Peony Dress

The Peony dress has been on my to-make list forever. I finally made it… although the finished dress doesn’t really resemble the Peony!

The most major change I made was to the skirt section. After following the pattern… with a bit of grading out to allow extra hip space – I just wasn’t happy with the fit. It looked nice on the hanger but didn’t sit right on my bum! After removing and reinserting the zip three times I decided that I hadn’t done anything wrong… the shape just didn’t suit me – it was too straight.

Luckily I’d bought more fabric than I needed so I whipped up a gathered skirt which is much more my style. It also gave me the opportunity to fix the hugely wonky waistline!

I spent a long time preparing to make this dress and made three toiles of the bodice before I was happy to move over to using wearable fabric. I used US size 2 for the top part and graded out from the underarm to US size 6  at the waist… then made numerous tweaks to the darts.

Using the smaller bust size created issues with fit above the chest because I have broad shoulders. When I added the sleeves it was too tight and pulling across the shoulders, so I took the sleeves out and put them back in with less seam allowance. This helped the fit but the sleeves are now a bit messy and slightly gathered at the top.

I might have achieved a better fit if I’d chosen the bodice size based on the correct size for my waist and then done a small bust adjustment. I think this would maybe allow for the wide shoulders/small bust… but I have no idea how to do a small bust adjustment. If you know of any good tutorials please let me know!

I wanted this dress to be slightly fitted and have some shape to it – whilst also being loose enough to be comfy for working at home/mooching around in. It’s not perfectly made… but it fulfills the brief! And it replaces an old denim chambray dress which is too tight and far too short.

It also ticks ‘denim dress’ off the Make-Nine-2020 list!

 

New Vest Top

Last month I wrote a blog about summer tops where I somewhat optimistically outlined my plans to knit two tops and sew three tops before Autumn started creeping in!

I knew my plans were unrealistic, but I’m really pleased with how much I’ve done. I finished one of the knitted tops (Burnt by Kim Hargreaves), have a Ripple Bralette on the needles and I’ve sewn one of the three vest tops.

I traced the pattern from a vest that’s already in my wardrobe and I love the fit. This fabric is leftover from my Petal Sleeve Scout Tee and I knew the drape would work beautifully as a vest.

Although it’s super simple with no darts – it was quite time consuming doing the bias for the straps/around the armholes… lots of pinning. And I also hand-stitched the hem.

I’m going to hibernate the fabric for the other two vests until next Spring. I think it’ll be good to wear this one and check I’ve got the fit perfect before doing the others.

It’s nothing to do with the fact that I want to start working on my Winter wardrobe… honest!

 

Make Nine 2019 – Progress Report

Someone posted about their Make Nine 2019 on Instagram this week and I realised that I couldn’t even remember what was on mine! So it’s a good time to see if I’m on track and give a progress report!

So far this year I have ticked off my new mitts and my wedding cardigan

And yes… there was some cheating because I started making both of those things in 2018! But I’ve been super busy working on my new book which will launch later this year – so selfish making time has been extremely scarce.

I’ve made pretty good progress with my Esme cardigan too – I’ve finished the back and fronts – so it’s just the sleeves to do. It’s so fluffy!!

I should be cracking on with this now… but you know when you’re not in the mood to knit anything that you have on the needles and just want the excitement of casting on something new? Well that happened… so I cast on Burnt by Kim Hargreaves.

It’s not even on my Make Nine list. I’ve gone completely rogue! We’ve booked a holiday for later this year and I just fancied making something summery that I could realistically finish before we go away. I’m having to adjust the pattern a bit for my shape so hopefully it will work out!

I’ve also made a little bit of progress on the Peony Dress. I made a toile for the bodice (blending sizes) but I still need some help getting the fit right. Some of my friends have been going to classes and sewing clinics at Sewing Belle and I’ve been inspired by the lovely things they’re making. I’m hoping to join them soon and rediscover my sewjo!

How are your 2019 makes going?

Scout Tee with Petal Sleeves

In October I had the pleasure of attending two lovely weddings. My plan was to make a top and skirt that would look like a dress when worn together, but could also be worn separately.

It didn’t quite work out as planned… but I do now have a new top and a new skirt!

I finished making the top in time for the wedding of Eleanor (of Knit Nottingham) and Dr Chris. I didn’t get the skirt made in time but the top looked okay with my echinacea circle skirt… so that was lucky!

Eleanor and Chris had encouraged people to wear handmade garments so I was really glad to finish the top in time!

There was a fabulous array of handmade outfits and the bride looked amazing in her dress made from Kaffe Fassett brassica fabric. Eleanor also made Chris a tie to match the sash on her dress, knitted her cardigan, crocheted a bag and I think she made her jewellery too!

I made my top using the Scout Tee pattern – having made it before and knowing that it was simple to make and a good fit for me. Grainline Studios have added a sleeve extension pack to the pattern including a long sleeve, a cuffed sleeve and these petal sleeves…

The petal sleeves make it feel a bit fancier. I also used a drapey fabric which I picked up from Just Sew in Penrith while we were on honeymoon.

I don’t often go out-out, but this style is perfect for the kind of socialising I do – so I know that I will wear it a lot. It was great having the deadline of Eleanor’s wedding to get it finished!

I then managed to get the planned skirt finished in time for the following weekend when we travelled down to a beautiful wedding in Cornwall of our good friends Jen & Andrew.

In a way I’m glad that I didn’t push myself to finish it before Eleanor & Chris’s wedding because I decided that the skirt and top together didn’t look great!

The skirt did however look nice with another top I have – so from two metres of fabric I made two new half outfits!

The skirt is quite fine and floaty so I think I will get more wear out of it in the summer. In the meantime I’m planning to make a long sleeved Scout Tee and think about tackling a dress pattern!

By the way – I know that I said I was going to make some non-teal things… but I’ve got a stash of teal fabric and yarn to work through first, so it might be a while!

Huge congratulations to Eleanor & Chris and Jen & Andrew! X

 

New Denim Circle Skirt

Just over a year ago I made myself a denim circle skirt. I’ve worn it loads, it goes with everything and I love it!

I wore it a lot during Me Made May and mentioned that there were a few issues with it and that I wanted to make a replacement.

The waistband is too loose so I added belt loops – but even with a belt it drifts down and I feel uncomfortable in it. It only has one pocket because I put the zip in the side seam at the other side. And the zip is a bit wonky!

Here’s my second attempt!

I decided to go for a paler denim because I fancied something different and I know I’ll wear it a lot in Spring/Summer. I’m also planning to make a longer dark denim skirt to wear with boots in the winter… maybe with a gathered waist rather than a full circle.

It still isn’t perfect, but it’s a much better fit around the waist and has two pockets! I promised that I would do a quick guide to making a circle skirt once I had made a new one… so here it is:

  • Start by measuring your waist circumference and required skirt length.
  • Divide your waist circumference by pi (3.14 will do!) to find your diameter and then half that to find your radius. Make a note of these measurements!

I made the above skirt using a half circle for the front and two quarter circles at the back with a centre seam and invisible zip (which I’m not showing you… it’s very neat but definitely not invisible!). It also has a pocket in each side seam. If that’s what you want to make then continue as follows:

Start by making a paper pattern (I used brown parcel paper).

Front

  • start by drawing two lines at a right angle then draw a quarter circle using your radius measurement (please use a ruler and set square… the below is just a rough sketch!)

  • Measure your required length down from each edge and draw in the bottom curve.

  • Don’t forget to add seam allowance (I did 1.5cm) on all edges apart from the centre front which will be cut on the fold to make a half circle for the front.

Back

The back is pretty much exactly the same pattern as the front but will be cut as two separate pieces so you also need to add seam allowance to that edge.

Waistband

  • I made mine 2.5cm deep – you might want deeper or narrower – just decide on the depth and cut a strip of fabric to your required depth x2 plus seam allowance and the length of your waist circumference plus seam allowance on both ends.
  • Then cut a piece of interfacing the same length but half the depth and iron this to one half of the reverse of the waistband.

Pockets

  • I don’t have much in the way of tips here… I just drew around my hand in a roughly pocket shape and cut out two sets!
  • Sew the pockets to the side seams – this video is quite a good guide.

Putting it all together!

  • Join the side seams and finish the edges however you prefer.
  • Pin the skirt to the waistband evenly and stitch.
  • Insert zip (!) and stitch back seam. The technique for inserting your zip will vary depending on what type of zip you use. You should be able to find a guide to suit you on Pinterest or Youtube. If you’re new to zips I would recommend practising on scrap fabric first.
  • Clip into skirt top if necessary to ensure the waistband sits flat.
  • Fold half of the waistband over to the back, tuck under the raw edge and hand-stitch in place along all edges.
  • Sew up the hem and you’re done!

This is just a quick guide and I’m not an expert – so if you have a play and add any improvements please do let me know in the comments.

I’m planning to fill my wardrobe with lots of swooshy circle skirts!

Me-made Wardrobe Planning

Last week Eleanor from Knit Nottingham posted an Instagram picture of her fantastically minimal, mostly handmade and beautifully colourful wardrobe… I feel inspired! (fyi – she does have some stuff in drawers as well).

I’ve been feeling in a bit of a wardrobe rut and the ‘I have nothing to wear’ feelings have been creeping back in. Since I started living with a capsule wardrobe, this has happened whenever the seasons and/or weather changes. It makes me want to shop!

So instead of shopping I did some planning.

I think the main thing that’s making me feel stuck in a rut is the lack of variation of colour in my wardrobe. You can probably guess which colour is dominant?! I adore teal and am happy to wear teal everyday… but I don’t want to wear head to toe blue and teal everyday and Eleanor’s wardrobe made me crave more colour!

In the past I have bought clothes in lots of different colours because of being limited by the choice in the shops. I might find the perfect shape dress in a colour I wouldn’t normally choose – but if it only comes in that colour and it suits me then I’ll step out of my comfort zone.

I saw that lack of choice as a limitation, when in fact it was encouraging me to experiment with colour. When sewing or knitting a garment there are so many patterns, fabrics and yarns to choose from that the automatic choice is to go for my favourite – ie, teal.

So I’ve decided that rather than just choosing my favourite – I want to plan a palette for my wardrobe so that there are at least a few bits in there to complement the teal!

I started my palette by searching Pinterest for ‘what colours to wear’. I found this pin really helpful and quickly narrowed myself down to an ‘Autumn’ palette based on my hair colour, skin tone and eye colour. I’m not 100% sure whether I’m a ‘Deep Autumn’ or a ‘Warm Autumn’… but hey – they’re similar and it’s just a starting point!

I then searched Pinterest for ‘Deep Autumn colour palettes’ and discovered that my best colours are deep, rich and warm and I should avoid pastels! Luckily this sort of matches my current wardrobe content and I’ve learnt the hard way that pastels aren’t for me. So I just need to make sure I’m adding in some more of the accent colours as I’m making things.

I might not stick to this palette perfectly, but it will be great to have it as a reference to keep me focused when fabric/yarn shopping. It’s also helpful to know that the internet thinks my best neutral shades are mocha type colours rather than greys. After holding lots of little colour swatches against my face I can confirm this is correct!

I have a little notebook which I used to take to sewing class to jot down reminders about techniques or changes I’d made to patterns. It has now become my mini me-made wardrobe scrapbook! So my colour palette is inside the front cover and the notebook is packed with ideas and notes about patterns. It’s only A6 – so perfect for carrying around in case I happen upon a fabric shop.

For patterns I’ve already made there are some notes on sizing etc, and I’ve also jotted down fabric quantities needed for these and patterns I’ve not made yet.

I normally end up in a fabric shop googling the pattern and guessing which size I would make, then converting the yardage to meterage… having everything in one place will hopefully make fabric shopping less faffy!

Making these notes made me dread making the Peony dress! It’s a beginners pattern, but when I was looking at the sizing/fabric quantity I realised that I range from a size 2 on the bust to a size 10 on the hips (American sizes). That’s going to be a challenging pattern to adjust!

I’m currently knitting a blue/teal jumper and have a stash of blue and teal yarn and fabric… it might be a while before different colours find their way into my capsule wardrobe but it’s good to have a plan and I’m loving my mini scrapbook!

Wardrobe Planning

I said last week that I was feeling very inspired as a result of Me Made May and that there were a few blogs on the subject in the pipeline… and here’s one already!

At the moment most of my free time is being used for wedding makes. But that doesn’t mean I can’t plan ahead!

The people I most enjoyed following on Instagram during Me Made May were the ones who had a ‘look’. The queen of this for me was @kateevadesigns.

All of these dresses are made from the Flora Dress pattern from By Hand London.

It makes sense to keep re-making a pattern once you’ve found a style that suits you. I once bought a Dorothy Perkins dress in three colours because the style was perfect for me! Finding a handful of patterns that work well for me and perfecting them (rather than flitting from one style to another) will definitely help with increasing the number of handmade items in my capsule wardrobe.

So first of all I need to decide on my ‘look’!

So far I’ve been making loose-fitting dresses. This comes from a fear of zips rather than a style choice! I already have a couple of dress patterns which I’ve been scared to tackle, but are much more the style I normally wear:

I think the Betty and Peony dresses would cover most occasions and seasons for me. But after a super warm May, I’m also craving some strappy summer dresses! I’m trying to choose between the Acton Dress by The Fold Line and the Rosie Dress by Sew Over It. The Acton is only available as a PDF so that’s swaying me towards Rosie!

I would love to wear pretty dresses everyday, but in reality I spend a lot of time in separates. I often work at home in lounge pants and a top, so that I can easily change into jeans, shorts or a skirt if I need to pop out.

So I’m planning to make a new improved denim circle skirt (and possibly a new patterned one).

And some new tops! In the winter I wear knitted jumpers with my jeans or tucked into a skirt. I want to knit some more summery cotton tops to wear with skirts and also sew more Scout Tee’s and some vest tops.

So… I have lots of plans and no free making time at the moment! But, like most things in life, my wardrobe is never ‘finished’. I will always want to be updating and tweaking it.

I have a capsule wardrobe that I’m happy with and Me Made May has given me the time I needed to plan the tweaks and replacements. I can’t wait to get started!

Final Trapeze Dress

It’s been a little while since I finished the toile for my Trapeze dress and I’m so glad I made it in nice fabric because I’ve gotten a lot of wear out of it!

I started the final dress straight away, but then it sat on the back-burner for a while because I got really excited about making the Alder dress… and I really needed to make a start on my wedding top!

But there’s nothing like a deadline to help you get something finished. And I was spurred on by the start of Me Made May and the fact that we were going to a wedding reception on Thursday… and I had nothing to wear.

Trapeze dress | Jem Weston blog

I love it! I adore this Anna Maria Horner fabric and it’s the perfect style of dress to not break up the pattern. I made a slightly better job of sewing this than I did with the toile and made the neckline slightly lower, so it’s lovely and comfortable.

Despite being exactly the same fabric, it feels a bit stiffer than the toile. This might be because I’ve washed and worn that a few times now – so I’m hoping this one will soften a bit over time.

Expect to see this dress popping up on Instagram a few times during Me Made May!

 

 

Fabric Heaven

Since I started going to weekly sewing classes at All Thing Creative, I’ve been steadily working through my fabric stash. I also bought some denim online from Merchant & Mills and have spent a lot of time browsing online fabric shops!

But with fabric (as with yarn), I think it’s really important to see it in real life before choosing. However good images are – colours appear different on different screens. And how does it feel? Is it soft? What’s the drape like? Is it see-through?!

The denim I bought online is fine, but it’s darker than I thought and a heavier weight. It was going to become the final Alder Shirtdress– but I’m debating whether it’s too heavy for that – maybe it wants to be a skirt…

Merchant & Mills Denim and Alder Shirtdress pattern

Unfortunately we don’t have much choice for fabric in Nottingham and when I started planning a top to make for my wedding – I knew I would need to venture out of town to find the right thing.

A friend at sewing class had suggested a place in Birmingham – so me and a couple of friends had a fabric shopping day trip… and it was fabric heaven!

We started at The Fancy Silk Store and it was literally packed to the rafters with fabric. It was somewhat overwhelming to be honest! With 3 floors jam-packed with fabric, I knew that this would be the place to find fabric for my top. If you have a specific fabric/colour in mind it’s perfect – they have everything!

Beardie doesn’t want to see what I’m making for the wedding so I won’t share a pic of the fabric I bought… but here’s Rosie with some gorgeous mustard zebra fabric!

After a quick lunch stop we hopped on a bus to Moseley and spent the rest of the day at the beautiful Guthrie & Ghani.

I loved Lauren Guthrie on The Great British Sewing Bee and enjoy following Guthrie & Ghani on Instagram. I haven’t bought fabric from them online because I wanted to see it in real life first… and I wasn’t disappointed!

It’s such an inspirational shop with gorgeous fabrics. We literally spent hours there and I could have spent so much money! They have a lot of samples made up and it’s wonderful to see how the fabrics work with the patterns.

I was well behaved and just bought some more denim! I have something specific in mind for it and managed not to get side-tracked. There were so many other fabrics that I was tempted by but rather than re-building a fabric stash (that I’ve just got under control!) I’m going to buy fabric for one thing at a time and make sure I think carefully about how garments will fit into my capsule wardrobe.

Denim chambray from Guthrie GhaniAnd now that I’ve seen and fondled all the fabrics in real life I can order with confidence online… or have another road trip!

We also wanted to go to The People Shop which is about 15mins walk from Guthrie & Ghani, but we spent so long fabric shopping that we arrived just as they were pulling the shutters down. That definitely calls for another day out!

What’s your favourite fabric shop?