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Monday, 21 March 2016

Thinking of Spring - the Bettine dress

So yesterday was officially the first day of Spring and I finished my latest project, the definitely Spring-like Bettine dress from Tilly and the Buttons, last night.  While I saw some daffodils on a trip to the park yesterday afternoon, there is still a chill in the air that requires a winter coat in the mornings.  I wanted to make a casual dress that could be worn with my 70-denier opaques now, and (hopefully) with sandals when the weather is warmer.

I bought the Bettine pattern from Tilly at the Handmade Fair back in September, and I made a version soon after using some lovely black cotton lawn from Maud's Fabric Finds.  I wore it loads but it is now too big for me, which is a real shame as it was such a wardrobe staple.  I decided to make another version using some bargain fabric I bought in the sale from John Lewis back in January for £6 per metre.  I made the plain version last time, but decided to make the variation with pockets and sleeve cuffs this time.  I didn't buy the fabric with any project in mind and I didn't have quite enough to cut it according to the layplan.  I improvised and extended the facing pieces by 15mm then stitched together, rather than cutting on the fold.

The dress is really easy to sew up, and Tilly's instructions are super-clear as this is a beginner's pattern.  All was going well until I tried to attach the facings.  My attempt at extending and stitching together had worked brilliantly on the front facing, but I had somehow made the back facing too small.  I tried to stretch and ease it in, but still ended up with a couple of pleats.  Being keen to get the dress finished, I decided that I could get away with it because the fabric is quite drapey.  I hadn't put pockets into anything before, but I found them easy to do, and will definitely use them again as I really like the fact that the make the dress look really casual and modern.  I bought some buttons from John Lewis for the cuffs which also give the dress a different look.  Strangely, I had to make a lot of alterations to the hips last time as they stuck out, but I didn't need to alter the pattern at all in the smaller size.

The result is an every day dress that is extra comfy and I can hopefully get loads of wear out of (please excuse the slippers - as I said, it's still cold!):

On reflection, I can't get away with the back neckline facing - I'm wearing it today and I'm annoyed by it every time I catch my reflection in the mirror!  I'm going to unpick it and either make another facing or split this one and a piece to it.

I haven't got many pictures of the original Bettine I made, but I found this one (Thomas is modelling shorts that I made him here as well):

I would definitely recommend this pattern to sewers of any level - I'll be making plenty more.  I saw a pic on Instagram of a maxi dress version which I am tempted to try ready for Summer.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Agnes x3

I have now returned to work following maternity leave, and have been forced out of my everyday uniform of t-shirts and sweatshirts.  While I can wear jeans to work, I do have to be smarter than for the school run.  Inevitably, smarter tops = more ironing, and we have mountains of ironing every week as it is.  So my quest has been to make some jersey tops that are smart enough, but I can get away without ironing.  My Mum bought the Agnes pattern from Tilly and the Buttons a while ago and has made several versions.  I love how may variations there are to make it quite different depending on fabric, sleeve length and type and plain or ruched front.  Mum made me an Agnes top for my birthday last year, which I loved.  She made it in my usual size, so it was a while before I felt comfortable wearing it, but it has now become a wardrobe staple.

I had several pieces of jersey fabric in my stash which I decided to use for this.  I bought some fabric at the Handmade Fair in September to make a jersey top.  This is a really thick jersey which holds its shape well.  I decided to make the plain front and ruched sleeves version as I thought the fabric would hold the ruching well.  It was lovely to sew with and the instructions were as clear as I've come to expect from Tilly.  I love sewing with jersey as it's so quick with no seams to finish.  I added about 2.5cm to the length as I prefer slightly longer tops with jeans.  I've already worn this one quite a few times (and it looks great without ironing - bonus!):

The next version I made was using some red spotty jersey which I think I bought from Plush Addict in the sale (it's a sign of a serious fabric addiction when you can't even remember where all of it comes from....).  It was much more drapey, and did stretch a bit while sewing, especially around the neckline, despite my best efforts.  I'm quite pleased with the final result, although I think I prefer it in a thicker jersey with less drape:

The final version here is actually the one my Mum made for me.  The type of fabric is really similar to the first one I made, but she made it with plain long sleeves and a ruched front (I had no make up on when the photo was taken, hence me asking Gareth not to include my face!):

Overall, I can't recommend this pattern highly enough - it's quick and straightforward to sew, really wearable and the variations mean you can create really different tops from the same pattern.  I will definitely be making plenty more Agnes tops soon - in fact, I have some pink jersey with black horses printed on it that I may even make an Agnes with this weekend!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Margot pyjamas for my Mum x

Happy Mother's Day to all the Mums out there.  My Mum is brilliant in more ways that I could possibly list here, but as this is a sewing blog, I'll focus on the inspiration she (and her Mum, my Grandma) have given me to make my own clothes.  My Grandma was an amazing seamstress and she taught my Mum to sew.  Grandma was the only person I knew who had a sewing room, and I kind of took it for granted that if I needed clothes altering, teddy bear's outfits making or new curtains, she would be on hand to make them.  I wish I had started sewing properly sooner (apart from a rubbish teenage attempt as a corduroy skirt), to ask her advice and draw on her incredible skills.   Mum is just as much of an inspiration - when we were little, she used to make matching party outfits for my sister and I and we could request pretty much any fancy dress outfit or costume for school plays and she would make them.  I think I always liked the idea of sewing (hence the attempt at the corduroy skirt) and she helped me when I asked her to, but I lost interest when it was too difficult and the skirt didn't make me look like the models in Just 17.

It is only in the last few years (after my Mum bought me my first machine a couple of Christmases ago) that I have really started sewing.  My expectations have been more realistic (I'm never going to look like a model, I'm 5'3" for starters!), and I have somehow learned to be patient along the way.  Since I have been sewing in earnest, my Mum has been my chief mentor and advisor.  Yes, I do consult YouTube, sewing magazines and books and have taken sewing classes, but nothing beats having your Mum at the end of the phone to ask questions to (or actually re-do whole sections of garments when I see her).

I bought some lovely sewing-themed cotton in the sale at John Lewis a few weeks ago with the plan to make some pyjama bottoms for Mum.  I made the Margot pyjama bottoms from Love at First Stitch for myself ages ago and they are my favourite pjs.  They are a really nice fit and super comfy.  I also made a paid for my sister the Christmas before last.  When cutting the fabric, I realised that I could fit both pattern pieces side-by-side in the size that Mum and I wear, so I managed to make two pairs - I can now match my Mum!  The fabric is perfect for two compulsive sewers:

I'm not with Mum today, so I couldn't get a pic of us both wearing them.  This is the pic she sent of her modelling them:

Here I am modelling mine, along with the Selfish Mother sweatshirt that my lovely kids bought me for Mother's Day - thanks Thomas and Polly xx

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Ooh la la it's Fifi

All my recent makes have been for a specific event or purpose, so I decided to make something just for fun this week.  I bought the Fifi pattern from Tilly and the Buttons' stall at the Handmade Fair back in December, then bought some lovely grey cotton lawn with tiny black stars specifically for this project from Maud's Fabric Finds at the Christmas Handmade Fair in November.  The pattern is described as a 'boudior set', which I am guessing is a fancy way of saying 'Summer pyjamas'!  Strangely, Gareth showed more interest in this than pretty much any other sewing project I have undertaken.

I forgot to take may photos while I was sewing, but the end result is here (too shy to actually model them myself):

The fabric was cut on the bias for the top and on the straight grain for the shorts.  I've not made anything bias-cut before, and was nervous of the pieces stretching out of shape, so I stay-stitched them as soon as I cut them as recommended and they were actually fine to work with.  It was also the first time I have sewn french seams, although it definitely won't be the last.  I love the finish and also the feel of them for delicate fabric like this, and it's nice for the inside of a garment to be (almost) as beautiful as the outside.  The pattern calls for self-made bias binding for the shoulder straps but I cheated with ready-made as I liked the look of the solid black binding against the delicate fabric.

I thought this would be a more tricky make than it turned out to be from other reviews of the pattern I have read.  It was actually quite quick to sew up (probably because there isn't much to it in terms of fabric), and I'm already on the lookout for fabric to make my next Fifi ready for the Summer xx