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…

Me-Made May Debrief

DeBRIEF! Do you see what I did there?!

Ahem, getting back to the business at hand, I think that Project Pants all went very well.

Considering I started on the 1st May with only one pair of me-made knickers and I’ve ended up with 12 additional pairs, I’m definitely calling this one a Win. MMM has not only been a success in terms of wearing, but has, as usual, been a solid inspiration for making.

The tally of self-made knickers was increased in the last week of May. I made up five pairs, sewn together, with the intention of adding the elastics while I was on holiday. One was a real stashbuster, not only using up a vest I was no longer wearing, but also the scraps from the vest that I’d made the green knickers from (for the gusset), and also using the last ends of the two different green elastics. Somehow it all worked together. This pair, and the two others I finished in France, have lovely hand stitched elastics. There are still two pairs in my work pile that need finishing off, but they won’t take long – I’ve really got the hang of it now!

Here are the 12 pairs I wore throughout the month:

The Me-Made May Parade

And this is one of the holiday-made pairs that I didn’t get to wear:

The one that didn’t make it to the parade

I’m thrilled that I have a load of new knickers in my underwear drawer, and it’s given me the impetus to cull some of the RTW pairs that are past their prime, and should really have been consigned to the bin a while ago.

This project is giving me the courage to work towards another of my goals – making my own swimsuit. This may end up being my MMM20 goal!

Me-Made May Progress

I’ve been keeping up with MMM, quite easily. My outfits don’t generally require too much of an effort to be all me-made, these days, as I’ve got more me-mades and refashioned items than ready to wear in my wardrobe. If you want to see the outfits, day by day, you can follow me on Instagram.

But the main challenge is, of course, Project Pants. I started the month off, literally with only one pair already made, so I had to get a wiggle on to make the second pair, and it’s been quite the learning curve, but I’m getting there… I’m now up to 10 pairs, with plans for a few more before the month is out.

I’ve been having a ball reclaiming all my jersey scraps, including the tiniest ones, and getting interesting colour matches.

I can’t believe how pretty these two pairs of knickers are!

For the two pairs I made this weekend, I was using a couple of camisole vests that I know I won’t wear again. For the pink pair, I cut the gusset from a pair of purple Sainsbury’s Tu knickers, where the lace front had shredded beyond all decency, but the cotton back still had plenty of life in it. The main pieces I cut from the front of the vest, and there was plenty of fabric left over on the back, for more gussets, so I used the pink for the lining of the green pair.

Upcycling – when vests become pants

If you look carefully at the hips of these two pairs, you might see the side seam from the vests.

I’m also amazed that I’ve managed to find colour combos that work with the limited supplies of foldover elastics I had acquired. I’ve just ordered a load more, because I don’t see myself stopping the knicker production line soon! I’ll be on holiday for the last week of May, and there may well be some more hand-stiched versions arising then.

I’m mastering the elastic better now. I’ve got a better handle of what length I need, and how to distribute it around the leg holes. I guess it’s true what they say about Practice…

Finally, can I give a big shout out to Megan Nielsen’s Acacia Pants pattern? It is brilliant! It’s got the perfect amount of coverage, and the shaping is just how I like it. I’ve graded it, and made a tiny tweak to the rise of the gusset (isn’t “gusset” a lovely word?) and now that I’ve got it right, I don’t need a new knickers pattern ever again. And the best thing about it? It’s free, if you sign up for Megan’s email. Which is no hardship, she’s really not in the least bit spammy. And it gives you instructions and information for using all different kinds of elastic. It’s a super pattern, and it prints out in only 6 sheets!

Project Pants – Update

Things are going a bit better now. I worked out the reasons why I was struggling with the elastic insertion, namely I was using cheap thread (which I know my machine doesn’t like) and I needed a new needle (which I really should have thought of earlier). So I can stop blaming the machine and admit I’m just not very dexterous when it comes to doing the elastic…

But I’ve now come into possession of a new machine, courtesy of my Dad. Full story to follow, but I’ll say now: this new machine is well swanky! I had to try it out, with the next lot of knickers that I’d cut out and constructed:

The first one I did was the cream coloured pair I’d already tacked, in the last post. They came out fine, and so much quicker than the previous pair!

This is more like it!

This spurred me on to try without the tacking, which certainly sped up the process even more. I was using the leftovers from the Black & White Batwing dress, that I’d made for One Week, One Pattern. I’d made two in basic brief sizing, and also one pair of massive and comfortable Big Pants. I was also using the remnants of the Instagram Takeover Dress, a gorgeous silk jersey.

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Top to bottom: Big Pants, small pants x 2, all three using the black & white cotton jersey from my B/W Batwing Dress, and small pants using purple silk.

 

I did end up doing one pair by hand-stitching the elastic, and I have to say, they’re ever so pretty, and very luxurious. Far and away the loveliest knickers I’ve ever owned! I’m now slightly wishing I had more of this stuff available, because I would rather like to have more silk undies.

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Elastic fully hand-stitched

My self-stitched pants count for Me-Made May is now up to eight, which is a bit more like it. I want to get another  3-6 pairs made, so that I’ve got plenty to see me through the month (and to justify throwing some of my older pairs away because some of them really do need to go in the recycling bin!). I’m trying to use jersey scraps for these, or repurposing jersey fabric from garments that I’m no longer wearing, rather than cutting into new fabric. It may require piecing scraps together.

To see what I’m wearing on top of the me-made knickers, for Me-Made May, follow me on instagram.

Project Pants is not going so well

I have started Me Made May with the poorest preparation ever. The arrival of 1st May saw me with just one lonely pair of me-made undies to wear, despite my pledge being that all scrunts worn in MMM were to be me-made. But with best foot forward, I did have two pairs cut out, using Megan Nielson’s Acacia Pants pattern, and jersey scraps and I optimistically figured I’d just be dashing them off in less than an hour. I had *foolishly* forgotten my own often-dished-out advice – Things Take Longer Than You Think.

I desperately needed to get at least one of these done for Day 2, so I got started on sewing them together. Construction was absolutely no problem. I was making a couple of pattern tweaks, but that didn’t affect the process. I was just widening the pattern a smidge, for greater comfort for both pairs, also extending the gusset a little way forward, again for both, and I was trying out a Big Pants extension on one of them. I understood the Burrito method of gusset insertion, and all was hunky diddly dory.

And then it came to the elastic insertion…

My Nemesis…

Let’s take the first pair… Using the Floral Aqua jersey from this top, and a high rise for Granny Pant comfort.

Oh my stars, I’ve never known such an apparently simple job be so laborious and frustrating! I was using fold-over elastic, thinking that it would be easy and decorative. My sewing machine just basically hated me for trying to sew with cheap thread. I was using what I had available in the right colour, but she’s a big old thread snob, and the thread kept breaking, and I kept not quite catching all of the fabric within the fold, and it was just a Total Freaking Diasaster. I swear this took my 2½ hours to do, and it’s the worst sewing known to mankind. I would have cried, except that crying would just have wasted time.

They’re pretty and comfy, but will always remind me of fold-over elastic Hell.

I’ve got a wearable pair of knickers out of this process, but I did not enjoy it one tiny little bit. Thank goodness these pants are comfortable, otherwise wearing them would only ever be a bitter reminder of how hard they were to make.

Onto the second pair… I was recycling an old George at Asda t-shirt, and managed to get the pattern just about cut from the back piece, with the gusset (plus a load of extra gussets for future use) cut out of the front & sleeves – yay for upcycling. Again I was using the Fold-Over elastic, but I thought of the Aqua Floral Big Pants, and decided I would tack the elastic in first, to at least make sure I got all the fabric caught up.

Tacked and all ready to sew

I decided that I quite like the look of the tacked version, with the contrast thread and all, but it still took SO much longer than I thought it would. I simply don’t understand how people can knock three pairs of pants out in half an hour – these are taking me forever!

In fact, I’ve decided that if I have to tack to be sure of getting the elastic in right, then I might just as well embrace the hand-sewing process, and make a feature of it. So there will be hand-stitched undies showing up here in a short while.