Tuesday, 31 October 2017

DIY Spider Costume

This costume was so easy to make that it doesn't even really count as a "make".

Thanks so this blog photo for inspiring me, it is just two pairs of tights, stuffed with newspaper, threaded through the large elastic straps and all tied in a bundle. 

I'm not joking, I am planning on wearing these tights in the future, so I wasn't going to cut them up!

I was going to make a little bag/sack to store the middle part of the tights in, but they tied up so well, and black on black, in the dark, is really hard to see anyway. Then I tied two 1m lengths of small elastic around the legs and looped on her wrists.

Here is a picture of all the ugly details in the back:

For her spinarettes, we twisted a pipe cleaner around her black headband. Seriously, this costume was the quickest and easiest I have ever made!

Monday, 30 October 2017

The Refashioners: Suit to Dress

The Refashioners is an annual challenge to take an old garment (or garments) and refashion something new. This is the first year I have taken part. While I love the Refashioners Challenge, and am full of admiration for the people who participate, I didn't think I would actually ever do it. But M told me he was going to go through his old suits and have a clearout. This was too good an opportunity to pass up, his suits are top quality, and I need a new grey work dress. 

The suit is Armani, the fabric is pure wool and is actually a navy, not charcoal. It has a fine grey pinstripe through it, which makes the final look appear charcoal. Isn't suit fabric fascinating?
I spent a great deal of time unpicking. Days and days, the thread all over the carpet was such a mess! I didn't want to cut the seams and then find out that I didn't have enough fabric to make up my dress.
I didn't keep any of the suit details such as pockets, lapels, or waistband in the finished garment. These were all cut around and not used. But I did keep the sleeve cuffs, and used them in my dress sleeves. I also kept and used the lining for the dress lining. And I saved the horsehair canvas from the front of the jacket as well as the shoulder pads and sleeve caps.


I went through my pattern stash, looking for a dress pattern with as many small pieces as possible. This one, Dress 109 from BurdaStyle 11/2013, has 16 separate pieces. I had to do some extra piecing and ended up with 24 pieces in total. I had to draw myself a diagram so I could keep track of where I was when I was cutting out all the pieces.

M's suits all wear out in the same place: the seat. The jackets are in pristine condition, but the trousers are completely worn through. Trousers have more large fabric pieces in them than jackets, so I planned on using the trousers, despite the wear. I got all the main pieces from the trousers, except the top of the back bodice. These were cut from the centre back of the top of the jacket. I kept the sleeves for the sleeves, and the flounce was pieced from the seat of the trousers and the rest of the centre back jacket.
The pattern is actually a hidden gem. The line drawing was very unappealing, just a grid of seam lines, and the photography, while beautifully done, isn't really showing the dress very well, particularly in a black fabric. But while I was tracing this pattern, I realised how interesting and well put together it really is. Funny how sometimes you have to really get to know something before you like it better. All the shaping is achieved from the seam lines. No darts, tucks or pleats. When made up in a dark fabric, the seam lines don't really show anyway. (I had to photograph the finished dress in full sun.) The shoulder seams are slanted to the back, there is a lovely neckline curve, and it has two piece sleeves. The hemline is pegged and the flounce makes it a proper wiggle dress.
I didn't make any fitting adjustments to the paper pattern. I traced a size 36, grading out to a 38 at the waist. I added 1.5mm seam allowances, which I am not finding as much of a pain as I used to.

You can see how shaped all the pieces are. And how small. This is the back of the dress. I cut little numbers and pinned them to the left bottom on the right side of each piece. Everything looked the same! But the tiny pieces meant I could use the suit trousers, and cutting out was so easy because every piece fitted on my cutting mat without me having to move the mat around - something I am quite sure makes my sewing inaccurate.
I love working with wool. It cuts beautifully, presses well and sews so nicely. I even washed all these pieces before I cut them out. The wool and the linings seemed to make it through the wash fine (I didn't wash the interfaced parts of the jacket), and I believe I might have a machine washable dress here. 
I pieced together the dress in quarters (right front, left front, right back, left back), then joined the shoulder seams. I then basted the centre front, side seams and centre back (as far as the zip) to check the fit and make any fitting adjustments to the seams before I finished the seams and sewed it together properly.
  • side seams (hips and waist), release each seam by 5mm from below bust through to hem;
  • shoulder seams: increase seam allowance by 1cm at neckline, taper to normal at armscye;
  • horizontal bust seam: increase seam allowance by 5mm through all seams, front and back;
  • sway back adjustment: back waist seam, increase seam allowance by 1cm, taper to 0 by centre of section (half way between centre back and side seam);
  • sleeves: release lower part by another 5mm on both seams;
  • flounce: shorten (by 2 inches, I think)

I overlocked all the raw edges. Everywhere. They are very prone to fraying, so it was necessary. (This project used a lot of thread!)

I kept the cuffs and the button detail on the sleeves, but I shortened the sleeve length and made them 3/4 length. I had to unpick the jacket sleeves, down to the vent. The curve of the sleeve wasn't quite right for this length. This is an example of unpicking something, altering it, and then sewing it up to (hopefully) look exactly the same. The bottom of the sleeves came out too narrow, so I had to let the seam allowances out a bit more. I kept the horsehair canvas band around the cuff, and tacked the outer fabric to the inside, ready to hand sew the lining in to the cuff. The original suit buttons were not fastened with buttonholes. Not couture, but very helpful to me here. I need to leave them unfastened for the extra ease I need in the elbow.
I did a lapped zip because that is what I had to hand. I stabilised the back seam allowances of the whole dress. I wanted to use the waist stay ribbon from the Armani trousers, but decided it was too thick so I used adhesive stabilising tape instead. I can use the Armani ribbon as a zip guard, an exposed zip is very uncomfortable. I'll do that and add a new photo.

I am not usually a fan of a flounce, and considered leaving it off. But the dress is indecently short without it, and I hadn't added extra fabric to the bottom pieces. It also makes quite a severe dress more playful. Of course, I didn't have any fabric pieces wide enough to cut it in one, it uses a lot of fabric, and is cut on the fold. I pieced it from eight pieces in the end. All are cut on grain and sewed together, including overlocked seams. I used the very worn sections through the seat of the pants, because I wanted a lightweight fabric here. I cut quite a bit of length off the pattern, and was definitely not going to add the suggested 3cm hem allowance to a curved hem such as this. I overlocked and turned up once. Bad me, I machine hemmed it, but I was quite pleased with myself for switching to a zig zag stitch for the hem - it made less of a hard line through the fabric.
I used the suit lining for some of the dress lining. Curiously, the suit had a different lining for the jacket and the trousers. The jacket has a nice navy lining, while the front upper part of the trousers has a much thinner black lining. I had used up all the navy on the child's waistcoat, so I only had the sleeves left - for the sleeves - and used the black for the upper bodice lining. At the moment, the rest of the dress is unlined, as the pattern instructs, but I think I will go back and add a new lining as far as the flounce. I am just mulling over using a different pattern so that I don't have a pieced lining. Maybe I can draft one from the finished dress...
I found the v-neck very difficult to get right. I trimmed and turned and pressed, and pressed, and hammered, and eventually it sits flat-ish. I should have read the pattern instructions. By this point, I was just sewing things together. It has a slight gape at one side too. I only stay stitched very late in the make. 
But that is about the only niggle. I am so delighted with my dress, I want to make exactly the same refashion again! I have my eye on one of M's other suits, a gorgeous combed wool with a waffle check pattern. Too bad he just bought it this year!

 Fabric: refashioned suit, £0.00
 Lining fabric: refashioned suit, £0.00
 Pattern: BurdaStyle, used previously, £0.00
  Thread: local fabric store, £4.00
  Overlocker thread: used previously, £0.00
  Zip: thrifted gift, £0.00
  Seam tape: 2m, £1.50
  Buttons: refashioned suit, £0.00
Total: £5.50

Sunday, 29 October 2017

The Refashioners: Child Waistcoat

This is an unexpected, additional contribution to The Refashioners, SuitsYou refashion, going on this October. The Refashioners is a fun challenge which pretty much sounds like what it is: refashion an unwanted garment into something new. 2017's challenge is to use a suit. Luckily for me, M's favourite outfit is a suit and he has plenty of them. He also got two new ones this year, so it was time for a clear out.

This navy beauty is Georgio Armani. The fabric is actually navy, with a tiny grey pinstripe giving an overall effect of a charcoal colour with a subtle stripe.  

My first garment going in to the Refashioners is a dress for me. But this was finished first because it had to jump the queue since the child told me she is going on a school trip and needs a Victorian costume.

Oh dear, there was a lot of drama getting to the right costume! She wasn't hearing of wearing an apron over a dress. No matter how much we Googled, or how many pictures we looked at. No way! But she was willing to dress as a boy, so we solved the drama with this waistcoat.

Here is the suit before refashioning. (You can see I have gone to a lot of trouble with my hair and makeup for this photo shoot.)

I had cut up most of the suit for my dress: trousers, back jacket panel and jacket sleeves. Only the front of the jacket was left. I used half the fronts, and all of the jacket lining (minus sleeves) for this waistcoat.

The pattern is Burda Style 11/2013 which has some great child sized patterns in that issue. This pattern is actually for a fur vest, not a proper waistcoat. I traced the largest size, and added 1 1/4 inch of length.

I cut the two back pieces from the back jacket lining. These have a seam instead of on the fold, but they were already stitched together, so I left them as they were. They just fitted, with no other seams, but I did have to unpick the side backs from the centre backs. They had been taken in there so the seam allowance was large. 

This photo shows the whole lining being used. The pattern was lengthened after I took this. The two backs are going to run down the centre back and the two fronts are taking up the whole front lining, including the welt pocket on the right.

The front pieces were cut from the front of the jacket, with the jacket hem used as the waistcoat hem. The tailors had sewn bias binding around the hem curve and I wanted to make the most of their work. The front jacket is also interfaced with fusible interfacing. After I lengthened the pattern, I could just squeeze out the fronts without running into the buttonhole. It is in the seam allowance, as is the side of the outside welt pocket.

I managed to keep the small welt pocket from the lining that sits high on the inside of the left front jacket. I moved this to the lower inside waistcoat as it was the only pocket where the scale was right for a child's garment. All the other pockets were way too big. The handkerchief pocket would have been cute, but I couldn't get a lower front from it. The care instructions label was just below the welt, so I kept both of those features.

I had a terrible job figuring out the instructions for turning the waistcoat and a quick and simple project turned into a lot of unpicking. I unpicked the shoulder seams to try to get the turn the way Burda instructed. I unpicked the side seams when that didn't work. I sewed them up again, and still it didn't work, so they got unpicked a third time. Gosh, I'm so bored just writing this! I got there in the end, thanks to this tutorial. I was able to sew most of the hem closed from the inside and just hand sewed the last little bit. I wish I had stabilised the back neckline with a bit of ribbon or stay tape, it seems very flimsy.

I didn't add any closures, hanging open is fine, and kept the edge looking clean, preserving the edge that the nice suit tailors put there, stabilised and steamed so beautifully.

We decided that she looks like a farmer's son in Sunday best, rather than a beggar boy. She is going to put some pennies in her pocket and pretend she is a thief!

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Needlecord Erin Skirt

This skirt is the third pattern I've made from the Sew Over It, My Capsule Wardrobe, City Break. I got this pattern bundle in a Black Friday promotion last year, and almost immediately also bought this teal coloured needlecord for the Erin Skirt.

As we head into / are deep into another Autumn, I got thinking about this garment and wanted to get on with it.

I cut out a size 12, even though I measured at a 10, and didn't make any fitting adjustments. I think I might go back to a 10 if I made it again. It is meant to be fitted through the hips, and the pockets sit flat if the fit is snug. That said, a snug fit means the buttons can look strained, which is not a good look either. 

I sewed the skirt together before inserting the darts, but actually found them to be perfect just as they are. I thought about flat felled side seams, but instead overlocked the raw edges.

I cut the pocket bags from the last scraps of my lovely Suzy Taylor fabric. Because of the aforementioned pocket edges sticking out, this does mean that those to the side have a glimpse of white pocket lining, but it is a casual skirt, so I don't mind too much. Facing with a quilting cotton is such a sewing-cat-lady thing to do, but I don't mind at all! I did fold the edges quite far to the inside, so the teal forms the pocket edge. This is why you can see the lower edge of the pocket bag lining from the inside. I quite like the extra pattern here too. I chose to pink the pocket edges, because this finish creates the least bulk possible.

When it came to the waistband, I have an incredibly short waist - 2 inches short by my reckoning - so skirt waistbands usually look very high waisted on me. For this reason, I often leave them off. (See examples in these skirts: Delphine, Burda) I did the same here.

I drafted a facing from the pattern pieces (pinching out the darts) and cut it out of the Daydream fabric. Then overlocked bottom edge and attached to top edge of skirt. Then I added a strip of webbing tape to the seam allowances of the facing and top of skirt. This added some stability to the waistline, but little bulk. After that, I ran two rows of topstitching along the waistline. The slightly larger skirt means the top sits below my natural waist, which just makes it look normal by normal-waistline standards.

I agonised over the hem length. The amount of times I pinned myself into this skirt, I cannot say. I tried it on with tights, and without. I did a long walking test with tights, because I hate when the front of my skirt rides up while I am striding around the London pavements. I had added 7cm to the pattern length (accounting for the aforementioned short waist), but in the end, trimmed 5cm off the fabric, and turned up by 5cm. The pattern calls for a 1.5cm hem, so mine is 1.5cm shorter than the pattern. 

I had no idea I was buying a stretch fabric.  I bemoan how dressmaking fabrics have no stretch, compared to most RTW clothing these days. Then I buy some without knowing, and use it for a skirt pattern that advises non-stretch fabric! But the stretch worked out fine, and makes the skirt very comfortable.

This stretch was one of the main reasons I decided not to line the skirt in the end. I was planning on using some silk that I bought in Hong Kong about 5 years ago. But the length and the ease mean that the skirt is not riding up when worn with tights. I think it is just long enough to get away with wearing without tights in warmer weather too.

I created some 1 inch tape as hemming tape. Not on the bias, because I had very little fabric, the trees would have been crooked, and the stitching was going to inhibit the stretch anyway. It worked very well and balances the insides nicely.

I got the metal buttons from Amazon and decided that 6 are better than 5. They have little flowers embossed on them and I like how they are sort of like jeans buttons, but prettier. 

One of my future projects is to go back and put patch pockets on the back of the skirt. They are great for breaking up an expanse of bum and making ones derriere look smaller. I have to do it before the skirt has too many washes as I suspect the fabric is a bit prone to fading. It pressed nicely though. I didn't use a pressing cloth, or another bit of velvet to stop the pile from crushing. I also didn't press it very hard. The machine foot created visible lines through the velvet, but they smoothed out fast. It's a lovely fabric. I only used about half of my 1.5 meters. It was 150cm wide and I have a large piece left. This pattern could be made out of just 55cm of fabric, if you were willing to skip the pockets. 


 Fabric: Croft Mill, 1.5m, £13.25
 Facing Fabric: Suzy Taylor Daydream Trees, £0.00 (used previously)
 Pattern: Sew Over It, £4.67 (third of bundle)
  Thread: The Village Haberdashery, £1.70
  Webbing Tape: eBay, £0.00 (bought for another project)
  Buttons: Amazon, 30 for £3.98
Total: £23.60

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Dalmatian Dress

As I did my Disney research, I read about Disney Bounding. My first thought was, “How fun!” (My second thought was, “That is terrible grammar!”) Disney Bounding is the practice of dressing for your favourite Disney character, without being in costume, which adult visitors are not permitted to do at Disney.

The girls favourite Disney movie is 101 Dalmatians and Big Sis wears her Dalmatian onesie almost daily. Since I wouldn’t let her wear the onesie to Disneyland, it seemed only fair to make her a polka dot dress so that she could Disney Bound too. 

Then I looked in Little Sis’ cupboard and found a polka dot dress the same! I was really looking forward to seeing my two dalmatians in the park. We were planning to meet Cruella de Ville and I was going to say, "Cruella, darling! What do you think of my two dalmatians? Aren't their coats divine?"

But, sadly, Cruella was not in town that day, and Little Sis' dress got left at home in London, when she didn't go and fetch it for packing. oops. We had a cute meet and greet with Mickey instead.

The fabric is polycotton, and I lined the bodice with white cotton. It’s a shame to see the reverse of the polka dots in the seam allowances, but I trimmed them down a bit, and it is not too distracting. The skirt is 3 widths of fabric, so the amount of gathering means I could get away with leaving it unlined. I love the black sash. The bodice is way too short for my big girl (Cottage Mama Party Dress, again, in size 8), so I had to add a sash. This is black cotton, but has some stretch. I gathered it at the side seams, and sewed the tucks down to take the weight of the skirt. I made a black bow, but left it off, thinking it too fragile to last for long.

I couldn’t get Disney patches for the dogs faces, so we had to make do with generic Dalmatian faces. The back is fastened with some polka dot buttons that I got in Canada a few years ago and I faced the hem with white cotton. She likes dressing as an animal, so this dress is fine for normal wear too.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Making a Minnie Mouse Purse

A small, cross body purse is one of my essential pieces of Mum-kit. I like having my phone handy (especially as a camera) and my wallet on me, separate from another bag with everyone's stuff in it. As part of our our Disneyland preparations, I decided I could easily make a simple Minnie purse to carry my tickets and phone.

I worked out the correct proportions of ears to head (ratio of 3:5), and that the ears are slightly elliptical. I traced off some pattern pieces and added seam allowances. I used some scraps of black knit fabric from my Karen Dress, because it has a nice texture, and I wanted it to be a bit more interesting than quilting cotton. I used quilting cotton for the reverse of the ears and the inside lining of the purse. 

I interfaced all the pieces with two layers of interfacing, and they held up well. The ears turned out beautifully and I had to attach them by hand. I made up a bow, and the loops that the strap clips attach to. I had to clip and baste the seam allowance of the bag to get the folded edge to sew all of these to. 

I kind of lost my way after that and didn't get quite the result I wanted with the main body of the bag. I joined the back of the bag to the front by machine and the zip edge by hand. At this point, the bag was too small to hold my phone. I had measured, but I think the hand sewing ran too small. I unpicked the bottom and added a wedge of fabric. This gave it the size I needed, but destroyed the circular shape it was supposed to be. I decided to live with it and attached the inside lining pieces to each other, and to the inside of the zip.

There was a large amount of hand sewing, which I did while the girls and I caught up on old Disney movies. It wasn't a total disaster, but I was disappointed that it started so promisingly and ended up so far from my original vision.

I also thought about adding an inside pocket for smaller items. This would have been useful, and I should have interfaced the bow strongly. It drooped completely with wear and spoiled the look. I used a strap from an existing bag I own. I didn't want a me-made strap to stand up to the wear it was going to get. 

I used it sporadically by the end. The zip didn't run smoothly and my phone didn't fit perfectly, so if my shorts had pockets, I preferred to use those for tickets and camera. But it was a cute accessory and I'm glad I made it. 

Monday, 4 September 2017

Disney Bleached Silhouette T-shirts

Preparing clothing for our Disneyland trip, I found quite a few of these bleached silhouette shirts during my Googling of “make Disney t-shirts”. My efforts didn’t quite turn out as well as those on the interwebs, but I think I got pretty close, and would be near perfect if I had another go.

I wanted four different shades of blue for the different family members, but turquoise wasn’t on offer for the eldest, so she and I chose the same colour. If I did it again, I would get this one for everyone. The blue is different from other t-shirts that you see in the park, so it is easy to spot your family members. I got Fruit of the Loom shirts from eBay, with a ladies cut, v neck style for me. 

I made a template by tracing a silhouette from my computer screen. I sized down a bit for the children’s shirts. No exact sizing. I cut the template from paper, and then cardboard (lesson learned: the bleach soaks under a paper template, cardboard needed).

We took the shirts outside and laid a baking tray or large plate face down inside each one, we weighed down the templates with garden pebbles and gave the shirts a few squirts with a spray bottle filled with a 50/50 mixture of bleach and water. There is a bit of a fine line to walk here: too many squirts and the bleach soaks the shirt so that the outline isn’t as sharp. My shirt has very few squirts, just enough to catch each edge of the outline.

We needed to take the templates off straight away and rinse the shirts in cold water. I then threw them in a 30 degree wash – alone – to get the last of the bleach out.

The colour of the shirt makes a difference to how the finished shirt will look. The navy came out orange and the two other shades of blue bleached to white.  This is another reason why I would choose all the same colour if I did it again. Little one really wanted navy, even though I tried to tell her how much hotter she would be in a dark colour.

We wore these together on Day 2. The Dad shirt didn’t work so well, we did that one first and the bleach was too wet, making the outline terrible. The patches are where the pebbles held the bleach to the shirt too. He had already categorically stated that he was not going to wear matching outfits, so I wasn’t going to re-do it with a new shirt. I thought, at best, he might wear it for pyjamas. The power of Disney was so strong that he was looking forward to his matching shirt, but it was too small for him, so I wore it for pyjamas. In other outtakes: little one had to have her shirt re-done. How about listening when your mother and big sister are both yelling “Stop! Stop spraying!”, but instead you keep on spraying, soaking the whole front of the shirt with bleach. Then you cry because your Mickey silhouette looks like a cat's bum and your mother has to order you a new one from eBay so you can try again. Thank goodness we were making these more than a week before we left so we had time. Big sis was a bit jealous, because the final shirt came out the best. But she is a sweet girl and didn't fuss for a new one.

One final special touch went into my shirt. When I was a toddler, my father went to Disneyland and brought me back this name patch. I have never used it, and considering how ruthless I am about clearing things out, it is a bit of a miracle that it survived. Almost 40 years later, the patch returned to Disneyland on my sleeve.



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