Land ahoy

Don, Cam, Neva, Elbe, Thames. What do these rivers have in common? I’ve lived near all of them! I absolutely love cities with a lot of water. I love standing on a bridge watching the boats – from punts on the Cam to the container ships on the Elbe. I love thinking about how long people have been sailing for, how important the rivers were and still are to our cities. Romantic, eh? It shouldn’t surprise you, then, that I love a little nautical style.

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You’ve seen this pattern before, right here on this blog, in fact, made up in an African wax print. It’s a Simple Sew Zoe dress, and not only is this the second time you’ve seen it, but it won’t be the last – I’ve made five dresses and one top from the pattern already.

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I love the pattern, and perhaps best of all, I got it for free with Sew Now magazine. You can read all about that and my thoughts on the pattern in the post I linked above. The only alterations for this version were an FBA (standard…) and taking out the seam allowance so I could cut the dress pieces on the fold and avoid a centre seam – I didn’t fancy trying to match up those ships.

Which brings us neatly to the fabric. Isn’t it beautiful? I got it maybe a year and a half ago, from Esburger Fabrics, a small shop in Chesterfield. I recommend it if you’re in the area – I think this was £8 a metre and they had a lot of lovely printed cottons. It definitely has at least some linen content – and it sure does wrinkle. I feel it’s a small price to pay for that colour and print, though!

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These were taken on a beautiful sunny day in July, and those of you who know London well might recognise the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. I must admit to not having spent any time in the museum that day – my friends and I had to secure a picnic spot before our prosecco got warm – but Greenwich is sure high on my list of places to have a proper look around. It has ships, for a start, and beautiful narrow streets with enticing independent shops. Plus I’ve heard you can get a mean brunch – and if there’s one thing I love more than watching ships, it’s watching ships and eating hash browns.

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Wax Print Wednesday: Cleo

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Cleo! Wax print!

I can’t say I thought of making Tilly and the Buttons’ Cleo up in a wax print all by myself – the idea came from the lovely Meg at Pigeon Wishes, when she posted her amazing yellow Cleo. But that’s the benefit of being constantly late to the party with new sewing patterns – you get to steal ideas from everyone else…

This is my second Cleo (I made one in a handsome black corduroy just before Christmas, but I’ve completely given up on the idea of blogging all my makes in chronological order), and I absolutely love the pattern. I know, I know, I must be the millionth person to say it, but it sews up so nicely and is such a lovely shape.

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As for the fit, I didn’t change anything. You might notice a bit of buckling on the bib, and I think maybe I could take a tuck out of the pattern and fix it, but honestly, I can’t be bothered. Guess what else I didn’t bother with? Matching the pattern on the back. That was partly laziness and partly fear – I am not great at matching. That fear is also what drove me to cut the front on the fold and skip the topstitching – I didn’t want to end up with any severed fingers right on the centre front! I did make an effort with the pattern placement though: I figured it was worth the time to make sure I didn’t have any unfortunately placed hands over my boobs!!

Hey and how about the fabric? I got it from Ktextile19 on Etsy specifically for this project. They don’t have any of this one left, but they have all sorts of gorgeous African prints (in fact, it’s also where I got the fabric for this dress).

That’s all I have to say about Cleo (summary: love it), but I should probably add that I live in London now – hence you can see St Paul’s Cathedral in the background of that last photo. I moved quite recently for work, so you can expect less greenery and more famous buildings in future posts!

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Octopi! Octopuses! Octopodes! Pick your plural, these guys are the coolest. I mean, check this out:

I really love them – in fact, on holiday in Spain this year I fell in love with a knitted octopus and brought him back to the UK with me – he’s called Pulpo.

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This fabric called to me when I first saw it on Crafty Mastermind (they’re sold out of this colourway, but they have a really lovely black-on-dark blue one as well. Now do I need a coordinating top??), but as it’s Cotton and Steel and I live in the UK, it was a little expensive. £14.40 per metre expensive. Ouch. So, I wanted a pattern that would show off the fabric, but not use too much of it – enter Delphine.

You might remember that I planned to make this skirt in a red fabric back in August – and I actually did. There’s a reason you haven’t seen it though: it was huge. I tried to shape the waistband and somehow seemed to add about five inches to the skirt… I took it in, but the seams looked a mess, and in the end I gave up on it.

So I decided that the waistband would just have to remain unshaped, and cut a straight size eight (Tilly pattern sizes, not dress sizes!!), although I did add a good three or four inches to the length – I like my skirts to the knee.

It’s a very easy and quick sew, although I did finish the waistband facing differently from how Tilly suggests – I didn’t quite understand her instructions (which is a first – they are mostly so clear and accompanied by beautiful photographs), so I just understitched, pressed, folded the raw edge under, and did stitch-in-the-ditch to keep it all in place. It’s also very nice quality cotton, which made the whole experience even nicer.

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I was making this skirt just before SewBrum, and was thinking how lovely it would be to have something fresh off the sewing machine to wear. It struck me the day before the event, however, that I didn’t have a top to match. Uh-oh.

Sorbetto to the rescue! Sorbetto was one of the first patterns I ever made, and recently, when Colette had a “Sorbetto week” on their blog, I altered the pattern a little (FBA, lengthened it an inch or so, and took out the centre pleat) and made a couple of cotton versions that have yet to find their way onto this blog.

So, I had a simple top pattern ready and waiting, and I also had some lovely navy crêpe in my stash. And not just any crêpe – vintage 1930s/1940s crêpe from a wonderful little shop in Sheffield called the Front Parlour. They sell all sorts of vintage things, from women’s dresses, to cigarette cards, to cocktail glasses, to books.

This top was also a super quick and easy make except… I was seriously running out of time. In the end I wore it to the event unhemmed. I mean it was tucked in – so what’s the harm, right?

And I love this outfit! Two super simple patterns, two beautiful fabrics – and some octopi!

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Sew Now, African wax print, and an English country house

This post comes to you in three parts! We’ll start off with Sew Now magazine:

A new sewing magazine! I first saw that Sew Now was about to launch on their Instagram account, and I was excited enough to take a special trip to Tesco on release day. I mean, I love sewing magazines… the ideas, the free patterns, the fabric porn… and I don’t know any sewists here in Sheffield, so it’s lovely to remember that I’m part of a community. Of course, blogging and social media remind me of that too!

I actually think this magazine offers something a little different from the others on the market, because it includes more Ready To Wear fashion. That’s great for me – I don’t think I’ll ever have a wardrobe that is 100% me-made. I admire sewists who make everything from their shoes to their pants to their plain white tops, but I don’t know where they find the time… I think I’ll always supplement with a trip to the shops now and then!

Even if you are one of the incredible people who makes absolutely everything, I still think it’s great for styling inspiration – I sometimes find it hard to visualise what I’ll wear with things I haven’t even made yet. And it’s not just clothes – they have a page of homewear along with a pattern for making chevron cushions. Cool, eh?

It does still share a lot of great features with other sewing magazines, like coming with a free pattern. Which brings me neatly to part two: the Zoe Dress and Top from Simple Sew Patterns.

When I saw the free pattern through the packaging in the shop, I wasn’t really fussed. Nice enough plain dress, I thought. Won’t make it, but I want to see what’s in the magazine.

Fast forward three hours, to me wrestling my cat off the pattern as I traced it. I guess I just didn’t look properly in the shop, because as soon as I took it out of the packaging, my mind started racing. A loose but still flattering dress… nice with a belt… good with tights and boots or bare legs… what about that red wax print in the cupboard…?

The wax print is what really convinced me. I had been planning on making it into a Seamwork Adelaide, but the idea of using it for the Zoe really grabbed me, and I decided I’d best listen to my heart.

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And wow am I happy! The only adjustment I made was an FBA (of which more in a later post), although I did also take a big ol’ seam allowance around the waist to add a little shaping. I love the neckline, the way the sleeves sit, the length… I just love it!

The dress came together very quickly, and would be great for a beginner project – no zips, no buttons, no set-in sleeves… and the original doesn’t even have darts, so unless you make an adjustment like I did, you can get straight into sewing the main seams. I think a lot of people would want to shorten it though – I’m 5’8″ (173cm) and it comes to just under the knee on me.

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As you can see here, there’s a centre front seam that gets topstitched – along with the centre back seam, facing, sleeves, and hem. I used sparkly gold thread – it’s hard to see in these photos, and I actually think it’s surprisingly subtle (but nice!) in real life… and I was worried, because the thread is seriously spangly. Here’s a close up:

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I think the dress looks lovely with bare legs/nude tights, but it’s getting a bit chilly for that here in the North of England… so I decided to go with purple-y tights. I’m hoping that it’s obvious they’re meant to clash and not match… what do you think? The coolest part is that they match the lining of my jacket!

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You might have noticed that these photos are really good. Well a friend of mine, Katherine, does some freelance photography, and I cleverly inveigled her into taking these for me… or, well, she offered and I said yes. If you are interested, you can contact her at katherine.payne@cantab.net

Have I had giant gold gates installed in my garden, I hear you ask? Erm, no. Let’s move on to part three: Chatsworth House.

The house served as the inspiration for Pemberley, Mr Darcy’s house in Pride and Prejudice. In fact, you might recognise the house from the 2005 film adaptation of the Jane Austen classic, or the Duchess, another Keira Knightley film based on the life of the fifth Duchess of Devonshire, who lived at Chatsworth. I must say I haven’t ever read that book or seen those films – but hopefully some of you have!

 

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It’s hard to tell in this photo, but the house is MASSIVE. In fact, only part of it is open to visitors – the Cavendish family still live in the other part. It also sits in its own estate with gardens, a farm and farm shop, holiday cottages…

I’m lucky to live close to Chatsworth, but it’s worth a trip even from further away. If you’re making a weekend of it, the town of Bakewell is only a couple of miles away – a really cute English town with old stone buildings and famous pies and tarts. There are also endless opportunities for hiking, climbing, and bouldering nearby.

You pay to enter the house and gardens, but a stroll in the grounds is free – and you get to see some lovely fluffy sheep!

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That’s the river Derwent, cutting through the grounds… there’s a beautiful bridge as you come in, which makes for wonderful photo ops.

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That’s me of course, Katherine of the beautiful photos, and Joe, our friend who was visiting from London. We decided to show him one of the gems of the North, and we got really lucky with the weather: it was chilly, but the sun was shining on the river – and on the gold leaf around the windows of the house…!

They also have the best road sign I’ve ever seen outside the house…

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Inside is as grand as outside – think carved wood, fancy furniture, silk wallpaper, paintings, statues… My photos from inside were rubbish, but Katherine got some good ones of the main hall on her phone… beautiful eh?

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I loved the tiles – I took some pictures of my favourites. Sure wouldn’t mind having some floors like this in my house:

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Apart from being beautiful, the house is very historically interesting. The house was originally built in 1553, at the behest of Bess of Hardwick, but the original building went out of fashion and was completely rebuilt from 1687 onward. The house has belonged to the Dukes of Devonshire (from the Cavendish family, so you will hear them called Devonshires and Cavendishes, which I think is pretty confusing…), and the twelfth Duke still lives there.

And boy do they have some cool statues (these are Katherine’s pictures again):

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So! I feel I’ve bombarded you with both words and pictures, so I’ll leave it here – with a quick note that I haven’t been sponsored to say anything – I’m just an enthusiastic fan.

Little Brother, big Brother

Judging from my blog, my August sewing list might seem like a bit of a disaster: out of seven things, I’ve only posted about one. And that one – my pineapple Lilou dress – did take a long time and a lot of fitting. But I don’t want you thinking I’ve been lazy! I didn’t just give up there…

I made three versions of Ultimate Trousers, each with more fit alterations, but finally admitted defeat and bought Sew Over It’s online trouser fitting course. So more on that at a later date.

My Delphine was almost finished and my first Addison cut out when my sewing machine suddenly started to stutter, skip stitches, and eventually just started snapping the top thread whenever I tried to sew. Uh-oh.

The sewing machine was a little Brother LS-2125, bought second hand nearly two years ago on eBay. It was very basic and complained about sewing zig zag stitch, complained about any fabric thicker than a couple of layers of cotton, complained about sewing buttonholes. But I did love it. I learned to sew on it, I made my first clothes on it… But it wasn’t worth fixing.

At first I was absolutely miserable, because I knew that if I bought a similar machine, I’d have exactly the same problems as I had with my little Brother. But the mid-range, sturdier machines all seemed to be £500 or more – and I couldn’t afford that.

So I dithered around, unsure what to do, and that’s when I happened to see a video Rosabella of Sewn posted, showing her sewing corner, and, in particular, her Singer Confidence machine. An idle Google informed me that that machine cost £349. Hmm. That seemed a much more affordable step up.

So, a short car journey and a traumatic parallel park later, I arrived at Woodseats Sewing Machines Shop and asked to see a Singer Confidence. A little aside here – I really wanted to go to a proper sewing machine shop where they knew their stuff and could advise me; and where I would be able to take my machine if anything went wrong. If you are in Sheffield or nearby, I can’t recommend this shop enough. They were friendly, patient, answered my millions of questions, and showed me what felt like every stitch on every machine in the shop.

They didn’t have a Singer Confidence though… I really wanted to buy from this shop, and I really didn’t want to buy something without seeing it (so asking them to order it in wasn’t an option), so I asked what they had that was similar, at a similar price point.

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A big Brother!!! This is the Brother Innovis 20, and I love it. It was £320 with three years’ warranty, which I thought was pretty reasonable for a digital machine. I won’t bang on too much about the technical details, but it has 40 stitches, including a very nice looking stretch stitch and five different button holes. It also has some embroidery and quilting stitches that I know nothing about. The craziest thing, for me, is that you don’t have to use a foot pedal. You can, of course, but you can also just select a stitch, select a speed, and press “go”. Madness. It also seems to hold up much better with thicker fabric.

So I’ve not finished the items on my list and I won’t manage to make my Ginghamalong entry in time either – but I sure am happy with my new sewing machine.

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I feel a bit like I’m late to the party. The room is just full of people sauntering over in swishing Delphines, grasping cocktail glasses in gauzy Mimis, and stepping out to smoke in slinky Megans. And here I am, sidling in in my Lilou, a copy of Love At First Stitch under my arm, hoping no one minds.

So I may be late, but the party is still a good one. I am really impressed with Tilly’s book. I might have been sewing long enough to know how to mark darts and use interfacing, but I still found myself reading her instructions on basic techniques such as these. They are so clear and perfect for beginners. And the steps for each of the patterns – including photos! – are great whether you’re a beginner or not.

I plan on making basically everything from Love At First Stitch, but I decided to start with Lilou. Maybe it’s a little counter-intuitive, seeing as it’s the final pattern in the book, but there we are.

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The fabric! I knew I had to have it the moment I saw it. Pink AND pineapples? Now there’s an alliterative theme I can get on board with. I got mine from the Etsy shop On Trend Fabrics (for £5.75 a metre), although I’ve since seen it on Fabrics Galore (for £8 a metre) via Rosabella’s vlog on her August fabrics. I’m excited to see the dress she makes with it!

I mentioned when I said I was going to make Lilou in my August sewing list post that I thought I’d have to make a lot of fitting alterations… but wow did I make a lot of fitting alterations.

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I did a full bust adjustment (obv) and made a toile, hoping my work here was done… Erm, no. I moved the side dart down and made up another toile, but it still wasn’t sitting right (for you non-sewists, the line the dart makes in the fabric when it’s sewn up is meant to point towards the ‘apex’ of one’s bust…). So I changed the angle of the dart. I couldn’t face making another toile though, so I decided to just cross my fingers and hope. I’d run out of sellotape (hence the parcel tape in the photos) and I was going mad.

The darts still aren’t quite right. You can see in the photos above that they’re making the fabric stand out weirdly, but I’m hoping I can fix that by making them a little deeper. What I don’t know how to fix – and I’m hoping, Internet, that you can help me here – is this weird little pucker the straps are making:

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Why?? Are they too long in the front? Is the bodice too tight across the chest and can’t sit low enough? Why why why??

I also lengthened the skirt by five and a half inches (nearly 14 centimetres), but I expected that – I like my skirts to finish just below the knee. Even with the extra length, I managed to squeeze the dress out of two metres of 150cm wide fabric – super economical.

Right – fitting rant over. The pattern itself is lovely. The pleats sit really nicely (it’s the first time I’ve sewn pleats like this, but the explanation of how to do it was really clear, so no worries there). The front neckline is great, the back neckline is great, the skirt has exactly the right amount of swish and fullness – yay! I’m really happy with it and I’ll definitely be using it again. I just want to sort out the straps and darts, and then I plan to make a whole lot more.

And the best thing about the pineapple fabric? I got to crack out my pineapple earrings.

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Stealing ideas: my August sewing list

At the beginning of my teacher training in September, I spent a week in a Junior school, where the teacher had a very interesting saying for the kids: you can’t steal sweets or crisps, but you can steal ideas and make them your own.

Recently, and quite by chance, I saw the post My August Sewing List by Emily at Self Assembly Required. Hmm. I thought about that teacher’s phrase and decided I was stealing this idea. I’ve had a lot more time on my hands the last few weeks than I’ve had so far this year, and I haven’t used it particularly wisely as far as sewing goes. I decided a little dose of organisation might be exactly what I need. So without further ado, here are my #sewinggoals for August.

1. Tilly and the Buttons Lilou dress.

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This one is from Tilly’s book, which I acquired quite recently. It’s going to take a bit of pattern adjustment, because I want to lengthen the skirt and I officially live in FBA city, so I’ll need to do one of those as well. I have two fabrics to make it up in…

The pineapple fabric was cheaper, so I’m thinking I’ll use that, tack as I go, and keep my fingers crossed that I get away without making a toile…

2. Sew Over It Ultimate Trousers.

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I’m hoping these won’t take so much adjusting and should be a quick make (famous last words). I want to make a wearable toile of the trousers in this gingham:

And then I have a few other fabrics lined up to make them in – this plain blue should be lovely for summer and autumn (those ridges aren’t so obvious in the weave as this picture makes them seem… Blame my phone camera):

3.  Seamwork Addison blouse.

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Seamwork says this pattern should only take an hour to make up. Hmm. I might actually time myself (not including pattern adjustment) and see how long it takes. I don’t know if I sew super slowly or they sew super fast, but I suspect it will take me longer than an hour…

Anyway! I really loved the broderie anglaise they made the sample garment in. So…

And then, a couple of days later, I got an email from them about an add on alternative collar they were releasing with a sample made up in black and white gingham. So…

4. Tilly and the Buttons Delphine skirt.

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Also from Tilly’s book. Again, I’ll be lengthening this –  knee-length skirts look miles better on me. I am forever on the quest for the perfect A-line skirt. I tried Gertie’s flared skirt and my own self-drafted pattern, but I’m not completely sold on either of them. So once more unto the breach with Delphine and this red crêpe (same ridge caveat):

Is it too much? Am I mad? These are questions I ask myself often. But I guess we’ll find out!