Cleo Dungaree Dress

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As soon as I saw Tilly’s Cleo Dungaree Dress, I was sold on it. It’s the sort of item of clothing I would love to buy in RTW stores, but would never fit me on account of my unusual *ahem* proportions. Sewing it myself was a great opportunity to make my little dungaree dress dreams come true!

Normally I’m not a big fan of kits, as I like to choose fabrics myself and I think it adds to the individuality of a make. In this instance though, Tilly has done such an amazing job of sourcing great fabrics, that I swooped and bought an aubergine needlecord kit as soon as it went on sale. It seems to be a good job that I did, as since the day I purchased the kit it seems to be constantly sold out – I believe at the moment there is a waiting list! So I feel extra special to have gotten my paws on a hallowed Tilly aubergine kit.

Anyway, on to the pattern. This pattern does 100% what it says on the tin – it’s a speedy and satisfying make with nothing too tricky. Or at least it wouldn’t have had anything too tricky about it had I remembered the special email Tilly sent out saying there had been a printing mistake with the front facing and to use the email supplementary piece she sent out. As I completely forgot about this until I came to try and get my damned facing to fit, I had no choice but to perform extensive facing surgery (especially as I was out of aubergine needlecord fabric). I was actually quite proud of myself in the end though – I found a creative solution which actually looks relatively normal from the inside. Could definitely have been worse! What is the lesson here? DO NOT FORGET to use Tilly’s supplementary facing when you cut this out the next time!

The other lesson I learnt on this make is to pay more attention to pocket placing markings. I accidentally placed my pockets wwwwaaayyy too far down the skirt and had to take them off and re-attach, which was kind of sad as they were so straight and perfectly top stitched the first time round. You live and learn though right?

I cut my usual size 7 grading to a 4/5 on the hips as I do with most Tilly patterns and this worked perfectly for me. My partner did make some helpful comments about me maybe widening the top part/doing an FBA on the top to give me more boob coverage, but you know what, I’m just going to be happy with what God gave me and leave it as it is. I like it and that’s the main thing!

What I loved most about the Tilly kit is that the dungaree buckles and interfacing and thread are all really high quality. The buckles attach super easily and hold really well. I feel like I’ve made something that will really last which is great! I liked the kit so much that have now purchased a second – the dark denim. I can’t wait to stitch it up and combine it with fun t-shirts – maybe even some of my more fun printed Agnes tops which I’ve made! I would definitely recommend this make – even for beginners absolute beginners! Give it a go! I’m glad I did!

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Crafting with Suede

On Saturday I had a lovely trip to a local independent fabric store in Frankfurt’s Brückenviertel- Die Quiltmanufaktur. What I love about Quiltmanufaktur is that it’s the only fabric shop in Frankfurt that really celebrates the art of crafting, rather than just being a transactional, functional place to buy supplies. It’s run by the lovely Andrea Kollath, who is always on hand to have a chat and share her extensive experience. I love the layout of the shop and all the amazing fabrics which are bang on trend. Andrea also puts together her own jelly roll bundles, which are otherwise practically impossible to come by here in Germany, so there is so much to love. I have to be a bit careful when I go in, as I could always spend a small fortune! However, I do always like to buy something, as I like the idea that I am supporting a local, independent businesswoman with my shopping! This time I came away with this gorgeous French Bulldog fat quarter and a couple of really funky mini jelly rolls!

I have to confess that I didn’t really have a plan for either of these, I just indulged and bought them because I liked them! However, late on Saturday night I had a bit of a crafting itch, and decided to finally use a couple of my velour scraps from one of my EUR 5 leather scrap bags. I loved the colours that came in this particular scrap bag, and decided to make myself a little dual colored zipper pouch. I was thinking hard about which fat quarter to use for the lining, when it suddenly struck me that this would be a great project to use a little bit of my Frenchie fat quarter. Those pooches will make me smile every time I open it!

I have to confess I was a bit nervous about the dual colour approach to this pouch. Although I had success on the last coin purse I made, I had another go with nappa leather last week and tried this dual fabric approach and it did not go well. The seamed leather was just too thick to sew through two layers and it resulted in a snapped needle, angry crunching noises from my machine, and two otherwise nice pieces of leather landing in the bin. I had high hopes this time though, as the suede is much much thinner than the nappa leather, so I thought I would come back for round two!

I’m pretty pleased with the result of this one! The dual fabric worked well and I’m really pleased that the seam is continuous and matches well on both sides. The construction was a bit scary though and I think I need to choose slightly wider pieces for these 6 inch zippers as it was a bit close by the time everything got turned out. Overall, I think it turned out well, but it certainly isn’t a reflection of how the sewing looks underneath the lining! One important thing I learnt is also that suede marks so much more easily than leather, so you need to be careful with the presser foot pressure.


The highlight of this pouch though is totally the lining! I LOVE the pooches inside! I also really like how the combination of the bright blue and black turned out, with a bit of a glamorous gold zipper. The sizing of this purse is slightly odd, as it’s too big really for cards and coins, but too small to be a clutch. To be honest, I didn’t really measure it for anything specific, just made the most of the leather pieces I had and tried not to waste any. I think I will use this to bundle together all those little bits and pieces that always get lost in my handbag – hairpins, lip glosses, nail files, hair bobbles … a sort of small carry pouch with style!

Hand Appliqué Peg Bag

This isn’t the most exciting post ever, and certainly not the most technical, but I wanted to share this super speedy make with you that turned out way better than expected!

After showing my mum my cute little laundry travel bag I made, she asked if she could have a little drawstring bag to keep her clothes pegs in. As I love to make little drawstring bags and they are a super simple make, I was happy to oblige!

I’ve been trying to find a use for this gorgeous floral fat quarter that I bought at the Millets Craft Shack for a while. I thought a peg bag was a sort of Cath Kidston retro piece of homeware, so actually the bright florals were a great fit!

One thing Cath Kidston does really well is Appliqué. I love the way it gives things a really crafty, homeley feel. I’ve never done any appliqué before, so thought I would take this opportunity to follow Cath’s lead and try some!

I cut out some little paper letter templates spelling the word ‘Pegs’. (Side note- I am realiably informed by some American friends of mine that America does not recognize the word pegs and therefore they had no idea what I was on about, or why I would write ‘pegs’ on a bag.  As such I humbly offer a translation for my American readers which I believe to be ‘clothes pins’.) I used these templates to carefully cut the letters out of some contrasting blue fabric. I then set about hand stitching them on with some yellow thread in a decorative but practical blanket stitch, which I’d had a bit of practice on while making my espadrilles.


You will see that my hand stitching still leaves a lot to be desired! However I did realize by doing this that I am increasingly enjoying sitting and hand stitching in the evening. It totally relaxes my mind. There’s something so peaceful about the rhythmic motion of repeatedly pulling needle and thread through fabric. Who knows, maybe a foray in to cross stitch or embroidery could be up next?!

Once I’d finished applying the letters, I finished off the bag with some contrasting blue drawstrings. This is the third one of these I’ve made now and I was quite proud that I no longer need to follow instructions. I eyeballed for sizing on everything and it actually worked out really well! The more I look at it, the more pleased I am with the finished result. I hope my mum’s pegs (clothes pins ;-)) enjoy their stylish new home!


How about you? Have you tried any new skills recently? Do you also enjoy hand stitching? Is there any easy embroidery or cross stitching I could start on? I’d love to hear from you!

Half Yard Heaven Notice Board

Even I am the first to admit that my love of fat quarters may have gotten a little out of control. I’ve become somewhat of a fat quarter tourist, and if I happen to find a nice bundle on my travels, it must come home with me as a souvenir! I’ve been filling up a little suitcase with them, and have decided that I may as well use them for decorative purposes on display on my craft table!

A trunk of fabric joy … 

I did, however, receive a fabulous Christmas Gift which should help me enjoy my expansive collection to the maximum! My brother and sister-in-law got me this great book, Half Yard Heaven, by Debbie Shore, for Christmas, and it’s got lots of great projects in it! They are accompanied by lovely pictures and step by step instructions. It’s one of those lovely books to have a flick through when you have the itch to make something from your stash. Nothing needs more than half a yard of fabric, so it’s great for scraps too!

The first project I set my sights on was a fabric covered noticeboard. We’ve had a rather sad looking Ikea cork noticeboard in our hallway ever since we moved in. Prompted by the lovely pictures in Half Yard Heaven I decided it was a prime target for a makeover!

I chose to use my fat quarter bundle from Rowan, which contained a lovely selection of coral and black florals. One coral fat quarter was the perfect size for covering the cork board. I then made three small pockets using a couple of strips from two other fat quarters in the bundle. Despite following the book’s instructions, my pockets turned out quite small, so if I were making one again I would definitely make slightly larger pockets.

This was my first time wielding a staple gun, which was a little bit scary. PB ran for cover as I waved it about ominously in our lounge! Stapling in to wood was pretty hard work – but was worth it for the results!

I struggled a bit to get the pocket placement straight though. You end up in a vicious circle, as you can only place the pockets straight once the fabric is taught and stapled down, but if you do that, you can’t sew them on! As a result it took a bit of guess work, but for me they are functional enough! I finished the board with some thin elastic which minimises the need for extra pins. Overall I’m pleased with my finished make! It was pretty speedy too. I’m already plotting my next one for my craft room in the new apartment!

My New Toy

Today I thought I would introduce you to someone special – my new toy – Serge! Serge is a Toyota SLR4D Overlocker (serger) and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have been gifted it for my birthday by the lovely PB! Here’s a shot of me when I’d just opened the box – you can see that I was one happy lady!

One happy lady!

I’d been considering purchasing an overlocker for the last few months. With making pretty much all of my clothes now, it seemed like a sound investment, and you can’t argue with the professional finish it gives to seams. However, I didn’t really feel justified in biting the bullet, what with saving up for our new house, so I really did feel extra lucky to receive one as a gift. I’d been looking at a couple of models, however the ones with the best reviews in my price range had really only been the Toyota and the ever popular Brother 1034D. PB had cheekily asked me one night to show him what I was looking at (little did I know he was scoping me out for gifts!) and I happened to see that the Toyota was on flash sale … I still couldn’t justify the price though and spent the next few weeks telling PB what a great purchase it would have been. Little did I know he had sneakily gone and bought it for me!

Serge fresh from the box

Serge and I are still very much getting to know each other. I’d used an overlocker before at my sewing class – and I am so glad I had at least had a few tips to get started. I had heard real horror stories of 3 hours + to learn to thread it so I was quite worried. Although mine had come pre-threaded, something had gotten tangled, so I had to start from scratch. Although not easy, I would say the threading wasn’t too bad. Maybe 45 minutes for the first go? I learnt one key thing: it’s the order you do the threading that counts.

  1. Lower Looper
  2. Upper Looper
  3. Right Needle
  4. Left Needle

Amazingly this makes all the difference! Feeling triumphant that I had threaded the serger, I thought I’d dive in to a project. This was a huge mistake – I think I picked a bit of a tough fabric with a lot of stretch and I just could not get the tension right. After that I packed Serge away again (not in a huff, honest!) until I had some more time to fiddle with the dials … it is all in the thread tension and understanding which thread on your fabric comes from which cone of thread. To help me with this, I found some great online resources which I wanted to share with you:

SewMcCool’s The Anatomy of Perfect Serger Tension has some fantastic colour coded photographs which help you identify which thread is which – I’ve referred back to this one a lot already!

Sew Quick and Easy’s Youtube video on Basic Serging:Tips and Tricks is also great. All I can say is I wish I’d listened to Susan and spent time making a fabric chart of all my thread tensions. It would have saved me lots of trouble!

Serge and I are getting along much better now, although I certainly still don’t feel confident with him. I did some quilting on my beloved Pfaff today and felt so comfortable and at home. I just have to remind myself that once upon a time I used to feel nervous with my sewing machine too! It’s all just a learning curve! This evening I re-threaded Serge in some navy blue thread – I have three Navy projects to work on in the future so it seemed well worth it. Project one involves sweatshirt fabric, project two a low stretch navy woven and project three a crepe georgette. All of them will offer some good opportunities for Serge and I to cement our friendship! I will let you know how it goes!

Serge in Blue

Reversible Baby Skirt

If you’ve been reading my blog for a bit, you will know that I love fat quarters! I love their prints and how cute they are – the colours and the different patterns. I love the cute animals and the comical ones – basically all the ones you buy when you have no idea what exactly you are going to make with them! I’ve been having a bit of a tidy up of my craft stash of late (trying to make space for my new serger on my tiny Ikea table!) and I realised that I really do need to do something about my fat quarter stash!

I saw a little Ra Ra skirt recently to purchase for soon-to-be-here niece and thought they are a great choice for new babies, but you had to be able to sew them yourself in some cute prints. Luckily this amazing free pattern and tutorial for a reversible baby skirt crossed my path and answered my baby ra-ra-skirt and fat quarter stash dreams. I loved how simple it is and the different effects you can get by combining prints and decided I had to give it a go!

While tidying out my stash, I picked out these two cute prints along with some contrast bias binding I had been gifted and had waited to find the right project for. This project seemed just the one!

I purchased the fat quarters during Tschibo craft week and have been super positively surprised by the quality of the cotton. I love the contrasting prints! So perfect for a newborn baby girl gift! Hearts and polka dots, what’s not to love?

This pattern is ridiculously simple – I didn’t even print the free pattern as it was a bit of a spontaneous make this evening, so I just improvised by drawing round a plate to get a good curve on the waist. You pin the two donuts of fabric right sides together and stitch the inner circle and you are already on your way to skirt cuteness!

After that you turn them the right way out and sew around the circle again to create a channel for the elastic. Once the elastic is in, all you have left to do is bind. The binding is a little fiddly and seems to go on forever (but aren’t all circle skirt hems that way?!) However, it was good practice for me on using bias tape, so that was good. I was proud that I just worked out by myself how to attach it.

Overall I am delighted with my finished make. There is nothing on it I would change for once! I can’t believe it only took me an hour from start to finish – such a great project for when you have an itch to stitch but you don’t want to start anything major. Now I am ready to make a whole package of these to gift to friends and relatives. I can picture a matching set of three in a little gift box tied with a cute ribbon. What do you think? What a great way to use a fat quarter!

Oh also, I forgot to mention the best bit, the skirt is reversible! Two skirts for the price of one!

Unfortunately I don’t have a baby to help me model this skirt in all its cuteness, so I called in a friend to help …. meet Dave, our friendly household Minion!

Dave and I wish you a great rest of the week filled with stitching and crafting!

Grainline Studios Morris Blazer 

I’ve seen a lot of Morris Blazers out and about on the web, and couldn’t help but want to get my mitts on the pattern. It’s one of those patterns that just seems super versatile for an array of fabrics and colours, offering a finished garment that would be suitable for all shapes and would enhance any wardrobe. The shape of the blazer also seems to be bang on trend right now, with similar blazer styles to be found in all the high street stores. However, as I didn’t want one I could find on the high street, I set about making my own! 

  
I had planned to make my Morris in a sensible black jersey and create a wardrobe staple that I could chuck on over a variety of work and weekend outfits. However, while I was at fabric market I discovered this shimmery jersey somewhere between olive green and grey. As it was a good price and I find sewing black garments a bit boring, I thought why not just give it a go?! 

I cut the Morris pattern straight from the tissue *insert theatrical gasp here*. The more I sew the more I loose patience for tracing, but also the more I realize that if I am likely to make another version of a garment, it will probably be smaller, and therefore I can always trace off a small version later if I want to reuse the pattern. I cut a size 16 based on my bust measurement, thinking I would take it in on the side seams at the waist later as I do with a lot of my dresses. As it happens, I later realized that once you’ve sewn on the myriad of facings, changing the side seams becomes more difficult, so that’s something I’ve definitely learnt for next time. 

If I’m honest I found the construction of some of the parts of this jacket a bit of a challenge. I couldn’t quite get my head around how the collar would work, and I was certainly not helped by having chosen a fabric that was an absolute horror to press. I had to use lots of steam and a pressing cloth as otherwise that lovely shimmery finish just started melting. If I have one tip for fabric choice for this jacket it is to choose a fabric which presses well! You will thank yourself for it in the end! 

The first part of the jacket comes together really fast – I was sat there thinking ‘oh I’m so clever, I’ll be wearing this jacket by tea time’.

  
Not so. Then comes the more challenging part – gathered sleeves and the shawl collar. The sleeve gathering was really not bad at all, however next time I want to make sure that the gathers are really concentrated at the top point of the shoulder and don’t slip down the sides. The shawl collar was also ok – just pressing intensive which wasn’t great for the fabric. I was greatly helped by the official Morris Sew Along blog posts as well as Sew Busy Lizzy’s post on the Morris, which helped me through the perplexing step 15 which involves attaching the hem facing. 

  
This was my jacket pre top-stitching. I tried it on at this point and it looked quite puffy and weird – I was convinced I’d chosen the wrong fabric and it was all going horribly wrong. I then left it alone for a couple of days and came back with an iron fully ready to steam the hell out of it, and it actually turned out surprisingly well! Once I’d given it a really good press, I managed to get all the top stitching done which made such a difference. The seams all just looked much crisper and the points were much more even. I even decided in the end that I liked the jacket enough to wear it out for my birthday dinner on Saturday: 

  

It’s certainly not perfect – I have a selection of fitting adjustments to make for next time. 

  1. Reduce the distance between the collar and the shoulder seams – it turns out I have narrow shoulders
  2. Grade between a 16 and a 12 between bust and hips
  3. Narrow the sleeves on the lower arms 

It may not be perfect, but I love my Morris Blazer. I learnt so much while I was making it. A shawl collar and gathered sleeves were new, along with all the fun facings. I’d never made a jacket before as I was always scared of fitting my bust, and now I know what I will want to do on round two to help with that. I’m also super proud of my top stitching – when I think back to a year ago I would have been happy to follow a circular line drawn on a piece of fabric, and now I am top stitching a shawl collar! All in all it was a project with a bit of a new challenge and I’m pleased with the results! Roll on Morris Nr.2 – I have promised myself that the next one will be sensible and for work – although in Navy blue (not black!) 

How about you? Have you had any projects that were a bumpy ride but you loved them in the end? 

Winter Patterns and Projects

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I’m not quite sure how it happened, but I woke up this morning suddenly aware that winter is coming! This year I am planning on doing a couple of handmade gifts for Christmas, as well as sewing much more of my winter wardrobe, and I’ve realised that I’m going to need to get a wriggle on and do some planning! Looking back at my Autumn Sewing Plans post, I’ve managed to make quite a few of the things I was planning for, as well as a lot of extras I didn’t plan for! My particular favourites have been the Tilly and the Buttons Bettine Dress (of which I have made many) as well as the Tilly and the Buttons Coco. However, I am yet to make Mathilde or the ByHandLondon Charlotte Skirt, both of which are now rolling on over in to my winter sewing agenda!

In addition to those, I have added the following to my sewing agenda for the next few weeks:

wren dress

The Colette Patterns Wren Dress has been taking the sewing community by storm since its release a couple of weeks back. I loved making the Colette Patterns Moneta, so I have high hopes for the Wren Dress. It’s a style which I think will be very flattering on my figure if I can get the fit right, so I am planning to whip one up in one of the jersey fabrics that I bought at Stoffmarktholland. I think maybe a jewel tone purple could be great for a Christmas dress with a nice blingy necklace?!

mccalls 6886

The McCall’s 6886 dress is also on my list – it looks like a great staple basic to make for work! I’ve seen a couple of people on Instagram post great photos of these – the shape of the pattern looks really versatile for many different fabric colours. The sleeveless version might also make a great dress for my Cambodian holiday!

In addition to that I’m also planning a second Grainline Studios Morris Blazer in Navy (post coming soon on the first one!)

As if that wasn’t enough, I couldn’t help but be tempted by Sew Magazine’s Chris Moose.

chris moose

How cute does he look? I’ve got to find time to squeeze him in!

So that’s going to be me busy stitching for the next few weeks! I’m also going to be learning to use my new overlocker which the PB bought me for my birthday (and the best ever boyfriend award goes to …. *drum roll*), so watch out for more news on that soon as I learn to thread the blighter! Fingers crossed it’s not as scary as people would have you believe! Wish me luck!

Cuddly Cushions

My Sunday sewing challenge this week came courtesy of one of my lovely girl friends, who was looking for me to whizz up some new cushion covers for her pillows. We agreed she’d bring them round and I’d see what I could do while we had a bit of a natter.

My friend added some extra fun to the challenge by choosing some lovely wool stretch knits to cover the cushions in! I’d never done cushions in stretch before, but thought I would give it a go. These are the fabrics that my friend brought round:

The following two are actually the same fabric, just the right side and the wrong side. What I love about this fabric is the little sparkly bits that shine through. Subtle but still a touch of glamour!
  

I actually love these fabrics so much, I kind of wish I had found them for a clothing project. I might head over to Karstadt and get some to make a jacket or a dress, they are just so lovely!

We weren’t really making covers for the pillows as much as covering them permanently, so the technique was nice and easy. Essentially I cut the fabric on the fold, about one centimetre smaller on each side to account for the stretch (there’s nothing worse than a saggy cushion cover!) I then sewed up on both long sides in a normal running stitch. This then left us with a tube which we stuffed the pillow in – it was a bit like pulling on a pair of tights! Then I left my lovely friend to hand sew the final short end opening closed while I got on with the next one. In the end we had a nice little assembly line going!

I’m always a bit nervous to sew up things for other people, especially when they have paid for fabric. I never want the final result to look dodgy and they feel disappointed. In the end though the pillows turned out great – I wish I’d made them for my couch! The best thing about them is that they are nice and soft and cuddly on account of the wool. They’re also nice and plump due to the covers being stretched over the pillows. I love them and I think they look quite chic!

Here’s a before and after:

Before …

… and After …

I hope my friend enjoys cuddling them as much as I did! What a great job she did on choosing the fabric, don’t you agree? How about you? Do you sew things up for friends? Have you ever used jersey knit for pillows? I’d love to hear about it!

Bettine Dress in Bird Print

If you have been following my blog for a while, you will already know that I have a small obsession with Tilly and the Button’s Bettine Dress pattern. Since buying the pattern, I have already made two of these, one in chambray and one in floral jersey. Today I want to share my third with you!

This Bettine  is made of a rather expensive jersey in the most adorable bird print! I cut my usual size – 7 on top and 5 on the bottom and it came together quite nicely. I’m starting to wonder if I could go to 6 on the top and 5 on the bottom though to take some fullness out around the width of my back. As usual I also took out the tulip style skirt – for some reason this just isn’t flattering for my figure and also doesn’t seem to work so well in jersey. I normally sew up as normal and then just take the extra curve out by taking in about 1.5cm at the deepest part of the curve, which has been working for me quite well.


In terms of the construction of this dress, I could have kicked myself a little with the neckband. I’ve ended up with a bit of a pucker on one side. On reflection now I really wish I’d unpicked it and done it again as it bugs me knowing it is there. I don’t think you’d really notice unless I point it out but it annoys me anyway! Funny how you can make a dress three times and still get it wrong on the third go when the other two went just fine!

The other special thing about this dress is that the fabric rolls up on itself all the time! It is so frustrating and no amount of ironing seems to help! As a result the bottom hem seems to be a bit dodgy … Any top tips for that people? To me it just proves my argument that I really do need an overlocker! Apart from that complaint though this fabric is a real treat. It’s so comfortable to wear and I love the fun print.

I thought this might be a good time to introduce you all to Maud – my new dressmaker’s dummy. I was very fortunate to acquire her for a mere 25 euros from a lady who was clearing out her sewing studio. She wasn’t quite as busty as me on top so at the moment she is wearing some rather funky sock padded undergarments. As a result she must remain fully clothed at all times. The undergarments really seem to do the trick though! Maud is mainly here for me to take blog photos, pin hems and display my work, so it’s ok that she’s not quite my size. Right now the PB and I are just getting used to having her around in our lounge! You may be seeing more of her soon!

So here is Maud in my finished Bettine:

Do any of you have a dressmaker’s dummy? How did you get her to suit your shape? Any tips on working with rolly knits? I’d love to hear from you!