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!

Wedding Top

I’ll warn you in advance…this is longer than my usual blogs! I’ve been desperate to share the making of this top with you and it’s lovely to finally be able to do so!

When we first got engaged I didn’t have an immediate idea of what I wanted to wear. I was sort of thinking teal… but I wear teal all the time so decided that traditional white or ivory would be a bit more special.

My decision to wear separates rather than a dress came from my desire to design and knit a top. But then I started to think that a knitted top (even in a fine cotton) might be a bit too warm for an August wedding. When the heatwave kicked in I was glad I’d made that decision! But I had already fallen in love with and bought my skirt from Monsoon… so separates it was!

By this point I had been attending sewing classes with Deidre at All Things Creative for a while and felt confident that I could make a simple top to go with my skirt. It ended up being far from simple, but with Deidre’s expert knowledge and calming influence I got it finished two weeks before the wedding.

I decided to use a beaded top I bought from Topshop last year as a starting point for the shape because I liked the fit. The final top is a similar shape, but I had to change the measurements and darts quite dramatically because the fabric I bought behaved so differently.

The original top has a bottom layer of jersey polyester with the beading on a fine fabric sitting on top. I like the fact that the layers are only joined at the shoulder and hem so there’s quite a lot of movement in the fabric. It hangs beautifully with the weight of the beads and although it’s not a snug fit it’s still flattering and the perfect length with my skirt.

I had numerous moments where I thought maybe I should’ve just worn this top!

For my wedding top I chose a beautiful floaty silk for my lining and bottom layer which was an absolute nightmare to work with! And a fine tulle to do the beading on (which was also a pain in the bum). I regularly lost bits of the tulle because it was basically invisible when sitting on top of white fabric!

I’d been spending many enjoyable hours browsing weddings on Pinterest and was feeling drawn to art deco, beaded 1930’s style dresses – with this one being my favourite.

The beading was the most time-consuming element of the top.I settled on a design which was largely based on the dress above. I love the large petals at the waistline so I used that shape and the rest developed from there.

I drew my design out on paper – traced it onto the tulle in running stitch and used the running stitch lines as guidelines which I removed as I beaded. I worked on the large areas of beading in an embroidery hoop which made it portable enough to take to knit group.

Once the larger sections were beaded, I removed the fabric from the hoop and pinned it to the floor on top of my paper template to complete. This is when I discovered my hips and knees can no longer cope with hours of kneeling on the floor! I’m sure there’s a better way to do it but it worked!

I left areas near the seams and darts free of beading as much as possible so that I could ensure the lines of beads met at the seams and across the darts after making up.

In the meantime I had been making many toiles to finalise the fit of the top. It’s surprisingly difficult to make a loose(ish) simple shape look flattering! The second toile looked fine in cotton but as soon as I made it in the silk it looked awful as the fabric was bagging out around the darts. I ended up removing the waist darts because it just hung so much better without. And a few toiles later I was ready to cut the final peices!

Because I had to do the majority of the beading before cutting out and joining the layers of fabric… cutting was a bit scary!

I was worried that something would go wrong and the beading would be wasted but it more or less went to plan. The tulle was shifting all over the place and the only thing keeping the silk in place was the interfacing tacked to the lining – but it more or less fitted together so I could breath a sigh of relief and move onto the side seams and armholes…

By this point I was feeling pretty confident. Nearly finished right? And then….

One of the armholes was a disaster! I was folding in the outer layers of silk and tulle from one side, the inner layers of silk and interfacing from the other side and hand-stitching them together along the edge, clipping as I went, to work with the curve.

The first one went okay. I wouldn’t be winning the sewing bee… but it was okay. And then the second one was really bad! I didn’t catch in the tacked interfacing (I couldn’t use iron-on with the silk), the fabric for the top layers was shifting around so there seemed to be too much silk and not enough tulle. The result was a very messy armhole that was beautifully set off by the fact that it was on my more sloped shoulder! I didn’t know until I started sewing that my left shoulder sits higher than my right (?!).

I was scared to undo it because I thought it might just fall apart where I had clipped it as the silk was fraying a lot. So obviously the best solution was to cry and look online for alternative wedding tops!

After getting that out of my system and deciding that it was unwearable as it was – I took some deep breaths and very carefully unpicked and re-tacked the layers. It still wasn’t perfect but it was so much better and certainly wearable.

I think we analyse our hand-makes more than shop-bought clothes. I’ve since noticed that most of my clothes crease a bit around my right arm… so it must be my wonky shoulder and definitely not my bad sewing!

By the time I’d done all this faffing, the silk at the hem had frayed so much that I no longer had any seam allowance at the centre front. I tacked the layers together to try and stop it fraying more and then Deidre showed me how to add a false hem which folded to the inside and sandwiched in the lining.

This meant that the top ended up a bit shorter that my original plan, but it still sits over the waistband of my skirt (just!) and the false hem gives the edge a nice weight.

The most fun part of the whole process was beading the edges! I used Swarovski pearls which come on a string so I just had to ‘couch’ over the string rather than going through the beads.

I had the buttons and loops made by Harlequin – the service was quick and great value. So much easier than fiddling about to make your own tiny cover buttons and loops! You just send a small amount of fabric and details of what you need. The rouleau loops come on a tape which you can then insert into the seam

All of my beads were bought from The Bead Shop Nottingham. They were super helpful with choosing what I needed and giving me tips on how to do the couching. I also bought some memory wire to make some matching, quick and easy bracelets with leftover beads.

I’m not sure that I would have taken on this project if I’d known how long it would take and how difficult it would be. But I’m so glad that I didn’t know – because I’m so happy with my wedding top! It’s truly unique and that’s a very special thing.

Photos above by Adam BrettNettynot.

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!

Me Made May 2018

Me Made May 2018 is over! I nearly didn’t make it… I had a couple of days in the final week where I was really struggling with the restricted wardrobe and was on the verge of giving up. My least favourite part is posting selfies every day! But recording it in pictures helped me to keep it up and I’m glad that I made it to the finish line!

My pledge was as follows:

I, Jem Weston of jemweston.co.uk (@jemweston on instagram), sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’18. I endeavour to wear at least one me-made item each day of May 2018 as well as limiting my wardrobe to a capsule of 33 items in order to find new outfit combinations and to encourage me to put on ‘proper’ clothes when working at home!

I definitely achieved the above and, although I found it challenging, I really enjoyed taking part. The main challenge was the weather. We’ve had such a beautiful May that I would’ve been happy in strappy sun-dresses most days… but I don’t have any hand-made ones!

I also found the capsule wardrobe element challenging. Behind the scenes – I love living with a capsule wardrobe, but because I was sharing pictures I kept thinking that people must be bored of seeing the same outfits/garments repeated!

Here’s a round-up of my Me Made May:

I feel so inspired by this years challenge! I followed lots of new people on Instagram and discovered new patterns and places to buy fabric. I’m bubbling with ideas of what I want my capsule wardrobe to look like.

There are lots of projects in the pipeline for garments I want to tweak and things I want to make from scratch… lots of blogs to come!