Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013 Hits and Misses

I debated about whether to do an end of year review. I haven't made enough to do a list of 5 hits and misses. I've logged eight completed items on the blog this year. I also made two other items but I won't include them as they won't meaning anything if I haven't posted about them.

I really like Gillian's idea with the top 5 lists. We can use this cute little button and change the rules to suit ourselves.

Instead of doing top 5 lists I will talk about the “hits and misses” with what I've made this year. What I like, what I love, what I don't like and what hasn't worked. I enjoyed putting this together and hopefully it will help me to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

If you want to read more about any of the items please follow the links from the Finished Projects tab at the top.

Burda slip dress

The good.

  • The colour. The white is neutral and versatile.
  • The fabric. It's soft and lovely to touch.
  • The fit. I was surprised at how well this fit with little alteration. With my odd shape I was expecting a lingerie item to take longer.
  • The finish.  The “turned-under” vintage seam finish takes a bit more effort but is totally worth it.

The not so good?

  • The straps. Some form of elasticated strap would be good. When I sit down I can feel them digging in my shoulders.
  • General thoughts. I've worn my first Darling Ranges dress loads since this was completed. I haven't worn it with anything else though.  This is probably because most of my garments are already lined but it's nice to know I have a slip if I need one.

Denim Wiksten Skirt

The good:

  • The colour and fabric. Denim. No further explanation necessary. I need to make more denim skirts. I have 3 at the moment. Maybe a Beignet or a Ginger?
  • The fit. This is good but I've always found skirts easier to fit. A bit of adjusting at the side seams is all that is usually needed.
  • The vintage seam finish. See above.
  • My additions: pockets, belt loops and longer ties. They make a superior skirt in my opinion. I'm usually alright with leaving pockets off dresses but somehow skirts need pockets in my humbles.
Misses? None that I can think of.

  • General thoughts.  Next to my Royal Blue Minoru jacket this has to be one of this year's most worn garments. I'm wearing it now with my stripy Rendrew top. I added a lining to the skirt which was the basis of my first tutorial. I've just noticed the tutorial now appears as a “popular post” in the side bar. Nice to see a 2013 post there among the mainly 2011 posts.  My side bar is a constant reminder of my Peter Pan collar phase.

Light Blue Wiksten Skirt

  • Hits and misses? Very much the same as the Denim version.
  • General thoughts.  I haven't worn this skirt as much as the denim one. This is mainly because I haven't found anything to wear it with other than the blue jumper that I wore on the photo shoot. I did wear my White Banksia with it a couple of times. As an interlude I would now downgrade my Banksias to misses. They were hits in my 2012 list. The slightest bit of bending over means a whole lot of flashing. Not what you want to worry about when wearing a garment. Purely for that reason I would now consider them fails. Such a pity because I love the tops and so want to wear them in real life.

Royal Blue Minoru Jacket

The Good.

  • My changes: the length, the fully lined patch pockets, the interlining and inferfacing of the whole jacket for warmth and the storm flaps.   
  • This jacket gets worn every weekend so it must be a hit. I wore this coat to work today as my usual one was at the dry cleaners. One of my lovely colleagues saw it hanging up and asked if I got a new coat for Christmas! She wasn't expecting me to say I'd made it! (Ha ha – that's the first time that's happened to me!).

The not so good? 

  • The colour and fabric. I love the colour but I sometimes wish it was plain black like my first one.
  • The fabric isn't great but I can't expect miracles with Ikea curtain fabric. The same fabric type worked well with my first Minoru. I think the jacket just needs bedding in more to loosen it up a bit. I did interface and interline the entire jacket so this presently adds to the stiffness.
  • The sleeves. I've never had a ready to wear coat (or ready to wear anything for that matter) that properly fitted my long arms. Why oh why then did I not make the sleeves longer? Why didn't I notice this at the muslin stage?

French Hat Box Dress

The good.

  • The colour and fabric. It's lovely and soft. The neutral colour detracts from what could otherwise be considered a garish print (by my “un-garish standards” anyway).
  • The lining. The same fabric as my slip dress so soft and lovely to wear.
  • The zipper finish. With this make I perfected my zipper and lining insertion technique.
  • The rub-off method. Although this was a long and, at times, impossible process, with a lot of winging it, I'm glad I tried it. The method opens up so many possibilities and I definitely want to try it again.

The not so good?

  • The final muslin fit much better than the finished make. I know the reason for the skirt being bigger (my mistake) but I can't figure out why the bodice ended up larger as I transferred all my adjustments.
  • General thoughts. Despite my niggle with the fit, this dress is definitely a hit. I also made a version in blue. Both dresses were worn a lot this year.

Red Skater Dress

Hits and misses:

  • The colour. I love the colour but for me it is more of an evening dress. I wore it to the supermarket once and it felt so bright under the harsh light!
  • The fabric. Not a great quality but it's lovely and soft so it doesn't bother me.
  • The fit and style. I love the fit and flare silhouette. There may be more 50s style dresses in my future – a style I haven't yet tried. I'm glad I took the time to get the fit right on this Renfrew modification. Particularly in getting the bodice to stop at my waist. I could have settled for the half hearted dropped waist look of my first muslin but I didn't.
  • The skirt length. With this particular style, I don't know if it's the stretch fabric, but I prefer the shorter length of my blue skater dress. I've received compliments on the length so this is not a major issue and I still love the dress.

Blue Skater Dress

Cut and paste everything above about the Red Skater Dress, except there are fewer negatives with this one. The colour is not so loud and I love the skirt length.

Sugar Plum

Hits and misses.

  • The fabric and colour. I love the blouse fabric, the peachy colour and the print. It goes surprisingly well with the black skirt. It reminds me of a frothy milk shake or an ice cream sundae and so goes well with the dress name!
  • The fit. My only niggle is the sleeves. After my hacking they are now a bit restricting. It is only noticeable when I raise my arms (as in the hands on hip poses in the photo shoot). However, I'm not going to be rock climbing in this dress (or standing around with my hands on hips) so it's not a major issue.
  • The skirt lining. I wish I could cope with a wool skirt right next to tights but I can't so lining is essential for me. The lining defeats the point of the stretch skirt slightly. Maybe I can find a stretchy lining in future? Again this isn't a huge problem. I didn't make the skirt as fitted as the design intends so I can still move about and sit down comfortably.


I'm surprised I got a whole blog post talking about these few items. Although I only made a few things, I took my time with what I did make. I think this is why I am happy with all my makes this year. There's nothing on the list that I don't want to wear. On the whole it's been a successful year.

I don't have any immediate sewing plans. After the Sugar Plum I'm not yet ready to dive into another pattern. I bought some lovely fabric on eBay and I'm thinking of making another Burda top with it. I've made three of these tops now and they get worn all the time for work with a suit. If it ain't broke don't fix as they say. I think the top would be a perfect showcase for the fabric plus it will be a nice easy make after the challenges I've set myself this year!

Thank you to my lovely readers for following along with me throughout the year.

I hope you have a happy 2014. I'm sipping wine at the moment and and about to have some Tiramasu!

See you soon.


Sunday, 29 December 2013

Sugar Plum

I've finished my Sugar Plum dress from Lolita patterns!

I love this pattern. First up here are some pictures.

What I like about the design is that it's so different. A dress that look's like a skirt and top? I don't know why that should be so appealing. Probably because it's so darn different. The pattern also provides a bit of a challenge for the more experienced sewer. The button loops and modesty shield for example - so cute!

Amity, the designer, is lovely and ever so professional. Whenever I became stuck or wanted more information about the design I just emailed her and she responded straightaway.

I only wish I was able to finish in time for the Sugar Plum contest. Despite starting my muslin on 2 November 2013 I was miles away by 2 December 2013, the contest deadline. I finished putting the last button on today. In my last post I said I wouldn't finish this dress in 2013 so I've surprised myself by finishing it now!

Here are the details.


I used a wool knit fabric for the skirt (I can't remember the mix). I was all set to use a polka dot black and white fabric for the bodice when I remembered this lovely peach fabric I bought from the old lady. This close up of the fabric on the dress form will give you an idea of what it's like. It has an oriental feel.

First muslin

I traced and cut the pattern in a size 12. I was really happy with the style. My changes were to lengthen the bodice and remove some width from the hips and side seams. I emailed Amity and she said the waist line should fall on the lower seam of the waist band.

I lengthened the skirt pieces as I didn't want it any shorter than the un-hemmed muslin.

Sleeve Changes

I didn't like the original sleeves on me. It was more gathered than I would like at the top. I then added the vertical gathers at the sleeve hem to see if that improved things. It didn't. The sleeve was too big and stood up too much at the sleeve head. I wanted it to lay flat.

I had a go at removing all the excess fabric in the gathered sleeve head. I simply made a large dart at the shoulder seam and removed all the excess. I sewed the dart and tried it on to see what it looked like. Despite the less than professional technique I deployed this was a vast improvement.

I removed the sleeve and set about making up a new pattern piece. This was really hard to figure out. What I should have done was open up the patternmaking book I bought to see if it could offer any help. I'm a bit short on sewing time so that wasn't going to happen. I carried on winging it. All credit to the indie pattern makers (who do get a hard press from some snobbish quarters). This stuff is hard.

Where was I? Oh yes. I tried to alter the flat pattern but I couldn't figure out how to get it to lie flat. I then took my fabric sleeve piece, complete with dart, pressed it flat and traced around that, transferring all the markings. (Gingermakes – is this how they did it on your FIT course? Ha ha!)

I then made a further muslin from my new pattern piece. There was still a bit of gathering around the sleeve head but it was much more to my liking. I moved the notch for the shoulder seam to where it should correctly lay with the new cut.

The sleeve hem circumference was too big for my arm. Instead of just taking in the sleeve side seam I noticed there was a lot of excess fabric at the bottom of the sleeve at the back. I took about 2 cm out of that area by placing a dart at the sleeve hem. I sewed the dart to see what it looked like and it was much better. I then transferred my alteration to my pattern piece. Instead of taking out the 2 cm in one area, I distributed the amount to be removed by making small tucks which together added up to the 2 cm needed to be removed. The pattern piece now looked vastly different at the back (and downright odd!).

I changed the sleeve attachment method. The pattern has you make up the sleeve and lining and then set into the bodice, right sides together. This would leave you with a seam on the inside. I didn't want this seam and I like my lining to look clean on the inside with all the seams enclosed. Having made the Minoru jacket twice I know how easy it is to join the hem of a lined sleeve after the sleeve is attached so that's what I did.

Collar Changes

I muslined the neck ruffle to see what it looked like. It looked alright but a bit ruffley for my liking and not in keeping with the clean lines elsewhere. I then shortened the collar piece to make a stand collar. I preferred this style on me and I thought it was in keeping with the Japanese influence of the pattern.

The pattern calls for a single layer of fabric which is serged to prevent fraying. I preferred to make up the collar with two pattern pieces with enclosed seams.

I may make some further changes when I do the pattern again. I will interface the collar stand as it is a bit limp in this drapey fabric. I will also change the collar stand piece so that it is more vertical at the centre front rather than at a 45 degree angle.

Button Loops

The button loops nearly defeated me trying to turn them through. The pattern called for one long spaghetti strap, turned through, and cut into loop lengths.

The problem was my fabric. It was too delicate to turn through and frayed really easily at the edges. I ended up making up a couple of smaller length straps to practise on. I finished the seam with a zig zag stitch to stop it fraying and I pressed the seam allowance to one side. I used the hair clip method used in the Saltspring sew along. This worked well but I had to do it really slowly and pull the clip through carefully adjusting as I went along. If I yanked too hard the clip would break through the loop snipped at the top.

I also left off the top loop as I liked the look without. Next time I will put small strips of interfacing on the centre front edges to give more body to that area as it flops back slightly.


After finishing the seams and topstitching the waistband I decided to topstitch all the skirt princess seams. This was to try and reduce the “hanging” of the jersey fabric between the stitched panels. I'm not sure what the ruched effect was all about. I thought it may be because I didn't have the skirt quite as fitted as the design intends.

The pattern only has lining up to the waistband. As I need to be able to wear things easily with tights, I continued the lining to the skirt. My waistband facing pieces are in lining fabric rather than shell fabric as in the pattern.

I was disappointed with the skirt when I had finished because the princess seams still gave a ruched effect. Turns out all it needed was a good press, while slightly stretching the princess seams lengthwise. The ruching disappeared and I was happy once again!


I attached the invisible zip, and the zip to the lining, using my usual method (details and links can be found in this post if you're interested. (If you follow the links, I link to two step by step tutorials, the second of which does it exactly the way I do my zips and lining. I do my zippers and lining slightly different to the Sewaholic Cambie and Sunni Craftsy methods which I know a lot of sewers use).

I have a new way of matching waistband seams at the zipper tape. After stitching one side I close the zip and then line up the other centre back waist seams. I pin the zipper tape to mark where the waistband seams should go. I do small hand tacking stitches to mark these points rather than faffing around with my blunt and mostly useless chalk. I then do hand and then machine basting stitches to attach the waistband part only to the zipper tape, sewing between the two hand tacked stitches. I then close the zip and make sure the two waistband seams match. If they do then I complete the upper and lower parts of the zip.

I found that the top of the zipper tape finished about 3 mm further away from the top neck edge than on the other side. My bodice piece must have been slightly bigger. No problem because I just sewed the top neck edge 3 mm lower on that side so that it matched the other side.

Here are some pictures of the finished lining, front and back. I didn't use red lining because I thought it would go well with the peach fabric (ha ha!). It was because although the white lining (used for the bodice and waistband) was nice and soft, I didn't want to have white lining under a black skirt. The red fabric was the only lining I had that was as soft as the white lining.


I spent a good hour yesterday trying to find suitable buttons from my button stash. There was nothing suitable so I headed down to John Lewis today to buy these white pearl like buttons. (I was the only person in the Haberdashery! I love John Lewis by the way – such great customer service).

The pattern intends the buttons to be sewn on through the lining. I didn't want messy button stitching to interfere with the clean finish of the lining. I attached my buttons to the outer shell only but after adding a strip of interfacing to the wrong side. Next time I will add this strip of interfacing at the cutting stage as it was a faff to attach after the event.

I'm really pleased with the buttons and the little loops. Such a cute detail. The buttons are not the main closure which is just as well as they are fiddly to open and one of my loops came out too short.


I really like this pattern and there will definitly be another one. I might make it next even though I have a mountain of other exciting patterns I am anxious to start on!

With my reduced amount of sewing time (I work and live in London during the week and my sewing machine is in Norfolk) I have been consoling myself with buying patterns. I now have every possible Indie pattern I could ever want. I've also been slightly addicted to ebay pattern buying and I've bought a vintage Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress pattern!

Well that's it now for my completed makes for 2013!

I still hope to be back with some top 5 posts.

See you soon.


Friday, 27 December 2013

Blue Skater Dress

All I want for Christmas is ... to get all my 2013 makes onto the blog before the year end.  It hasn't quite happened so here is one of them.  My second Renfrew skater dress!

This version is the same as my first version in red (same fabric type as well).  I didn't have enough of the blue fabric to cut another circle skirt so this one is the muslin skirt used when practising my first version.  The skirt isn't as long as the red version but I quite like the shorter length.  It has a nice casual feel.  It's as brilliantly twirly as my first version.  (Twirliness factor - check.)

Despite using the same pattern as my first version, the top came out much bigger at the waist.  I therefore had to cinch in the waist with elastic at the back.  Sewing elastic into a finished make was no joke and nearly drove me mad!  It took nearly as long to mess about with the elastic as it did to make the rest of it!

The circle skirt was much easier to hem on this version as I was able to do it by machine.

Even with the elastic, the waist wasn't cinched in enough for my liking. I added ties using this tutorial from the Darling Ranges sew along.  I made the ties much longer than the Darling Ranges ones which are tiny.  The ties make such a difference and the cinched in waist is now complete!

This dress is every bit as comfortable as my first version.  I wore my red version on Christmas Day - the perfect Christmas dress for sitting around in and rushing about making the Christmas dinner.   I've worn the blue one quite a bit already as well (I finished it quite a while ago).

I was hoping to finish my Sugar Plum in time for the year end but that isn't going to happen so that will be a 2014 make now.  I haven't managed to photograph my second Florence and Fred Rub off dress for the blog.  I also made a pencil skirt for my mother which I will have to photograph at some point for the blog. I got around to changing the zip on my Plain Black (Almost) Miss Chalmer's skirt. That was such a pain to do.  I had to sew on extra fabric to the centre back edges.  It hasn't come out perfectly, and the piping at the back doesn't line up now, but at least I can wear the skirt again.

I hope to be back before the year end with a top 5 post (even though I haven't made enough to exactly qualify for that!).

I hope everyone had a great Christmas.

See you soon!