Sunday, 7 February 2016

My very own Moneta!

Happy Chinese New Year, my dear readers! I hope the year of the Monkey brings you endless joy and happiness! 

I'm back after a few months of hibernation, with a satisfying project to kick off the sewing for 2016. I made my very own Colette Moneta! Why the break? I'm not sure really. A few months ago, I made the decision of only sewing when my sew-jo says so, and the same goes with the blogging. Ultimately, I sew and I blog because I enjoy it, and I didn't want it to become some sort of a chore. There is enough pressure and stress in modern life without becoming enslaved by one's hobby. Know what I mean? 

Anyhow, after seeing hundreds of Moneta popping up left, right and centre, my hands were itchy, and my sew-jo was flowing. I am so pleased to be finally joining the Moneta club. White Tree Fabrics kindly provided me with the pattern and the beautiful Art Gallery cotton jersey, which I felt in love with as soon I spotted it on their website. The fabric is even better in person - it is incredibly soft, and I have not stopped thinking about how I can make every inch of the scrap into underwear/leggings/PJs/tank tops that I can have the fabric hugging my skin all the time! 

It's been over a year since my first encounter with knits; I felt slightly nervous yet excited as I dusted off my overlocker for project number 2.  

For an inexperienced jersey sewer, I found the Moneta Sew-along really helpful. I have to admit that I was a bit worried about the gathering with clear elastics, but it worked out a lot better than I had feared. The pattern was great, and truthfully I've had my eyes on it as soon as it first came out. It's a classic design - versatile, very wearable, with cute variations. I went with Version 3, as I liked the length of the sleeves. I didn't worry too much about the fit here, since sewing with knits is rather forgiving, but I did reduce the length of both the bodice and skirt to allow for my petite frame. 

I had  managed to equip my sewing cupboard with both 1/4 clear elastic (which I struggled to get my sticky fingers on previously, so I stocked up when I was in NYC last year), and some Wonder Tape. The tape sure worked wonders when hemming the skirt and the neckline, as it works by holding the fabric in the right places without stretching it out of shape. I would highly recommend it if you want to avoid a wavy hem or a gaping neckline.  

The whole project was finished in a couple of evenings, which has really made me appreciate how quick sewing with knits is. No facing, zips, buttons, or fitting issues, and the seams are already finished as you serge. Why didn't I enter the world of knit fabrics earlier?  

With this little project under my belt, you can probably tell that I feel a lot better about sewing with knits. What's next? I hear you ask. Honestly, I'm currently fighting against the urge of making another Moneta, with a heavier, warmer fabric. I think it will be back to basics next, either with the Linden sweatshirt, or the Lark tee, to help me build a more wearable homemade wardrobe. 

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Vintage skirt with inverted pleat

Hello all, hasn't it been a while? Hope all is well with you guys! 

Over the last couple of months, I've kept myself really quite busy -- settling into my new job, doing a bit more decorating before the days became really short, and then enjoying a wonderful road trip along the west coast of the US to celebrate the hubby's 30th. It's been a fantastic couple of months in many ways, but the one thing that did suffer during this busy time was my sewing. 

However, with the new job all going very well (yay), and the days much colder and shorter (and foggier, if today is anything to go by!), I'm back where I belong - my sewing room

What better way to resume sewing than a very on-trend inverted pleat skirt from a vintage pattern? 
Please excuse the dim photos - I waited and waited this afternoon for the fog to clear up, and longed for some natural light to come into the house, but had to give in to some artificial lighting in the end, as I just couldn't wait any longer before sharing the project with you ;) If the hounds tooth pattern isn't showing up too well, click on the image to enlarge and it'll look less fuzzy, I promise. 

The pattern is the Simplicity 6091 from my stash, from 1965. To think that it is an entire 50 years later that I'm picking it up and making my own version is pretty incredible.  

The fabric that I used - as you can see from the John Lewis reduced to clear label below, it's quite a mix, with 65% poly, 32% viscose and 3% spandex. The end result of this funky mix is a beautifully soft, slightly stretchy, and comfortable to wear fabric, but one that ravels like there's no tomorrow. In fact, it was ravelling so fast that I felt rushed to finish this project in 3 days; even then I was worried that I would wake up the next day and only find unravelled thread all over my sewing room, with the half-finished skirt nowhere to be seen! 
This is also why I opted to finish the seams with some rayon seam binding, which I picked up from the Garment District in NYC over a year ago. This is the first time I've used this stuff, and all the other sewers are right - it is amazing! This tutorial by Laura Mae was very informative, and set me on the right path straight away.  

In addition to the seam binding finish, I had another few firsts with this project: I made my first inverted pleat (it was pretty straight forward), and more importantly, this was the first vintage pattern that I used that did not require any real pattern alterations! Hooray! All I did was cutting 6 inches off the length, and off I went chopping up the fabric! Thank you, Simplicity! 

One more close-up photo -- topstitching above the inverted pleat

So there you have it, my first vintage make of 2015, based on a pattern from exactly 50 years ago! What this also means of course, is that I'm not doing terribly well with my Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge of sewing 3 vintage patterns this year... But hey, there's still time ;) Stay tuned and I'll be back soon, and hopefully with another vintage make! 

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Lace dress

Hello everyone, I hope you are all having a wonderful weekend! 

I have quite a project to share with you today. It is pretty special on a number of accounts: 

1) I have finally tackled one of my biggest fears when it comes to sewing...working with lace. And boy, did I throw myself into the deep end with this one! 
2) I have not had such a challenge since completing my wedding dress
3) This is my first White Tree Fabrics Blog Team make!

The fabrics
White Tree Fabrics kindly provided me with a beautiful heavy corded lace and a luxurious duchess satin for the underlining. If there ever was a match made in heaven, it was those two! What's more, I already had a piece of cotton lining with a very similar shade. I like it when a plan comes together ;) 

I wanted to give this stunning piece of heavy corded lace the attention it really deserves, and that could only mean one thing - appliqué seams. Yes, it is time consuming, but I adored the all over, seamless look that's often seen on couture lace dresses. 
Can you spot the dart and the side seam?

I also love the scalloped selvage of the lace, and used it everywhere -- I made sure the pattern was cut so that the hem falls onto the selvage to minimise the hand stitching. 

The pattern

The pattern is McCalls 6505, which I have had in my stash for quite some time. I love the design, and the photo on the envelope, but have read mixed reviews on the instructions. 

And they were right of course, as the steps described were pretty confusing! Thankfully, though, since I was using appliqué seams, I needed to change the steps anyway. So I spent hours checking all my sewing reference books, and searching through the internet, to come up with a plan that would work for my dress. 

My steps

Here's the nerdy part. I've summarised the key steps I went through, in case it helps anyone else who has been looking at attempting this pattern, or making a similar dress. 

Firstly, the terminology. I'm going to call the lace layer, er, lace, then the duchess satin as "underlining", and the cotton lining the "lining". 

Underlining and lining

1. After making a toile of the lining, I took in at the waist, chopped off some length, and made the slashed side dart into a full, overlapping dart. I also transferred these changes to the pattern for the lace layer. 

2. Making the underlining, and the lining layers, leaving the centre backs open. 

3. Attaching the underlining to the lining at the top/neckline, across the entire top edge. Understitch. 

4. I also made a waist stay, to take some of the weight off the shoulders... literally! This was attached to the lining layer (i.e. sandwiched between lining and underlining), and brought through the lining via buttonholes. 

Cutting the lace

5. Thread trace the pattern pieces on the lace, including the marking for the darts. If I were to do this again, I would thread trace the actual stitching line, as opposed to the cutting line, i.e. I would exclude the seam allowance. 

6. Take great care cutting around the thread, allowing full motifs outside the thread markings. I would say this was the most crucial step in the whole project.  

7. The appliqué seaming begins! Here's a photo of the side dart with the basting and pins. I took my time with the hand stitching here, ensuring continuity of pattern where possible.   

8. I then tried stitching the side seams with a narrow zigzag on my machine, as a shortcut to doing the appliqué seaming. It wasn't the smoothest experience, because the heavy cords often got a bit stuck in the feed dog, but I went slowly and it worked ok. 

Sleeves and neckline

9. I drafted the cap sleeves, rather than using the ones from the pattern, because I wanted to take advantage of the scalloped selvage. 

10. Time for more hand stitching... to attach the sleeves. 

11. I cut a strip of selvage from the remaining fabric, and hand sewed it to the neckline, going from centre back to centre back (via the front!), and also "finished the arm cycles (the portion not covered by the cap sleeves) the same way. 

Attaching the layers

12. After trying the layers on together, I hand basted the lace to the underlining at the centre front and underarm side seams. 

13. I took all three layers together at the centre back, and handpicked the zipper through all layers. Finish the portion of all layers below the zipper. 

14. I then made some covered snaps with the lining fabric, and sewed two pairs at the top of the centre back to the lace. 

15. Finally (!), I hemmed the underlining so that it hangs above the scalloped lace hem, and then the lining so that it is even shorter and is invisible when worn. 

Needless to say, it was a time consuming project. This wasn't my usual "weekender", but it was much more rewarding. I was finally ready to attempt working with lace, and I am really pleased that doing this the couture way has worked out well. 

I must admit though, this was possibly the messiest project that I have ever done! All that thread tracing, snap covering, pins that slipped through the net (yep!) and of course trimming off the excess lace from appliqué seams... My sewing room is a complete mess, and I keep finding red fluff everywhere in the house, and on our clothes... I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only person who's pleased that this project is finished! 

Now over to you - do you sew with lace? Any tips to share? 

Friday, 24 July 2015

Dropped waist summer dress

Hey, everyone! Greetings from the highest point of south east England! Here I was (last Sunday), at Leith Hill, just south of Dorking in Surrey, which was a lovely spot. From there, apparently I was supposed to be able to see both London to the north, and the sea beyond Brighton in the south on a clear day -- although my eye sight wasn't quite so brilliant, I am pleased to confirm that it did offer far reaching, and stunning views.  
Yep, I made another summer dress! It all started when I saw someone on the train with a lovely dropped waist sundress on a hot summer day, and that was all the motivation and inspiration I needed to knock this little number together. Long term readers will know that I have a soft spot for a dropped waist silhouette (remember this spotty outfit here, together with a simple tutorial?), and I realised that I didn't have anything in that shape in my summer wardrobe, especially anything less structured. 

I immediately thought of this purple fabric of an unknown composition (it was a super cheap buy from a market - who am I to be all OCD about what it's actually made of? :p) in my stash, and without hesitation I started to draft a simple side dart bodice pattern for this dress. The great thing is, because the fabric cost next to nothing, and I had 5 metres of it (did I mention it was cheap?), I wasn't too concerned about messing it up. Thankfully, with a bit of luck, the dress came together within a matter of a few hours. 

I love it when a plan comes together ;) Excuse some of the creases, I was too impatient to press it properly before putting it on!

Back view

An inside-out view. I finished the neckline and armholes with a single-folded bias tape, which I made from the scrap from my 1940s fitted, Sew for Victory blouse

Despite not knowing what the mysterious fabric is, I have found it very comfortable and cool to wear, and indeed I felt pretty cool wearing it, too! There is a slight niggle with it, though - I'm no longer sure if purple is my colour! Just as I was wondering that when I put on this dress, my dear (very honest) husband said, hmm I don't know about that colour on you...!

Anyway... How's your summer sewing going? And happy weekend, everyone! 

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Free sewing pattern - Picnic Dress!

I've got a little freebie for you today - a pdf copy of my Picnic Dress pattern! For me, this is the perfect summer dress pattern -- it's simple, quick to sew, and is pretty versatile for achieving different looks with different fabric choices. 

This was the version I made last week: 

And this was how my love affair with this little pattern began, and indeed where the name came from:

I've only used floral prints so far, but some bold, wide stripy prints could look super trendy, too. 

At the moment I've uploaded the pattern in my size only, but I do hope to grade it to a multiple sizes in the future. Do bear with me ;)

To help you determine whether we are "body doubles" (hello!), and/or enable you alter the pattern to fit you, I am a little lady who is 5'3 tall (160cm), wear UK RTW 4-6, US 0-2, fit Simplicity patterns in 4-6, and Burdastyle 30-32, and often benefit from a slight small bust adjustment

What you'll need
  • 45'/112cm wide light/medium weight woven fabric - you will need 180cm. I think cotton works perfectly for this pattern, but I can also see this working with some cool, summery and drapey viscose/rayon prints. You could also achieve a smarter look with a taffeta, with some added boning in the princess seams. 
  • Interfacing is optional, and you'll only need a small piece (some scrap pieces perhaps?) for the small facing pieces only.
  • Invisible zip 16'+ 
Firstly a word of warning, I didn't write instructions for this one. This is because it is quite a simple pattern, with princess seamed bodice and a rectangular gathered skirt and spaghetti straps, and I would expect that many of you could sew this up in your sleep ;) That said, if you would like to sew it, and would like some help with the steps then please do let me know and I'll write them up. 

To download the pattern, click on this link (if you haven't already clicked on the one at the  the beginning of this post). When you print, make sure you choose "actual size" rather than "fit to page", and do measure the test square before you start cutting. Then you are good to go :D 

Here is a close-up of the bodice

Back view

Enjoy the free pattern! I hope you like the pattern, and I can't wait to see what you make :) Any comments or questions, please get in touch. 
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