it was bound to happen….

So I was on the home stretch for finishing the latest (little) dress. The large version still awaits the attentions of my housemate (need to pin her down….pun intended!). Somewhere in this house there is a bag, one of many, with the scraps left from cutting everything out. Where its got to I have no idea. So I had to go and buy some commercial bias binding to finish off the armholes instead of making my own as originally intended. But it still looks cute right? Its nearly even the exact shade….

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but this leaves a dangerous vacuum – because of course this is the sew where next blog right? and the next thing on the list is making a dress to attend a friend’s wedding. But that’s not ambitious enough in terms of keeping me busy. I am (am I a bit mad?) considering making a king size quilt as a wedding present. Nothing complicated, just squares. It’s going to be a whole lot of yardage. Note to sewing machine, holiday time is over.

darting to the finish line

Having had some able assistant from my pin wielding housemate I was able to confirm that adding some waist darts to my shift dress was going to help overcome the excess fabric ripples at the side and add some definition to the waist. Its one thing not to emphasise one’s tummy. Its another to add a significant expansion to it through lack of fit alone. What’s the point of working so hard to make customised clothing otherwise?

Given I had no photographer today (aforementioned housemate is not yet back) and wanting to make use of some natural daylight, here of some quick photos of the darts. I still need to adjust them a bit (with me wearing the dress (just wait tiil that housemate comes back!) but you can see a big improvement. It still retains the triangle pear shape I am looking for but with more shaping.

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and yes, they still need pressing. Am off to one of my unfortunately regular exercise classes tonight so haven’t got much time.

saving the pennies, but not the hours

So, having discovered my current dress in progress requires some fitting work, I of course head straight towards another project I had already cut out (from leftovers from the same fabric) as after several long days at work (and no fitting buddy to hand) I just wanted something simple to work on.

Long term readers of this blog may recognise the pattern, New look 6879. Upon seeing how much of the border printer was left over (my dress required only one side to be used and not the full width) I could not resist finding another project. After some careful piecing together, not quite as the pattern pieces instruct for the skirt, it’s shaping up nicely. This is very much a work in progress photo, but it will give you an idea. Hemming the scalloped edge was a pain but it looks very pretty now.


piling on the pounds

So, in my last post I mentioned fabric shopping. The following occurred right at the end of my trip, which I knew was a risk having spent three weeks travelling round China. It’s not like I could go back anywhere and have another look! But, according to my trusty guide book, Shanghai was the place to shop, and their fabric market did no disappoint. Imagine three whole floors of fabric stalls. Bliss.

But also strangely hell. Because I only had a few hours in one afternoon and there was just SO MUCH. Think kid in a sweet shop with a blank cheque. So I was very focused and worked on getting different fabric types and being practical about what to do with it. Nothing quite like finding something beautiful, then without a pattern to hand, deciding how many meters you need. I managed to increase my backpack by 50% on the return journey home compared to the weight on the outbound flight!

Due to a flight cancellation I ended up with an extra shopping day (might as well make the most of it) and picked up some extra silk at the Beijing pearl market. They only had a few fabric stalls there but it was still nice stuff. But, what you no doubt wish to see by now is some actual pictures. So let me share the delights I found…

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These are two cottons


Lightweight silk

P1050684                                                               Double sided cashmere and a very thick silk

The cottons will most likely be used for dresses, likewise the silks. I plan to use the cashmere in a reversible jacket.

Lastly, some fabric/costume related photos of my trip to give you a little feel of China.

this is what the local people wore in the mountains

this is what the local people wore in the mountains

I found this really funny, a lady in a beautiful wedding dress getting out of a transit van

I found this really funny, a lady in a beautiful wedding dress getting out of a transit van

embroidered silk

embroidered silk

embroidered silk

embroidered silk

embroidered silk (took 10 years to make)

embroidered silk (took 10 years to make)

silk worms

silk worms

traditional dress

traditional dress

shifting fabric

You may have noticed the lack of recent posts. I have been elsewhere, rather literally half way round the world. I spent three weeks in China and apart from packing some gorgeous fabrics in to my back pack on the return trip (photos to follow) I also have a head stuffed full of memories.

I can’t say its an easy country to visit (they have a very different diet, safety approach and culture) but I’m very glad I went and I learned a lot. Having returned to the world of brown bread, muesli and soft beds (all three were sadly missing during my adventures) I have been getting over the jet lag and reunited with my sewing machine.

Before I left I had started a sixties retro shift dress, which is from a lovely embroidery anglaise fabric. It took some time to figure out the best layout. I am still fretting about the fit as its not a style I am used to (when making my  previous shift dresses they were more fitted around the bust). So, here are some pictures…. P1050677 P1050678 P1050679 It will be lined later so its looking a little unfinished at the moment. It does have some rather odd pattern markings for the side seam, as illustrated here:


there’s no sugar coating this one

First of all, apologies for there being such a long gap between this post and the last one. It’s not that I have been lazing around, in fact the opposite is more the answer. My efforts to get my waist line back to my original starting point (when I first started dressmaking) have been taking up a rather depressing amount of time. It’s slowly paying off, but in the mean time it is hogging a lot of potential sewing time in terms of energy and opportunity.

I have also been rather foolish in my recent choice of projects. From one coat hang up (literally its on hold so I can be confident I won’t have any fitting problems later because of exercise impact related changes) I landed myself in yet another sticky situation. Literally. I’m sure by now you are thinking I am coating this a bit thick (pun intended). But I decided to make a nice “easy” (hahahaha how self deluded was I?) project and took out of my stash some laminated cotton and a raincoat pattern.

For this uninitiated to the joys of laminated fabric, please approach with a healthy sense of caution and self preservation. I have broken pins on it, struggled with top stitching as the sewing feet get stuck on the laminated side, struggled to ease in the sleeves (it has no stretch) and generally slowly grown to dislike the stuff. Oh, its also really hard to mark as you don’t want to leave holes, so there go the tailor tacks.

Glutton for punishment that I am, I decided to add my own lining to the body of the coat, which was interesting as it had a fold over facing (I just doubled everything up, sewed the two together then treated it as one layer) and had fun trying to hand sew when hemming the sleeves and making the patch pockets.

The result on the coat is a cute on, the impact on my temper less so! Here’s on I won’t be making again any time soon….this is Burda 9458. As usual for Burda the instructions are less then helpful but I do like their designs.

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Now that the coat is finished I am working on my next project. I’m intending to make a corded skirt to act as scaffolding for a dress I intend to make later this year for when I go to a friend’s wedding. At the moment its not very exciting to look at and I am having fun (not) trying to design the thing, but hope to have some photos soon. Watch this space.

batt(l)ing on…the coat saga continues

So, the coat project has been temporarily put on ice (ok, it’s not that cold but it sure is frosty in the mornings) whilst I sum up some more energy and enthusiasm for getting the remaining sleeve fit sorted. I am toying with the idea of adding gussets to help make them more comfortable. I can safely experiment thanks to my toile sleeve which I still have left over. Until I am satisfied, my remaining pink wool shall remained untouched and uncut!

Of course, this does not mean my sewing machine has been idle. Far from it, in need of a straight forward sewing fix (less face it, this coat has been taking FAR too long) I have made another baby jacket for my friend. This one is quilted, which has been interesting in terms of preparing the fabric. It takes a long time. But worth it for the finished effect. May I introduce Kwiksew 4080. I even managed to use some of stash as my mother had given me some lightweight cotton flannel in cream which I didn’t know what to do with. It’s not the inside batting layer. I have also made a matching hat. At some point I’ll get a photo sorted but it got finished at the last minute before delivery so not picture opportunity….

Apart from unpicking two of the buttonholes – please someone invent an undo feature at the touch of a sewing machine button – this was a pretty painless project. Applying bias binding around little baby cuffs is a little tricky!

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fraying temper

The pretty pink wool viscose fabric I am using for my coat project has a dark side. It ravels. Horrendously. I’ve had to zig zag stitch finish everything as it was literally coming apart in front my eyes. This has made it harder to accurately sew as you have lots of fluffy bits obscuring the seam allowance marker on my machine.

I finally thought I’d got somewhere last night, and then discovered it really needed taking in at the waist. This pattern is really odd. Have never had this reverse modification process. Normally I had to add to the waist and hips, not reduce in this area and add to my bust. Still, we now have some photos to look at. May still need to do some more work on those armholes…


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busting a gut – it seams

may I have permission to throw a small minor tantrum after discovering yet more adjustments are required to this never ending coat project? someone kindly pointed out my fabric at the underarms was straining at the seams. For the first time in my life I have had to undertake a full bust adjustment.

No, I have not suddenly gone for surgery, but according to Mccalls I do not appear to fit their measurements at the hip, bust or arm. Given that their sizing chart is exactly the same in terms of measurements as Vogue and simplicity I really have no idea what is going on here….

Unfortunately in hindsight I have made two mistakes. Firstly not wearing a more bulky jumper when trying on my toile. Not a problem when making a dress, but becomes an issue when you need to have the ease for actually wearing winter clothing under your new coat. Secondly, in order to help with pressing my newly made lining, I merrily snipped regularly through all of the seams to have them lie flat.

I not so merrily viewed the available seam allowance when I wanted to reduce them to create more room to resolve the above problem. People, we did not have much room for manoeuvre. Think three point turn in a narrow cup de sac. I managed to squeeze in total about another 3 or so extra cm combined out of the front section. It appears (just) to be enough.

Can someone wish me good luck with the rest of this project? I think I am going to need it!! (holding sanity carefully in both hands whilst saying this).

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seeing triple – pattern pieces

So two months ago when I was making the toile for the mccalls 8600 coat I thought it would be such a good idea to reuse my toile as interlining. After cutting out 52 pattern pieces because of this, I am slightly less enthused at my “great idea”. I am pleased to share finally I am doing some actual sewing, having basted together the interlining and fashion fabric pieces. The lining is now complete, so I can see the difference made from reducing the skirt pieces to a size 10 (I am normally a 16 to give you an idea how much ease there was to be removed) and my cheat’s sleeve cap ease adjustment. Which was to add another sleeve (with more ease included) head behind the existing one and use some sticky tape to temporally fix it in place.

So, you patient readers get to see some photos of my not so fast progress!

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and just for comparison, here’s what the original sleeve cap (black) and the new one (white) look like. What a difference!

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enough room

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can you see the pulling on the left at the underarm?

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very tight sleeve cap (could feel the difference even sitting down with the other side)


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