didn’t make any more progress on sorting my stash. I think because it’s so nearly finished I’ve lost a bit of motivation but it’s already proved to be a useful thing to do so I really should knuckle down…

How are your makes for the year going? Have you made any of the patterns I’ve picked for March? Let me know in the comments if you’ve got any hints and tips!

A Christmas gift for Hayden

I don’t sew for other people very often but when I do, it seems to tak20161204_145350e me months to start it, months to photograph it and then more months to write about it!

I promised Hayden I would make him a shirt for Christmas… in 2015. I knooooow I know
– bad girlfriend. Having chosen the Negroni shirt from Colette Patterns to make for him, I ordered it in time for him to open it on Christmas day but I wanted him to chose what fabric he wanted it made from. It then took me until May 2016 to actually make a start… And then several months after that to take some photos of him actually wearing it. Like I said at the start of the month – I am still catching up! I’m writing this post from memory as I made it so long ago so a few details are a bit hazy!

Hayden is a fan of linen type fabrics so I ordered a few swatches and settled on this medium to heavy weight linen from Ada and Ina. They appear to predominantly sell furnishing fabrics but they do have linens suitable for clothing which you can find with their really good filtering tool on their site.
20161204_145404They provide a swatch service so we were able to compare colours and Hayden picked a light French grey colour. I prewashed as normal and there was a little bit of shrinkage but generally it didn’t fray too badly and sewed up nicely. We picked up buttons from Sew Creative in Cambridge – blue buttons were specifically requested but surprisingly difficult to find online and in our hometown!

The main issue I had was the pattern itself. Colette Patterns’ website states this is a ‘classic, slightly retro shirt’ but if I’m completely honest this doesn’t represent any vintage shirt I’ve seen before. The collar detail is quite true to period but the button loop? J20161204_145459ust weird. I left it out as I knew Hayden wouldn’t like it either The instructions were nice and clear but I just did not enjoy putting it together. The whole thing felt like an unnecessary effort. I’ve read a few reviews from others who have made this up who expressed a similar feeling. I do wonder if the fabric choice had anything to do with it though; the linen was quite weighty but if I am completely honest, I’m in no rush to make another one up. With regards to the fit, it’s a little boxy but not overwhelmingly so and I made the sleeves up as drafted and at first fittin20161204_145431g they were the perfect length but made up properly were about half an inch too short. I was so pleased with how the sleeve plackets turned out though, these are sometimes a bit fiddly but to their credit Colette’s instructions are clear and detailed so they were easy to follow. However there is a lot excess fabric around the arms, which is something I had noticed in other versions and I think this is just down to bad drafting. The sleeves are inserted flat and have very little shaping in comparison to a normal sleeve head so I think this is where the excess comes from. Hayden is tall and slim but with quite broad shoulders and the fit across the back is quite nice with the classic pleat detail but I think a more fitted shape would be a better fit for him. However he has worn it to work a few times and apparently been given lots of compliments, so that’s nice to know! Unfortunately it seems to have shrunk a little bit more after washing so I would recommend a cool wash cycle if anyone does order from Ada and Ina, but Hayden has also bulked up a little bit too.  I have a different pattern for the next shirt I make him – I’ve got Burda 7045 as recommended by Jamie from the Great British Sewing Bee and Male Devon Sewing and a request for a navy blue shirt with pale pink buttons. Maybe I won’t take so long to sew up this one though!

 

The Fifi eyemask

Sometimes the simplest gifts can be the loveliest things to make for someone you care about. Last Christmas (yes I am quite behind on posts… don’t jud20161214_182528ge lol), probably for the first time, I did actually make a few gifts. I didn’t want to make for making’s sake, so I tried to find practical items that I could make with care and hope they would be appreciated.

My sister is moving abroad in a few months and will be going on a very long flight to get there, so I wanted to make her something to make the travelling a little bit more bearable. I settled on a simple eye-mask as theyre cute but practical. I hunted around for a pattern and found the Fifi eye-mask from Tilly and the Buttons.  This free downloadable is designed to accompany the Fifi cami pyjama pattern which is completely adorable.

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Sorry about my very tired old table – it’s seen a lot of abuse over the years!

This pattern is a great scrap buster – you only need 15cm of fashion and lining fabrics and enough to make the elasticated band, but you could also adapt it to use ribbon instead. Many years ago my sister gave me a beautiful vintage silk qipao to cut up into different projects, so I wanted to use a little scrap of that to make the mask for her. I went to John Lewis and found some matching turquoise silk for the lining, because beautiful cool silk will be lovely on a hot cramped plane! The silk is a little brighter in colour than the pictures show – I must have taken these late at night! You can see how good a colour match the silk from John Lewis was though, I was surprised to find any good silk in my local store at all!

I made no adjustments to the pattern and followed the instructions as written as they were so clear and easy to follow. I had heard from other sewists and bloggers  that Tilly’s instructions are brilliantly clear, but I have yet to make up one of her patterns, so I was pleased to find the hype was true. The tip for turning through the strap after sewing – so simple! This was a really quick make but it has come out so nicely. My sister seemed pleased to receive it too which is definitely the main thing – as long as it brings her a little comfort on her long journey I’m happy!

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February sewing plans

How can it be February already?! I feel like I hardly got started with January and now it’s over! I certainly haven’t been as prolific with my makes as I would like to have been, but I’ve had a busy month, so a slightly more chilled out February with just a few makes ticked off the list will be nice.

  • Make 3 versions of New Look 6483. This is one of my #2017makenine picks! I know 3 versions of the same pattern in one month seems excessive but there are a few different neckline and sleeve options so it’s hopefully going to be a good wardrobe builder. I have a few simple shell tops like this that really don’t fit any more so I’m keeping my fingers crossed what this will be a quick pattern! Need to raid my stash for fabrics though.
  • Catch up on 4 more makes from 2016. I lost a bit of mojo this month so didn’t get as caught up as I’d have liked to, but there is light at the end of the tunnel! I’ve got lots of posts to write (if you don’t include the drafts on WordPress!). Don’t worry, you won’t get bombarded – I’ll schedule a few for March too!
  • Sew a button back onto my Vogue peacoat. I wear handbags that go across my body and for some reason every time I wear my burgundy coat at least one button will pop off!
  • Buy the Datura blouse from Deer and Doe! This pattern is one of my #2017makenine choices but it’s the only one I don’t own yet! I’ve bought some beautiful cotton to make it already.

January in review

I set 4 goals for January, and am happy to say I managed to do 3 and 3 quarters of them! I made my Steeplechase leggings that some of you may have seen on instagram, and these will be on the Cali Fabrics blog soon. I fixed my coat and my pyjamas but I didn’t quite manage to completely organise my fabric stash. I did make a good stab at it and I got through 6 out of 8 boxes so I feel quite pleased! I’ve already found it useful to have it catalogued so I’ll try to finish the last 2 boxes soon. Maybe one day I can do trimmings etc but until my fabric stash has dwindled a little that can wait…