My Grainline Alder Shirtdress

The next instalment of my sleeveless summer dress sewing is the Grainline Alder Shirtdress. I’ve sewn many Grainline patterns but I was a bit on the fence when the Alder was released. I think it was the line drawing that deterred me, the illustration looks like it was drafted for someone tall and willowy and I struggled to see whether this would work for me (being the polar opposite of tall and willowy) The dropped waist also had the potential to hit at an unflattering level, possibly adding unwanted bulk to the hips. It’s been out for nearly a year now and the many lovely versions I’ve seen online have swayed my initial apprehension. I had a sleeveless shirtdress hole in my wardrobe so I thought I’d give it a chance to fill it.

Alder is a loosely fitted sleeveless shirt dress with two options. View A falls into an A-Line at the waist and features a curved hem, bust darts and two breast pockets. View B features the same bodice as View A but with a gathered skirt at the sides and back of the garment resulting in an incredibly flattering and fun silhouette. The Alder Shirtdress is a perfect breezy option to keep cool while looking great all spring and summer long or throw on a cardigan or blazer and you’re all set for fall and winter!’

WP_20160611_009

I used more of my Fabworks Mill fabric, this time a Swiss dot shirting. Mine is light blue with a navy dot which they don’t seem to have anymore but there’s blue with a grey dot still available. I went for view B with the gathered skirt, cutting a size 16 which matched my measurements exactly (42-35-42) but I cut the length to a size 0 (too lazy to use the lengthen/shorten line!) I think I used just over 2 meters of fabric. After measuring the bodice I was surprised to find it wasn’t as long as the illustration suggests so I only shortened it by an inch.

The construction is pretty much the same as the Archer shirt to start off. I used Jen’s Burrito method for attaching the yoke and Andrea’s (amazingly easy) method for attaching the stand and collar. I finished the armholes with some readymade 13mm bias binding. I bought it from Plush Addict and I’m really impressed, it’s soft and malleable but sturdy enough to hold the shape of the finished openings. I also added in seam pockets along with the patch pockets on the bust, I really need somewhere to put my hands!

IMG_1634

IMG_1636

I was a little unsure about the high low hem but as I’d shortened the skirt when cutting had to go with it. The hem is very shirt like, raising up from the front (quite significantly) at the sides before dipping down at the back (which isn’t shown on the envelope) To finish it off (and following an Instagram referendum) I went with some navy Czech glass buttons which I think I bought from eBay.

IMG_1745

IMG_1738

IMG_1751

 

IMG_1742

IMG_1758

I’m pleasantly surprised by the finished dress and I think it may have tamed my prejudice of hi-lo hems. It was enjoyable to sew and everything fitted together nicely. The finished measurements are given on the pattern and they were true to the finished garment. If anything I could maybe have done with an inch or two of a full bust adjustment. The proof of the pudding is wearability and it has been getting a fair bit of wear, perfect for sunny days when you need something light that allows the air to circulate! The sew along provides variations for a Mandarin collar, V neck and the option to add sleeves by combining it with the Archer so plenty of opportunity to play around with it. I think I need to be looking towards fabrics for the cooler weather though, maybe something I can wear through early Autumn and then layer up with a long sleeved tee and cardigan.

And speaking of fabric there is a new app out specifically for fabric hoarders:

‘Cora is an iPhone, iPad and iPod app that helps you sew your fabric stash.  With Cora, whether you’re out and about shopping for patterns or planning a project in bed, your fabric stash is always with you! Sort and search to sew up treasures you already have.’

I spent the whole of last Sunday logging my main stash (I’ve not ventured into the loft or bathroom cupboard yet) and so far I am up to 147 metres. It’s free to try for the first five fabrics and £4.49 for the full version (I must state I have no affiliation with the maker, I just think it’s brilliant!) The only problem I have is the urge to buy more fabric just so I have something new to add, like the fabric equivalent of Pokemon Go. I’m desperate to catch some Double Gauze for a Deer and Doe Datura but Cora tells me I already have 37 metres of suitable fabric!

My Marilla Walker Bennett Dress

Now the wedding is over I’m starting to get back into a routine. I’ve managed to squeeze in a few hours sewing time throughout the week and I’m pleased to say these hours have been very productive (and incredibly enjoyable). Since getting back I’ve been on a mission to sew some sleeveless dresses. This was the one big hole in my wardrobe highlighted by Me Made May, the weather was glorious while we were at the Lakes and my one solitary sleeveless number was my Southport dress.

First in the queue was Marilla Walker’s Bennett dress:

‘This dress is a lovely summer shift with flattering front princess seams, a large pocket and a choice of waist ties, front panel and hem length. View A finishes below the knee with waist ties, shaped shirt style hem and v-back neck. Ideal fabrics are soft, lightweight and drape well. The gathering at the waist is best suited to finer fabrics to reduce bulk. View B finishes above the knee with button front fastening on the centre front panel, loose A-line shape, straight hem and v-back neck. Fabrics can be selected according to your preferred silhouette. Soft lightweight fabrics for a nice floaty feel or fabrics with more body to emphasise the shape of the dress.’

WP_20160606_009 (2)

I was attracted to the loose silhouette and the ability to loosen the ties (which is the main thing I like about the Southport dress) One of the Sample garments Marilla made used a stripy fabric which contrasted the direction of the stripes on the bib section. I decided to blatantly copy her. The fabric was from my Fabworks Millshop giveaway, a denim blue stripe check cotton, available here. The finished garment measurements are stated instead of arbitrary sizing, I wish every pattern company did this as I find it so much easier to choose a size. The sizing is quite broad, going up to a 52 inch bust, 54 inch waist and 59inch hip. From the given measurements I cut a size 41 inch shoulders and high bust before blending to a 43 through the bust (adding 2 inches) and then blending back into a size 42/47 for the waist and hips. I chose view A with the straight hemmed skirt of view B.

It all came together very easily, I did make a couple of errors due to my slapdash approach at the time. I forgot to interface the facings, only realising as I had finished the dress. This hasn’t been a problem though as the fabric has enough body to hold their shape. I also ignored the instruction to baste the bib in place before sewing, which led to having an extra centimetre of width and some sheepish unpicking.

WP_20160609_001

I made a couple of changes, swapping the patch pocket for in seam ones. I shortened the bodice by an inch as a standard adjustment for being short waisted. I also raised the armscye an inch as I found it a little too low on me, so it may be worth checking before cutting if you are on the short side too. I think next time I will also size down a bit for a more fitted look in the bodice.  I bound the hem with some yellow gingham bias binding.

IMG_1629

IMG_1632

IMG_1679

IMG_1677

IMG_1689

IMG_1694

IMG_1706

I’ve worn this dress a lot, although mostly with a cardigan (the Sun seems to have disappeared since embarking on my summer dress sewing extravaganza). I like the nautical feel and the effect of the stripe direction which gives the impression of little capped sleeves. The fabric is wonderful, it doesn’t crease too badly so I can wear it all day and still look presentable if I get chance to escape for a quick pint in the pub in the evening. I’m pondering about using the pattern for the colder months, I think it would work well in a lightweight wool paired with tights and a long sleeved tee underneath, but I really shouldn’t be thinking about winter sewing plans, we’ve not had Summer yet!

My Wedding Dress

So, as you’ve probably guessed by the title, I got married! It’s taken 23 years and a 13 year engagement but we got there in the end. I never wanted a big do (probably why we left it so long) so we decided to do the slightly cheesy thing and elope to Gretna Green.

Of course the first thing I did after booking the date (31st May) was start planning the dress. I’d been looking for an excuse to make a blue Liberty Carline dress since I made my Edith blouse (this was probably a factor in deciding to get married) but finding more proved difficult. My last piece was bought on eBay (I had an email notification and was quick to snap it up before someone else did) I couldn’t find any on Google and my hope began to fade. I tried an image search and after a couple of pages found a small, dark picture, clicking the link took me to Shauket, to my joy it was in stock and available online. I ordered four metres, just to be on the safe side.

The end of May seemed a long way off, I thought I could wait until the end of March before starting work on it. I spent the winter looking for the right pattern but found it a struggle. I knew I wanted something fit and flare (with a frou frou petticoat) but kept settling on a pattern only to change my mind a week later. Time quickly got around to the end of March and I still hadn’t made a decision. Any detail would be lost amongst the print so it needed to be simple, basically a boatneck princess seamed bodice with a full circle skirt. The lightbulb moment finally happened; I realised it was so simple I could draft it myself. I already had a princess seamed bodice block and just needed to add a circle skirt as a basic starting point. Determined to get the fit perfect I did a couple of muslins before sewing a whole dress rehearsal dress. I initially tried a wide scooped back but because the front neckline was so wide it was slipping off my shoulders I ended up with wide boat neckline (the shoulders were resting right on the edge of my shoulders) and a V back which ended just above my bra band.

By the time I was making my dress rehearsal dress it was halfway through May. Running out of time I put the zip in, checked it fitted then abandoned it to start on the real one (it still needs the back seam sewing up and hemming) I used a very soft lightweight cotton for the lining which was part of my winning bundle from Fabworks Millshop. To give both fabrics a bit more body and make the sewing process easier I went to town with the spray starch which worked a treat. The good thing about lining dresses is that all the seams are hidden away so I cheated a bit and cut dress and lining out with pinking shears. Construction went really quickly. I bound the hem of the dress and lining with satin bias binding and also added in seam pockets!

WP_20160526_013

WP_20160526_018

Initially we planned to keep it a secret, just run away and tell everyone after the event. I however let it slip one night after too many glasses of wine at our neighbourhood ‘book club’ (we spend five minutes talking about the book and the rest of the night drinking copiously and gossiping about the neighbours, in fact we haven’t had a set book for three months now!) It became more and more difficult to keep a secret so in the end we had to tell everyone but still managed to keep it a secret from the twelve year old! He just thought we were going to Scotland for a holiday and needed a shirt and tie for meals out at posh restaurants. We waited until we were at the hotel and let him open the box with the rings in. After a lot of initial puzzlement and OMGs he was thankfully pleased about the situation.

I’d imagined Gretna Green to be part of a town (the British equivalent of Las Vegas) but it stands alone in a tiny hamlet. It’s understandably a tourist attraction, there are shops and restaurants to cater for this but if anything it adds to its charm.

WP_20160531_033 (2)

I hadn’t really thought about the wedding itself and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Surprisingly nervous, and even a little emotional in the morning, I tried to counteract my disposition with a couple of glasses of bubbly whilst getting ready, followed by a vodka and tonic in the bar (yes, I was slightly drunk on my wedding day, I think ‘giddy with excitement’ is a good euphemism)

WP_20160531_039 (2)

WP_20160531_046

WP_20160531_049

WP_20160531_007

The day itself couldn’t have been more perfect and the weather was glorious. We didn’t have our own witnesses so the Registrar disappeared and came back with two Australian tourists (Ann and Jessica, we’ve since been in touch.) My Son gave me away as well as acting as best man, and we were led in and out by the resident Scottish Piper (Alan) The ceremony itself was very moving, full of happiness, interspersed with laughter and more than a little giggling. The pockets came in handy as I had somewhere to keep my tissue. As we got married the day after Whitsun bank holiday the place was quite busy. My Husband (still getting used to that) told me afterwards that there must have been fifty tourists taking pictures outside but I was completely oblivious. We’ve since got the proofs back from the photographer and I have the biggest grin on all of them. I enjoyed it so much I wanted to do it again. If anyone is looking to have a small scale wedding I’d highly recommend it!

We had a few days in the Lake District for our honeymoon and again the weather was perfect. I’d packed boots, sweaters and waterproofs but ended up living in my Southport dress and Monetas.

Our wedding day also coincided with the last day of Me Made May, I haven’t had time to blog but posted daily selfies on Instagram. Here’s a compilation;

mmmay16

 

The main gap I noticed was a shortage of sleeveless dresses so I have three lined up, starting with the Grainline Alder. Since beginning this however the weather has been wet and horrible so I’m now wondering if sewing a winter dress will conversely bring the sunshine back.

So I am finally a married woman. It does feel different but I can’t put my finger on how or why. Many people complimented me on my dress and it felt good to say ‘I made it myself!’ The great thing about the dress is that I can wear it again, and every time I wear it I’ll be filled with memories of its first outing. x

 

My Deer and Doe Melilot Shirt

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Deer and Doe patterns, their designs always appeal to me and the drafting is such that they’re a pleasure to sew. The Sureau is my go to dress when I can’t decide what to wear, the Chardon is practically the only skirt I wear and the Plantain tee is heads above any other pattern I’ve made. As they are drafted for an hourglass figure and a C cup they always seem to fit with minimal adjustments.

When the Melilot shirt was released I ordered it straight away. I’d been looking for an alternative shirt pattern to my TNT Grainline Archer and judging by the photos the Melilot seemed to fit the bill.

6tag_120316-151837

A couple of months ago I entered a giveaway on Instagram from Fabworks Millshop for a bundle of fabrics. I was over the moon when I found out I’d won, particularly being on a stash diet since the New Year. Opening the parcel was amazing and I was mentally matching patterns to each piece as I went through. They were nearly all blue too so it had to be destiny! This was the first piece of fabric I used, a Navy cotton with little pink arrows embroidered into it.

WP_20160216_001

Looking at the pictures I decided to shorten the bodice by 2 inches, a usual adjustment for me being 5 foot 2 inch and short waisted. Going by the finished measurements I cut a 46 which is the largest size.

The instructions are quite brief but if supplemented with a couple of online tutorials could be tackled by an advanced beginner.

The button band had me puzzled for a while, I couldn’t figure out how it folded together. It was only when I looked at the picture on the envelope that I realised view A has a concealed button band which accounted for the excess bit of fabric. As I had some pink Mother of Pearl buttons in mind I went with the exposed one.

6tag_030416-165550

I opted for a mix of both views, using the collar of view A with the button band and sleeves of view B. I left off the pockets due to a combination of laziness and feeling they would upset the print if I didn’t match them perfectly.

I used Andrea of Four Square walls tutorial for attaching the collar. This is arguably the best tutorial ever written and I use it every time it comes to attaching a collar, Her method makes it so easy.

As I was making the short sleeved version I didn’t need the sleeve placket. I did however look over the instructions and if you’ve never done one before it would be difficult to follow. There are some good tutorials out there though, such as the one Tasia did for her Sewaholic Granville Shirt.

IMG_1352

IMG_1354

I checked the final measurements of the shirt and they correspond to those given on the envelope. It’s so much easier to pick the right size when looking at the finished measurements, I really wish more pattern companies would include these on the envelope.

IMG_1394

 

IMG_1390

IMG_1382

IMG_1381

Overall it’s definitely a winner for me. The rounded collar and darts give it feminine silhouette which will work well on curves. It’s also versatile, with the different variations and the potential to work with a wide range of fabrics. I’m glad to have found another wardrobe staple, especially as I have so much fabric now to choose from!

My Peggy Olsen inspired ‘Reneta’

I love Mad Men, I still watch it on a continuous loop, usually when I’m sewing. The wardrobe has been an endless source of fascination and inspiration. It’s easy to be drawn towards a specific characters sense of style, there’s Joan’s bombshell wiggle dresses, Betty’s classic understated chic, but for me though it’s all about Peggy. There’s many Peggy dresses I would love in my wardrobe but I’ve been particularly obsessed with the cowl necked Damson number for years.

At SewBrum in October I set myself a mission to find the perfect fabric for my own version. Possibilities arose in Barry’s but they were either too purple or too red. There was nothing on the Rag market (I think the reason I bought so little fabric at was because I was so intent on finding ‘the one’) I prepared myself for disappointment but struck gold at Guthrie and Ghani, hiding under the cutting table was the holy grail, one of their Luxury Jerseys (A blend of Silk and Model) the colour was spot on, it draped beautifully and was so soft, it really lived up to its name.

6tag_170116-123503

I used the cowl version of the Sewaholic Renfrew  which I planned to morph into the Colette Moneta skirt. I was initially going to be good and make a muslin but in the end decided to live dangerously and dive straight in (my justification was that I knew both patterns fitted, it was just a matter of how to fudge them together)

WP_20160117_001

Renfrew in red Moneta in green

The cowl on the Renfrew is quite deep, I wanted to get as close to my inspiration as possible so I raised the neckline by 2 inches and shortened the cowl accordingly. There’s a big difference between the two patterns, particularly around the shoulders and armscye. The best course of action was to keep things simple so I used the Renfew until the bottom of the armscye (sleeves and cuffs included) then measured the length of the Moneta bodice and drafted that onto the bottom half. The skirt was all Moneta.

WP_20160201_002

WP_20160201_020 (2)

It came together without a hitch, there’s quite a bit of weight to the fabric and I was worried it may pull the skirt down as it did on my last Monetas. Just in case I shortened the elastic in the waist seam to keep it snug. When I tried it on it fitted but I felt something was lacking. I’d contemplated attaching a waistband during construction but decided there was far too much chance of making a mess and ruining the whole thing. Instead I made a tube of fabric, gathered it at the side and l hand stitched it to the waist at three inch intervals to allow for stretch.

IMG_1169

IMG_1158 (3)

(This is the third outfit taken on my windy day photo shoot!)

IMG_1159

IMG_1162

IMG_1166

 (I’ve just noticed that I hadn’t pressed the hem after sewing!)

It actually turned out better than I’d imagined, the gathered waistband really balances out the drape of the cowl. The fabric feels lovely to wear, very cosy and perfect for the colder weather. Unfortunately I don’t have a cardigan that works with it (I could really do with a black one but it would be so boring to knit) it does need something to break up the large expanse of boob though! I’ll definitely make another but not until the Autumn as my head is full of Spring sewing, I expect yours is too!

Helen x

A Snowdrop Deer and Doe Sureau

As the Camas blouse was the last thing I made I thought I’d show you the first this year. The fabric was a Christmas present from my Mother in Law, it’s one of Liberty’s 2015 collection called Hesketh (I can’t find it on the liberty website but it’s available here) This is the black and white colourway, it does come in navy and white (as well as grey) but I am trying really hard to move out of my blue comfort zone.

WP_20160104_006 1

I decided not to risk using a new pattern and stick with my TNT Deer and Doe Sureau. I made it up exactly the same as my other ones (tried one of my other ones on to check it still fitted first!) cutting a 42 at the shoulder and grading to a 44 through the bust and waist.   I used a 9 inch zip instead of the 16 inch one suggested on the pattern and added side seam pockets underneath. Again I added a little cuff to finish the sleeves. I also remembered to curve the waist darts which seems to make a big difference to the fit underneath the bust. Instead of the gathers on the front placket I added two tucks.

Once the dress was finished the print was so busy you couldn’t actually see the placket. I thought adding buttons would look odd and after an Instagram poll agreed I left them off.

WP_20160116_005

WP_20160116_008

It was so good using an old tried and true pattern. Being able to just cut straight out and sew without all the hassle of working out sizing and fitting was a perfect way to start the year.

It’s a lovely (and very seasonally appropriate) dress.  Snowdrops are one of my favourite flowers and I have a snowdrop necklace which goes perfectly. While we are on the subject of Snowdrops mine in the garden have been behaving strangely this year. They are usually the first things to push through in January but they’ve been really late, only coming into flower at the end of February (I’ve even had Daffodils flowering before them) I think they must need a period of sustained cold before they start to grow and the mild winter we have had has confused them somewhat. Anyway, I digress! My other Sureaus have had so much wear, with boots in the cooler weather and sandals when it warms up.  I know this one will get year round wear too.  All in all it’s a lovely little pattern I’m so glad I gave it another outing!

IMG_1181

IMG_1222

And then the wind got up….

IMG_1212

IMG_1201

IMG_1177

IMG_1178

IMG_1219

If I look rather dishevelled here, you should see the next ones!

 

This was a wonderful Christmas present and one which will last for years to come. I gave her a similar present this year, some beautiful Malabrigo yarn (which I really wanted to keep myself) and the Casu Cowl pattern as a ‘knit your own Christmas present’ thankfully she was pleased, so much nicer than perfume and pyjamas!

Helen x

Thread Theory Camas Blouse Spotty Sew along

I’ve been really struggling to take photos so far this year. The other half usually acts as photographer but trying to coordinate a time when we are both in during daylight (and I’ve had the inclination) has been difficult. His patience has also been running low when faced with multiple garments. This has become more evident in the quality of the photos (this video also made me chuckle!) The ones that are actually in focus (and with my eyes open) are usually me swearing at him through gritted teeth while he says ‘well do something then, they’ all look the same!’ I’ve also noticed that many are slightly wonky and look like I’m standing on a hill. With four things in the queue things reached crisis point.  So after three years of using my phone I’ve bought a proper (albeit second hand) camera, tripod and remote.

I’m going to start my catch up with the most recent thing I’ve made; the Thread Theory Camas Blouse. This has been on my radar since its release last year as it’s very similar to a well-loved Fat Face blouse I’ve had for years. When they announced a sew along (and a discount for the pattern) it gave me the push I needed, here’s the description:

‘Enjoy the unrestricted comfort of a t-shirt and the put together elegance of a blouse.  This blouse is designed to be COMFORTABLE and can be sewn in knits or stretch fabrics.  It features shoulder and back yokes, elegant gathering, and a flattering curved v-shaped neckline placket.  

The gathers create a flattering shape that is loose enough to float over the body rather than cling to it.  The delicately curved hem can be tucked into trousers and skirts or can be left loose to float over skinny jeans.  The slim sleeves end just below the elbow to create the perfect multi-season blouse.

WP_20160202_002 (2)

I used a vintage Liberty Viscose bought from eBay, £12 for two and a half meters. I was sceptical when I bought it but when it arrived it had the Liberty bolt label attached and the last length cut was dated 1992. As the pattern is designed for knits I went up a size (to a 16) to account for using a woven fabric.

It was an absolute joy to make from start to finish, quite easy and came together really quickly. The sew along is very detailed and although I used the printed instructions is was useful just to check how the button band went in.   I skipped buttonholes as I could slip it over my head so I just sewed the buttons on shutting the placket.  I used some buttons from my stash and also used my expanding sewing gauge for the first time!

WP_20160206_015 (2)

WP_20160211_004 1

 

It did turn out to be a bit too big. In hindsight I should have looked at the finished measurements before choosing my size. There is a very detailed list below the size chart and it is also printed on the back pattern piece. I usually grumble about patterns not including the finished garment measurements yet this time I had a bit of a brain drain and didn’t think to look at them. It’s perfectly wearable and the fabric drapes beautifully but I think I might take it in a little bit (I seem to have a real fear of making things too small so overcompensate by sizing up too much)

IMG_0873

IMG_0871

Apart from choosing the wrong size I think I’ve found my perfect blouse pattern. I love the style, very simple but with just enough detail and in the right places. I’ve dismissed many blouse patterns before as they look great on the model but I know with my bust they would resemble maternity wear. I’ve already cut out my next one, this time in a blue polka dot (my first blue thing this year!) I’ve cut a size 14 but graded into a 12 at the waist. If I can get the sizing right I think I’ll be making a small army of them to see me through Spring and Summer.

IMG_1306

IMG_1290

IMG_1283

I had a marathon solo photo session but it was a bit windy so my hair got messier and messier with every picture. We could probably have a game of ‘guess which order the blog photos were taken’ over the next few posts. I think I prefer the tripod to my other half, much more patient and with a steadier hand. I was just merrily clicking away so hopefully there should be a bit more variety to the usual smiling with gritted teeth!

IMG_1273

here

IMG_1274

comes

IMG_1275

Humphrey!

IMG_1333

I’ll leave you with this scary staring one!

Helen x