Sunday, 12 October 2014

Book Review: Gertie Sews Vintage Casual by Gretchen Hirsch


"Gertie Sews Vintage Casual" was a birthday present from my husband. How did he know?  Must have been because I put the book in the shopping basket on amazon over and over again for a month beforehand!


What a book.  To say I love it is an understatement!  This is Gertie's second book, I haven't read her first, but am now tempted to ask for it for Christmas. 




The illustrations are aesthetically pleasing; so much so, that I am thinking about tearing some out and framing them, to hang in my sewing space for inspiration.




Gertie guides the reader through the history of vintage casual clothes, which is so interesting; it's like a lesson with a really exciting and engaging teacher.

The book also comes with 10 patterns, each with suggested variations, so you could get a whole wardrobe-ful from this one book.

These are my two favourite patterns, the 40s-Style Blouse, and The Cigarette Pants:



What makes the book stand out above other sewing books (and I own MANY) is that it is not aimed at absolute beginners but at those who want to improve and modify their sewing.  There is not page after page wasted on "how to thread a sewing machine", but instead there is useful advice on fitting, or how to solve those problems of pooling excess fabric, or gaping fabric at the waist or neckline.



I would thoroughly recommend this book, perfect bedtime reading.  Although these fabulous patterns are primarily aimed at curvier women than I am, I am very tempted.

Hope you find this review useful.  And if you can recommend any other titles that I might like as much as this, I'd love to hear about them...

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The Neglected Coco

I purchased Tilly's Coco pattern, eagerly cut out the pieces, sewed quickly, almost finished... then stopped!


I wanted to take part in OWOP2014 so that took priority at first. I had to quickly knock out an extra skirt for the challenge, so shoved the half-finished Coco to one side, and it hung there on the mannequin looking forlorn.  No point finishing it, though, if I couldn't wear it for a week.


Okay, so I'll finish the following week... No I won't, as all five of us in the family come down with the awful noro virus!  Yuck!

Okay, so I'll finish the week after...  No I won't, as darling daughter comes down with "Slapped Cheek" and I catch the accompanying fever and cold!

And after that?...  No, by then my birthday has been and gone, I've got a bad case of the miseries over getting another year older, and I don't feel like sewing!

This is ridiculous: get a grip Louise! It will only take about 20 minutes to finish. I'm going to do it now, photo and post today no putting it off any longer.

[About 24 hours and 20 minutes later...]

Did it! Phew. Sadly the light had gone by the time I completed it, so I had to wait until this morning for photos.


 So this is, I suppose, my longest make to date! Ironically, it was really straightforward.


The fabric is a sturdy double-knit jersey with a mock knitted design in grey and black.  The photos do not really capture the design very well.  It was a bugger to photograph and darling Hubbie (the blog's official photographer) took three lots of pictures before we gave up and said they'll do.


I went for the version with the funnel neck which I really like. I didn't realise it would be so easy. It was literally fold the collar in half and sew to neckline. Even I can do that.


The collar does give the dress a nice sixties vibe and I am happy with the look of it.


Size-wise I feel this is a little tight. If I made another, I would keep the neck, shoulders and armholes the same, and grade out a size for the dress section.



I have another piece of double knit which would look nice as a coco, but it has a printed border along the selvedge.  Would it be okay to cut it, so that the patterned selvedge becomes the hem. Or would being off-grain destroy the shape?

Sunday, 14 September 2014

OWOP 2014

I have spent the last week alongside half of the blogosphere joining in with Handmade Jane's OWOP 2014 .



I thought this would be easy to participate in, basically wearing clothes made from one pattern every day for one week.  How hard can that be?  I chose to use Simplicity 5776.


I say "chose", but it was the only pattern from which I had made more than two versions!

So here goes then; day 1:


This version was the first one I ever made from this pattern: a purple skirt made from a double knit. It was just supposed to be a test garment, but I've ended up wearing it all the time. The blouse is one I posted about here. (Beside me on the mannequin is my first try at "Coco" but I've had to abandon it for a while to get another Simplicity 5776 skirt churned out, or else I wouldn't have had enough to see me through the week!)

Day 2:


This is my camouflage skirt, and it's another popular one with me - I wear it at least once a week.  The blouse is homemade, but pre-blog.

Day 3:


This is my favourite version in woollen tartan. I feel good in this skirt. The top is a RTW jersey top from Principles Petite. I have worn it almost to death; in fact, I could claim it was a partial make as I have patched up holes in it at least three times. But I'm not ready to part with it yet.

Day 4:


This look is so comfy and natural to me - a cotton blouse with a pleated yoke (I own 5!) scruffily untucked with a structured skirt.

Day 5:


This is my new skirt, an everyday kind of skirt but I am pleased with it. I made it with the remnants of my temporarily neglected Coco's material.  It is a lovely soft knit with a mottled pattern reminiscent of cable sweaters!  I added pockets as they are so useful, and I opted for a longer length this time, more Autumn friendly.

Day 6:


Purple skirt again, this time teamed with a silk RTW shirt. By this point, I'd failed to keep up tweeting the pictures. I'd be no good at "me made may"; nagging family members to take the daily pictures was hard work!

Day 7:


My new skirt again, this time with a jumper and scarf as it is starting to get a little chilly! And the week was over...

Conclusions: Did I enjoy OWOP? Yes, loved it. It was good to make a conscious effort to think about what I wear, and deliberately choose me-made over RTW.

Would I do it again? Yes, definitely, but I'd choose a blouse so I could wear it with either skirt or trousers.  By the end of the week I was gagging to pull on some jeans! Also I've realised that I do not accessorise well!  Can't have everything, I suppose.

I am also including this skirt in my Fall sewing for Sarah's FESA sew-a-long from The Creative Perfectionist.



I need to put a bit of thought into this one. First, though, I will finish the Coco in faux-jumper-look knit!  Nice and snuggly, hopefully. Then, I'll have to seek out more patterns. I'm actually really excited at the prospect of focusing on everyday essentials for Fall / Autumn. So, watch this space.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Dress C- The Sweet Dress Book

After making the tie-neck camisole, as described here, I have been looking longingly at lots of the designs in the fabulous "Sweet Dress Book".  I had a hankering for the soft pleats of dress C.


Easy to throw on, but with enough interest to look nice. It was reasonably quick to put together too.


Here's the twist: I sized it down, so I could make it from a fine soft jersey rather than woven fabric.  I'd had the idea for a while and I'm glad I gave it a go.


I'm trying Oonna's tip for photographing from a low down angle, thus giving the illusion of height.  Not sure it's worked - I still look quite short! I'm also doing my best to stare off enigmatically into the middle distance.


The fabric is a thin jersey, light and stretchy. It flows nicely in this dress and I am very pleased with that.


I felt I would be able to tackle this after my recent practice sewing with jersey. I was confident cutting-out, pinning, and sewing the side-seams and the sleeve and dress hems.

Now, I said it was reasonably quick to sew. And I was sailing through, feeling I knew what I was doing; so, I confidently proceeded to the finishing of the neckline with self binding. It looked beyond awful, stretched out of shape and far too thick and lumpy for the delicate fabric.  I should have taken a photo at this stage, but instead I had a break and a beer and then another one!

Later, I delicately cut off the stretched neckline as carefully as I could.  At this point I knew I had to walk away and look afresh at the mess the next day. I was then able to salvage it: I cut thin strips of bonda-web and simply folded the mutilated neckline over, fixing it in place with a hot iron and later securing it with a decorative zigzag.  Phew.


I am so pleased that it is wearable because after two beers on Saturday night I was all for throwing it in the bin. The image of Iain's "Baked Alaska " being thrown in the bin on the Great British Bake Off this week gave me the motivation not to give up, but to finish the dress. (Sorry for the topical UK reference international readers.)


So overall I am really pleased. The dress is a perfect length for me (I shortened it by about 5 inches!) and though the neckline isn't perfect, it will do. I now want to make another and get the neckline right first time.

If you like this pattern, Sarah from the Creative Perfectionist (dress C) has recently made a version of this that I adore.  She made it in red polka dot fabric, and added very clever shirring to give her version a fitted silhouette.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Sweet Dress Book - Tie Neck Camisole


My latest project is the Sweet Dress Book's "tie neck cami". This is what it's supposed to look like:


And here is my version! I didn't add the tulle or the bow as I felt that would be a bit too glamorous for my lifestyle!  


Probably my last summer make, as we seem to be running out of summer to wear it in! This is made out of the remnants of this summer top here and is a lovely mauve cotton with tiny cream stars.


Its cleverly designed so it just pulls over the head. The back is slightly higher cut than the front, and - all in all - I enjoy wearing it, and love how loose and flowing it is.


I think I am going to call this a wearable muslin, as I have plans to play with this pattern. I should like to make one with two back pieces, as I prefer the higher back neckline.  I think this would mean I would have to make the neck band slightly bigger, or open and close-able with a button.


This is the blouse on backwards: it covers a bit more flesh, so I think I'd be more comfortable with this in a future make.


Here is the front at the back (if you see what I mean).  I have written myself notes and placed them in with the pattern pieces as I'm sure this will be made again next summer.


The perfect top for summer adventures. Talking of which, I'm off on hols tomorrow Wahoo!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Learning to like knit fabric

I decided the way to find my peace with knit fabrics was just to play with some, until I didn't find the experience so horrendously intimidating any longer. So, play I did, and this was the result...


A toddler dress. No pattern: I drew out a bodice shape based loosely on an old t-shirt of my daughter Immy's, but sized it up a bit, and extended it to a dress length.


It's a wee bit big on the poppet, but totally wearable. I surprised myself, setting out just to have a play, but managing to create a usable item of clothing.


My favourite bit has to be the cute ruffle. For this, I cut a wide rectangle the length of the fabric. Then, I used two rows of loose stitching to tightly gather the fabric up.


After that, I sewed it onto the outside of the fabric with a three-stitch-zigzag. The tricky part was removing the gathering stitches, but even that wasn't too bad. I could have put the ruffle onto the wrong side of the fabric, so as to get a smooth seam, but I actually rather like the mini ruffle that this method creates at the stitching line. It adds a bit of character.


The neckline and arm-cycles are finished with strips of self binding. Doing this taught me a lot: the neckline gapes a little, and I couldn't work out why as I had stay-stitched all the curves.

Doing some reading halfway through, I discovered that unlike woven outfits, the stretch binding needs to be a bit shorter than the length of the opening to avoid gape. This is why the arm-holes are loads better than the neckline. Still not perfect, but getting better. Now, I've just got to remember that tip on my next knit project!


The more I played around, the less frightened of the fabric I became. The fabric itself is leftover from my summer dress here which really isn't the best make in the world but I do wear it often as it's so comfy. I think Immy will be comfy in this too, perfect for clambering about in.


All in all, I really enjoyed this experiment, and want to have another go with knit fabric very soon.  I'm working on the basis that the fabric is cheap, and even if I muck it up while learning, it has to be cheaper than sewing lessons. Now sewing has very much entered the popular zeitgeist in the UK, the price of sewing classes in the South of England has shot up astronomically out of my reach! So, for me at the moment its learn by doing.  How did you learn to sew?