Wednesday, 25 June 2014

BOGOF: Colette Sorbetto and GBSB Box Pleat Skirt

This post is about when it doesn't quite go as well as you hoped.

When I started sewing I expected to make things that sounded great in my head, but didn't work in real life, or just didn't turn out how I'd expected. I learnt a lot about fabric quite early on so this hasn't happened too much, but there are always exceptions.

These are both items I finished a while ago but wasn't proud enough of to blog, but I changed I mind. I want to share the highs AND the lows with you, so here we go. Please excuse my hayfever eyes.

Colette Sorbetto 

I'd been eyeing this pattern up for a while as a quick make, but didn't have a lot of love for the style. It looks boxy and poorly shaped in many of the versions I'd seen on the web, and a little tomboyish even. That's not me.

I think this may be partly down to it being a pattern that first time sewists pick up to try, being free and simple, it would make sense. When I discovered Mena's 7 days of Sorbettos I realised it didn't have to be this way - that it's a very adaptable pattern with loads of opportunity for customisation. So I customised!

I saw this lovely fabric in a local wool shop called Warwick Wools. They have a little haberdashery joined on the side which has recently started selling a small range of fabric, but it changes regularly and is very reasonably priced, they pretty much have new things in each week. This is a linen look cotton, if I remember correctly it was about £3 a meter and I only bought one. The white fabric for the collar was leftover from the hem detail of the Pastille dress I made earlier this year. It's a little thick, but it holds its shape well.

I decided to make the sorbetto from the off using this fabric as it was so cheap and required so little fabric and though I loved the colour I was aware it wouldn't go with much of my existing wardrobe. So essentially this is a wearable muslin.

I cut a 0 at the bust, grading to a 4 at the waist, skipped the pleat and added sleeves using the pattern from Claire's blog Sew, Incidentally. As you can see, the bust dart is far too high. The picture doesn't show it, but the top ends only about 2 inches below the waistband of the skirt. It's REALLY short, which is very strange for Colette patterns as I usually have to remove a good few inches from their bodices. It has a kind of 90's vibe at this length!

I was also a little silly and forgot to prewash the fabric so it's now a little uncomfortably small.

I've already started a second sorbetto in cream lace which you may have seen a few weeks back on Instagram, but I stupidly forgot to make the necessary dart adjustment. I also realised that the first time around (and the second) I forgot to extend the armhole seam allowance from 1/4 inch to 5/8 so I've bought more fabric and I'll just start over, since I snipped through a sleeve by mistake and have already trimmed more fabric from the armhole sleeves. Lots of silly going on.

Great British Sewing Bee Box Pleat Skirt

For those who can still remember the Sewing Bee, this is a skirt from the second series that came in the book. A friend of mine who is just starting out sewing found the book on offer and picked it up, so I had a nosy through and quickly came to the conclusion that it was terrible, especially for a beginner, and it would just confuse the hell out of her. The instructions are brief and misleading, and the order of the book makes absolutely no sense - the first project is a self drafted dress, on the same page where it tells you to stay clear of pattern drafting unless you wish to take a class on it! WTF? It quite upsets me that the book is suggested as a beginners resource as I can just imagine how many people have tried to learn to sew using it and have given up after unsuccessful results. She told me to take the book away and buy her a more suitable book in return, as I quite wanted to try out some of the patterns that came with it. I bought her the Colette Sewing Handbook in return, but if it had been out at the time I would have got Tilly's Love at First Stitch.

So, I knew I wanted to make this skirt as soon as I saw it on the show and it looked pretty straightforward. However I don't think I've ever spent so long on a project. The measurements were bonkers, and looking at them I realised that if I cut for my waist size and it sat on my waist it would barely cover my butt cheeks. I have a high natural waist, and I wanted to wear this on my hips as it appears on the model, so I cut a size 14. Considering if I bought this as a ready to wear item I would buy a size 8, possibly a 10, you can see that anyone larger than a shop bought size 12 would be sized out of making this skirt. It's totally daft. I then spent about 5 hours (seriously) pedantically measuring the pattern pieces because they were SO far away from the finished measurements it promised. I tell you, it was the biggest sewing headache ever! It would have been easier to just self draft, but there you go, lesson learnt!

Hello cat hair close up...

Let's talk fabric. This fabric was given to me along with several bags of fabric I found on a freecycle type site. It had a sticker on it telling me of the special kind of wool it was, but it's since been lost and I can't recall it's name. I have no idea how old it is or where it was made but I loved it as soon as I saw it and spent a long time waiting for the right project. I only had about a meter and a half, and it's very narrow, only about 80cm I think. This skirt literally squeezed in -  I could barely cover half a dozen buttons with the scraps! But alas - I chose wrong. The fabric is lovely, but it's not quite stiff enough to hold the pleats properly. I'm also worried it looks a little like a tea-towel!??

As it turns out, the size I cut is too big. It sits on my hips like I wanted it to, but it doesn't look right. It wants to be smaller, and it wants to sit higher. I don't know if I'll ever make these adjustments. I might see if I have a friend of one higher dress size who would like a handmade speciality wool skirt? Any takers?

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Colette Ceylon in Teal

I have been really busy lately and have about 5 WIPs on the go, and I'm aware that there may be a bout of mass blogging coming up as I complete them all. I hope this is cool with you?

I figured that before this happens I should really post the unblogged projects I finished ages ago. Particularly this one, as it has already featured in the blog and some of you have already seen it on me at NyLon2014.
So, here is the Colette Ceylon dress. I've had loads of questions about the dress and I'll try to remember them all and squeeze the answers into this post.

Firstly, I instagrammed the hell out of this project. But I found the construction really interesting, which is probably why. Rather than place right sides together and sew, the instructions are to stay stitch on the seam allowance, press the seam allowance to the wrong side, and then topstitch that piece over the top of another, creating a really detailed topstitched patchwork of a dress. It takes a little time, not just for all of the basting, ironing, removing basting stitches, not to mention ALL the little gathers, but because there are a squillion pieces to this dress!

The main question I had was the same question I had when I first saw the pattern - "Is it really hard to fit?" As we leave safe front bodice/back bodice territory and enter the world of an 9 piece bodice you would think that it would get tricky, but actually having a different piece to fit over each of your curvy bits makes it a lot easier to spot where the problems are. Bust looks wrong - just alter that piece. Waist not right - you know what to fix. 

As I am short,  I had to remove some length. I made a muslin, grading sizes 2 at the bust to a 6 at the waist and hips. I did this piece by piece, matching the size at the top of one piece with the bottom of the adjoining piece. Knowing I couldn't exactly do an SBA this seemed the best option and it worked fine. The muslin showed far too much room height wise in the top back piece, so I took out a wedge of a couple of inches, then I took an inch off the bottom of the bust pieces and an inch off the top of the waist pieces. After reading other reviews I did a sleeve to test and also found it impossibly tight. I added an inch, and even then it's a very snug fit. I have to pull it off separately to get out of the dress! So really, a few easy adjustments was all it took. The pattern is marked with a waist line which made it easy to get the length right as the waist is quite nipped in, so you know when that sits in the right place everything else can be assessed properly.

It's taken me so long to blog this dress because I've been lazy with taking photos. I'm getting tired of tripods in my living room and I live in a lovely town full of interesting backdrops so this morning I decided to drag the boyfriend down the road to take a few snaps in a more interesting location. I found a nice garage door. Unfortunately, I hate having my photo taken, so I'm pretty much talking through the whole thing, complaining at how awkward I feel. This should explain the strange faces I'm pulling.

Once again I don't know what "type" of fabric you call this. It's polyester (Sweaty, boo! No ironing, yay!), very slinky with a very slight mesh feel to the texture. I found it in the Fancy Silk Store, Birmingham and I think it was £3 a meter. I bought 3 meters, but I only used 2 which is very surprising considering the number of pieces. The buttons were a job lot on ebay, cheap as chips!

When it came to the buttons I made a little boo boo and made the holes on the wrong side. Whoops. The pattern calls for horizontal buttonholes so I dutifully followed orders but oh my days what a nightmare!! Because it allows no scope for up/down movement, if the corresponding button is sewn just a couple of mms off the whole thing bunches up and looks awful. Most of these buttons were sewn three times before I finally got them all in the right place. I'd love to say sod it, go vertical, but due to the spacing between them I don't know if it would work. Which sucks. But it looks pretty with them horizontal so what the hell!

This is the first Intermediate pattern I've tackled and I didn't find it difficult at all. So if you've eyed up this pattern but been afraid that it's difficult then have a crack at that, it's not hard, just time consuming. And I think it's worth the little extra effort :)

I'm already planning my winter wardrobe and I think there might be a couple of wool versions of this featuring- perhaps with normal seams instead of topstitching to reduce bulk. I'll probably let out the waist another 1/2 inch, and loosen the sleeves a little more as well, but I definitely plan to make this pattern again!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

By Hand London Victoria... and a wedding cake!

It's wedding season, hurray! 

I have 3 weddings this year, so obviously there was a need for a jacket of sorts. I have a RTW navy jacket that I like, but it's thicker and coat-like and I wanted something light. Is it just me or there something about weddings and pastels? Sorry if you're the fuschia skirt with the fuschia blouse and fuschia fascinator (and don't forget the fuschia lipstick!) kind of person, but I'm just not.

This is the kind of outfit I like to wear to weddings: 

I thought I'd treat you to a new angle of my living room. Do you like my rum tum tugger cushion? :)

So here is my finished By Hand London Victoria blazer. I intended to make the full length version as I thought the cropped one would look weird, like a tiny shrug instead of a jacket, but I've recently become a lot more aware of what suits me, and that long cardigans do not suit my short body. After looking through some other people's blazers I realised that the cropped version would suit me much better, and I'm so glad I made that decision. It's the perfect length for 5 foot me, just ending at my waist, and not the scary short belero scenario I originally thought the cropped version could be. Just imagine how the long version would drown me! Ugh, wise move with the crop!

I used a cream polyester heavy crepe for the main fabric which was £8/metre in World of fabrics, Cheltenham, and some blush polyester duchess satin from the market in Leicester (also £8/metre) for the lining. The fabrics are a similar weight and drape and work really well together. I wanted the finished result to be more of a posh cardigan than a structured jacket. 

So I thought making the Victoria would be a tricky project but it was SO easy! I did the whole thing including muslin on and off over 5 days, much faster than most projects, and technically it was very straightforward. The sleeves are tricky to ease in but I sewed with the fuller side up so I had better control and got them both in first time with no puckers. Happy days!

I cut a straight size 10 (uk) despite being way between sizes - my waist is a By Hand London size 14, but being a very loose garment it's not  a problem at all, so I cut for my bust size and made absolutely no adjustments. I thought the sleeves might be a bit tight as I don't have the skinniest arms, but it turned out perfectly. 

So I mainly made this garment to wear to weddings, but I enjoyed making it so much I'd love to whip up a couple more, in more stable fabrics and different colours. It's a great alternative to a cardigan, which I wear a lot of. The temperamental weather of England makes layering an essential outfit choice.

I'm trying to get better at providing more detail on my makes, so here's a few bits on the construction.

Whilst I'm happy with my fabric choices, I won't pretend that it's an easy option for a jacket. This stuff doesn't like to be pressed, and is a little stubborn about it, so I had to tack down the lapels loosely at the top and bottom, otherwise they just bend back to the way they're sewn. It also means that the edges just aren't as crisp as I'd like them to be, but I'm willing to cope with it.

Here is the jacket on the inside with that lovely duchess satin. I love how it looks a little like a pink lady jacket here! I've also started taking more care finishing the inside of garments. Without an overlocker I always thought the only other options were pinking or complicated, time consuming bulky finishes like hong kong seams. Up until now, everything has been pinked, unless it's been sheer in which case it's been french seamed, but I'm not getting along with the pinking. It looks fine when you cut it, but after a couple of washes it just becomes a garbled mess. I don't like mess. I was all ready to start saving for an overlocker, and THEN I discovered my machine has a overlocking stitch, and I learnt how to use it. It's amazing! Obviously I only have 2 threads, not 3 or 4, but the finish is really very good considering. It will certainly serve my needs for a long while before I start getting really obsessed over seam finishing!

So I think that's enough about sewing, let's talk about the wedding, and cake. This wedding was very different from most weddings. It was kind of an anti-wedding wedding. The ceremony was not a religious or legal one, but instead the bride and groom asked the guests to support them through their marriage, and then we played giant jenga, ate sweets and had a caleigh. Guest participation was a big theme, and rather than having a wedding cake they decided to have a cake competition. 18 guests brought along their bakes, including me with my Hearts and Roses cake. 

Basically, I attempted to make a lovely hidden image on the inside, so as you cut a slice it reveals a little red heart in the middle. It's the first time I've tried this so I really had no idea how well it would turn out. It kind of worked :-) 

And I won a prize!! I was awarded "Best effort" which is actually a bit of a back handed compliment if you think about it, but heck, I won a rosette that says I'm a "winner" so who cares!?