Who’s afraid of the big, bad dress?

It wasn’t all smooth running, but I did it – I made a dress!  A dress that actually fits, somehow.  I’m super pleased with myself.

I decided not to bother with pattern matching for this one because it’s a very higgledy piggledy print, and also because the dress had the added complications of darts and curved side seams.

I made the Megan dress from Love at First Stitch, by Tilly Walnes, off of Tilly and the Buttons.

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I’m a tad obsessed with this book at the moment – I think my next project will be a Tilly pattern as well, making it my third in a row.  I’m well on my way to an entire Tilly-fied wardrobe.

Here are some more pictures of my Megan, from a rather hysterical (and windy and dangerous) ‘photo shoot’ with my sister.

We have exciting times coming up.  We start our continuation course at Sunderland College this month, in which we should learn everything we need to know to make a pair of trousers.  I’ve chosen these Sailor Style Pants from Burda.

What craftiness are you getting up to at the moment?

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Does my bust look big in this?

Being far from a standard dress size, I knew I would have sizing issues with my latest project.  I happened to buy extra fabric for this, so rather than making a proper toile, I’ve risked making one out of the spare material I already had.  This way, if the toile fits, I won’t have to make another one – bonus!

After taking my measurements and deciding which size to cut I got to have a go at tracing – fun and easier than expected.  I just traced the top half of the dress because I was using see-through paper.  I used a tracing wheel (exciting!) and a roll of brown paper for the bottom half, which worked surprisingly well.  The little spikes on the tracing wheel don’t look like they’re up for much but they really do their job.  So make sure to put a protective layer over anything valuable, like your antique dining room table or wooden floor, before using a tracing wheel!

Once pinned, the pieces gaped at the back of my neck and were far too big around my waist, but fit perfectly around my bust.  No surprises there.  At least my measurements were accurate.

So, I cut my fabric pieces and we set to work at resizing them, pinning the side seams and changing the darts, so that everything pinched in more at the waist.  I say ‘we’, but I mean Danielle – she was the one doing all the hard work.  I just stood there, really.

We had to ditch the pattern a bit, to be honest.  The top half was so different by the time we were done, that we just had to ‘make it fit’ the bottom half somehow – I can’t even remember how it happened!

By the way, don’t you just love the fabric?  Sadly, I have no idea who makes it because this was an eBay find – I just liked the print so much, I had to buy it right away.  If you do some searches for ‘Red Riding Hood fabric’, there are so many lovely designs.  I think this one is a cotton blend, but I can’t be sure.

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I’m hoping to finish my dress at next week’s sewing bee, so stay tuned for picture of the finished garment!

A spot of knitting

I’ve taken a bit of a break from sewing recently, partly because the dress I’m making is turning out to be a bit of a brain ache (and I’m absolutely incapable of continuing at home without Dan’s help!), and partly because I wanted to knit a baby blanket for my friends, Amy and Garry, who will be welcoming a baby boy over the next few weeks.  😀

I went for a very simple blanket (sometimes simple is best!), based on a baby blanket I had seen in the TV programme Once Upon a Time (Emma’s baby blanket).  I used a diagonal garter stitch, adding a stitch to each row as I went to make a square blanket.  I made the pattern up myself, which sounds very impressive until you realise how easy it is.  I used super chunky wool on 10mm needles, and ended up with 99 stitches before I started to decrease, but you could easily use a different weight of yarn and change your needle size accordingly.

The pictures aren’t great, I’m afraid.  They were taken in a mad rush on my mobile phone’s camera.

The pattern goes as follows:

Cast on 5 stitches

Row 1 – Knit 2, yarn over, knit to end

Repeat row 1 until you want to start decreasing

Next row – Knit 1, slip slip knit, yarn over, slip slip knit, knit to end

Repeat until you have 5 stitches

Cast off.

See?  Easy!  The yarn overs create holes, which you can then thread your ribbon through after you’ve finished knitting.  You can use whatever colours of ribbon or yarn you want.

I also have a jumper on the go, a pattern from Rowan’s Vintage Knits, which I got years ago.  This book has so many gorgeous patterns in it, I just want to knit them all.

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This one will be well worth it when it’s finished, but it’s fiddly and Rowan Kidsilk Haze isn’t that easy to knit with.  I will keep you posted, but it may well take me a year to finish it!

Finished!

Finished!  Look at my lovely new skirt 🙂

I made this skirt following the Picnic Blanket Skirt tutorial on Tilly and the Buttons.  It comes in three parts: one, two, and three.  The tutorials are great – everything is explained really well so you can just get on with the project.  And, thank goodness, Tilly had worked out the mathematical formula, so I didn’t have to!

I did do a couple of things differently.  I changed the method for gathering, as my fabric was quite thick (see here), and I attached my waistband in one piece rather than sewing two pieces together (more out of laziness than for any other reason).

I do have a confession to make.  My buttons are not actually functional.  In the end, I left them on purely for show.  I discovered that I would need to sew my button holes over the inside line of stitching on my placket in order to make my pattern match up.  Not only did I worry the this would ruin the look of the skirt, but I also would have had to cut through that line of stitching, and the last thing I wanted was for the whole thing to unravel on me!  So, Dan suggested that I just sew the buttons on for effect.  The bottom four buttons are sewn onto both layers of the placket, and the top three are sewn through just the front.  I’ve added a hook and bar underneath the button on the waistband and some snap fasteners underneath the next two buttons, so I can just step in and out of my skirt.  My pattern matches quite well, and I’m really pleased with how the skirt has turned out.

And it’s perfect for a kick-about in the garden with your nephew, apparently…

I like that I’m learning to adapt patterns if I want or need to as I go.  My next project is a dress (another Tilly pattern, I’ve become slightly obsessed with Tilly), which I know will need adapting a lot, so the more practice I get in the better.  In the wise words of Monty Python, “Adopt, adapt and improve.”  (“Just a pair of knickers then, please.”  Ooh, I can’t wait to make some knickers!)

A glutton for buttons

Whilst visiting family this weekend, I was presented with a large biscuit tin filled to the brim with buttons and told to help myself to whatever I wanted!  How exciting is that?  I mean, everyone loves buttons, right? *

Of course, I was straight in there, tipping the contents out, rummaging, sorting, squirrelling.  I commandeered the dining room table for a good couple of hours.

I managed to restrain myself quite well and only came away with a small selection for myself.  I’m really pleased with my haul, and can’t wait to upcycle my new old buttons and put to use once more!  I came away with entire sets of some buttons.  Some of them are probably old enough to be called ‘vintage’.  Just look at how beautiful some of them are!

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I certainly know where to go first whenever I need buttons.

Ooh, and while we’re talking of buttons, did I ever show off the cute anchor buttons on my Madeleine skirt?

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I got them from Textile Garden, who stock every button you could ever dream of.  It’s the little details like this that make sewing so fun!

* Actually, I know that to be wrong.  I have a friend who is scared of buttons, and apparently she’s not alone in suffering this tragic affliction!  Can you imagine?  My research tells me that if you have a fear of buttons, you have – prepare yourselves, now – koumpounophobia.  Rumour has it that Steve Jobs’ fear of buttons was so severe that it led to the invention of the small object we now call the iPhone (other smartphones are available!).  Don’t believe me?   Look it up and amaze yourselves.  😀

Gathering

Another new technique for me – gathering.  There are lots of ways to gather, but I’ll just tell you about the two methods I tried.

I started out using the method described in the skirt pattern (let’s call this the power of three method), but I definitely need to get some more practice in.  The idea is to set your stitch length to its longest setting and stitch three parallel lines quite close together along the edge of the fabric (the edge that you’re trying to gather, obviously.  Then you can pull the three threads from one side and slide the fabric along to create the gathering.  At least, that’s what is supposed to happen.

I forgot to get photos of my four (yes, four!) disastrous attempts at this method, but my threads just kept snapping and I kept losing all of my gathering.  How frustrating.  After hours of stressing over my machine, I turned to the Internet to find some video tutorials.

And Bingo!  I found a technique that worked for me.  The idea behind this method is to find a bit of topstitching thread in a contrast colour (or you could use embroidery cotton, or cord of some kind) and zigzag stitch either side of it, making sure not to catch any of topstitching thread in the process.

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When you’re done, the topstitching thread slides very easily between the zigzag stitches.  You can hold onto the topstitching thread and use you other hand to slide the fabric along to create the scrunching effect you need.  I get the feeling that the zigzag method gives less control over how the gathering ends up, but it worked for me, and I’m quite happy with the result.

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Looking back, I think the power of three method is perfectly adequate for lighter fabrics.  Rachel is making the same skirt and the power of three worked fine for her, but she’s using a much lighter fabric.  Dan is also making a skirt with a gathered waist, but she had to use the zigzag method – she is using denim.

Lessons learnt:

1.   The sooner you accept that your gathering isn’t going to be perfectly distributed along your waistband the better.  You can spend ages playing with the gathers and making them perfect, pinning them onto your waistband (and I mean pinning the life out of them!) and twiddling them, but the second you run them under the sewing machine the foot moves them around a bit anyway.  Gathers aren’t supposed to be perfect – but it did absolutely nothing for the perfectionist in me.

2.   If you are gathering a long stretch of fabric, like I was, divide it into sections and gather each section separately.  It will be far easier than trying to gather the whole thing at once.

3.   Remember not to gather your placket!

Now, all I have left to do are my buttonholes and buttons.  That will only take half an hour, right?