Sunday, 22 February 2015

Too many plans!

Hello fellow sewers, I am in a quandary. To date, I have been a methodical stitcher: sew project 1, think about project 2, sew project 2... It's organised and efficient.  But at the moment I have too many plans, and I want to sew everything now, now, now.

I need another Delphine skirt in my life as I live in my Xmas one. I have bought some lovely bright blue linen, and it's killing me not to start on it. I 'd also like to try trousers and have offered to make my mum some pyjama pants for her birthday as a way into this. So far, though, all I have done is cut the pieces out!


My friend wants me to sew her daughter a dress, which I want to do but for which I have up to now had zero enthusiasm. I didn't realise I was so selfish! But I recently won a cracking vintage pattern on ebay, and so feel suddenly inspired.


It's the perfect size for her. I have the bodice and skirt sewn up so far.

But, I also want another bat-wing top.


I am loving this, my circle print top, and I have bought some pink and white stripe interlock knit for this purpose, which again is cut out but nothing sewn yet.

This is all too much - it's CHAOS!


Too much! I don't know where to start!  How do you organise your sewing? Do you have a list? And physically how do you manage multiple projects so they don't get all muddled? I am missing my neat and tidy ways; enthusiasm has its drawbacks.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Practising with jersey

Half-term greetings! Today I am stepping out of my comfort zone: woven fabric is my safe area, and I always feel a little bit uneasy sewing with knits. This year I am determined to get over this fear, and learn some skills. So, I am sewing up some basic T-shirts. Do you make your own basics or save your sewing for fancier stuff?


I actually rather enjoyed sewing this in the end, and happily it was a quick make. This is New Look 6216 and is defined as "easy". Nice comfy looking T-shirt; I chose this as the shape looks easy to wear and nice and baggy without being the classic shapeless box T-shirt.


The pattern does not disappoint. As it is such a loose shape, there's no need to fit, just follow the pattern. It is also very comfortable to wear, and drapes nicely around the body. I rather like the bat-wing shape to the sleeves. It's like being in the 80's all over again!


The fabric has a cute  print of grey, blue and black circles, and is a thin viscose jersey from the fabric Mecca that is Fabricland. I do shop in other places, honest! But having three children drastically curtails fabric shopping time and Fabricland is near, large enough to get into with a buggy, and - best of all - cheap.


I often struggle with neckline finishes on knit fabric, though I think a lot of it is psychological! This shirt has a neckband to finish the neck. I actually managed to get my head around what I should be doing. I just don't have enough hands: one hand holding the shirt, one stretching the neckband to fit the neckline; now, all I need is another to put in the pins, and I'll be fine!


I top-stitched the neck with a zigzag as I don't know if my machine would work with a twin needle. It only has one spool holder on top. Need to dig out the instruction manual for future reference.


It's not a bad job on the whole, but there is a tiny pucker on the back neck - not bad enough to warrant unpicking though!!

I feel like I should just keep making T-shirts till I get it right! In fact I went out today and bought some cotton jersey to have another go at that neck.  Hopefully, practice will make perfect.


These outdoor photos all look a bit sun-bleached. But they'll have to do as posing in the garden in winter is only possible when the sun is high in the sky.  Roll on spring...

Saturday, 14 February 2015

And now for something completely different...

No 9. The larch:

I have come down from the sewing high of my regency dress. I felt lost for a brief period, with the pressure of a time constraint suddenly lifted. Now that's passed, though, I feel great - I can sew whatever I like, in my own sweet time. I'm thinking of basic t-shirts, casual trousers, etc. But first this:


A cute little "Newborn Flyaway Jacket" from the fabulous book "101 great ways to Sew a Metre". This was actually one of the first sewing books I ever bought. The projects are mostly easy and clearly explained with words and pictures. I'd definitely recommend this to the beginner, though it may be a bit basic for those with more advanced sewing skills.


One of the best aspects of the book is the range of projects; bags, toys, organisers, clothes for children, adults, even projects for pets. It makes me feel better about having purchased a sewing book if I can quickly make something wearable from it, rather than just read it: better value for money!

Picture from the book.  Edges bound with bias.
My version - lined, rather than bound.

This is a fun lined little newborn jacket.  Though I think the sizing is a bit off. I gave it to my friend's 4-week old daughter and I honestly don't think it will fit her for months!


It's cute, though. I love the fabric, you may recognise it from my little girl's strawberry pinafore. I get huge satisfaction from using up every last scrap of  fabric.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Finished dress and party

Wahoo, I finished everything on time! The "Dress" and Stu's costume finished with hours to go before the party.


We had a great time. Thank you to everyone for their encouraging words, they spurred me on no end. And I am so happy with my dress,

I also thought Stuart looked great as Mr Darcy! His costume was easy to put together ultimately. I cropped his jacket to give a regency look.


The raw edges were simply encased in bias binding, and the cut out shapes turned upside down to be added to the back of the jacket, creating tails! Nice and easy.


The trousers I cropped, taking in the side-seams to narrow the leg. I then used a drawstring at the new hem-length to gather them in under the knee. I thought he looked fabulous: very sexy!!!  The best bit was the crotch bib which I made with that fabric cut off from the leg.  His "flap" got lots of laughs on the night, though it did make going to the loo somewhat hard work!

Some friends made their costumes too, whilst others hired; but everyone made a real effort - about 80 revellers were present, all dressed up to the nines. Fabulous.


My friend Rachel made these costumes, I know she reads my blog, so I'm hoping she'll not mind being featured; who knows, maybe she'll catch the dressmaking bug too!

Going to leave you with a few pictures of my dress, as I'm just so thrilled with it...




The best thing about making your own made to measure dress? I was the comfiest I have ever been at a big do. Often at weddings or big parties, you buy a lovely ready-to-wear dress, but spend the whole night fiddling with the thing. I felt fantastic wearing this, like a princess!

But, I can't wait to sew something normal now.  So, what next?

Monday, 2 February 2015

Argh! Less than a week to go.

The party is on Saturday. This house is costumes a go go!


My dress is almost finished, although it still needs to be hemmed. Hopefully, this won't take too long.


I'm rather pleased with it: I like the way the white shows through the teal.


The back of the dresses are closed with a drawstring ribbon. I hope they don't come undone on the night!  I may put some hooks and eyes in too.


But even though the end is in sight on my dress, I only started on darling husband's costume today.  Argh! Only 5 days to go.  But I have at least got my ideas sorted.


I have brought a suit from a charity shop for £7.59, and the plan is to hack it about so my hubbie looks like a dashing beau. But first he needs a waistcoat.


I have cut up a old cushion cover and a pillow case to create a this. It's unlined and not finished yet, but you get the idea. These waistcoats often had high collars to showcase their swanky cravats.


I had no pattern; I just folded fabric and pinned until it worked.  If only the cushion had been larger, the collar could have been higher. But never mind - it will do.


Tomorrow, I hope to finish this waistcoat and add some beautiful buttons to it.


Bed-time now!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Progress on the Regency Dress

I have no experience in pattern drafting: enter the 'making it up as you go along' dress.


I literally drew a bodice shape, then held it up to my body to check that the neckline was where I wanted it to be, re- drawing it until I had the right shape.  Next up, I made a quick draft version of the bodice.  This showed me the final version would need to be longer in length, and with additional length in the straps.


The fabric I am using for both this draft version and the main under-dress is simply some very old bed linen.  It is old, beautifully thick and crisp at the edges, but soft, thread-bare, and holey in the middle.  The  gathers didn't work too well in this thick fabric, so I've decided to make the under-dress smooth with darts and leave the gathering for the thinner more drapey lace over-layer. 


For the skirt, I cut the fabric in a vague A-line shape, the waist matching the bodice's dimensions at the front, as regency dresses were mainly flat fronted, with gathers or pleats at the back. I cut the back skirts just over a hand's width wider than the back bodice to allow for pleats.


You'll notice there are no zips or buttonholes at the back.  Instead, the dress will be closed traditionally with a drawstring at the neckline, and another at the waist. The rest of the dress remains open. The drawstring is done by creating a channel with self fabric; this also serves to cover all raw edges!


You can just about make out the pleats at the back.  Though white on white is hard to see!


Next, I am attempting to create pleats at the bust with the lace. I had no idea how to do this; so, with the fabric on my mannequin, I pinned it to how I wanted it to look, and then basted the fabric in place.


The lace is a simple dobby-spot design; this design of fabric is Regency accurate.  My fabric is a cheapo poly though, but I like it and think the teal colour is fun.


So that's as far as I've got to date. I now need to draft some little sleeves, and sew all of the overdress together. I have just under two weeks left to go!  I also have to find time to cobble an outfit together for darling husband. Fingers crossed that it all comes together!  

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Next steps, project ball gown!

So what have I learnt about regency fashion? Actually, rather a lot in a short period of time. First of all, they didn't have knickers!

These are regency "drawers", basically two tubes of fabric held together at the waist with a bit of string. Sod that! You can be too accurate: I shall be wearing knickers, and avoiding any risk of cold breezes up the bum!

Regency women were lucky not to have their body shape contorted by waist pinching corsets, such as the early Georgians and later the Victorians wore:

Victorian corsets change the shape of the body using whale bone, metal clasps and lacing to bind the body.
Regency short stays leave the rest of the body free, and elevate the breasts.


Having limited time and not being massively committed to period accuracy, I shall substitute... a push up bra!! Similar effect, much less effort!

Next up is the chemise; in layman's terms, a full length slip. Its job was threefold; first, to provide opacity, so that you couldn't see through the thin muslin dresses.



Second, to protect these exquisite dresses from sweat and body odour. The chemises can be laundered more frequently than the the delicate dresses, as they are made of sturdier fabric.

This picture is from the fabulous blog Before the Automobile.
The third function was to cover the nipples so that the bosoms, pushed up as they are by the stays, don't shoot out of the dress and flash everyone during dancing etc.

I'm going to make a full length chemise with a see through lace dress over the top.

This is a modern recreation for sale in an etsy shop here for  just over £200.

These two pictures are my inspiration dresses, both very low cut, and short sleeved. Long sleeves were for day wear apparently! Poor freezing Regency Ladies; many women unsurprisingly got pneumonia wearing such thin gowns.
Period dress from 1809 owned by Empress Josephine.

The dresses both feature a solid colour underneath with delicate white-work lace on top. So this is the aim; now I just have to draft an approximation of the designs! I think I might have my dress the other way around - a white under-layer and a coloured lace on top.

Really beginning to enjoy this now...