This is my second version of the By Hand London Alix Dress. The first was a test version that I didn’t get round to blogging but in any case this one is way better!
Alix is such a great design. Echoes of the 70s and of the 40s even, with its flattering midriff and gathered bustline. Incidentally, the first version I pattern tested had box pleats at the bust line which didn’t work for me so the gathered option is way better.
I love the full sleeves, made possible by the shoulder pleat and the elasticated wrists. Pays to be a bit generous with the elastic though. The first one I made pretty much turned my hands blue!
Another plus for this dress is that there are no fussy closures. No zips, no hook and eyes, no buttons… nada! Just a lovely long sash to tie as tight or as loose as you like. The neckline is perfectly wide enough to get over even my moon head and theres a pleat at the back to balance out the fullness of the front.
And no lining! Just good old serged seams. Which works fabulously for this poly viscose tartan. I have been meaning to use Black Watch variety for some time, since I made my BHL Sabrina dress back in 2014. I loved how it made a contrast against the Royal Stewart tartan but still remain nervous that someone will shoot me down for mixing of the clans!
I’ve been wearing this to work – a lot – and it is perfectly comfortable to wear sitting down, standing up, running for the bus and climbing stairs. And its a no brainer for getting ready in the morning. Cue plenty dernier tights and a trusty pair of Doc Martens!
Mostly I sew from patterns. Vintage ones, Burda ones, any of the big-four, independent ones, any that take my fancy, really. But when it came to finding a pattern befit of a significant birthday party dress, I was stumped. I searched through the hundreds I owned, I trawled through plenty more online and still I didn’t come up trumps until a visit to the hairdressers presented this beauty in one of their glossy mags.
Who was I kidding?! But a girl can dream right?!
With a couple of months to go and so many people asking what I was going to wear, the pressure was on and almost too much to bear. I even considered RTW as a get out clause! But following more procrastination and now only 6 weeks to go, cool words of advice from Sally of Charity Shop Chic, put me back on track and sold it to me as a simple circle puffball attached to a bodice of choice.
I just needed a prompt, a bit of pressure and some added faith, obviously!
With all that poompf in the skirt section going on, the quest was for a simple bodice. One I could toile and fit with not much time on my hands. It also had to fit in with a busy work load leading up to Christmas, and be sewn in the the evenings so black was totally out of the question too!
I remember ear-marking this vintage Weldons pattern as a potential party dress some time back and when I rifled through my patterns for the umpteenth time, it shouted out all the reasons it should be chosen. Simple to fit, no sleeves to insert, flattering neckline, small amount of fabric required and a perfect yoke for a string of cockerel feathers!
The small amount of fabric issue was quite an issue at this point as I’d already decided that silk was the only way forward. The only way I was going to get a classy, crumpled look and not just wind up looking like a discarded crisp packet!
The skirt section is a greedy full circle with an added 16 inches around the waist to accommodate 4 box pleats: Two at the front and two at the back. The full hem is then gathered onto an a-line, mini underskirt which I self-drafted by closing the waist darts on a self-drafted skirt block, and adding a little flare. Both are attached to the waist seam.
The wonderful Sew Busy Lizzy gifted me the polka-dot taffeta some time back. I love that it found a special use. Not so shiny that it caused static, strong enough to support all that silk whilst adding a cheeky secret air of Moulin Rouge!
Having toiled the whole thing in calico beforehand, it transpired I needed 5 metres of dupion silk. Pricey at £25 a metre if one shops in Broadwick Street, London. But £12 if you’re lucky, in Goldhawk Road. I say lucky because I pretty much went in all the shops to get the right colour – a two-tone black & red. And the last one I tried had not only the best colour but offered the best price too.
For all my fretting, Sally was absolutely right of course. It really didn’t take long to sew. The indecision and worrying took way longer! And fears about working with silk were laughed off when I made the first cut. Literally like cutting into butter. And it behaved and sewed up brilliantly.
And so the finished article partied hard to the band and the DJ with a hall full of amazing family and friends. It went way too quickly though, and I so wish I could press replay so I could get round to spending more time with everyone who came. But I guess thats the downside of hosting ones own!
Mr O aka Daniel Selway took these amazing shots for me this morning. Nothing wrong with a party shot but lets just say there’s a definite improvement of photographic quality in the sober light of day!
Happy new year to you all. Wishing you a peaceful, healthy, and joyous 2017 xxx
Nothing ground-breaking to see here, save a self-drafted mini skirt in gold quilted fabric!
I’ve been wearing my black quilted skirt to death, lately so I thought I’d better make another in case my work colleagues think I’m a dirty stop-out!
In fact I’ve been wearing this one on a regular basis now so it may be time for a third!
I made it a while back and completely forgot to blog it. Or rather missed every small good-weather-window to photograph it. So an indoor remote shoot it was. And I’m so going to get into trouble for ‘trespassing’ in LMO’s bedroom! Those pink walls are a complete giveaway!
I used the same process as last time, namely a shortened version of a self-drafted pencil skirt pattern; added a facing of black cotton twill, this time and an invisible zip.
The hem is hand stitched this time. Mainly because the backing is a woven black affair and easy to pick up on a couple of threads for the sake of invisibility.
It seems I’m in good company with my choice of gold quilting. Have you seen Karen’s (Didyoumakethat) metallic tunic dress? I just love how something simple can literally shine with a crazy fabric!
I also find it amazing that as the months get colder, my hemlines get shorter! Anyone else find the same?
Welcome to the world, baby Lucas – our new gorgeous nephew!
I got a sneak preview of the nursery before he was born so I already knew the colour scheme. And he has cool rock ‘n’ roll parents so skull and crossbones were totally acceptable!
I attached the letters with double-sided bondaweb as I did before on Maddie and Charlie’s bunting but this time, instead of using the appliqué stitch, I used a regular straight stitch, quite close to the edge, to secure the letters in black. Appliqué stitch on my machine is slow and unless its visible – in a slightly or fully contrasting colour – there’s not much need to waste time or thread!
There was a slight contrast issue with the letters against the background fabrics. So I sewed another line of white stitching around the letters to make them stand out more.
Lucas with his mum and dad, live across the waters in the sunnier climes of Florida (not jealous, much!) and so I was delighted to receive this picture of the bunting in situ, not long after posting the parcel.
Fancy that. My handiwork travelling all that way to hang in an American nursery! And incidentally, no longer bearing the name ‘bunting’. It’s now called a banner! Bunting in the US is more akin to a baby’s snowsuit. Interesting to compare the search results for ‘bunting’ on Amazon.com v Amazon.co.uk! Learn something new everyday!
I get so resentful when I don’t get any sewing time. And I don’t sport a good grumpy look either. So with back-to-back work deadlines this month, I needed to find a little sewing project that I could tap into in between marathon stints in front of the screen to retain balance and sanity… for everyone concerned!
#sewdots was brought to my attention on Instagram. Instigated by the brilliant Rosie of DIY Couture and writer of No Patterns Needed. She also works for the RNIB – Royal National Institute for the Blind – where she learned about their campaign that runs every October called Wear Dots Raise Lots. It highlights the impact of Braille and raises money for their services. It encourages the wearing of dots to raise awareness, encouraging people to hold dotty parties, or coordinate with colleagues and pick a ‘wear dots’ day for the office.
So Rosie has upped the ante to encourage the sewing of dots too!
The idea was to use fabric from stash and donate what you would have spent via the JustGiving page she has set up. Simples!
This was all shaping up nicely. I had two pieces of coordinating red and white polkadot fabric. And I had a Tilly and the Buttons Fifi pyjama pattern on my to do list. A pattern that needs little space to cut out and can certainly be achieved in manageable chunks of sewing time.
The Shorts took 40 mins, including cutting out time. And including unpicking my first elastic attachment!
The camisole happened a week later… over 3 days: The cutting and stay stitching in one shift, the main body sections sewn together in another, and the binding made and sewn on before work one morning. I sewed on the bow and attached the back straps just now!
But I’m sure if you had dedicated and uninterrupted sewing time, you could easily rustle this set up in a couple of hours.
This is such a neat and gratifying garment to make. all the seams are ‘Frenched’ and it’s as neat inside as it is out. It really doesn’t need much fabric and if you are lucky enough to have coordinating scraps, the design possibilities are endless.
And to boot, I have a lovely set of PJs at last! It appears I’ve made them for everyone in the household except me. I know they are slightly out of season but I really don’t care. I’m going to make more.
Theres still days left this month if you’d like to participate. There’s some great prizes up for grabs too!
Doesn’t have to be a garment of course. Could be a much smaller project still, like a sleep mask or a headband or a scarf!
I can totally assure you that sewing and giving is a great self-indulgent, feel-good combo too. Good work Rosie!
I was delighted when Tilly asked me if I’d like to test this pattern. I was excited by just the line drawing alone. All I could see was piping and matching buttons and I didn’t falter when the pattern arrived.
I won’t go into construction details, mostly because so many weeks have passed, I’ve quite forgotten them, but also I think it only fair to do that with a tried and tested one.
That said, I love it and its had so many outings already. The legs are still bare, making the most of this warm September, but I have another styled vision of red tights and black patent DMs for the colder months ahead!
I love the 3/4 rolled up sleeves with the tab. It adds such a lovely detail. I’m always doing stuff and sometimes a full length sleeve just irritates me and feels so restrictive. Rolled sleeves makes me feel like I mean business even if I actually don’t!
I’m pretty sure I jumped at this pattern after making Mr O a few vintage western shirts (See two of them here and here). And I’m pretty sure the only shirt I’ve ever made myself – with a proper collar – is my 50s bowling shirt.
So I was due one. Even if it’s actually a dress! It still has that lovely vintage front and back yoke that I adore.
I used a cheap washed out denim from A-One fabrics in the Goldhawk Road. Was a bit worried about the thickness, with piping sandwiched in the seams, but it worked just fine. Incidentally, the only piping I managed to get my hands on is upholstery piping for sure. It’s not dainty in the least. But hey I wanted statement red piping and I got it!
I apologise to anyone with a phobia of wrinkled clothing. I do have an iron – honest, guvs! But denim is just one of those tricksy fabrics I guess and in any case there is no official term for such phobia so I might just get away with it!
I actually sewed down the pockets, whilst sewing on the buttons (intentionally of course ;-)) to save me putting anything in them. Which I obviously would if they were functional. This will ultimately limit unnecessary boob distortion and minimize wrinkle action.
Another thing I really like about this pattern is the in-outness of the waist to hip. Such a lovely shape. And really helpful when one’s waistline is increasingly difficult to define!
I should really declare that I took these shots myself. Not the usual quality delivered by Mr O, because he is away, gigging with his new band. It isn’t my favourite thing to do at all but needs must when your children declare they have better things to do, like walking someone else’s dog or doing Latin homework. Yeah, right!
Happy weekend everyone. Hope you get some sewing in! xxx
I needed a dress for a wedding. Not just any old wedding but a beautiful Indian wedding where I couldn’t hope to compete with the finery of silks and saris. No pressure, then! I rifled through every kind of fabric and bored all the Goldhawk Road shop owners senseless with my dilemma, during the weeks leading up to the big day.
I diligently visited a roll of paisley brocade in A-One Fabrics, three days on the trot, properly umming and arrring out loud. But it wasn’t quite right. I ordered some gorgeous cotton satin roseprint from Minerva thinking … actually who knows what I was thinking. It was all wrong until I spied a roll of drapey green fabric at the back of the shop. 100% polyester it transpires. My inner snob rose to the fore but I bashed it back down when I handled the weight and the smooth silky texture and noted the lack of crease when I screwed it into a ball. And oh the colour! Not to mention the price tag of £4.00 a metre. I wasn’t arguing at all!
I was sold on the waist and hip detail, the softly gathered side fronts that fall from the hip and that cheeky little key hole detail with the bow tie feature.
Incidentally the bow tie itself is some vintage liberty homemade bias binding that I inherited.
I made a quick bodice toile in the original size, half knowing it was too small, but wanting to test the pattern without sleeves. Inevitably I changed my mind and graded the pattern up a size. Redrawing the pattern allowed me to add the seam allowance on too. Something this pattern didn’t allow for which also shows it’s age a bit, I think.
I’m quite used to vintage patterns without markings or seam allowances but one thing that struck me as a bit odd with this one, was an instruction to “Make darts in the back bodice where shown by dotted lines in diagram”. Quite literally the diagram which is the tiny pattern layout illustration on the back of the packet. So it’s anyone’s guess, really!
Inserting the gathered panels into that front skirt panel was a bit tricky but quilting skills have taught me how to clip and pivot at a point, so it wasn’t too terrifying. Again, the instructions are loose: “Gather upper edge of side fronts to fit hip yoke of front as in sketch and stitch together matching VV to VV.” Simples, lol!
I’m pretty pleased with the outcome. And it worked well for a wedding where colour was the order of the day. But there are niggles: I forgot to add seam allowance to the sleeves which actually doesn’t appear to make much difference but I did sew them on back to front! How much difference that makes will show in the next version which I’d like to make soon while it’s all fresh in my head; The waistline could do with a bit of ease. I like how it’s nipped in but it’s not that comfortable! And although the fabric is nice and drapey, I’d like to try it in a lawn or a lightweight cotton so that the neckline and the darts press sharper. I also neglected to do my usual adjustment to take out the excess fabric from the back bodice. I cheated instead by removing the zip and trimming the centre back seam… not very well!
Considering I pretty much sewed this up the day before and was hemming on the morning of the wedding, I think it turned out pretty well. The niggles can so easily be sorted next time round. And to get change from a tenner is such the ‘Brucey bonus’ that I feel it prudent to reward myself with some lovely lawn!
I don’t have any of the official pictures from the day to share as yet but I’m sure you can imagine how stunning all the ladies looked, as did the men in their exquisite flocked and braided coats. I can’t begin to tell you how gorgeous my friend the bride looked. But I did shed actual tears – in a good way – when she walked into the room. Such an honour to have been invited to such a special day. And I’m so glad I went to the bother of making a dress, especially.
Photos by the wonderful Daniel Selway. Location: St Pauls, London Shoes: Lola Ramona Handbag: vintage from local Fara Charity Shop
When I’m busy at work, it’s so tricky to find sewing time or the energy sew when I get home! But it’s imperative that I fit some in at least, or I start to feel resentful about my day job and that’s a bit pointless because, hey… I need to pay the bills so I can at the very least keep a roof over my sewing table!
And so bunting was last week’s fix. One for baby Maddie and the other for her big brother, Charlie:
Bunting in itself isn’t very taxing to make: With right sides together, I sew the two diagonal sides of each triangle set, leaving the top edge open for turning; trim, turn right-sides out, and press. Once I have as many as I need, I pin and sew to a length of bias binding, allowing enough for ties at the ends.
But in order to personalise ones bunting it pays to have some double sided Bondaweb to hand. And do not sew the triangles together until you’ve appliquéd the letters.
I traced the individual letters from a printout onto the peel-off paper side of the Bondaweb – making sure the letters were first reversed. If you don’t do this the letters will read back to front!
I then ironed the tacky side to the reverse side of the fabric and cut out the letter shapes. You can then peel off the backing and iron the letter to the front side of the bunting to keep the letter shapes perfectly in position as you sew them on.
I happen to have a cool appliqué stitch on my sewing machine but a zigzag stitch is perfectly good enough. Just keep it nice and slow and pivot around any corners and curves.
It’s also a good idea to tack the open top edges together before you pin and sew to the bias binding strip. Just keeps them nicely in position and stops any pesky puckers!
I find it strangely satisfying to have a pile of appliquéd bunting triangles on my table and admit to just sitting and admiring before I launch into attaching the bias binding!
I just love browsing for fabrics that coordinate together. And if you happen to love them it makes sewing the bunting so much more satisfying. But it does make the giving-away part of it more difficult. Lucky it is personalised!
So there you go. The joys of bunting. A mood-boosting, sewing fix of a lovely gift. What’s not to love?!
How do you cope when you are short on sewing time? Do you just accept the break or do you find smaller fixes too?
I have just recently returned from the most exciting and inspiring 4 days away at the most amazing festival, ever – The Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall, UK.
Lucky old me was asked to join the Pencil Team to fuel the 80s theme and bash out some rara skirts for lots of festival goers who would then participate in the fashion show finale at the end of the week. It all seemed a little bit daunting at first, not least of all because raras aren’t the quickest things to whip up and with minimal resources and in a tent!
But we did have leccy and we did have good fabric. Boy did we have a substantial stash! Sponsored by Chloe no less. No expense spared for our budding fashionistas!
So the afternoon before the first session we arrived at a prototype. For Paul! A willing and most encouraging volunteer who was delighted to be my model and first happy customer!
The order of the day was raw and ready! Overlockers didn’t get a look in and hey, who needs a hem anyway?! We had 2 shifts a day–one for each rara–at the very least, times 7 sewists: 4 fashion students from the Glasgow Clyde college; 1 amazing consultant stylist; one very wonderful experienced seamstress/mother/grandma to everyone… and me!
To emphasise the ‘raw’, we barely used scissors, save to snip the ends of the fabric before ripping near-as-dammit lengths for main skirt and flounce sections. I accounted for double waist measurement for the width and measured just above the knee for length. The measurements for the layers were guessed… and hoped!
So we started flat, gathering the flounces from bottom to top. But not a gathering thread in sight. Way too much faffing! We just pinched and manipulated those strips under foot and zigzagged into position, covering each layer of stitching with the next flounce above.
When sufficient layering was complete, we stretched and sewed the waist elastic (measured comfortably stretched against the body) to the top edge of the skirt using a wide zigzag stitch – making a casing was taking too much time. If there was any excess fabric beyond the end of the elastic, it was simply trimmed off. Then there was just one back seam to stitch up.
Each skirt took about an hour and a half on the whole, including a lot of chatting and demonstrating and getting the children to have a go. Some were willing. Some were quite happy to sit and chat and have a bespoke skirt made before their very eyes. I know I would be!
Little Miss O was in charge of printing the designer labels!
Every customer had their own ideas. How many flounces, what fabric combo and whether or not there were additional ribbons and bows. In fact it seemed the younger the customer the more determined they were to inject their own creativity. However much we tried to push the gold mesh it often got declined! They wanted pinks and blues and yellows. And oh the relief when only one frill was requested!
I can, hand on heart, say that the most amazing music to my ears was hearing that most of the pre-teen children I sat with knew how, or regularly operated a sewing machine. Mostly of their own! How refreshing is that. No surprise that it wasn’t from the teaching of schools or after-school clubs, but by the willingness of their fabulous grandmas. It really was so encouraging to hear. Sewing isn’t disappearing anytime soon, fellow sewingistas! There are grannies out there championing this all-important and special skill that so needs to be nurtured and that makes me sooooo happy.
These twin sisters were a prime example. They love making their own dolls clothes and hope to make their own clothes one day. Fashion student, Megan made the skirt on the left and I made the one on the right, independently, guided by each allocated twin.
And the results were fascinatingly, coordinated!
The sewing sessions were fast and furious but no less creative and fun. So much so that immediately after each one we stayed behind when everyone had left to make use of the fabric and whip up our own outfits.
It was such a delight to meet these Scottish student beauties. So much energy and passion for sewing and fashion. And so much fun to have around.
Whilst rara skirts flew off the sewing machines at one end of the tent, hand-painted slogan T-shirts were being pegged up at a rate of knots! A massive resurgence of 80s brilliance.
And then, when the last session finished, and the chilled dandelion and burdock tins where handed out (ok, so maybe there was an odd swig of the strong stuff!) then it was time for the fashion show. Paints were cleared, and in their place, a spray of silk flowers were jiggled into a jug, and the models were prepped by Jenny, Ruler of Pencil!
Just check out these amazing head-dresses made at one of Piers Atkinsons workshops! The single only downer for working at the festival was that I didn’t get to make one due to clashing of classes!
They were all so excited. rehearsing their moves: A flick of the hair, crossed arms, over the shoulder attitude, pouts galore, working those raras and T’s!
Hay bales outlined the catwalk and the music began. It was simply brilliant!
I felt a wave of emotion once the children danced off. And moreso when one came back to hug me and thank me and tell me it was her most favourite skirt in the whole world. I properly cried!
But moods surged the next day whilst taking photos at the Rubbish Olympics. Another amazing concept drummed up by Jenny! Human dressage, Egg and spoon race without said egg and spoon, pencil tossing, Zoolander musical statues and more. Quite difficult to photograph when you are splitting your sides laughing but here is one of my faves. They were ‘Best in Show’ of course!
Such a glorious place, such amazing creative people, such talents and inspiration. Port Eliot is such a magical place. I truly hope it returns next year. And I think you should all come too.
This is my new half circle skirt. Self-drafted and made in a cobalt blue poly crepe.
Sounds pretty simple hey? Well to be honest, in principle it was. And it would have been a swifty project if I’d have remembered a couple of simple things.
ALWAYS MARK YOUR SELF-DRAFTED PATTERN PIECES AS SOON AS YOU’VE DRAWN THEM
Why? Well in my case, I have a fair few circle and half-circle skirt pieces that I’ve not only drafted for myself, but for others too. And in my haste I’d just labelled them ‘skirt front’ or ‘full circle’ and one just said ‘circle skirt piece no SA’. The latter was helpful, at least to know that I needed to add a seam allowance but none were any help at all to know if it was the right waist measurement, the right length, a full or half circle etc. What a twit!
So first job was to redraft another, to my size. And second job was to ensure all that info was written bold and clear on the pattern piece for future use.
I’d already prewashed my fabric, so that was a win. The number of times I’ve been fired up to sew and didn’t have prepared fabric to hand is way too many to count. But swifty projects aren’t very swifty at all if you haven’t factored in to…
ALLOW A CIRCLE SKIRT TO HANG AT LEAST OVERNIGHT BEFORE HEMMING
Sewing a circle or half circle really doesn’t take that long but don’t bank on whipping one up, hours before a party because it has to hang at least overnight to allow the weight of the bias fabric to drop. This will almost definitely result in an uneven hem and will need levelling before hemming. I put mine on a dressmakers dummy but I’m sure if it was hung evenly on a pegged coathanger, you would achieve the same result.
So next there’s the levelling. I put the dressmakers dummy, wearing the skirt, on a table so that the hem is at eye-level. I use a metal rule from table top to my desired length and then mark all round with chalk or pins, rotating the whole dummy rather than spinning it (that’s another long story). I then go round a 2nd time to double check the measurements.
Once trimmed I sewed a quarter inch line of stitches from the edge and pressed up a hem. I stitched and in this case didn’t need to turn over again. But that might be necessary if fabric is more fraying.
The lining of course needs the same treatment.
I rarely hate on any aspect of sewing, but I discovered this morning that I truly hate levelling, trimming and narrow-hemming lining fabric for a circle skirt, like massively!
It appears I’ve only made one other half circle skirt before, but it was so long ago, it’s well and truly worn out! So as much as I love this colour blue – quite unusual for me actually, don’t you think?! – I feel I must make a replacement black one too. And maybe a red as well!
I must at this point just big up my 12 year-old daughter who took these lovely photos for me. It was a very impromtu shoot as I was doing some shots of my eldest daughter who was face-painting in the park. Little Miss O brought her own camera along for some practice and certainly did me proud. Look out dad, someone’s hot on your heels!