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.

Robe ananas Lilou

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!

Roxanne

I’ve been a little unsure of publishing a post with photos taken in bleak weather. After all, it’s high summer and I’ve had to crack out the factor 50 even here in the North of England these past couple of weeks. This morning, however, greeted by a wall of grey clouds punctuated by a thin veil of drizzle, I decided I could get away with it.

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I made the skirt from a very simple pattern and a very bold fabric. It’s view E of New Look 6107, which I got free a good few month ago with Sew magazine.

You might have noticed that it’s not me in the pictures – in fact it’s my friend Roxie, who picked this fabric out at John Lewis. They do still have some in the Sheffield store and presumably others across the country, although I’ve also seen what I think is the same fabric on eBay. It’s a heavy cotton that has a kind of linen-y feel. It’s a little looser weave than most cottons, so I lined it using Tilly’s method, although – full disclosure – I did make a bit of a mess by sewing the zip into the fashion fabric and the lining at the same time.

Roxie was a very good sport about both my lining mess up and me having to take the skirt in a couple of inches – why do big pattern companies add loads of sneaky ease??! I love the way she’s styled it – I wish I could say I made the cape too. So a thank you to her for 1. enabling my habit, and 2. looking a beauty in the finished product!

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和服 – Simple Sew Kimono Wrap Dress

Today was the first really autumnal evening here in the North of England. As I was walking home from the bus stop today, it was already dark at seven in the evening, the air was misty, I could smell a bonfire a few streets over… And here I am still blogging summer dresses! Readers, I hope you will forgive me a few more summery posts.

Who doesn’t think kimonos are beautiful? I’d love a real one. I can’t pretend to be an expert on Japanese clothing (or anything else), but I’ve seen plenty of photos of gorgeous flowing silk, minuscule embroidery, and of course, those sleeves. Unfortunately, they’re not exactly practical to wear. And as for making one – they can take up to 13 metres of special narrow fabric.

Enter the Simple Sew Kimono Wrap Dress! This has wide kimono-style sleeves and a floaty feel, but I think it’s very wearable. I got my version in Love Sewing Magazine (who don’t sponsor me, honest!), and you can order the back issue with this pattern here. As soon as I saw it, I thought of my friend Simo, who is becoming something of a regular feature on this blog! We chose some fabric together, and I made it up for her.

I’ve yet to meet a Simple Sew pattern I didn’t like. The instructions are really clear and I think their designs are very clever – they’re easy to make without looking amateurish, which my sewing still is… Construction for this dress is very quick – it pretty much involves sewing the front and back pieces of the dress together and then hemming all the edges. Then sew the front and back of the belt together. Boom, done.

Look at that neckline at the back! So elegant! Once again I can’t link to the fabric, as it came from an Etsy shop that no longer exists. Sorry! I’ve been quite useless as tempting you with fabrics recently. I’ll try and step up my game! Although it was cotton, it was actually a bit of a bummer to work with – it was so thin it kept snagging and scrunching up in the machine, and it wasn’t keen on staying smooth post-pressing. It was actually also very see-through – thankfully Simo managed to get away without a slip or lining. BUT – isn’t it pretty?? I love the detail on the feathers and the soft greens.Well, just as with the Matilda dress, once I’d made it for Simo, I wanted it for myself. And Simo, bless her heart, offered to get me some fabric to make my own version. Ta-da! I chose some fabric from John Lewis, the British department store. Their fabric is overpriced but lovely! I’m not sure exactly what the little circles are meant to be – some of them look like little slices of oranges or lemons, but others seem to just be graphic shapes. I also have some in blue, so watch out for that in future posts!I’m happy with this dress… I didn’t really know how to adjust it so it would cover my boobs, I’ll be honest. But I decided I’d rather wear a little camisole underneath, rather than make my own haphazard adjustments and risk ruining my lovely fabric. I think if I make it again I’ll give it a go, though!

And let’s end with a fun language fact: the word “kimono” (和服, as in the title of this blog) literally means “wear thing”. And that makes me happy.

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.