Ah, go on, one last Christmas make!

It’s Christmas Eve, and I’m on my own at home, and not knowing what to do with myself (all presents wrapped and handed over, all food shopping done), I picked up the Purple Velvet Shannon that’s been on my WIP pile for aaaages. This one is at least a year old, because I started it with the intention of it being a possible Christmas dress last year.

This is one of my hacked Simple Sew Shannon Collection dresses. I used a gorgeous stretch velvet that I’d originally bought for dance costume making purposes. I used my sleeve extension pattern piece, which I trialled with my Massive Roses dress, to make the otherwise sleeveless Shannon winter-wearable. I cut it long and quite straight to make it a more elegant line. I originally cut it out and sewed it together during OWOP 2019, as I was on a Shannon with sleeves bender! And then I didn’t get around to doing the hemming. I wanted to hem it with a nice satin bias binding, and I’d got as far as sewing that on, and pinning it in place. All it needed was the hemming. But as I’d missed my Christmas deadline, I sort of forgot about it. Then Covid happened, and my sewjo took a nosedive. I didn’t feel any urge to do anything for months, so this dress sat in the WIP pile. When I occasionally summoned up the courage to look at the pile, it would look back at me, accusingly! “It’s just hemming,” it would say, “you can do that while you’re watching the telly. It won’t take you more than one evening”.

So one evening back in November, I took it out and did that hemming. “Yippee!” I thought, “I’ve got a nice party dress, for all those parties I’m not going to”. Then I tried it on and decided it wasn’t working at all. Firstly the bias binding was making the hem bell out a bit, which was not a look I wanted. It worked fine for the neckline and sleeve hems, but not at the bottom. Secondly, it just didn’t look right long. I took various pictures of me wearing the dress with the hem hoiked up to different levels. From a well-below-the-knee level, I decided it needed to go to mini length.

I decided no 5 was the right length, no 6 is a smidge too far!

And back onto the pile it went…

This afternoon, I decided it could still be a Christmas Dress, so I pulled it out again, and cut a chunk off the bottom. I used a fairly deep herringbone stitch for the hemming. The velvet is quite bouncy, so I thought it would help to keep the hem flat. It would also allow for the stretchiness of the fabric. It takes longer than a basic hemming stitch, but I didn’t have anything else to do particularly.

And all for the sake of this blog, I’ve I’ve even bothered to slap a bit of makeup on, and wear a bra (it’s been a jimjams kind of a day till now), so that you can see the nice dress all finished off…

Unfinished Object now definitely finished – ka-ching!

When the partying starts up again, I’ll be ready!

 

The Go It Alone Christmas Jumper

My first ever Christmas Jumper

I like having something new for Christmas. I haven’t sewn much this year, because I haven’t really had any need for new clothes, with all of the working from home, and all the not meeting people. But once the nights start getting earlier, knitting becomes a good outlet for creativity and makery.

This jumper had its origins in April/May 2019. I started and damn near finished the Sewrella My First Holiday Sweater. It’s a fab jumper, but it’s very boxy, and the shape just wasn’t working for me. I put it in the pile of things to think about, and by summer this year, I’d come to accept that despite all that work, it was time to frog it, and use the yarn for something new that would be more flattering on me. I wanted to use the lovely colourwork again, but have something a bit more close-fitting. Whatever pattern I used, I knew I’d have to adapt to suit the colourwork repetitions. I decided to Go It Alone, and write my own pattern.

My last three jumpers (apart from the ill-fated First Holiday Sweater, have been based on the Jenifer Stark Nutmeg pattern which I’ve tinkered with each time, to suit what I was aiming for. (It’s no longer very recognisable as that original, but credit where it’s due). They have been knitted top down, and I have no idea why but I decided to go bottom up for this one, probably because the first thing I wanted to change was the ribbing at the hem. I did a sample square to check my tension, and used that to work out how many stitches and rows I would need to make the basic torso, how many increases I would need to make my sleeve widen as I knitted it up, how the yoke would join, and how much I’d need to decrease to get to the neck. You never realise as a child how much you will use Maths for fun.

I wasn’t making it up as I went along – I had a plan – but I did find that I adapted slightly as I knitted, and

Obviously, the most fun thing was working out the colourwork. I used the Sewrella pattern as my starting point, but I needed it to be a bit longer, and I needed to fit in a different decreasing pattern. If you’re that interested, I’ve put the chart, as well as all my construction details, on my Ravelry Project page.

I started this project at the end of November, and I’m thrilled that I’ve got it finished this quickly. I am literally going to be wearing it all week.

Merry Christmas!

 

Leggings

I’m a bellydance teacher. Like so many teachers, I’m doing all my teaching online these days, live and direct from my living room! The background to my photos here is where I’m teaching, and as you will realise, it is quite dark. I don’t have a lot of flexibility to change things around for better effect, so I’ve decided I really need to wear bright colours, for my legs and hips and so on to stand out against this background. Time for some new leggings.

A good long while ago, my favourite pair of shop bought leggings finally died a death, and before casting them into the recycling, I ensured their memory would live on, by cutting them apart, and making a paper pattern from them. In fact, I still kept one leg piece, to act as a back up pattern! 

It’s a bit rough and ready! But it works.

So I had my pattern all lined up. I also had a shortish length of lycra fabric. It was a mystery fabric from a “lucky dip” bag I’d bought at a sewing show once, from Sew Sew Fabrics. It’s got really good stretch and recovery, so I’m guessing it’s got a high spandex content. It’s a weird beigey, browny, grey-ey colour, that I’m choosing to call Pewter. I had a bit less than a metre left of it after making a pair of yoga pants for a Simple Sew Blog make earlier this year. I also keep a supply of waistband width elastic in my stash at all times, because it is always useful, so I was all set to go.

I decided I wanted my leggings to have a slightly higher rise (because I don’t want to have to worry about the elastic possibly rolling itself down!), so I extended the top of the pattern by about 6cm. The writing at the bottom of the pattern is hard to read, but it says “this length goes just below the knee”, which is fine by me, I like Capri length leggings, and they make it easy for students to see what my legs are doing.

The construction was really easy- I cut two pieces, one for each leg, joined the front rise and rear rise, then sewed the inside leg seams. The last thing was to attach the waistband elastic, using the quartering technique. I haven’t hemmed the legs, because I know this isn’t going to fray. And as the youth say, Boom! 

Ready for my next bellydance lesson!

This is a definite win!

I’m so chuffed with how this has turned out. I’m ready to make more! I’ll have to hunt through my Costume Sewing Stash (which is a completely different stash) to see if I’ve got any suitable stretchy stuff to make into more leggings.

A Coatigan and more…

Radio silence for months, then two posts in a row… As I mentioned in my previous post, I had a visit from the inspiration fairy, who doesn’t normally come calling in the Autumn and Winter. While I was planning  my sweatshirt dress I received an email from the Sew In Brighton School (I’m on their mailing list, they didn’t just spam me! They wouldn’t do anything of the sort) about the courses they were running. And one of them was to make a coatigan in a day. This was appealing enough with my Winter Sewjo in full flow, but then I realised there was a massive discount on the workshop price. That sealed the deal for me, it was the kind of discount that would be rude not take up!

My main difficulty was that I wasn’t sure about the sizing of the coat. The details on the website talked about the sizing going up to a generous Medium, but I’m definitely a large, and I’m even more large across the front. I emailed the Sew In Brighton team, and the lovely Kat (Sew in Brighton’s owner) was super-understanding, and was able to grade the pattern to a large size for me (and for future plus size sewers).

I didn’t have any fabric in my stash that was suitable, so I looked around for possible options. The information about the fabric needs suggested 2m80 of boiled wool or sweatshirting. I know that the first make of a pattern isn’t always my best version, so I wasn’t going to spend £25 per metre on boiled wool, just in case it was a disaster. So I searched for sweatshirting instead. But then I came across this gorgeous black and white fleece-backed knit from The Textile Centre, and I was hooked. I wasn’t sure if I’d need extra fabric, beyond what the course information said, what with the extra width of a larger pattern, and with the possible need to pattern-match, so I went ahead and ordered 4 metres, just in case. I figured that would be plenty, and if I was able to be frugal with my cutting, I could do something with the leftovers.

This is a mahoosive check – each square is 8cm x 8cm!

The workshop was on the Sunday after Lockdown 2.0 was announced, so I was really grateful that we had the chance for one nice thing before we all have to stay home for weeks on end! The studio was well set up for social distancing, and we wore masks whenever we were moving around. It all felt very safe. 

The teacher was Jo, who was great. She was able to explain really clearly the techniques we were using to get the shawl collar of the coatigan, so you knew what you were doing, but also why you were doing it. I was giving her an extra headache, with my pattern-matching. But again, she was able to explain it really well, and make it make total sense to me. I’m definitely going to be practising this more.

The morning part of the session was all about tracing off the pattern, and cutting and marking the pattern pieces. The afternoon part was for the sewing. Sure enough, we all had our brand new coatigans ready by the end of the afternoon. I wore mine on my way back to the car.

I managed to organise myself to take pictures while it was still daylight

This coatigan is SO COSY!!!!

I have to be honest, the effect of the cosiness, together with the big checks, and the unlikeliness of being out and about much this winter is leading me to think this might become more of a dressing gown than a coat!

I was thinking about how I could reuse this pattern, and I’m half thinking of adding a triangle side panel to make the shape a bit more swingy, get a slightly 40s vibe to it. 

 

… And as I intimated above, I did indeed cut frugally, and even with the pattern-matching, I was left with about 1m 20 of the fabric to make something else with. It wasn’t that much to play with (especially with the pattern-matching again), but I thought I could make some sort of boxy sweater. I turned to my trusty Simple Sew Shannon pattern. I’d drafted a sleeve pattern for it about a year ago, to make the top/dress winter-wearable. I gave my pattern pieces an extra centimetre of width, to make the top a bit looser, and take into account the thickness of the fabric. I created a wider neckband, and made the top slightly longer (because no-one wants a chill on their kidneys).

I practised my pattern-matching a bit,

And here’s my new favourite jumper:

It’s got a slightly sixties vibe, don’t you think?

I’m getting better at pattern matching – I’m shocked!

I’ve got quite a few scraps left over, I’m thinking I could maybe make some mittens…

Winter Sewjo, a very rare visitor

Well it’s been so long since I’ve posted, I hardly remember how… Let’s see if I can write a bit about sewing.

I’ve mentioned several times on this blog, that my sewjo takes a nosedive during the autumn and winter, that I’m at my most creative in the spring & summer. But 2020 has proved to be a complete reversaroo on that. Spring & Summer, when we were on lockdown and things were all weird and scary, provided me with zero inspiration to make anything at all. I didn’t even make any facemasks until September.

But with the autumn drawing in, I was trying to choose what Simple Sew Pattern to make for their blog and I found myself thinking quite enthusiastically about cosiness, snuggliness and warmth, so I plumped for their Classic Sweatshirt Pattern.

Simple Sew Classic Sweatshirt Pattern

I had a few ideas of what I could do with it. I could have made it as a straight sweatshirt, but all the other bloggers who had used this pattern before me had kept to the pattern as it stands, so I wanted to tinker about with it, to show it could be used in a different way. The easiest hack was to lengthen it to dress dimensions, so that’s what I did. If you want all the details of how I made this, you can visit my Simple Sew Blog post

I was using some fabric I bought a couple of years ago from Sewisfaction.  The plain fabric is a ponte di roma, and the range is called Beatrice, so I felt it would be rude not to buy some. The photo doesn’t show how gloriously teal coloured it is, a proper greeny bluey teal. At the same time, I bought a stripey jersey from them, which was a perfect colour match (sorry I can’t find it on their website now, as I say, it was about two years ago that I bought it, they probably don’t keep it in their regular stock). At the time I bought both fabrics I had a very clear vision in my head of a dress with the main body in the plain and sleeves in the stripes. I thought then I could use the Tilly & the Buttons Coco (I’ve had the pattern for years, and still haven’t quite got around to using it). But once I had decided to make a sweatshirt dress, I knew it was time to bust out this fabric combo. And I’m thrilled at how it worked out.

This is exactly what I imagined it would look like

I only had a smidge over 1m of the plain, so I decided to use the stripy jersey for all of the bands, at the cuff, neck and hem. And although the fabric stretchiness was more in the width, rather than the length, and would therefore favour making the bands stripe horizontally, I made a policy decision that the cuffs needed to stripe vertically. They’re slightly less stretchy that way, but I like the way they look.

I’m pleased to report I used the largest pattern size, adding 1 cm to the bust width, and shortening the sleeves by 6cm, but otherwise without any need for grading or adjusting. It was a doddle. As usual, the hard work goes into all the preparatory checking of measurements, tweaking of pattern pieces, cutting out and marking up. The actual sewing flew by. I did everything on my sewing machine, rather than hauling out my overlocker, because I was being lazy. But it goes to show you don’t need a fancy overlocker to make this. 

Winter warmth!

So hooray for the Winter Sewjo! I’m already thinking about other ways I can use this sweatshirt pattern in other cosy, snuggly makes (possibly converting it to a cardigan or maybe a hoody!), so watch this space…

MMM Driveby

Hooray! Despite the weirdness of lockdown and the coronapocalypse, we still have Me Made May to look forward to!

This will be my 7th MMM, and I’m still loving it! Thank you Zoe for keeping it going through these strange times. I’ll be working from home throughout May (it seems unlikely that we’ll be back to “normal” just yet), and that involves a lot of sitting on the floor, because I’ve got no work desk! So I *will* be rocking the yoga pants & leggings for the foreseeable. What I need to do for MMM is make sure they are banging not boring.

So my pledge is:

I Béa of http://www.beassewingadventures.wordpress.com (@missbeacurtis on Instagram) pledge to wear Me Made clothing every day. This will include any garment made, mended, embellished or upcycled by me. I’m also going to use this as an opportunity to embed good lockdown habits, by photo-documenting my Me Made outfits during my daily walks (to make sure that I do actually go out more, yay for Internet Accountability).

I will also be taking part in the Simple Sew MMM Instagram Takeover, when us Simple Sew Bloggers get a day (or maybe even two) to run the Simple Sew feed.

Winter Shannons for OWOP

Wow, that’s quite a long blogging break… I did do some sewing in the second half of 2019, I promise! To be honest, it was mostly some more Simple Sew Shannon Collection dresses. It was partly to do with the Simple Sew blogging, and partly to do with OWOP.

One Week One Pattern (OWOP) seems to have been a little later than usual in 2019. In the past, I’ve been able to use a transitional style of wardrobe to get through it, but when Sheona announced it was going to be 23-29 November, I realised it would be well chilly, and I would need a full-on Winter-wearable pattern. The things I had the most of (that I haven’t used before for OWOP) were the Simple Sew Shannon Collection dresses & tops. But it’s a sleeveless/cap-sleeved dress/top pattern, so they were all quite summery. The tops I had could be layered, so that was a start. But I decided that if I was going to use this pattern, then I would need to work out how to add a sleeve, so as to use it for the cooler weather.

I was scheduled to do a “#SewthisisChristmas” make for the Simple Sew Blog for mid-November, so I decided that I would test out my sleeve hack idea with that. If it worked, then I could make myself a couple of tops and maybe even another dress, and I’d be able to get through the week, with only one or two repeats.

As it turned out, the pattern lent itself very well to an extension to the short/cap sleeve, and I was thrilled with my (Not Just For) Christmas Shannon. I got this fabulous rose print ponte at a fabric swap last year, and couldn’t believe my luck – it was just so me! I’m really happy that I’ve been able to get this lovely dress made with it.

This meant I started OWOP week with two short-sleeved tops that would work as layers, plus this one new dress (which wasn’t going to be an easy one to repeat-wear, as it’s quite “noticeable”!) plus plans to make more using my newly hacked sleeve pattern. I was very late to the game, but I did manage to make those two tops and one dress, which meant I only had one repeat wear during the week. For the full line-up of my OWOP outfits, go to my Simple Sew Blog Post on my Week of Winter Shannons.

The first top I made was made from a cute cactus print jersey I got in France a year and a half ago. It’s got some kind of elastane/lycra content, because it’s got good stretch and recovery. I’m not sure why I went for the cactus print, because I’m not normally a novelty prints kind of a gal, but it works well for this top, and I’m happy with how it came out.

The second top was from a plain white cotton jersey, which has no elastane at all, and doesn’t really have a lot of stretch. I decided that it was just TOO plain, and it needed something extra to make it more me. So I cannibalised an old lilac t-shirt that I haven’t worn in years, that had the same sort of weight and drape as my white jersey, and I used that for the neckband and sleeve bands. I was pushed for time (I was sewing it on the morning of day 7, before going to work wearing it!), so I didn’t do anything more than necessary to it. But I had a fair bit of the lilac left over, so I’ve decided it can be used for some appliqué embellishment, once I’ve decided what I think I can do with it.

The dress was my favourite of the OWOP makes. I didn’t have particular expectations but it came out just perfect. I’d kept the structure simple, and it was straighter than my previous Shannon dresses, because my fabric was narrower. I just love it!

I even got another dress cut out and started, though I didn’t finish it in time for OWOP. It’s still waiting to be finished off (really need to buckle down to that, it’s just hemming, for heaven’s sake!).

I’m still not finished with my Winter Shannons. Now that I’ve got my sleeve hack sorted out, I can see another couple of dresses happening in the near future!

Summer Hols

I was on holiday in France again, and I can’t believe it’s already 2 weeks since I got back! Time for a holiday sewing catch-up.

The holidays are a great time for sewing, for me. I can take a half-finished project away with you, and wear it once it’s done. Or I can catch up on projects that I don’t seem to find time for the rest of the year and get them moving on.

The half-finished projects

I took a dress that I’d started specifically so that I could finish it and start wearing it. I bought this stunning blue cupro from the world-famous Man Outside Sainsburys, when I was last in Walthamstow. I really wanted to be wearing it, and not keeping it in Stash, so the day before my hols, I cut it out, and got it basically stitched together the morning we were leaving, so I just had the hemming to do…

I was using the same Simple Sew Stylish Shell Top pattern that I’d used for the Pink Flamingos dress. I made it slightly more A-line, by flaring the side seams out when I cut it. There was no iron at my sister’s, so the hem looks a bit bouncy in the picture, but I did get it pressed as soon as I got home.

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Don’t look at the hem!

What I have found, though, is that the sleeve heads are a bit dodgy. I may see if I can take them down a bit, because it can sometimes look like I’ve got Eighties Power Shoulders going on. I think I’ll need to revisit the sleeve and armscye of this pattern. It’s worked fine up until now, but I think that’s because the fabrics I’ve used before with this pattern have been softer and more fluid – this cupro had a bit more body.

I also finished another pair of knickers, left over from Project Pants, in May. I’ve still got one awaiting elastic, but I’ve got less impetus now that MMM is over!

Getting around to it projects

I got a few more granny squares crocheted. I only need another 50 or so, then I’ll have all the crocheting together to do.

I also did a bit more work on the 100 Day Dress. At this stage I’ve got 15 days left to go. My tactic is to use the next couple of days to sew the dress together, and then see where there are gaps that need filling. But actually it’s all very close to the finish now.

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It was all about the cross stitches

But the sewing job I’m happiest that I got done was shortening the sleeves on a hoody I’ve had for years. Every single time I wore it, I grumbled to myself at how long the sleeves were. Clothing manufacturers seem to assume that if you’ve got a big chest, then you also have long arms. My preference is always for shorter sleeves, I don’t like having fabric flapping around my wrists, and I always end up pushing my sleeves up my arms.

So I decided it was time to get around to shortening the sleeves on this hoody. I took a big chunk of the sleeve off, saving the cuff ribbing, to reattach it to the shortened sleeve. I had a lot of ease to take in, so I pinned it to kingdom come.

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No fabric coming adrift here…

I used a stem stitch to sew the cuffs back on, to allow for a bit of stretch. And Tada! Nice new 3/4 length sleeves!

before and after

How many differences can you spot in this picture?

 

Flamingos

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Flamingos!

I’m delighted that I can post about this dress, now that it has gone live on the Simple Sew Blog. You can read there about how I hacked the Stylish Shell Top pattern into the perfect summer dress – cool and pretty.

I’m particularly pleased that this fabric didn’t drop into Stash, and I was able to use its flamingo fabulousness within a few weeks of purchase. I’m not really one for novelty prints, but this one called out to me from the moment I saw it. Maybe it’s because, even with the flamingos, there’s a lot of floral in there too.

Summer pretties!

I’m currently in full holiday sewing flow. I’ve finished another dress, and need to get it photographed. I’ve got no iron here, though. Of course – who needs to be ironing on their hols? So it may be a bit wrinkly when you get to see it…

And I’m in the process finishing off a couple of Project Pants knickers that didn’t quite make it into Me-Made May. They got sewn together, but lacked elastic.

As for the maroon poppies dress from my previous post, I’m still thinking about it.

Summer Teasers

I finally got around to making something that wasn’t knickers! Unfortunately I can’t really show much of any of these makes, the first one, because it was a skirt for my sister and I totally forgot to take in progress photos, the second one because I’m really not sure about whether I like it or not, and finally because the third one is a Simple Sew Blog make, and I’m waiting for it to get posted. But I can tease both of my own garments!

Firstly, the skirt for my sister. She basically gave me a sarong thing that she liked, and asked me to make a wrap skirt out of it. With the elephants at the front.

Loved those elephants

It was a challenging project, partly because I was totally self-drafting, based on measurements only, partly because she lives 50 miles away from me, and we didn’t have many opportunities for fitting, partly because the elephants were in the middle of the fabric, whereas they needed to be at the outer sides of the skirt, partly because the edges with the square motifs were just too small to get a skirt back out of in one go, so I had to piece two half-backs together. I foolishly failed to take In Progress photos, otherwise you could see what a stunning job I did of pattern matching that back. It truly is a thing of beauty! Anyway, she was very happy with the finished skirt, and all was well, but I think that’s the last bit of selfless sewing I’m going to do, because it’s all too stressful!

Anyway, onto my own makes… I’m still all about the dresses, and I need a few more that are comfortable for the summer, but still office-friendly – no spaghetti straps, hemline approximately in the knee area, that sort of thing.

For my first one, I was inspired by this gloriously garish Flamingo fabric, that I bought at the London Stitchers Meetup, when they did a Walthamstow Shopping trip last month. I was all set to stick to my fabric diet, but these birds were impossible to resist. I surprised myself, because I’m not normally a novelty print kind of a gal, but I think it found its way into my heart more because it’s basically a floral.

It’s so much brighter in real life!

I didn’t want this resting in my stash for long, so it came out when I was contemplating my Simple Sew Blog make. Here’s the neckline of it…

Hands up, I could have placed those flamingos better.

I totally love this dress. It’s very me!

Having got started on the Simple Sew Flamingo dress, I decided it was time to finish a nearly two year old Work In Progress.


I bought this fabric on holiday and immediately cut it into a ThriftyStitcher Shell Top Lengthened Into A Dress. I sewed the facings together, and then lost all impetus to do any more. It was sat in my pile of things I should be getting on with, making me feel guilty every time I glanced in that direction. When I pulled the bag out, the fabric was all scrunched up, and looked like rags. So I had to iron it, just to see what the pieces even looked like (Can I just mention, the *only* ironing I do is when I’m sewing!). It didn’t take long to sew together, I really don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner.

Not quite right

But when I tried it on, I just didn’t like it. So for now it’s sitting on the Naughty Step, while I contemplate what to do about it. It might be that simply lengthening it without putting in any shaping wasn’t the right treatment, and I need to add darts or a waist tie, to make it work. Or if that doesn’t work, then I may cut it short to make back into a top. Or maybe I need to tweak the neckline somehow. I just don’t know. I’m going to be taking it on holiday to see if I can work something out with it, because I hate to waste a project.

So there we go. It’s a case of Watch This Space…