Thursday, 28 June 2018

A maternity & nursing dress - Simplicity 1469/Megan Nielsen Amber

Are you loving the heat wave, my dear readers? I certainly am! We were lucky enough to have pre-booked a long weekend in the beautiful Cotswolds last weekend, to celebrate my mother-in-law's 60th birthday - those honey coloured, quintessentially British villages sparkled in the glorious sunshine. 

What better time to show off my latest make? 
Simplicity 1469 Megan Nielsen Amber maternity dress
It's a multi-purpose dress that can be used both during pregnancy, and also for breastfeeding when the baby is here! 

Here's an inside-out picture of the bodice to show you the access ;) 

Simplicity 1469 Megan Nielsen Amber maternity dress
The pattern that I've used is Simplicity 1469, which is designed by Megan Nielsen, and from what I can tell, this is based on the Amber maternity pattern. I bought the Simplicity version to save me from having to print the PDF. I made View A this time, in size XS.   
Simplicity 1469 Megan Nielsen Amber maternity dress
The fabric I used was a coral cotton jersey from Minerva, at a bargain £5.99 per metre. For the bodice lining, I chose a lightweight ivory grey marl jersey, because a few reviews that I read had mentioned about the nursing access being visible on the outside, so I wanted to reduce bulk where possible. I also overlocked the "access windows" rather than hemming them for the same reason. 

As someone who is still relatively new to sewing with knit fabrics, I found it easier to work with this coral jersey than the lighter stripey jersey used for the Givre dress. I'm pleased to report that I did not experience any issue with the twin stitches this time, but I did skip the wonder tape as well. 

Simplicity 1469 Megan Nielsen Amber maternity dress

Although this isn't a dress that you can knock up in one evening, I did not find the construction too complicated. The only slight issue that I did have was a slightly overstretched neckline, which resulted in a bit of gaping (you might be able to tell from the first photo), but it is subtle enough to blissfully ignore. If I make another version, though, I would look to avoid this from happening again. 

I also shortened the skirt quite a bit so that the hem sits above my knees. 

At 29-week pregnant, and now proudly in my third trimester, I am getting quite big! I am enjoying the pregnancy, though, especially now that the nausea is firmly behind me. It is quite amazing, if not a little bit strange, to feel this active little baby moving and kicking inside my belly. 

Looking back, it's funny how I thought I was huge when I first wore this dress in La Palma at 16-week pregnant! Look at that tiny bump :) 

Simplicity 1469 Megan Nielsen Amber maternity dress

This truly is a dress that grows with you. Given that it will last beyond the pregnancy, I am planning on making another (either a dress or top) if I get the time. 

Simplicity 1469 Megan Nielsen Amber maternity dress

These photos were taken when we visited the salt fields at Fuencaliente, on a day where there was bad calima. Who would've guessed that this was in the Canary Islands, and the photos above were the UK?

On that note, let me finish this post by sharing a picture of Arlington Row, originally built in 1380, as featured on the inside cover of a lot of British passports! Possibly the most British photo that I've ever taken! 

Enjoy the beautiful weather guys! 

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Sewing for two!

Hello my dear readers! 

It's been a few months since my last post (again), but guys -- this time I have a good excuse. I am very pleased to announce that hubby and I are expecting our first baby in September! The last few months have been spent eating dry crackers, drinking lemon & ginger tea, and generally just doing my best to keep food down, so blogging has not been high on my list of priorities. 
It's not been all bad, though. For starters, my boobs are certainly gearing themselves up for something major, as I'm literally bursting out of my bras! Bye-bye, at least temporarily, to the need for making SBA! I'm not sure I have ever been so excited :D

Another "bonus" is my much improved and relaxed mood, and it appears that those pregnancy hormones have had a calming effect on me. Let's hope this lasts!

I've also been lucky to have not suffered too much in terms of exhaustion that many others experience; in fact, I've managed to keep up my work, my usual exercise (yoga and pole fitness - don't worry, this has been approved and actually recommended by both the midwife and GP), and even managed several long (20km+) walks on our recent break to the beautiful island of La Palma over Easter (where the photos below are taken). Although I'm still suffering from waves of nausea, things are definitely on the up, and I'm finally beginning to gain a bit of weight, too. 

Even from as early as 10-weeks, when I had managed to lose a few pounds through all the vomiting, I began to notice a little bump in the evenings. Not long after that, certainly before the end of the first trimester, I could no longer button up my trousers/jeans. 

This brought me back to my sewing room, renewed with energy to knock up a maternity wardrobe. The first things I made, to see me through the first trimester without needing new clothes (and to an extent to help me hide my ever expanding waistline), were a couple of belly/bump bands. They were easy to make, using fabric from my stash, and are so comfortable to wear. I'll write a short post on those another time, as I couldn't wait to share a shiny new dress with you today! 
Its the Deer & Doe Givre (maternity) dress. I've wanted to try a Deer & Doe pattern for so long, and it certainly did not disappoint! 
One of the best things with this pattern, which sets it apart from all the other maternity sewing patterns on the market, is that it offers 2 "bump sizes" based on how far along you are in the pregnancy. I'm 17.5 weeks at the moment, i.e. an awkward middle ground where most shop-bought maternity clothes are far too loose, but my usual clothes are far too tight. Givre comes to the rescue! See the gathers in the side seam in the picture above? These are designed for 3-6 months bumps, and the dress fits perfectly, yet still leaving more room for the coming weeks. 
I used a cotton jersey with 5% elastane from Mineva, in white and rose pink. It is easy to handle (not too much curling), comfortable to wear (cotton + jersey + a good amount of stretch = recipe for comfort), and not too see-through (thank goodness). The stripes are also broad enough to allow me to sew up a neckline band that is in rose pink only, without needing to buy matching fabric.  
I can't tell you how happy I am to have embraced sewing with knit fabrics over 3 years ago (seriously? It's been more than 3 years since I made my lady skaters?), as the skill has certainly come in handy now! I'm still learning, though, and I have to admit that getting the twin needle stitching right, particularly for the hem, took quite a few goes. I had quite a bad case of skipped stitches despite using stretch/ballpoint needles. I suspect this is due to the use of wonder tape (since this only happened in the skirt hem where I used wonder tape), and even now the hem/twin stitching is not as  stretchy as I'd like it to be. If you have any tips on how to avoid skipped stitches, and/or how to make the stitching a bit more stretchy, I'm all ears -- please drop me a comment! 
Overall though, this dress was a pleasure to sew. I omitted the yoke, and it was basically like sewing a long t-shirt, with clear elastic gathering in the side seams. In addition to the yoke omission, I also shortened both the bodice and the skirt slightly to suit my petite frame. Otherwise this fit straight out of the envelope in size 34. Even the stripe matching was not as hard as I feared - I focused on the parts of the side seams above and below the gathers, and job done! Here's a really clear tutorial from Taisia if you wanted to find out how to match striped knit fabrics for yourself. 

I loved how this turned out, and enjoyed walking around Santa Cruz, showing off my bump, and posing in front of colourful buildings in the sun. 

I'm already planning my second version in my head. Maybe a top next? Watch this space! 

Finally, since you loved my astro picture from my last post (and incidentally another Canary Island), I'm going to reward you for reading this lengthy post with another from La Palma, which is a starlight reserve. How about a milky way (amongst many other stars) above a cloud-filled crater? Enjoy! 

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Vintage maxi skirt in Balinese rayon batik

Hey guys! I have an exciting project to share with you today. Hubby and I came back from the beautiful island of Fuerteventura earlier this week, where we enjoyed a much needed relaxing break. 

Although my holiday wardrobe is already full of handmade outfits (what can I say? I have a soft spot for holidays and holiday sewing), I couldn't resist but squeezing in a little project before we set off.  
Vintage Butterick 5884 maxi skirt batik
And it was a maxi skirt! Remember my first ever maxi skirt, ever? This is a prime example of how sewing has changed my life. Until 3 years or so ago, I had never owned a maxi skirt, because I thought that us petite ladies couldn't pull off the maxi look. This was not helped by the fact that most of the maxi skirts that I dared to try on in shops were dragging on the floor, unless I put on heels that I was not able to walk in. Yet here I am, feeling great in a flowy maxi that I made ;) 
Vintage Butterick 5884 maxi skirt batik

Yep, I was feeling proud ;)

The fabric is an amazingly soft piece of rayon batik, from my Bali trip last year. I loved the bright colours, and the different layers of dye, and knew instantly that I wanted to turn it into a maxi skirt. 
Vintage Butterick 5884 maxi skirt batik

If this skirt looks familar, it is because I used the same pattern as the one for the first maxi, Vintage Butterick 5884. I did make a few changes though, following all the great advice received to my bumpy side zipper problem:

  • I cut it on the grain, rather than on the bias. The fabric is really soft and drapey, so I didn't want it stretching out of shape;
  • As a result, I cut the front piece on the fold, rather than sewing together 2 pieces at the centre front; 
  • Specifically to prevent the zipper issue, I took the belt and braces approach by:

    1. Moving the side zip to the centre back, where there is less of a natural curvature;
    2. Interfacing the seam allowance;
    3. Handpicking the zipper.  

And if I may say so myself, it worked perfectly! 
Vintage Butterick 5884 maxi skirt batik

Here's a close-up of the handpicked centre back zip: 

Vintage Butterick 5884 maxi skirt batik handpicked zipper

On the topic of finishing touches, I also finished the side seams with French seams, and also hand stitched the hem.  
Vintage Butterick 5884 maxi skirt batik hem

P.S. rolling it up really helped minimise the creasing when it was packed in my suitcase. Who wants to be ironing on holiday? 

I'm absolutely in love with this maxi skirt. It's the perfect holiday skirt. 

Let me finish this post by showing you a completely different side of Fuerteventura. It is one of the best places in Europe for stargazing, so I'll leave you with a view of the stunning night sky. 

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Simplicity 1366 take two - floral silk top

As alluded in this post a few weeks ago, I was very excited to make another top with Simplicity 1366, due to its easy construction and effortless style. 
Simplicity 1366 top silk floral
Determined to make the second version distinctive from the last, I chose a beautiful piece of floral silk, which had a completely different feel to the polka dot seersucker. The silk was a remnant piece that I picked up on a trip back to Beijing many years ago; it felt great to finally be able to promote it from my vintage suitcase (where I keep my stash, or more accurately, some of my stash) to my wardrobe. 
Simplicity 1366 top silk floral
I just adore the print. It reminds me of a cosy cottage garden at the peak of the summer, where everything is in full bloom. Ahhhh... remember those days? 
Simplicity 1366 top silk floral
I also loved this fabric for its body; it's not at all drapey, and gives great structure to a little boxy cropped top like this. 
Simplicity 1366 top silk floral
The whole project was a dream to complete from beginning to end, thanks to the well-behaved fabric, together with an oh-so-simple pattern. I'll be proudly wearing this in the cooler months, partly to remind me of the summer, and also because the slim sleeves are perfect for going under cardigans. What more could you want from a top? 

Enjoy your week everyone! I'm off to do a bit of pre-holiday sewing next, getting ready for my first ever visit to the Canary Islands in a couple of weeks time ;)  

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Giveaway winner

The wait is over -- it's time to reveal the winner to the giveaway

And the winner is.... Donna Louise Flanagan, who made the 10th comment, which was the one randomly selected by my beloved Excel ;) Congratulations, Donna! Please email your postal address to xinyuealice0803(at)gmail(dot)com and I'll get this lovely piece of batik sent over to you. 

Finally, thank you all for entering, and also for your very kind words welcoming back. 

Have a great week all! 
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