Emy Sews Vintage Casual

One of the many things (and there are many) that I love about wax print fabric is that it comes in lengths of six yards (5.5m), so there’s always plenty of fabric to play around with. You’ve seen this particular pattern before, because I used it to make my friend Simo some shorts, and then I had enough left over to make myself a skirt.

Ta da! The pattern is from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual – and I LOVE this book. Love, love, love. If, by some miracle, you haven’t heard of Gertie, you should go to her blog, stopping on the way only to order her books. The first one is called Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing, and I also x4 love it. Each books comes with patterns – shirts, skirts, dresses, jackets, trousers… all with a serious vintage vibe and a multitude of suggestions for personal touches. But you know, even though I want to make almost all of them, the patterns aren’t my favourite part of the books. My favourite part is the sheer wealth of sewing information: drafting! Fitting! Tailoring! Honestly, I find a new little bit of information every time I pick it up.

The pattern I used was the Flared Skirt. In the book it’s made in striped sateen, and Gertie also gives two variations: an A-line mini skirt and a quilted skirt with flannel lining that is on my to-make list. The pattern is very simple and the instructions are very clear, so this is a quick make. I actually think if I make it again I’ll add a waistband so that I can tuck tops in easily if I want to.

Hey guess what? I pattern matched. This is the centre front seam in the middle of the blue bamboo thing. I was very impressed with myself, because pattern matching usually just makes my brain sore and I give up.

OK, so I had a bit of a hemming nightmare. I actually don’t really know what happened, but instead of being even, my hem pulls up at the sides. Hmm. I think this is because I didn’t have anyone to help me measure  pin, and I haven’t yet investigated in a mannequin. I don’t think it is too noticeable when I wear it and am walking about, so I haven’t lost any sleep over it. Next time I’ll recruit an assistant!

One thing I really liked about the hem was the finishing: in Gertie’s book, she suggests using “hem lace”, but unfortunately I can’t seem to find a UK stockist of that. If you know one, please comment IMMEDIATELY and let me know. I did, however, find some really cute lace-topped elastic in a charity shop for £1. I think it actually might be knicker elastic? I decided it would do as a stand-in, and I think it looks really cute.

So there we are, a skirt that, thanks to the English weather, I am unable to wear for the majority of the year. But I am very pleased with it anyway!

You might have noticed that I made matching bangles and earrings – a “how to” is coming on Quick Tricks soon!


Shorty get down – Simplicity 1370

Are you ready for some more wax print? I first wrote about this type of fabric in my Matilda visits Cameroon post – but you haven’t seen the end of it on this blog.

The pattern is Simplicity 1370, and I really like it – the shorts are nicely high-waisted, with a back zip. I searched for an awfully long time to find a pattern with a back or side zip – I think the shape it creates is SO much more flattering, especially if, unlike Simo here, your stomach isn’t the flattest. I also think the legs of the shorts come out at a great length (Simo is about 5’7″, or 170cm, for reference) – they’re definitely short, but they don’t become indecent as soon as you dare to sit down.

And the construction? Easy! The fiddliest part is getting the waistband neatly attached so the side seams line up, and for me, doing the lapped zip at the back. Why oh why can I not sew a neat lapped zip? Is there some secret? (Non sewers –  that’s the kind of fastening where a little bit of material hides the zip.)

I have to say, I don’t understand what skorts are about. Do you?? I also haven’t used the skirt part of the pattern because I think it will be a super awkward length on me and no one else has “commissioned” it yet!

Look at that fabric! I love the super vibrant colours. As with the fabric for my Matilda dresses, this one comes from Middlesex Textiles – they don’t have the same print any more, but they have some other corkers, so go and check them out. I also think their prices are very reasonable.

This pattern – and this fabric – will feature again in future posts, so keep your eyes peeled! Oh – and please forgive me the terrible pun in the title.

Matilda visits Cameroon

I love a good wax print. That’s the type of fabric usually associated with West Africa – bright, bold, huge patterns. Actually, they first found their way over to the world’s second largest continent via the Dutch – who themselves borrowed a printing technique from Indonesia to produce the patterns. Actually, there’s some pretty fascinating history behind this fabric, including a lot of menacing colonialism – you can take a look at this guest post on Beyond Victoriana if you want to know more.

Troubling history or no, these prints remain very popular in Africa, and I love them too. One of my friends, the stylish and beautiful (and half-Cameroonian) Simo, is also a fan, so I offered to sew her something if she bought the fabric. Here’s the material we picked – this is a UK site, but if you’re somewhere else, just give Dutch Wax Print or African fabric a Google – there are some beauties out there.

Originally, I was planning on making her some shorts or maybe a fitted top, but when the fabric arrived, the print was much bigger than I expected, and the cotton was quite stiff, even after a wash. I decided it would be better to take advantage of the body in the material, so I began flipping through my patterns and back issues of magazines. It didn’t take me long to find just the thing.

Is that beautiful, or is that beautiful? (Abandoning humility here.) I found the Sewgirl Matilda tunic in Issue 13 of Love Sewing magazine. Unfortunately, although you can buy the back issue of that magazine, I can’t find a copy of the pattern for sale. Sewgirl does a similar Agnes tunic, or Sew Simple have a free pattern called Brigitte available to download that is a similar shape.

The Sewgirl Matilda was lovely to work with. At first I got confused with the construction of the pockets, but I think that is my inexperience rather than faulty instruction! The dress is made up of seven pieces, plus a few extras for the sleeves, pockets, and facings. Construction was very easy – the fiddliest bit was probably topstitching the seams (actually if you look closely, my topstitching is quite wonky, but it’s a learning curve…). That part is optional, but I thought it helped pull the dress together (especially as I didn’t pattern match).

Check that covered button!

Actually, I loved this dress so much, do you know what I did?

I made one for myself. I am normally a bit scared of shorter dresses, but I think this one is very flattering, and I don’t feel like the world might be seeing my bum at any moment (always a concern).

Wax Print fabric usually comes in lengths of six and twelve yards (5.5m and 11m), and making one “small” and one “medium” dress used up the whole lot, apart from scraps – so I’d allow about three yards (2.25m) for a dress. And whilst we’re on the sizing – if you use the Matilda pattern, there are only three sizes: small, medium, and large. The magazine gives finished measurements, but only for the bust. The medium fits me (I usually wear as UK size 14 or 16) beautifully, but I had to take in the small a few inches at the waist to fit Simo. If you’re worried about sizing, go for the Simple Sew pattern – they have a bigger range of printed sizes, so it will be easier to adjust.