Shirred Duvet Sundress

skirtyBehold, the final dress from my recent Makeathon!  If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll already be familiar with my propensity for wearing bedlinen (evidenced here and here) long before the recent Sewing Bee challenge!  I’ve had this single duvet cover – £2 from a charity shop – in my stash for a while, originally thinking I’d use it for a quilt backing.  It’s a reversible job, and I only liked the brown side and didn’t think there would be enough of it to make anything to wear.duvetWhen I saw this fab shirred sundress by Leila of Where The Orchids Grow though, I fancied having a go.  I thought this might be the very thing for the purple batik bought on my recent Birmingham trip, but I wanted to make a practice version first.  When I’d done my measurements, I realised I could cut the brown side of the duvet in half and match up the flowery band from the top and bottom to make a ‘border’ print.sideshot2I didn’t do too badly matching up the pattern on this side, but sadly there wasn’t enough to do the same on the other!

I’ve never done shirring before but it was easy-peasey on Cosmic Lulu.  I soon had the bodice shirred down to the recommended length, a couple of inches above the waistline.  HOWEVER… my duvet cover was made of a cotton/terylene mix, and therefore quite crisp.  When I tried the dress on, the gathered fabric stuck straight out in front of my already-quite-substantial middle, making it look like it was time to Call the Midwife!sideshotAfter much re-thinking, I decided the answer was to keep shirring the bodice until I had the gathers in a more flattering place.  I ended up with 30 lines of shirring all the way around, plus a further 4 along the front only that I tapered in at the side seams to adjust for my sway back.

I also had to make one strap 1/4″ shorter than the other on account of my sloping left shoulder, and then I still needed velcro on the insides to stop them from slipping off!  Although I am much happier with the final dress than the first version, I must admit it’s still not the most flattering shape for me and I don’t think I’ll make another.  That said, it IS a very cool, comfortable, easy dress to wear.  So I’ll definitely be taking it on my hols, just in case the sun should decide to shine.  Plus, I won’t need to take a duvet cover, haha!frontshotWishing you all a sunny weekend 🙂

Whoo-Hoo! Velvet Party fRock!

frontshot1The Mission: to make a gorgeous yet comfy-for-dancing-in dress in time to wear to my friend Jas’s spectacular Summer Solstice bash

The Goal: to use the oldest piece of fabric in my stash, a beautiful stretch velvet in stunning midnight blue, given to me by my mum some time around the last Ice Age

The Challenge:  I have never sewn velvet before, apart from a pair of cushion backs and they didn’t go well…

I had a very clear vision in my head of this dress.  I wanted a long flouncey skirt, but no gathers or elastic; and I wanted it to be a really good fit, but with plenty of room to move around in.  And, I wanted BIG sleeve flounces!  I’m talkin’ Lord of The Rings Elf- Princess sleeves.  Oh yeah.  This was going to be a Party fRock!!Since I had no pattern that met these requirements, I figured I’d start with a basic Lady Skater and add the bits I wanted.  Although I’d got the fit nearly right with the Purple Ponte version, I still had that fold-above-the-bust issue, plus I’d had to raise the neckline and it wasn’t perfect.  So I went back to Amanda’s excellent Fitting & Adjustments guide, and Lo! – there was the very problem I have with just about EVERY PATTERN, described exactly!  I needed to shorten the shoulder & upper bust height!  Result!  I can hardly beleive that my shoulders are THREE sizes down from the rest of me, and may in fact need to come down even more.  I kept the neckline as per the pattern this time but made all my other previous adjustments.  And folks, I have to say the fit is probably the best of anything I’ve made.  Except I then went and cut the bodice a bit short – argh!  Never mind.  I still love it!paisleysleevesMy original plan was to make contrasting sleeve and bottom flounces to add a bit of VaVaVoom to the plain blue.  This royal blue, paisley-etched velvet from The Textile Centre seemed the very thing.   I used the lower section of the Lady Skater skirt to draft a very full bottom flounce (with a little help from Gertie!).flouncedraft I had actually cut out the sleeve flounces and tacked one on to check the length before realising that they didn’t work at all.  The dark blue velvet was perfectly gorgeous on its own… luckily I still had plenty left to do my fabulous sleeves with… sleeveywonder…but not enough for the bottom flounce. I ended up just adding a slightly flared ‘band’ at the bottom edge instead.  And I can tell you, that sewing two curved seams together in stretch velvet is a bloomin’ NIGHTMARE!!  It just moves all over the place!  I literally had every pin I own in this seam, and it STILL wouldn’t stay put.  PAH! – if only I’d known, I could have just cut the skirt longer in the first place!!skirtshotIt’s still pretty flouncey though, and there was enough to get the length that I wanted, so all’s well that ends well.

As the dress began to come together, there was a bit of a ‘Medieval’ thing happening, so I thought I’d amp this up by using my fave decorative top stitch along the sleeve edges and neckline.  It worked beautifully on the sleeves  (below left), but as you can see when it came to the neckband (top right), it started stretching out the fabric and making it go all lumpy.  I tried it twice but it just wasn’t working, so I changed to a regular straight stitch instead and that worked fine.topstitchingWith just a few days to go til the big weekend, all was going well.  And then I came down with THE worst cold I’ve had in years.  The dress was on its hanger, waiting to be hemmed.  I was in bed, dosed up with everything the local chemist had to offer, and it was looking like I wasn’t going to make it to the party at all…backshotOn the day of the Do though, my brother helped me get myself up & out, and I DID go, though only for a few hours and mainly to sit by the bonfire.  It was a lovely evening though, despite my feeling so lousy, and as I am completely without shame I wore the dress anyway – unhemmed and uneven!

It took a couple of weeks to recover from that lurgie, and to finish the dress off properly.  It WAS a challenging make, the velvet was tricky to work and I certainly made some mistakes with my pattern mash-up.  But y’know what? – I absolutely ADORE this dress!  It fulfills all my wishes, to have something really special that’s still incredibly comfortable to wear, and that makes me feel like an Elf Princess, despite my More-Dwarf-than-Elf figure.  And oh yeah – those sleeves totally fRock!!sleevelaughWishing you all a fRocking great week 🙂

 

Purple Ponte Skater

Front1I was SO chuffed with my last Lady Skater dress success that I thought I’d make another to help me get a handle on Cosmic Lulu‘s stretch stitch functions.  Of which there are many – some of them, I’ve discovered, better suited to particular jobs than others!  But despite a shaky start, this dress has also turned out pretty good, and very wearable.Front2This is a medium-weight synthetic ponte from those lovely folk at The Textile Centre.  It was meant to be a quick sew to fill in that ‘Hmm-Spring-Still-Feels-Like-Winter-Today’ gap in my wardrobe.  HOWEVER, it nearly didn’t happen at all, as I stupidly had only ordered one metre of fabric instead of two, and by the time I realised it was GONE from TTC’s website – ARGH!  Cue, Desperate Pleading Email!  But the wonderful Jane saved the day by finding me the very last remnant – hurray!  Thanks, Jane 🙂skirtySo off I went, and soon had the hang of the triple stretch stitch.  Brilliant!  Now, what about this standard overlock stitch for my armhole seams, I thought?  Bad, BAD idea!  They went seriously wibbly.  And y’know how people say you can’t unpick overlocking? – turns out they’re right.  I had to re-sew the seams and cut away the original stitching.  Here it is just before the hacking trimming.sleevemessI pretty much stuck to using the triple stretch after that, and it all came together fine.  This ponte is a bit clingier than the jersey I used last time, but I went with exactly the same pattern alterations as before, so it wasn’t until I saw the photos of my wonderful sway-back adjustment that I realised how many VBLs (that’s Visible Bra Lines) were on show!BackYou may have noticed that this dress is in a SOLID COLOUR!  Yep, it’s true: even I have moments when a plain(ish) dress is the order of the day.  However, I couldn’t really leave it entirely plain now, could I?!  Especially when my gorgeous new machine has SO MANY stitch functions to choose from.  How about a nice bit of bright orange decorative top-stitching around the neck, hem, and cuffs?  YES please!detailmontageAnd yay – those sleeves didn’t turn out too badly after all!SleeveyWonderIt may have been a glorious evening when these pics were taken in my garden (many thanks to brother Rob for making it all look so good!), but overall it’s been a pretty chilly May here in the Marches, so I’ve had more opportunities to wear this dress than I expected this month.  I’ll admit that I don’t love it as much as the last one, but it does what I wanted of it, and I had loads of fun doing the top-stitching.

So now I’ve done a stretch jersey dress, what next?  Weeeelllll, there’s a something a bit special in my stash I’ve been saving for a long time, until I had the machine to do it….FacePullingFrontWHAT?? – VELVET?!? – You must be JOKING!!

Wishing you all a GLORIOUS weekend 🙂

Whoo-Hoo! Retrotastic Skater Dress!

imainshotYay, I MADE A DRESS!!  Not only that, I made a dress that fits and that I LOVE! This, my friends, is my very first attempt at the Lady Skater dress (by KitschyCoo patterns).  I’m sure this pattern needs no introduction as folk everywhere on the blogosphere have made it, raved about it, and rated it one of the easiest sews there is.

I’ve been wanting to have a go at this pattern for ages, especially after reading so many reports of how simple it is to fit, with no FBA needed!  My original idea was to use this fabulous 70s-inspired jersey to make a ‘wearable muslin’ version, as it was such a bargain price (ordered online from The Textile Centre) that I could live with it turning out a disaster.  funkyfabricBut when it arrived it was so soft and drapey and so very funky, that I knew I had to give it my best shot!  So I cut up a pair of old pyjama bottoms and a holey T-shirt, and made a muslin of just the bodice with cap sleeves and about 3″ of skirt.  You want to see it, don’t you??skatermuslinYes, I really did walk around my house in this…

I graded the pattern from a size 6 in the upper bodice out to an 8 at the waist.  Even at this stage, I could tell that the fit was good.  And the rumours were true – no FBA!  As you can see from the muslin, what I did do was to shorten the bodice by 2″.  I also did a sway back adjustment of 1″, following the brilliant instructions provided on the KitschyCoo website.  Honestly, this is the clearest explanation of how to do this adjustment I’ve ever found, and it turns out it’s really simple.  An inch may not sound like much, but this one really makes a difference.  How nice to have an even hemline for once!isideshotThe waistline still ended up a little wonky, but this may be to do with a certain Sewing Issue I had.  The pattern calls for clear elastic here to stablise the seam: Auntie Janis, however (my ancient Singer sewing machine), refused to co-operate with this.  Already unhappy about being forced to sew a fabric she was not designed for, the elastic got ripped out twice before I gave up and sewed it in by hand instead.  It didn’t really work so well, and it feels a bit weird on the inside, but luckily looks OK on the outside.  Speaking of outside…skirtyshotSo the only major alteration I did was to re-draft the neckline.  I do find the necklines on many patterns are just too plunging for me; showing off that little bow in the middle of your bra is never my idea of a Good Look.  I suspect I ought really to take a bit out of the upper bodice above the high bust line, but then you have to start messing about with armscye adjustments and y’know, I’m just TOO LAZY…  Besides, I liked the fit on the bodice.  So I just raised the neckline front and back, taking 4½” out of both all round (and the same out of the neckband), and I’m very pleased with the way it’s turned out.cardiflashshotIn fact, I’m TOTALLY CHUFFED with the way the whole dress has turned out!  Ooh, this is a comfy, funky, incredibly wearable dress!  I particularly love the sleeves, with their little cuffs…isleeveand the swishy skirt!iskirtshotprint matching? – That’s for Proper Dressmakers!

This dress has definitely given my sewing confidence a much-needed boost after my Year of Total Sewing Fail.  I can see myself making this pattern up again and again.  In fact I’ve already ordered some purple ponte to make a second one!  (But shhh, don’t tell Auntie J….nothing to see here…)idonttellAJWishing you all a funky retrotastic week! 🙂

Colourful plans & projects

NewHQWell HELLO and greetings from my new HQ!  Pretty smart huh?!  Despite it still being box-maze chaos, I’m happy to report that I LOVE my new place.  Especially the big bay window, letting lots of lovely light into my front room and makeshift sewing space!

Last weekend I unearthed the Simplicity dress project (abandoned the week before the move!) and eased myself back in gently by making some bias binding for the sleeves.  One day, there will be a Whoo-Hoo moment, but not before I cross the Great Plateau of The Invisible Zip.  See you on the other side…Grey&Pink Sleeve BindingMeanwhile, I’ve made a start on a second ripple blanket.  This one is for my mum, who wanted a single bed size in shades of blue.  I’ve gone for the Stylecraft Special DK as before, and although the blues are totally gorgeous, I couldn’t resist slipping in a little bit of purple (it’s called ‘Bluebell’ though, so it’s within the remit, right?).  After making my huge, double-bed sized Purple Waves blanket, these rows feel quite quick to work!BlueWavesBlanketSo there’s some colourful crafty projects going on, but I’m also planning to create something much bigger, and much more colourful, starting this year… can you guess what it is?!gardenflowersYep, I finally have MY OWN GARDEN!  For the first time in many, many years I have my own outdoor space to fill with flowers, veg, herbs and all kinds of strange and beautiful things.  I can’t WAIT to get started!  Which is all to the good, because this is what it looks like right now:GardenTodayNever let it be said that I don’t relish a challenge!  I’ll keep you posted on my progress, but if my sewing speed is anything to go by, you know this one’s going to keep me busy for a VERY long time…

How are you getting on with your spring plans & projects I wonder?  – Here’s wishing you all a very colourful, creative week! 🙂

Yes, I’m wearing a sheet

and the last time I had my photo taken in one, it had holes cut out for eyes and I was probably about seven (and there may have been a pumpkin lantern involved as well)!Sheet2

But after a bit of fiddling, I managed to sort out the fit of the sleeves on the Simplicity 2174 and I must say, I’m rather pleased.  I’m particularly happy with the fit of the skirt, I was a bit dubious about the pockets (with my tum I don’t need any extra bulk in that area!) but I think they look pretty good.  In fact I’ve grown quite attached to my ‘Charity Shop Blue’ sheet version, even though it’s only machine basted together and there are some wrinkly seams here and there.  I think you can see where…    Sheet1

So yesterday, I started working on the dress itself!  I spent hours jiggling the pattern pieces around my scanty length of fabric, but after making some sacrifices to the Goddess of Sleeves (again!),ShortSleeve I have my pieces cut out and am ready to start stitching.  I’m very excited to be finally making a dress from this fabric, I absolutely LOVE it and the contrast fabric I’ve used for the facings (which you might recognise from here) goes with it perfectly.  It’s all looking very pink in the sewing room at the moment!CuttingTimeRight, that’s enough for today, I’m off to watch the Sewing Bee prelude show now – Yay!

 

First sew of the year

For the past week I’ve been getting stuck in to making a muslin for my first sewing project of 2015, the Simplicity 2174 ‘Amazing Fit’ dress, which I’m planning to make as part of my Stashbusting Sewalong pledge.pattern&fabric

I’ve had this gorgeous piece of Jenean Morrison fabric for almost FOUR years, and always thought it wold make a fabulous smart-casual dress.  Originally I was going to go for the Colette Laurel, but shift dresses are proving a pain to fit on me since my weight gain and body-shape changes, and after two frustratingly disastrous muslins last year I gave up and the fabric went back in the stash!  It’s been there so long, I actually forgot I only had 2½ yards (WHY didn’t I buy more??), so I’m going to have to be a bit creative with my fabric layout if I want to squeeze this dress out of it!  But never fear!  I have some lovely pink remnants in my stash that I can use for the facings and pockets, haha!triallayout

Now, I’ve been reading good things about these Amazing Fit patterns over at the Curvy Sewing Collective lately, so I thought I’d give this one a go.  I must say that up until today, I was REALLY pleased with the way the fit was going.  I graded the D-sized bodice pieces from a 16 at the neck/shoulders to a 20 at the waist and have only made a few minor alterations.  I took out a small amount at the top of the side seams (so as not to repeat my Sweetheart Sundress issues!), took ½” out of the bodice length and dropped the bust apex by 3/4″.  Overall I was very happy with the fit of the bodice, and the skirt fit beautifully out of the packet, with no alterations needed – whoohoo!  I was almost beginning to think I could dispense with those pesky 1″ seam allowances when I cut the actual dress from my skimpy bit of fabric.

HOWEVER.  Today was Sleeve Day.  Oh dear.  Everything was going so well…  I always have problems with sleeves!  Too tight all round, too much gathering (which is meant to be ‘ease’) at the top, and now my amazing-fit bodice pulls across the top of the chest.  Sigh.  Tomorrow’s another day…sleevesArgh

I’m not sure I can face re-drafting and cutting another bodice for the muslin, so I’m going to try to fiddle with the seam allowances and see if I can make a bit more room in the armscye that way.  But those sleeves will have to be wider when I make the real thing!

Wish me luck 🙂  I’ll let you know how I get on soon!

 

Stashbusting Sewalong 2015 – I’m in!

Stashbusting Sewalong Challenge Button 2015.pngOkay, I KNOW I said I wouldn’t be making any New Year’s resolutions or anything like that, but when I read about EmSewCrazy’s Stashbusting Sewalong on Béa’s blog this week, I couldn’t resist!  I’m as much of a fabric junkie as the next girl, despite my meagre budget and attempts to keep my hoarding under control.  So this is the PERFECT challenge for me!

Given how spectacularly I failed to rise to the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge last year (I sewed NO vintage patterns and ONE vintage fabric), I’m wary of setting my bar too high this time.  I’d really like to actually complete this challenge: not only to ‘clear the decks’ of fabrics that I’ve had for ages, but also because I do pretty much LOVE all the fabrics in my stash and would be so happy to be wearing them instead of sighing over them!

So, here’s my pledge: “I, Sarah Star, commit to using at least 5 fabrics from my stash for dressmaking projects in 2015, and I also commit to not buying any new fabrics until I’ve completed at least 2 projects”  

Anyone else joining in? – Would love to hear your plans! 🙂