Sew Over It Zoë Dress – the bonkers print

I had promised myself, in the new year, that I was going to treat myself to a Sew Over It course. I’ve heard nothing but good about their courses, and I like Lisa Comfort’s aesthetic. So when I saw the list of new courses, and spotted the Zoë Dress, I felt it was meant to be. I signed right up for it.

It was running over three Thursday evenings. The first session consisted mostly of trying on toiles, working on Fit, and getting the pattern pieces cut and marked. I’d notified SOI of my measurements in advance, because I’m a plus size. The teacher, Julie, had graded a pattern for me in readiness, and we spent quite a bit of time on getting it just right. I can’t tell you how nice it is a) to have somebody else do your pattern grading! and b) to have somebody checking your fitting!

We all brought fabric to work with, and in keeping with my Stashwatch commitment, I shopped my stash. There was really only one piece that fitted the bill, a truly bonkers cotton print, with a sort of Paisley design.

The CD is there to demonstrate the scale. The pattern is mahoosive!

It was a fabric that I’d acquired at a fabric swap. I don’t know who contributed it, but Thank You! It’s fab! It’s a good crisp cotton, easy to work with. I’ve seen it on the FC Fabric Studio website, if I’ve sold you on it. I’d already decided that I wasn’t even going to attempt any pattern matching, and Julie suggested embracing that and going for a full-on asymmetric placement, which was a brilliant suggestion. So my main concern when cutting was to avoid massive boob targets.

The second session involved more actual sewing, including fun with overlockers! I love how much more finished they make your garment. There was more fitting, and learning how to put the in-seam pockets. I’ve never been a big one for pockets, I don’t need them to hold stuff, that’s what handbags are for.  I can take ’em or leave ’em. (Does that mean I have to turn in my sewing blogger card?) So I was thinking they were a bit of an unnecessary extra process, but actually I really like them now. I might even put pockets in other things.

In the final session, we set in the sleeves (or rather a sleeve – we didn’t have time to do both) and we learned about concealed zips. I thought I knew how to do them, because of Gail’s instructions, from when I was going to regular sewing lessons. But Julie has totally changed that, I’m a complete convert to her method. This is the most invisible invisible zip I’ve ever done.  OK OK I’ve only done three… But this is far and away the best I’ve done, ever. The trick is to iron the coils, and to use a concealed zip foot. I tell you, I was straight onto Ebay to find myself one of those babies when I got home.

By the end of session 3, there wasn’t too much left for me to do to complete the dress at home. I had to insert the second sleeve, and neaten those seams, stitch the ends of the facing to the zip and add a hook and eye, and hem the sleeves and the skirt. I finished it on Sunday, and was wearing it to work on Tuesday!

Tada! And here it is…

Behold the asymmetric pattern placement. And the pocketses… 

 

And that zip! I do realise you can tell where it is because of the pattern placement, but you’ve got to admit, you can’t see the actual zip. 

By the way, I’m wearing a daffodil brooch made by learners on our Supported Learning Textiles courses, to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

What would I do differently next time? Shave a little bit off the shoulder and sleeve head, as I think it could happily come in a centimetre or so and be less gathered. Move the bust darts out a smidge, as they are slightly on the perky side. And maybe a quieter fabric! I’m very happy with how this one works, but maybe something plainer would make more of the pattern lines.

What do I love about this dress? Well I’ve already banged on about the pattern placement, the zip and the pockets. I love this sleeve length – long enough to cover my elbows, short enough not to make me want to push them up. I don’t like having sleeves that cover my wrists.

This is going to be a brilliant springtime dress!

The Crisis Averted Scarf

Having made the Blanket Coat with the black and white wool bouclé, I found I had enough scraps to make myself another scarf. I went through my list of creative scarf ideas, and settled on edging it with bright pink pompoms. I measured, cut, pinned the pompom trim around the edge, realised there wouldn’t be quite enough, trimmed the scarf to make it narrower, repinned and started sewing the trim on. All was going well.

Or so I thought…

I got towards the end of the last edge, and this is what happened:

Disaster!

Disaster! Something of a miscalculation…

Somehow, I’d been sewing more tightly than I’d pinned. By this stage it was around 2am. What I should have done, is put it away and think about it in the morning. Unfortunately, precisely because it was 2am, I failed to make that sensible decision. Instead my 2am brain made a decision that in order to fix this, I would add a felt flower appliqué. However, I didn’t have any bright pink felt, which is what my 2am plan required. So I went straight onto Ebay and found some felt.

Of course  I could just have unpicked it, and made the scarf a bit narrower. But it was 2am.

Of course I could just have ordered more pompom trim. That thought didn’t occur to me at 2am. Although, at 2.30am, after having ordered the felt, that’s when it occurred to me.

Anyway, the felt arrived a few days later. I’d ordered some pink and some black, so that I’d have Options. In the end, it had to be the pink. I was going up to London yesterday evening, so I thought I could do the appliqué on the train. Unfortunately, because of Storm Doris, the trains were all delayed and cancelled, so I was standing up all the way to London, so there was no chance of sewing then. On the way home, I had a seat with a fold-down table, so I was all set to go.

I cut out a big Mary Quant style flower, in two layers. I added some stamens with French Knots on both layers, then put one layer on each side of the scarf, back to back, making sure I matched the two layers correctly, and that I fully covered the pompom gap. A careful running stitch joined the two layers and attached the appliqués to the scarf, and voilà!

Massive Flower

A massive flower – always a favourite

So all is now well and I have another scarf to add to my collection of me-made accessories.

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Not a Mistake – a Design Feature!

The Rainbow Scarf is finished

I finished the embroidered scarf last night.

It's looking quite subtle, isn't it?

It’s looking quite subtle, isn’t it?

One of the things I really love about sewing is that sometimes I’m creating something that’s only ever been in my head before. That’s what this project was like. I’m not saying that I’m the only person who’s ever done a running stitch scarf, because I’d already seen a couple of scarves that were an inspiration towards this one, but this particular scarf came out of my own head, inspired by the materials I had available.

It was a scrapbuster. I had about 50cm of black cotton jersey left over after my first #sewdots dress, and I’d bought some dirt cheap embroidery silks, from Ebay. I mean cheap – I think they cost under £4 for 20 colours.  They weren’t a brand I’ve ever heard of, but they were nice bright colours and it’s always handy to have some embroidery floss to hand, I reckon. So I had a full set of 20 colours, and I arranged them (or rather most of them) into a sort of spectrum.

My chosen technique was to cut the 50cms of jersey into two pieces of 25cm which was now the width of the scarf. The jersey was a good 150cm wide, so that was the length of my scarf. I put the two layers back to back, and starting in the middle, I drew a line along the length of my scarf with my tailor’s chalk wheel. The plan was to do a running stitch along the line, trying to stick to 5mm length stitches. I tried the old embroiderer’s trick of marking the stitch length on my thumb. It kinda sorta worked!

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I was using a totally plain running stitch. Having done one line, I then used that to draw the next line, parallel to it, 5mm away. I used my Janome clear ruler, which made the process very easy.

I was being vaguely influenced by the Sashiko embroidery I’ve seen on my Instagram feed. However, I wouldn’t presume to use the term “Sashiko” for what I’ve done! Mine doesn’t have that beautiful symmetry and perfection. I’ll be honest, my stitching was very far from being precise! But I kept going, and it was pretty much parallel, and I managed to get the same number of stitches in each line. It was a long job, but it wasn’t complicated. It was the sort of work I could do while watching tv of an evening.

I’ve left the sides with about 2.5cm of no embroidery. I haven’t hemmed the sides, I’m leaving the jersey to curl naturally, I didn’t want to put knots into this, so I left the thread ends loose at each end, to act as a fringe.

And this is how it’s ended up…

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It turned out quite colourful!

But I have to say it was not an easy process. Firstly there was the issue of having to thread my needle with a piece of embroidery floss of at least 180cm. My grandmother (and my maiden aunt, Tante Madeleine, who taught me embroidery) always insisted that you should sew with short threads, anything longer than about 30cms was an “aiguillée de paresseuse” – a lazy girl’s needleful. And they instilled this wisdom in me for a very good reason – sewing with long threads is a flipping nightmare! It twists and knots like nobody’s business.

And secondly, the embroidery floss I was using was really low quality. It had been dirt cheap for a reason. It was very “splitty”, and to make matters even worse, some of the colours only had five strands, instead of the usual six. The red only had four. If anyone reading this is moved to try embroidery, my advice is definitely, pay for the good stuff!

To end on a more positive note, I know I’ve complained about the embroidery floss I was using, but it does have a lovely shiny quality, which I think makes it really pretty.

I'm very happy with how it's turned out.

I’m very happy with how it’s turned out.

A Blanket Coat, and a lot of overlocker love

With the hibernating sew-jo mentioned in my last post, I decided to kick-start my dressmaking for 2017 by booking myself on a couple of courses. I find that if I have paid good money for something, I will definitely do it.

So I made a coat...

So I made a coat…

I spotted Sew Me Something’s Blanket Coat workshop on Instagram, and I really liked the look of it. I couldn’t quite believe we could make a coat in just three little hours, but Jules assured me it was possible! Never mind that they’re based in Stratford-Upon-Avon, which is over a hundred miles away from Guildford! My trusty Nissan got me there in good time.

All you needed to bring with you was fabric (although if you didn’t have any, the Sew Me Something Emporium was open to us!). Since I am on a Stash diet, I pulled out the black & white wool-mix bouclé which I’d bought in November from the World Famous Man Outside Sainsburys, in Walthamstow. I’d originally thought I’d use it for a jacket, but when you are shopping from stash, you adapt your plans according to what you’ve got available. The wrong side is lovely and soft, as it’s brushed and smooth, compared to the more textured right side. I hope this photo captures the difference between the two sides.

Can you see the soft fleecy wrong side?

Can you see the soft fleecy wrong side?

The cutting took a little while. I found that my fabric was ever so slightly shorter than I needed, but I shortened the length of the pattern by 5cm to be safe, and all was fine. I have to confess, I hadn’t thought about working with the nap of the wrong side of my fabric, but thankfully the pattern layout is all “one way”, and by merest chance, I managed to align my fabric so that the nap strokes downwards throughout. Next time, I would be more aware of that particular aspect.

The construction was done almost entirely on the overlocker. The collar is ingenious, and when the penny dropped about how it worked, it felt very satisfying. It was astonishing how quickly it all came together, but I guess that’s the joy of overlocking – it’s quick. Also, the edges are all finished on the overlocker and there are no fastenings. I’m toying with the idea of adding a great big statement button at the collar, but I think that would only be if I come across a suitably superb button.

I opted for red thread for the overlocking, as you can see. I do love a dramatic contrast. But also, it’s a kind of an homage to the Sherlock overcoat with its red buttonhole!

So warm and toasty

So warm and toasty!

Things I have learned from this workshop:

  • The overlock stitch has a front and a back, so you need to think about which side you want to sew on. You consequently need to be aware of which side you are pinning on. As well as being very careful to pin well away from anywhere that might come into contact with the needles or the blade.
  • I was feeling quite comfortable when using the overlocker. Obviously the small amount of use I had of the one on the dressmaking evening classes I did last year has given me some confidence.
  • I don’t need an overlocker. I don’t need an overlocker. I don’t need an overlocker. I don’t need an overlocker. I really *want* an overlocker…

One of the reasons I was keen to take this workshop is that outerwear is one of my me-made wardrobe gaps. At last I will have a proper coat to take me into Me Made May. It’s also met one of my personal sewing tick-boxes, and it’s a good starting point to build towards sewing a more structured coat or jacket in the future.

Jules is a fab teacher – she walked the tightrope between making sure each of us knew what we were doing, and allowing us to get on with it. There were six of us and each of us came away with a beautiful coat/jacket. The workshop itself was extremely good value for money and I am more than happy to recommend it. Jules will be running the same workshop again on 22nd March and on 29th April. Go! You’ll have fun and make a well funky coat- what’s not to like?

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Totally loving it!

The Hibernating Sew-jo

I’ve never been very good about wanting to make stuff in the winter months. It’s like my sew-jo goes into hibernation.

But I’m starting to get enthused about my next projects now, and I started one at the tail end of January. It’s a fairly long-term project, so I thought I’d post some In Progress pics, at least. It’s a scarf which I’m embroidering, in vaguely Sashiko-inspired style. The Ex-Gentleman Friend has likened it (I hope in jest) to a dot-matrix advertising hoarding.

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This is how it started…

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A bit further along…

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Now working on the other side

I think I’ve got five more colours to go, maybe six, so the end is in sight. Full deets when it’s all finished.

Joining the Moneta party!

There’s a party planned for February and I’m determined to be there…

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Party Time! Excellent!

One of the things I learned from Me Made May last year was that the Moneta pattern was calling out to me. So I got it, but haven’t got around to doing anything with it so far. So when the Triple Stitchers (Abigail of Sew Abigail, Elle of Sew Positivity and Rachel of Rach Against the Sewing Machine) announced their Moneta Party, I jumped right on that bandwagon. It was meant to be.

I’ve been through the Stash, and there’s only one piece that I can do it with if it’s going to have sleeves (and thereby be suitable for the cold weather) – the massive red floral ponte. It was already on my #2017UseNine list so it’s an all round winner. I’ve got all the other notions I need for it already, so I’m good to go…

Anyone else out there going to be partying with us at the end of February?

#2017usenine

The insta-sphere is great for getting a load of New Year ideas and challenges. I’ve been seeing a lot of #2017makenine posts, inspired by Rochelle of Lucky Lucille with fantastic ideas of patterns and garments that people are planning on making in the year ahead. But the gorgeous and creative Rhiannon of More Blue Fabric has taken it a step further. As soon as I read these words, I knew this was the right approach for me:

“One of the things I am acutely aware of at the moment is that my stash is getting bigger and bigger, and that I keep buying new things with plans to use them, but then a new favourite comes along and pushes it to the side.” 

She’s created the #2017usenine hashtag, and I’m jumping right on board with that. It totally tallies with my Stashwatch plans, and my aims to use my stash before adding any more to it. So here is my collection of nine fabrics I want to get sewn up this year.

#2017usenine

#2017usenine – four plains, five patterned

Let’s start with all those plains. I decided in May last year that I need more plain tops that I can wear with patterned skirts. So I bought a whole load of plain fabric last year, and this year I need to make it up. The white Swiss dot cotton (top left) is already cut out, although I’ve still got to piece a front facing for it to work, and I just need to sew the beggar up. The black peachskin (bottom left) is also going to be a top, but I haven’t decided what kind – possibly a variation on the batwing dresses, but it’s not a knit so I’d have to be more thoughtful about how I make it up. It’s lovely and slinky, but could be a bit of a nightmare to wrangle. The navy (top middle) is also quite slinky and was bought with the notion of making into a shell top, but I might turn it into a Juliette blouse.

But I can’t work purely in plains, I need me some floral print! The red ponte (top right) was supposed to be a Christmas dress, but that didn’t happen. But it will! There are two other floral jerseys there – the pale blue with a pretty meadowflower print, bottom right, and the olive-y pink next to it, which seems much more exotic. They will both be tops. I may need to run up a couple of plain black skirts to wear with them through Me Made May, though!

This black & white & pink sateen has been begging to be made into a skirt since I got it 2½ years ago. It’s cut out, and I’m planning on making it properly lined by way of a little challenge to myself. The bonkers pink and purple scuba (middle row left) will be a simple dress, because there’s no point in trying to use a fancy pattern to try and shout that print down.

And finally the plain white jersey in the middle row right, is going to be at least one scarf, possibly more. I’ve got ideas for at least eight. One of the things I do need more of are interesting accessories, and my selfless sewing of scarves for others has triggered a desire to make some for myself. I probably won’t use it all up, and I doubt I’d use up all my ideas, but I’m going to see how far I can take it.

So, those are my current ideas. I think I’m going to go for the red dress first, because who wouldn’t want a massive floral red dress?!