Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Sew Over It, Molly Top


As soon as Sew Over It released them, I loved the patterns in the e-book My Capsule Wardrobe: City Break. Five great patterns that I can absolutely imagine myself in any of them.

Funnily enough, the Molly top / dress did not grab my imagination. I would have put it bottom of the list. I didn't like the dolman sleeve and the extra bit at the end. But I watched Lisa's You Tube videos and decided it looked much better on. I particularly liked her floral version where you can't even see the sleeve seam (about 5 minutes in).

Molly is actually a great little pattern. The negative ease at the bust and the flowy waist and hem are very flattering. It also goes together SO FAST! I sewed the whole thing together in one evening. Add another evening for cutting out and one for finishing and this was a record for me.

I used my overlocker for all the sewing so there was no going back on the fit. I made a straight size 10 and the sizing was perfect, aside from my extremely short waist. I had taken 1 inch off the waist, and done a sway back adjustment of 1/2 inch, but it is still pooling at the back. I have gone back and altered the paper pattern again, to make the short waist 2 inches. Yikes!

I didn't mark any of the notches. Nor did I follow the pattern instructions. I had just made the Coco and this is even simpler with the straight sleeve head. I would say it is a perfect pattern for an introduction to sewing with knits. Or possibly even sewing at all.

The sleeve cuffs are very close fitting. They go some way towards balancing out the silhouette, but come up a little too tight for my preference. I would add in 1/2cm to each side when cutting. The sides of the sleeves are straight, so it would be easy to cut out with a ruler.

The neckband isn't lying flat properly. I am not quite sure why this is. While I didn't cut the notches, just pinned the neckband into place, and stretched it out when sewing, it is stretched almost at its full capacity. I think it might have something to do with the nature of the fabric.

The base jersey is very soft but it has been dyed with the black over the top. It almost feels (and smells) like paint and there is a lot of black on this white. The scale of the pattern is much larger than I thought it was when I viewed it online. I wanted smallish white flowers on the white background. This is a bit too tropical looking. But it was on sale and super cheap and I couldn't be bothered sending it back. I like the fabric better when it is made up into a garment, so I am calling this a wearable toile of the Molly top.

I used my sewing machine to zig zag the hems of the top and the cuffs, but it still doesn't like to play nice with jersey. Thank goodness I have an overlocker now, it makes such a difference to my ability to sew knits. It doesn't feel as precise, but it powers through those knits with no problems!

 Fabric: 2m (Minerva Crafts) £9.98
 Pattern: 1/3 of Sew Over It ebook (on sale) £4.67
 Notions: £0.00
Total: £14.65

Monday, 13 February 2017

Navy Sweatshirt Coco Dress

It takes me a very long time to get out of my post-Christmas sewing rut. Almost two months since my Hibiscus Dress, and I had not sewn anything. I eased myself back into sewing with Coco from Tilly and the Buttons, in a navy fleece fabric. Something that had been in my sewing queue since last winter, when I made my Coco Sweatshirt.

This is becoming the pattern that I turn to for getting my sew-jo back after the new year. Two years in a row now. It is nice and simple, and a great middle-of-winter comfort wear too. This year I was faster to get back on the horse. Last year looks like it took me until February to get sewing, and I didn't post the completed item until 1 March. I snuck the start of this into January 2017 by checking Instagram and reading the pattern instructions. I was all like, "Wow, that is so simple! I could totally do that!" Duh.

So I got on with cutting out and putting it together with my overlocker. I made a size 4, grading to 3 from the waist to the hem. All previous alterations the same, and I had already adjusted the paper pattern, which saved me loads of time. If I made this in a ponte, rather than a fleece, I think I should probably make a size 3. There is plenty of ease.

I finished the cuffs and neckline by overlocking the edges, turning under and sewing two rows of topstitching. The finished edge feels quite stable, so I didn't add stay tape to the neckline. If it pulls, I'll have to put in elastic, or add ribbing to the neckline. 

I deliberately stayed away from ribbing because I wanted it to be dressier and less sweatshirt-y. I have to laugh at myself because I hated sweatshirts as a child! My school tracksuit was green. Urgh! What a horrible colour! This fabric is absolutely school sweatshirt fabric. They even listed it as such on eBay, where I bought it. Here I am, reliving my school years in a sweatshirt dress. But hopefully passers by are not going to be reminded of their school tracksuits, or will forgive me in my quest for warm, cosy dressing.

Anywhoo, back to the construction. I find this neckline too wide for my preference. It gives a nice balanced look to the dress and it is fine for the funnel neck, but I find it too open, and not really suitable for such a depths-of-Winter garment. If I make this version again, I would reduce the neckline opening by 1cm.

Due to the bulkiness of the fabric, I made the hem on the shorter side. I'll always be wearing tights with it. Again, I ran two rows of straight stitching for the hem. The style means I don't need a stretchy hem and I don't have much luck with twin needles. Before I hemmed, I angled the side seams in so that I didn't have to ease in the bulk.

Then it was on to the... pockets!

I really did agonise over the pockets for quite some time. They are a very bold style statement and I must confess that they are not entirely me. But they are fun and actually add a slimming element to the finished dress.

I always knew they should be mustard colour, and I would use my scraps of Interlock from a cardigan and a t-shirtBut I also knew that poor workmanship would be very obvious, and this is a tricky fabric to work with. I was so desperate to do everything I could to not pull them out of shape in the making and the attaching.

I cut really carefully, and the interlock is much more stable than a jersey, so this wasn't too much of a challenge. Then I used the small pocket pattern as a template for pressing around. The pressing wasn't doing enough of a good job on the corners, so I went for a new solution.

First, I sewed a line of stitching just outside the fold line, then I hand basted the mitres in place and pressed again. This was much better. I could get the corners properly square and not saggy. They are not perfectly square, but they are the best patch pockets I have managed to date. I attached them using my walking foot. Unusually, the pattern doesn't include markings for the pocket placement, so I just decided for myself. Which is fine too. 

The pockets probably took me as long to sew as the whole of the rest of the dress. 

Then... I took some photos and decided that the dress was all wrong.

Not just the styling, with the sheer tights - which I obviously wouldn't wear in winter, but the pockets were just too clownish.

I had a play with alternative pocket styles. Like so:

I decided that Option 3 would work best. Navy patch pockets with a mustard accent at the top. So I unpicked the pockets and cut the tops off to attach to new navy pockets. Cue the same stitching and basting the corners. The sweatshirt fabric doesn't press as closely. But this pocket style is much better for me. Breaking the visual expanse of navy skirt, but being a bit more understated in the execution. 

I also styled it better with proper winter tights, and boots. 

I am happy with this as a cosy, casual winter dress, and a great sewing re-entry. Big Sis likes it so much that she has asked me to make her one with the rest of my fleece. Square patch pockets included!

 Fabric: 2m (eBay) £13.20 - only used about 1.25m
 Contrast Fabric: scraps, £0.00
 Pattern: Coco (Tilly and the Buttons) £0.00 - used previously
 Thread: Started 4 new spools of black overlocker thread, £15.80 - thought I had bought navy, but apparently not
Total: £19.00

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Polar Bear Cake

This came out of National Geographic Kids, and was dutifully reproduced for her birthday.

It was so easy peasy, probably the easiest birthday cake I have ever made!

Following the instructions, I took a Victoria Sponge and a lemon muffin. Cut the top off the muffin and cut the top in half. The two halves are the ears and the base is turned upside down to be the snout.

I made the cream cheese icing, beaten to soft peaks, and then smeared it on. Raided the kids Christmas chocolate stash for the eyes and nose (can you spot the €1 coin?) and done. Yum!

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

2016 Review

25 finished objects

10 clothes for me

10 things for the children

7 gifts for others

1 sewing lesson

Never repeat socks

First ever quilt

Mastered overlocker

Top 5 of 2016

I know my style, I know what I like to wear and what I like to sew. I am always deeply in love with fun florals and I know what to look for in a fabric and how to pair it with a pattern.

While my sewing queue has grown ever longer, I didn’t do that much sewing this year. I went for long stretches without sewing anything.

Getting an overlocker for my birthday was a fun thing. I have re-threaded it and used it for my projects ever since. I wouldn’t say it has taken my sewing to another level, but I do nicer seam finishes now, and the world of knits has opened up to me. I could not have made the Karen dress to my satisfaction if I hadn’t had it. I’m looking forward to sewing up some more knits that I have in my stash.

I did tackle two complex projects this year: a coat and a quilt. They were both deeply satisfying and turned out really well.

It's interesting (to me) to see how my year broke down into different rhythms of sewing at different times. It looks something like this:
   Jan: Quilt
   Feb: Winter sewing, Delphine and Coco
   March: Table linen
   April: knitting only, parents visiting
   May: Started The Coat
   June: Bunting for school fete
   July: holiday
   August: Finished The Coat
   September: used overlocker and new fabric from holiday, Karen and Cardigan
   October: Solar System
   November: Hibiscus dress
   December: away

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Hibiscus Mock Wrap Dress

Proof (as if I needed it) that good fabrics give good results. I got this stretch cotton sateen at Fabricana in Vancouver this summer and knew that it would become a mock wrap dress. I aim to only buy stretch fabrics for apparel in future. But I still have a lot of wovens in my stash. It is quite lightweight, but doesn't drape. I love the hibiscus print and the navy on white is an unusual pairing for a summer print. The pattern only needs 1.5m, of which I have substantial scraps left, making it a very economical dress.
New Look 6123 Line Drawings.pngThe pattern is New Look 6123, in which I managed to look past the comically woeful styling on the pattern cover and spot some amazing style lines inside. Pattern review also has some great versions, and I can see it becoming a great shift dress, if I can get past my beloved New Look 6968. I went for the bodice from version A/B and the skirt from B/D, without the sleeves and the flounce. There are some great sleeve options that come with this dress, but this was for summer, and I can't imagine that I'll ever wear a flounce. But never say never. I made quite a few pattern alterations for fit, most of them quite familiar to me now:
Short Waist: 1 inch
Sway Back: 1.5 cm
Reduce shoulder seams: 1.5cm
Side seams, seam allowance, 1cm @ waist area
Bias binding neckline, 5mm seam allowance.
Lowered length by 1 inch. Haven't moved vent down.
Waist seam 1cm @ front
Back Seam, 1cm at waist
Peg side seams by 1 inch

I also used bias binding instead of the facing. I left the full seam allowance in place, so it gives an extra 1cm around the neckline (5mm for bias binding, instead of 15mm for facing). In truth, it is a bit high, but I prefer to keep everything inside. For the bias biding on the armholes, I did trim 10mm off to keep them to 15mm seam allowance.

Construction was very simple, and pretty quick. I was surprised by how much pleating and gathering there was through the wrap sections. The pattern has you pleat and then gather over the top of the pleats. In a stretch cotton it was fine, but a heavier woven might end up with a lot of bulk.

I sized down to a 10 and would make a 12 in a woven. It is pretty snug through the hips and my waist is always much larger than the rest of me, but I am really pleased with the look and the fit.
 Fabric: Fabricana, 14.39
 Lining/binding: reclaimed sheet, 0.00
 Interfacing: not used
 Pattern: Minerva Crafts, 3.99
 Zip: Mood, 0.60
 Thread: existing, 0.00
Total: 18.98

Friday, 23 December 2016

Christmas Checked Dress

This is Big Sis's sewing project; finished, in true home sewing style, with a tight deadline, late nights, and sewing in pyjamas the morning of the wearing.

She has been asking for sewing lessons because lots of her friends are signed up for local classes. Given that I just have to spend the time and effort to show her the ropes, I thought I had better get on and do just that. I committed to sewing with her for an hour on Fridays and Sundays.

She decided she wanted a red checked dress in time for Christmas. We shopped for the fabric online and got a lovely soft flannel. She decided to use the wrong side out because it was unbrushed and she liked the cleaner lines of the pattern. She was not terribly impressed with using the same pattern as always, The Party Dress from The Cottage Mama, perhaps because she wanted cap sleeves. I wasn't about to go and trace and cut out a whole new pattern bodice block, but I did find a BurdaStyle pattern with sleeves so I traced the sleeve and the armscye from that to use over the block.

We spent a long lesson with the fabric laid out, working out grainlines and nap and cutting out with the rotary cutter. She was pretty bored. Then she moved the deadline up by 3 weeks to wear in time for the school Christmas Fair. From then on, we kept her role to sewing up and I was in charge of repairs, cutting and pinning.

The sleeves were a bit small, I re-did the seams with a 5mm allowance, but she doesn't have much room in them. The bodice was too short for her so we added the waistband. For future reference, it needs to come down by about 10cm. I cut the skirt at a length of 62cm, but hemmed about 15cm of it away.

Her sewing was excellent. With almost no practice, she sewed straight lines and got the fabric moving through the machine well. The second and third seams she ever sewed were putting the sleeves in. That is not easy to do and they went in perfectly. I was so proud of her.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Needle Felted Solar System

The Year 5 Solar System Science Project: what a rite of passage!

I have literally been planning this for years. Every year, the school foyer is decorated with a marvellous installation of immaculate solar systems. I knew I had my work cut out.

Most parents (because, who are we kidding here?) make theirs out of polystyrene balls of different sizes, painted with acrylic paint. These are then mounted in a variety of ways.

When I discovered needle felting as a craft, I was pretty sure that this would be a) different, b) achievable, and c) for bonus points – something that the child could actually help with.

It turns out that she took to it like a duck to water. She jealously guarded her right to needle felt all the planets. She wanted it to be her work, and I tried to be supportive of that.

These are the planets we made, in chronological order:


To start, I helped her research the right colours and sizes for each of the planets. I also guided her towards working smallest to largest. So she started with Mercury. I showed her how to tear up the roving and mix strands together for colours. Mercury was a mixture of two different greys to give a rocky, mottled effect. Since it is so tiny, it was a pretty speedy stab to get a viable planet.


Next up was Mars. This one was a combination of dark brown and a touch of deep red. She kept it to the same quantities as Mercury to get the size about the same.


Venus weighed in at 5 grams to Mercury and Mars’ 3 grams. This was a much more involved colour mixture: gold, silver, cream, light pink and light brown. I think it is too mottled, but Owner-of-the-Solar-System says it is just what she wanted.


She really hit her stride here. We weighed the roving to get the right quantity of blue for the base sphere (5g) and made up a plain blue ball. Little sis helped here too. (The planets will likely be handed down in 2 years time.) I showed Big Sis how to make a flat shape and she went ahead and made up some dark green for the continents, added all sorts of land masses and some wispy clouds over the top. I think Earth looks lovely and I am very proud of her for how she made it happen. Earth's moon was depicted with a pin, stuck into the planet. Sorry moon.


Next we started on the Gas Giants. Our commitment to scale was stretched to its limits by this point. Jupiter is so enormous that we would need to felt a ball the size of a basketball to make it accurate. The four rocky planets would be lost against the others. I tried to find my old polystyrene balls to cover, but I have no idea where they are, so on we felted, using up almost all the roving.

Neptune and Uranus are quite plain, and pretty colours too so were not terribly daunting. 

In her words, "Uranus was made plain pale blue wool with not much interesting pattens or colours. Little Sis helped too much in my opinion."


"Neptune was made dark purple with darker patches here and there."

Both weighed in at about 13 grams.


With Saturn, we went for plain yellow roving, filling in the inside with leftover greys and silvers. Eventually it was large enough. I cut out a disc from yellow felt and drew circles on it with a pencil to give an impression of rings, then I hand sewed the disc to the ball.


Jupiter with its distinctive markings, gave me the most concern. It came out not too badly, but the eye/red spot is more like an ugly mole, rather than a gas storm. This is the only planet I made without the children helping. I built up the ball and then added strips of cream and different browns to get the stripes, then the red spot, which I should have done earlier and made much flatter. But it was recognisable enough as Jupiter. (We didn't attempt the moons!)


I ordered a large polystyrene ball, which came in two halves, for the Sun. Painting it and sprinting yellow glitter was really easy and fun and I wondered why, exactly, we were not painting all the planets on polystyrene balls. We kept the paint uneven colours and splurges with paler areas where the white shows through.

Mounting the planets on the Sun was a major pain. The assignment notes suggested that the whole project not take more than six hours. Well, Mr Science Teacher, hanging the planets from the sun took me more than six hours, and untangling them took about the same again. Twice.

My mistake really. I should have used wire, not cotton thread, to hang them. Or yarn at the very least. But I wanted them to be as invisible as possible and on long strings so that the spacing would work out. I'm pleased to say that, once all the untangling was done (twice), the piece looked how I wanted it to, and hung from the ceiling at school marvellously.



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