Sunday, 6 December 2015

Christmas sewing bee

What a lovely way to spend a Thursday evening: sewing, eating cake and catching up with sewing friends.

I took a sewing course back in April this year, with the very talented Janet of Kitchen Table Sewing. She invited everyone who’d been on a course this year to an evening get-together and fabric swap at the closed-to-the-public Fancy Bakery. She supplied us with all the materials to make colourful flower broaches to brighten up our winter coats. I was a bit busy nattering to complete mine, but managed a bit of sewing time last night to finish it off. Taadah.

Janet kindly let us take supplies to make more, so I may manage a couple more before Christmas. Instructions on how to make them are on her blog.

If you’re local to Bedford, check her out. I’m booked on her satchel-making course in Feb and am already scouting for fabric. Well, you need something to look forward to in the deep mid-winter!

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Making the Flo dress

I designed the Flo dress by accident. I tired to make a Mini Ruby dress from Love Sewing magazine and it was a disaster. The more I tried to fix it the worse it got, until it eventually went in the bin. My little girl, Flo, was really disappointed she wasn't getting her 'sweetie dress' so I told her I would make her another one. I had run out of sweet print fabric, so I had a rummage through my stash and found a metre of blue floral and some scraps of blue and red spotty Cath Kidston IKEA fabric left over from all the pyjamas I've made. I also had some red grossgrain ribbon. I had a look at a couple of Flo's dresses in her wardrobe, measured her and thought 'how hard can this be?'

So, using a combination of the techniques I'd been learning to make adult dresses (creating a lining, understitching and invisible zips), plus the gathering technique from the sleeves of the Tilly and the Buttons' Megan dress and a bit of topstitching, I made a dress that fitted and Flo loved. Result.

I posted a photo of it on Facebook and got a lot of love from my sewing friends. So, in a moment of uncharacteristic self-confidence, I emailed Love Sewing magazine to see if they'd like the pattern. Oh, and I had a deal with my husband that if I got a pattern published I could get a dressmakers' dummy. He thought it would be creepy and I'm very stubborn.

I was amazed when they emailed back and said yes. They chose some fabric for me to make it with and sent it to me. I booked an afternoon off work, but had no idea how long it would really take! I made another practice version first, from a metre of Liberty tana lawn pinched from my mum's fabric stash. I made it using my original paper pattern and noted my steps as I went. I then had a go at drawing up the pattern pieces for multiple sizes. That's a lot harder than it looks. I consulted online sizing guides for various children's clothes, read up on pattern making in books and online, looked at patterns I already owned and had a go at drawing it up by hand. I really hope I got the sizes right.

I then used the pattern I'd drawn and my own instructions to make the dress for real and photographed the steps as I went. I'd decided it had to be done during the daytime, so I could get decent light for the photos and all the photos needed to be taken in the same place with the same background. I think I wasted half my afternoon off faffing around with ironing sheets. I only got halfway through it that afternoon, so had to do the rest in small chunks, sewing the next step in my evening sewing sessions and then took some photos the next morning at silly-o'clock before the kids were awake. It took another week to finish it (including unpicking the ribbon three times before I was happy with it!). But I finished it, I had photos and I had step-by-step instructions. I posted it off to the magazine and now it's in issue 21!

If I could do it again I'd adjust the front bodice slightly to take the armholes in a little. When I got Flo to try it on she complained it was a bit tight. That could be because she's just had a growth spurt and really needs an age 6 one now. I'd love to hear how you get on with it if you give it a try. It definitely has twirlability, according to Flo!

Thursday, 29 October 2015

How this all started

I've been hand sewing since I was a child, but have really got into dressmaking in the last 18 months or so. I watched the 2014 series of the Great British Sewing Bee on a borrowed iPad in hospital just after giving birth to my second child and I loved it (possibly an unhealthy amount). I promised myself I would give it a go. A few months later, when I was finally able to ditch the maternity clothes, I sold them all on eBay and used the proceeds to buy myself a sewing machine (with a bit of help from my mum). I bought a discontinued blue John Lewis one at a bargain price and haven't looked back.

My first project was a box pleat skirt. It all came together, but the fit was terrible and I've never worn it. 

Neither have a worn the second one, an altered fit size A-line skirt. 

But the third project, some pyjama bottoms from Love at First Stitch, was a success! I've made three pairs of them so far and have the fabric ready for a fourth. I love Tilly's book - it's taught me so much. 

I've made a navy linen Megan dress at a Kitchen Table Sewing course earlier this year. It fits perfectly and I wear it all the time for work. 

I have all the supplies ready for the mimi blouse for my mum. Can't wait to learn a few new skills - French seams and collars next.

I don't really have time to sew. I have quite a demanding full-time job in Higher Education and two children under 5. But I squeeze it in where I can. Usually in that precious hour or two after the kids are asleep before I have to get myself ready for the next day. I have developed some bad habits of cutting fabric on the living room floor and sewing while catching up on Downton Abbey. But if I didn't sew like that I wouldn't sew at all. And I love it, so I will always find a way to fit it in. Even if that means my house is a mess and I don't get enough sleep. Steve, my poor husband, would agree with that.