A tale of two Lady Skaters

I’ve had the Kitschy Coo Lady Skater dress on my list since it came out last year. I even got as far as printing the pattern and buying some purple Ponte from Minerva crafts but for one reason or another I never got around to it. Part of my Autumn sewing plan was to tackle those things that had been repeatedly bumped down the sewing list and the lady skater was a prime candidate. As well as the aforementioned Ponte I have recently bought five metres of this very stable, fairly heavy denim blue knit. (I knew it was ideal for a lady skater but it was the perfect blue and I’m sure it will come in handy for other stuff)

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I have a policy with knits and knickers in that I sew multiples in a production line fashion, so I cut out both dresses at the same time, I managed to squeeze each dress out of 2 metres of 54 inch wide fabric. The sizing goes on your high bust measurement, I was between a five and six so decided to go up one to be on the safe side. All the Lady Skaters I’ve seen seem to have quite a low waistline, I knew I would have to shorten the bodice by an inch, which is a standard alteration for me, but really wanted it to sit on my natural waistline so I decided to shorten it by a total of 2 inches. I also shortened the sleeves by 3 inches (also a standard adjustment for me) so from shoulder to wrist was about 19 inches. I’d not decided whether I wanted full or three quarter length sleeves at that point so kept to that measurement figuring I could decide once they were finished.

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The sewing was straightforward, I sewed most of them up on my overlocker (too lazy to change the thread for matching colours so went with the general assumption that ‘grey goes with everything’!) It’s a while since I’ve sewn any knits and I had forgotten how quick and how much fun they are. I actually used my twin needle for the first time, topstitching around the neckband and sewing the hem. I’ve never done this before as I never usually have two spools of the same colour thread, I also thought there would be a lot of faffing about trying to set the machine up and getting the tension right but it worked perfectly first time without any adjustment (yay, the sewing elves must be looking favourably on me!).

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I ended up with slightly longer than three quarter length sleeves, I actually shortened them by another two inches but this was added back on with the cuffs. I think they are around bracelet length now which is ok for keeping my forearms warm. I did find however I was automatically pulling them up to three quarter length so this was probably a good compromise. There are a few pull lines on the waistband of the blue dress, not sure what’s going on there but I had been wearing it all day.

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I have lived in these dresses since I made them, they are so warm and comfortable, like wearing respectable pyjamas’. This is the first time I’ve used Ponte and I can’t get over how cosy it is, I was straight on the internet looking for more after I made these but had to be strict as my fabric budget is empty (and my stash is overflowing, I’ve run out of places to hide fabric!) so I have added some bottle green and grey floral Ponte to my Christmas list so I can make some more!

So that’s four items now from my Autumn sewing list, I’m quite amazed at how focused I’ve been and it’s definitely helped to have a plan. There have been a couple of distractions which have been added to the list but I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to finish them all before Christmas, then I can start a new plan for the New Year!

How do you choose your next sewing project? Do you have a plan or just dive in to whatever takes your fancy?

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A Purple Deer and Doe Chardon Skirt

My Autumn and Winter sewing plans include a bit of a Deer and Doe binge, I’ve got the Belladone dress, Bruyere shirt and more Plantain tee’s in the queue but thought I’d start with the Chardon skirt. I wanted to check the fit of their patterns and for me the waist measurement is key. The patterns are drafted for hourglass figures and a C-cup, I’ve found with most patterns that if the waist sews up as true from the given measurement, then the bust and hip usually follow. I’ve sewn a couple of plantain’s before and even though they are knits the fit is spot on around the bust and shoulders.

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This purple cotton was originally intended to be another Megan Nielsen Kelly skirt (another thing I never got around to!) however the weight makes it ideal for the structured pleats of the Chardon. I also had half a metre of this perfectly co-ordinating cream cotton with little purple flowers left over from another project which was perfect for the pockets and facing.

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I must say that the packaging is very pretty and the pattern is printed on thick paper so designed to last. I cut a size 44, which was enough to give me a bit of room to breathe! The instructions are brief but it is a straightforward sew. There are nine inverted box pleats, five at the front and four at the back. I made sure that I back stitched the end of the pleats well as they are in a very high stress area (I actually bust the pleats on my Colette Zinnia after one too many Danish Pastries!) The pleats are also topstitched down for added security. I understitched the facing to help it lie flat and prevent it creeping out. The pattern suggests a lapped zipper but I only had an invisible one in my stash so I went with that. I’ve finally realised where I’ve been going wrong with my zips recently, I’ve had a new iron which runs a fair bit hotter than my last and I think it’s been slightly melting the teeth of the zips which would account for them sticking (doh!)

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I opted to add the belt loops, it’s quite a high waisted skirt and I figured a belt would define where my actual waist was (rather than giving me that stumpy torso look) I followed the placement for the loops on the pattern, I thought it was a bit strange as there are two on the front and four across the back but after thinking about it they are perfectly placed as belts do tend to ride up the back once you are sitting.

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The pattern recommends using bias binding to finish the hem, as I had used the contrasting fabric for the pockets and facing using bought binding would have just looked wrong so I decided to invest the time and make my own. I’m really glad I did, the bound hem looks lovely, I’m quite tempted to finish all my skirts like this in future. I think the contrasting fabric really elevates this skirt and I am unashamedly proud of it! I really enjoyed sewing it, the pattern is really well drafted, everything comes together easily and most importantly it is true in size.

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As you have probably gathered this is my new favourite skirt and will get loads of wear throughout the winter. I’m curious to see how this pattern will work with a lighter fabric with more drape so I have another in the queue. I have high hopes that this will become my number one TNT skirt pattern and I’m really looking forward to sewing more Deer and Doe.

Do you have a favourite pattern company?

Marilla Walker Maya Dress

Towards the end of the summer I volunteered to be a guinea pig and test Marilla Walker’s new Maya pattern. It’s quite a versatile pattern with lots of options: a button down top or dress, a plain top or dress with either a straight or curved hem.

 

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I decided to do the button down dress with a straight hem as I figured this would test more of the processes. I had a length of grey cotton shirting which had originally been two metres (the length needed for the dress) I had however loped about 30cm off to use for a school project (duh!). I decided to use this and just shorten the dress by a few inches to fit it on. The dress came together really quickly and I managed to get it cut out and sewn in one session. One thing I loved about the pattern was how the insides are finished, the sides are french seamed and the neck and armhole facings are turned under and stitched down, there are no raw seams, in fact you could accidently put it on inside out without anyone noticing. My old sewing teacher always used to say that the insides of a garment should be as clean and tidy on the inside as they are on the outside, the Maya really ticks that box.

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The finished dress is more tunic length but perfect for wearing with leggings. I found that the Maya was perfect to wear over a long sleeved tee and leggings, perfectly comfortable to wear all day and respectable enough if I needed to nip out to the shops or the school run.

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I have since made another version, I bought this border print at the SewBrum meet up. I initially thought it to be a heavy knit but on further inspection it turned out to be a stretch woven.

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As it was quite thick I sewed this one up on my overlocker. I cut out a size 16 as before but this one has come up a bit larger, I think the weight and stretch of the fabric has caused this and if I use a knit or stretch again I’ll go down a size or two.

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I really love this dress, it hangs beautifully and it has flowers around the bottom! As it’s quite a heavy fabric it’s nice and warm, I’ve been wearing it a lot since I finished it and I’m definitely planning more for winter jumper dresses.

I’ve already set aside a few lighter cotton fabrics to use for tops in the spring, I think this pattern may even replace the Grainline Scout Tee as my go to woven top pattern!

SewBrum Meet Up October 2014

On Saturday I was able to attend the ‘SewBrum’ meet up in Birmingham which was organised by Charlotte at English Girl at Home. Unfortunately it was raining, but I was really excited as I waited for my train. (I did think I may get a little overexcited by the time I got there but managed to contain myself!) We gathered at the station and made our introductions. I was really pleased to finally meet Louise of notsewsimple after spending so long communicating through our blogs and Instagram. Claire from Sewincidentally had actually brought a trolley along filled with fabric for the swap! I did take a couple of photo’s but I have borrowed some far better ones from Suziela and Charlottes post!

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With brollies up our first point of call was Barry’s Fabric’s which was literally stacked floor to ceiling with rolls of fabric. It was a little bit like when Willy Wonka first opens the door to the Chocolate Factory, I didn’t know where to start! I spent ages wandering around stroking fabric without actually picking anything out. I eventually tried to focus and decided to search for some fabric for my planned Deer and Doe Bruyere Shirt. I had initially wanted to find a Chambray but came across this blue floral cotton poplin which was very soft and ideal for a shirt. I also picked up another cotton poplin and two needlecords which will be perfect for winter skirts.

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When we finally emerged from Barry’s the rain had almost stopped so we headed up to Fancy Silky Fabric’s. I had wanted to get a lightweight denim to make one of Marilla Walkers new Maya dresses but whilst rooting amongst the denims came across this stretch border print, I fell in love with the embossed flowery border and figured it would fit the pattern well. I unfortunately didn’t have time to look around the rag market as it was soon time to meet up again.

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We caught the bus to Moseley (after a little detour!) and arrived en masse at Gutherie and Ghani. The shop and studio is fantastic, I really wish there was something similar near me. Lauren had set up the studio for us and after unloading our bags we went down to look around the shop. I came away with some blue polka dot rayon, this gorgeous mustard cotton with tiny dragonfly’s on (can’t remember who designed it, should have paid more attention to the label!) and an advent calendar panel which is really sweet and has the instructions printed on. I also bought the Deer and Doe Bruyere pattern and a Liberty print ruler!

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We headed back upstairs for tea and cake and then had the raffle, all money raised during the day was being donated to Parkinson’s UK. Charlotte had managed to get some fabulous prizes including a Singer sewing machine. I won the Sewoverit ultimate trouser pattern which I had been thinking of getting, as apart from pyjamas and shorts for the not so little one I have never made any trousers, I have no excuse now!

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Emma was the lucky winner of the sewing machine!

 

After the raffle was over the tables were put together for the fabric and pattern swap, I managed to get a piece of nautical stripy cotton and also the lemon fabric that Louise had brought! I also picked up a vogue dress pattern and a children’s trouser pattern.

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Laden down with bags we headed off for home and said our goodbyes. It was such a good day and I met so many lovely sewists, it’s quite strange to meet people in real life when you have had a window into their sewing lives via their blogs and Instagram. I’ve also got many new people added to my feed and blogroll! it was so nice to spend time with people who shared a passion for sewing, fabric shopping is much more fun in a group!  Thanks again Charlotte and Lauren for organising such a great day!

Simplicity 2444, the flock flower one

I’ve finally made a small dent in my autumn sewing plan. Things have been so busy recently and my sewing time has seriously suffered, as a result this dress has taken two weeks to sew! The (not so) little one is going up to Secondary School next year so we have been on a continuous round of open evenings, coupled with swimming lessons and Scouts which has seriously eaten into my me time! I’ve been trying to do a bit when I can, but as I use the dining room for my sewing it does mean having to get everything out and set up and then putting it all away again.  It’s difficult to get motivated when it’s getting late and all I want to do is sleep! (I have been getting on with a bit of knitting though (still on the Peggy Sue cardigan!) so I haven’t been totally unproductive!) Anyway things reached a head on Monday when my planned couple of hours sewing got eaten up by extra work. With my dress still hanging half-finished on Doris I vowed that I wasn’t going to do anything on Tuesday until I’d finished it!

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This is the second Simplicity 2444 I have made. The first one was in December last year and was a bit of a panic sew. I needed a dress to wear for our works Christmas dinner. I had some shot cotton in my stash which I had bought on impulse (shiney!) without any plan as to what to make with it. The warp threads are orange and the weft threads blue which results in a shimmery purple effect. As I couldn’t see myself having occasion to wear such a chocolate wrappery fabric very often I thought I would use it to test out the 2444. I cut a size 14 straight out of the packet without any adjustments, I based this on the finished measurements, as always with Simplicity there was a good 3 inches of ease built into the pattern.   I’m not sure using a party dress as a wearable muslin is recommended but I was living dangerously!  The fit wasn’t too bad and it was perfectly wearable (I wore a cardigan over it to try and disguise the hunchback) but there was definitely a few tweaks needed. I didn’t blog it at the time but have taken some pictures now so you can see the issues:

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  • The main problem was that the bodice was too long, if I stood up straight and put my shoulders back the zipper gave me a slight hunchback effect.
  • The waist darts were too long, as they finished at the apex, giving potential for pointy nipple syndrome.
  • There was a bit of gaping on the back neckline.
  • The sleeve caps were too big and I ended up with some tucks, I was in a rush sewing but even if I had been sewing at a more leisurely pace there was no way I could ease that amount of fabric into the armhole!
  • The sleeves were too long, they were supposed to be three quarter length but ended up just short of full length (bracelet length?

My proposed fixes for these problems were to:

  • Shorten the bodice by an inch
  • Shorten the darts by an inch
  • Take an inch out of the upper back
  • Remove half an inch around the sleeve cap
  • Shorten the sleeves by two inches

It was only when I was thinking about my Autumn sewing plan that I decided it was time to revisit the 2444. I bought this grey flocked cotton last year, again without any plan for it, I just thought it would be a good autumn fabric. It’s languished in my stash trunk ever since. As it was a fabric for the cooler seasons I thought it would be an ideal candidate for this project.

I cut a size 14 again but made the above adjustments to the pattern. Although it has been sewn in fits and starts, in real time didn’t take that long. I cut the front skirt on the fold instead of two pieces as directed, I didn’t see the point of having a seam down the front of the skirt, I did however remember to account for the seam allowance so it didn’t affect the pleat placement. It did take me a little while to get the pleats matched up with the waist darts but I got there eventually. The order of construction was quite different to the usual way for dresses, it has you sew the front bodice to the front skirt piece, the back bodice to the back skirt pieces and then stich the side seam in one go before sewing the shoulder seams. I actually found this to be a much better method of construction, it was easier to match everything up a bit at a time rather than wrestle with the whole skirt and bodice. I might actually try this with all my dresses in the future.

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This is what happens when I’m told to do some different poses and move around a bit:

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(Think I proved a point there!)

I was a bit indifferent to this fabric when I started, I think because it was Grey and I prefer a bit more colour, but now it’s finished I am totally in love with this dress! The fit is spot on (or as near as I’m going to get) and I can see this becoming my go to dress pattern. As it’s part of the Simplicity Project Runway series it has a lot of variations, I can see why it has been so popular (lots of lovely ones on Pinterest here ) I’m also thinking of using the bodice as a basic block when frankenpatterning, I have a plan forming to use it with the skirt to the Colette Peony (Another unblogged dress, wearable but with a fair few fit issues in the bodice which I just can’t be bothered to deal with!)

The dress is going to get its first outing on Saturday as I’m going to the Sew Brum meet up which has been organised by the lovely Charlotte at English Girl at Home! I’ve been very good with abstaining from any new fabric purchases recently and instead saved my money so I can have a major blowout in Birmingham. I will try and grab a few photos on the day and hopefully post my lovely new acquisitions next week. I’m very excited, it’s the perfect treat after the hectic couple of weeks I’ve had! If anyone else is going I’ll be easy to spot, I’ll be the one wearing this dress!

Have you got any suggestions for other good TNT patterns?