A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

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I’ve wanted to take part in the series of sewing workshops to make the 1960s coat for ages, but the time was never right. At first, I was not an experienced enough sewist to undertake such a complex project. The workshop then became unavailable for an absolute age. So, when I saw that it was up and running again, I booked straightaway. I’ve been wearing some incarnation of a red coat for more than ten years now and my current version is really threadbare. I would have liked to replace it two seasons ago but red coats are not easy to come by. Now I’m going to try and make my own.

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Photo taken from the Sew Over It website.

The course notes state that 3m each of fashion fabric and lining, so the first step was to go shopping. My job semi-regularly takes me near the Goldhawk Road and I hoped that this was where I would find the perfect red wool. I didn’t have a huge amount of time, so I just headed to my best-loved shops. I was tempted by a bolt-end of red crepe in Misan West- £50 for 5m was a bargain, but wool crepe isn’t really right for a winter coat. They also had some nice red wool with a sort of herringbone pattern (£35/m) that was my only other option.

Goldbrick Fabrics is my favourite shop on Goldhawk Road. They have a great selection, good customer service, which is very important to me, and they didn’t let me down. The woman who helped me pulled out a sample of a wool and cashmere mix that was utter heaven. A stunning shade of pillarbox red that felt as beautiful as it looked. I balked a little when I saw that it was nearly £80/m, but I had to have it. Yolo. The lady was willing to negotiate, so I thought it made sense to buy my lining there too. I am a huge fan of a jazzy lining, so I had to have this patterned purple viscose.

All in, I spent £220 on the fabric for this coat. The course was just over £160, which means that by the time I get buttons and interfacing, I will have dropped more than £400 on my new coat- double what I spent on my last (red wool and cashmere mix) coat from John Lewis.

I like to be clear about prices because people often don’t realise the cost- both financial and in terms of time- associated with being a maker. On the other hand, this is a wonderful opportunity. I will spend twelve hours in the company of an expert dressmaker learning how to make something that is literally tailored to my body and my style. It makes sense to invest in fabulous fabric when I have someone so experienced to guide me through the process of creating this garment.

I had to leave the workshop early (for very exciting reasons that I hope to be able to reveal soon) so only managed to alter the pattern. 


I think my whole Sunday will be spent cutting and ironing!

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I really struggled when it came to what I wanted to wear to this wedding. I have a couple of beautiful silk dresses that I have worn to other friends’ weddings, but this is a younger wedding and I wanted to wear something a bit more fun. I was also keen to make something. I had planned to make my Liberty Macaron, but I went off that idea quite quickly after finishing the toile. Even though most of my clothes are quite quirky, when it comes to lines, I like classic simplicity. Somehow a sweetheart neckline didn’t feel right.

I spotted some beautiful viscose on Fabric Godmother, featuring a cute cocktail print, and thought it would make a great maxi Southport. I vacillated about whether and how much to get, and in the end it sold out before I could buy any. I was sad about that, but the fabric was cream and I was definitely uncertain about wearing a full-length white dress to someone else’s wedding. After some more looking around, I came across this rocket-print fabric that I had spotted on Fabric Godmother before. Soon, two metres were winging their way to me.

I am slightly worried that I am insane. My previous attempt at working with silk was an absolute disaster. I have also never worked with a sheer fabric. I have less than two weeks to learn a lot of new skills, and any mistakes will mean ruining the costly fabric.

I’m also worried the dress won’t turn out the way it looks in my head. The fabric is darkest navy and I’m just not sure the whole thing will work.

Planned changes

  • Eliminate button band again
  • Cut back bodice neckline to match front bodice neckline (perhaps even an inch deeper) to give a dressier effect
  • Fully line bodice. I still haven’t fully decided whether I will be underlining or lining. At the moment, I’m thinking underlining because I don’t want the seams to be visible through the sheer fabric. But then how will I finish the neckline and armholes? Will the bias binding finish work through two layers? This is so complicated! I need to keep reading up on this. Current plan is to underline and use bias binding to finish.
  • Add modesty lining to the upper part of the skirt
  • Eliminate pockets. These are two words I thought I would never type, but I don’t think they are a good idea in such a light fabric. Also, because the dress is sheer, you would be able to see the contents. Also also, the Southport directions don’t seem indicate to finish the side seams, and I need French seams to finish the silk voile. Update: I just didn’t see the instruction to finish the side seams when I made my my previous Southport. Comment about French seams still stands.
  • Remove 2cm length in a curve on the back bodice. Add scant 1cm length in a curve on the front bodice. Really, I probably need to do an FBA, but that’s for another time.

So far the cutting has gone okay. 2m was only just enough to squeak out this dress. If you are using a directional print or making a size bigger than about a 4, you will definitely need more. I also cut the selvedges as part of the pieces for the skirt front as I had practiced a seam finish that incorporates them.

The underlining was pretty fiddly. The silk is actually okay to work with as it is textured. The viscose is more tricky, being drapey. It just takes lots of time to smooth etc. I hand-basted the front and back pieces.


I found the bias binding finish even more annoying the second time! It’s just really fiddly. Not helped by using satin binding, but I thought that would be better suited to my fabric. Even more infuriatingly, the neckline doesn’t really sit flat. Pressing helped a bit. Maybe it’s because I didn’t clip the seam allowances.

Fortunately I took a break after writing the above paragraph. Things seemed less negative when I came back to the bodice, and the bias binding one the armholes went much better.

I’ve got to say I’ve enjoyed learning and trying out some tailoring techniques on this dress. I’m cautiously optimistic about the result.

Notes:

  • Adding length to the bodice in a curve also adds width to the pattern piece! I nearly got in trouble because the waist sections of my bodice and skirt weren’t the same length when I came to join them

Fabric: 2m silk voile, 1.5m viscose for lining

Pattern: Southport dress (maxi version)


I finished a very quick sew this week- the Lark t-shirt by the Grainline Studio.

I’ve written a tutorial for Minerva Crafts that takes you through how to sew your first t-shirt. I think this is a great pattern for a foray into sewing with jersey.

Some notes for next time:

  • Be more careful with notching- the seam allowances are tiny, presumably this pattern is intended more for an overlocker
  • Removing 3″ from the body gave me a tee that hits right on the hip
  • Overall the size 8 fits me just as well as any RTW shirt. It would take a lot of wizardry (i.e. FBA and moving between sizes) to improve the fit, and I don’t think it would make enough of a difference to be worth it. I’m happy.
  • 1m of fabric is plenty for a short-sleeved version

Pattern: Lark by the Grainline Studio

Fabric: 1m of cotton jersey


I’ve got to admit that after my final class, I was worried that I would never finish sewing my Ultimate Shirt. The remaining tasks seemed very daunting for me to tackle on my own. But I went for it, and I’m glad I did!

Here’s how the shirt looks with my specially made tulip skirt. I re-did the hem, which I put off for months because I knew how dull it would be. I was right, it was boring and took two hours, but it looks much better. Having a steam iron (thanks dad!) also makes a big difference, although looking at these pics makes me realise it STILL needs more pressing.

 

I think this shirt is really only wearable tucked in, but shirt tucked into skirt worn on the waist is a look I rock at work a lot, so that’s fine.

Notes on steps taken after third class

Hand-stitching the cuff facing seemed okay as I had already used the same technique on the collar stand. Emboldened by my success, I attached the second cuff.

I next spent about an hour pressing and pinning the hem. Like my unicorn top, the hem looks shit in places, but I don’t want to redo it so I think this is something I will live with for now. I will mostly be wearing this shirt tucked in anyway. Looks like I have found my sewing nemesis- shaped hems.

The next step was scary. Buttonholes. I spent ages thinking about which colour thread to use, which turned out to be a bit of a waste of time. I don’t think I’ve ever machine sewn a buttonhole before because my mum lost the foot for her machine years ago.

I did something I normally never do- consulted the handbook of my machine for advice. I then used some scrap fabric to practice, and the resulting holes looked pretty good.

It was time. I tried on the shirt to ensure that a button would cover the fullest part of my bust, to reduce the risk of gaping. I then measured and marked each buttonhole, which worked out at every 7cm.

I did manage to make one really stupid mistake. I accidentally started one of the buttonholes on the ‘top’ mark instead of the ‘bottom’, meaning that it was about 2cm out. Next time I mark buttonholes, I will use different colours for the top and bottom marks to avoid this happening again.

Since my buttons are fluorescent pink, I knew this error would be very obvious. It was time to do something I had never wanted to do on such a light cotton voile. Unpicking. I practiced unpicking one of my practice buttonholes and managed not to break any of the threads in the fabric. Heart in mouth, I unpicked the errant hole on my blouse. I won’t keep you in suspense, dear reader. I survived, and I don’t think my silly mistake is too noticeable.

I’ve got to say, I absolutely love this outfit! Go me. I’m hoping to engage with Me Made May a lot more this year, and I think this outfit will be a key player.


I managed to finish my Wrangler denim shirt-ultimate shirt sewing mashup recently. Overall, I’m quite happy with how it turned out, though I think I will make this shirt in a smaller size if I make more in future using heavier fabrics.

When I wrote my previous post about modifying this giant Wrangler shirt, I had actually nearly finished it. One step remained. The curved hem. As I have previously documented, curved hems are not my friend. My makes normally end up having a slightly stretched-looking bit that I have to ignore. Doing a curved hem on denim? Ugh.

I previously attempted this twice, spending at least half an hour carefully pressing and pinning the fabric, and both times the hem ended up twisted. A lady on my Ultimate Shirt course recommended starting the process at the highest point of the hem- where it hits above the hip. This turned out to be a top tip!

There are a few little tucks and untidy bits but overall this is the best hem I have managed so far. Ignore the fact that I didn’t bother to finish any of my seams. Sometimes I am a very lazy crafter.

Because of the way the original shirt was cut, the patch pockets on the front have come out a bit high. This is actually quite useful as it means my phone sits nicely against my chest, but it looks a little strange.

I got a little bit of time to get some pictures of this shirt. I definitely think it looks better worn tucked it, but I’ll take it on holiday with me and see how it works thrown over other things in the evenings. In this picture, I am trying to figure out the ‘remote operation’ feature on my camera.

Here I am still not understanding how it works.

Basically I was only able to take decent pictures of my back.

Pattern: Ultimate Shirt by Sew Over It. Size 14 at bust graded down to 12 at the waist

Fabric: Reclaimed from an oversized vintage shirt


I’m happy to say that my second sewing session at Sew Over It went well, and I managed to come out with a pair of Carrie trousers  that I’m pretty pleased with.

Pocketses!


The first step this week was sewing the inside leg of each trouser leg, then the side seams.

Constructing the waistband was quite a lot of work. First stitching the two parts, then lots of precise folding and pressing.

One of the final steps was elasticating the back waistband, then testing the fit before stitching the elastic down and finishing the front waistband.

The last thing of all was the cuffs. I lengthened my trousers by a couple of inches but still had to do a tiny hem. The challenges of having long limbs! The only thing I didn’t have time to do during the workshop was finishing the cuff hems, so I hand-stitched them.

Pattern: Carrie Trousers by Sew Over It

Fabric: 2m Liberty tana lawn in Tiny Dancer print.

I would say it wouldn’t be possible to squeeze these trousers out of a smaller amount of fabric. So far I think tana lawn is a surprisingly good choice of fabric for these trousers. They’re not creasing too badly. Oh no, suddenly I can see lots of Liberty print trousers in my future…

I made the size 10 with no mods except lengthening the legs by about 3cm. I’m happy  with the fit and I think the slim leg helps these trousers to look quite smart. An advantage of the pattern is that the fit on the waist is easy to adjust using the length of your elastic. If I was to make them again, I would actually lengthen them even more.


Last week was half term and I went to visit my dad, who has a little house in a rural French village. As usual, most of the time was spent gorging on cheese, meat and carbs.


And observing the habits of French farm animals.

 

Since I was staying for a little longer than I normally do, the trip included a visit to Oradour, a village in France where over six hundred people were massacred by the Nazis in World War Two. The authorities decided to leave the village as it was, as a reminder of the horrors of war.

I am partial to a ruin. It was strange to see ruins from such recent history. You could imagine if a similar atrocity took place now,  with visitors in a couple of decades peering in at smashed and rusty iPads and televisions.

I spied a postcard of  a sewing machine in the visitors’ centre and got excited. I decided to look it for it to snap my own picture.

I soon spied an old Singer, clearly recognisable despite having been exposed to the elements for several decades. That’s build quality I guess.

Soon I spotted another.

And another.

I decided to take a picture of every recognisable seeing machine I saw. It nearly got out of hand.

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At times it felt a little frivolous to be having a Singer scavenger hunt. Epecially when seeing inside the church, where all the women and children were burnt to death.


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However, I think the search for sewing machines helped maintain my interest in looking around the town. It also highlighted the importance of home sewing to women’s lives 70 years ago. I saw 25 sewing machines during the visit, and I imagine there were several I missed. It helped to bring the village alive for me.