Made by Me!

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Sew House Seven Toaster #2 Sweater Finished!

Here is my version of the Sew House Seven Toaster #2 sweater. I made it as part of the #sewmystyle challenge on Instagram but as it wasn't finished until mid-week this week I failed to post it on time. Better late than never though! My main problem was thinking I had grey thread when actually I appeared to have imagined it. I have done the same with my current project so my Sunday sewing has been a bit of a failure all round. All the more time to browse the Internet for more fabrics I guess! I am trying to stop myself from buying more jersey... I have become quite the jersey obsessive since realising its not so difficult to sew and I really enjoying making all these basics. Its what my wardrobe has been missing.

So the Toaster has two variations, the other being a sweater with a high collar, cuffs and waistband. You can see my version here. This one has a lower neck, I think this type of collar is called a boat neck - the neck opening resembling the outline of a simple boat shape. 

I wanted to create a plain top, something basic to fit in to my everyday wardrobe. I wear jeans pretty much every day to work so I need a constant stream of smart/ casual tops to go with them. I decided in the end to use a dark grey brushed french terry fabric which I purchased from Stoff and Stil, a brilliant Danish fabric store which now has an online UK shop. Yay! Check them out they have some lovely fabrics. This fabric is lovely and cosy, with a soft brushed underside which makes it snuggly to wear and warm on colder days.

On to the pattern itself. Had it not been for the lack of sewing thread I would have completed this in a few hours. The construction is super simple. I put the sweater together mainly with my overlocker but used a twin needle on the cuffs and hemline. You have to use your normal sewing machine for the neck and actually you could use it for the whole thing making it accessible to anyone to try. Sewing the hem was the trickiest bit as you cant go around corners with a twin needle, instead you have to lift the needle out, turn the fabric and place the needle accurately back in to the fabric again before carrying on. It worked pretty well I think though I cant say its perfect. Next time will be better. Overall I am much more confident with a twin needle than I used to be. Its just a case of always remembering to lengthen the stitch a little and testing it out before committing it to the final sewing project. Then of course a swift press when done.

Like most people that have made this pattern up I loved the construction of the mitered corners, they were really easy but make the top look super profession and polished when finished. It was just a case of folding each of the corners in half right side together and when they are turned the right side out you have neat squared corners on your top ready to be hemmed down. Love it!!

If I am honest I wasn't sure whether this top would suit me. I made it as part of the #sewmystyle challenge but was sort of 50/50 on the style. It reminded me somehow of a painters smock. Now I have made it I do love it but I was actually still quite unsure until I finished it. The only alteration I made was to lengthen it by 3cms as the pictures always show this as quite a short top. I think it would be nice in the original length as well but I thought that I would get more wear out of it if it was a little longer.

Overall I love the Toaster #2 and will definitely make it up again. What do you think? Why not check out other peoples amazing versions on Instagram for more inspiration!

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Sew House Seven Toaster #1 Sweater - Finished!

The Sew House Seven Toaster Sweater is one of two variations, which you can buy together or separately, a brilliant idea if you don't fancy both styles, but not when like me you fixedly look for the pattern you want and don't realise you can buy them together, excitement getting in the way of being able to read and missing out on a bit of a bargain. I kicked myself when I realised but really they are such great patterns I don't mind really paying full price for both.

This is the first of the two Toaster sweaters, the other version is only formed in my mind at the
moment but I have some lovely fabric waiting and the PDF pattern is all taped together, cut out and ready to use. They vary in two ways, this version has long cuffs, a wide waistband and a high neck whilst the Toaster #2 has a lower neck, split hem and lower back. I love both but really only planned on making this version and then the #sewmystyle project popped up in my Instagram account and I was hooked on the idea of making an item a month, to build up a handmade wardrobe across the year with discounts on the selected patterns and a motivation to post something at the end of every month. This project is now fully subscribed (at least to get the discounts) but you can still sew along. Check out Bluebird Fabrics and the Instragram account from the organiser, @alexbartholomew_. This with my make nine items ahead of me means I have a lot of sewing to do this year!

I have made this toasty Toaster in a marl effect spongy, heavy viscose jersey bought from Raystitch. There is still some left and also in another couple of colour ways, oat and mauve.This one is called flamingo though I consider it more red than pink, but being mildly colour blind god knows how other people see it! I bought this fabric whilst going to a book signing for Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book (fan girl photo below!). I didn't plan on buying anything as I was completely broke but a couple of glasses of bubbly down and my fabric defences were down. Plus you cant stand surrounded by amazing fabrics for hours without giving into temptation! Raystitch is such a beautiful shop. 

This jersey fabric was a little difficult to sew on my serger. It was so spongy it slipped a little on a couple of occasions but overall I managed to sew it all up without too much incident. That's until I tried it on. The arms were so long, they came to my fingers. I had to chop off about two inches to make them short enough. Now I am not sure whether its the stretch of the fabric that did this or whether it is the actual pattern - my fabric has 100% stretch! I am making my mum one soon and I am not sure if I need to make alterations. We are very similar in shape so I would assume that I do but I may cut to the proper length and then check before sewing on the cuffs. Cutting them off and sewing them back on again has meant they are a little wonky for my liking but no-one has noticed!

The one thing I will change on my next Toaster is to make it longer, and I have seen other bloggers do the same. I really like the length but would prefer it to skim my bum rather than sit higher up on my hip. I would also make the sweater in a more structured fabric. It has worked well in this jersey but over time and wear it has sagged a little at the neck. I guess I shouldn't be surprised but as this is such a feature of the top I would like to make one that actually stays up all the time! I am also not sure if the fabric choice means the arms are a little less fitted than I would like. I suspect that it will change the whole top making it in a proper sweatshirt fabric with only 20% stretch.

Overall I really love this pattern. Its a really great basic and it has something more about it than the normal sweatshirts out there. Plus for all the downsides of a super stretchy fabric the thickness and softness of this jersey mean its super warm! I have had loads of compliments on it and as soon as I have time I will make another one. Have you tried this pattern yet and if not will you give it a go?

Thursday, 12 January 2017

The Grainline Scout Tee - Finished!

The Scout Tee from Grainline Studio is a pattern I have wanted to try for ages. I have been late to the party with Grainline patterns but I am trying to make up for time now! My oh my Jen Beeman has an eye for style. All of the patterns I have tried are not only stylish but super easy to follow, sew together so well and they fit me perfectly - its always a joy when you don't need to alter anything - Yip!

The fabric is a sarong I bought on my honeymoon in Sri Lanka - I bought two and only used one so I have some of this left for another project. I was desperate to find some fabrics to bring back from but I have to admit to not finding much out there that was special, I liked or was adequate dress making weight. It was also too hot to browse for fabrics so it was on our last day whilst using up the random holiday money that was left that I bagged a couple of sarongs with this exact top in mind. Now it is a very see through fabric so the first thing I did was cut out some black lawn in the same pattern pieces and underlined the fabric, sewing the lawn to the wrong side of the sarong fabric to create a sturdier and opaque fabric before sewing each piece together. This top is simple to make with so few pieces but with the addition of the underlining pieces this top took much longer than it would normally take to make up - all in order to preserve my modesty!

Whilst the fabric is lovely the downside is the pattern doesn't completely sit on the grain, its not vastly off but it meant it was a little confusing when cutting out and I may have cheated a little with being precise. I also needed to be careful not to place a circle over a boob! I think I managed to the pattern placement okay though!

One thing I do like about the scout tee is that the simplicity of this top really lets the fabric sing. You could have a really stunning bold fabric that on another fiddly item would be lost. Originally I wanted a bold, large floral patterned fabric but I couldn't find exactly what I wanted. Still searching!! I find its always the way that when you know what you want you cant find it!

This will form a part of the basics section in my wardrobe. A simple top to throw over jeans. I do think I need some plain ones of these and maybe a luxurious one. Do I fancy cutting up some more silk yet??! Mmm maybe, just maybe.... It is a really simple top to sew with no darts or fiddly bits. It does mean it doesn't contour the body but hangs a little from the bust but I don't find it unflattering.

Overall I can't fault it. It is a super simple top that anyone could tackle and I really think it will fill a nice little hole in my wardrobe. Happy sewing everyone!

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Grainline Driftless Cardigan - Finished!

This is one of my favourite makes of 2016, my Grainline driftless cardigan made from strange ponte roma lurex fabric in a creamy, coral colour from Fabric Godmother, sadly no longer available. I went for view B which has a split hem at the sides and a lower hem line around the back of the cardigan. I think its a little bit more contemporary than the straight hem on view A. I have totally fallen in love with this cardi and am now planning a more basic colour in black or dark grey but first I have to make my Mum one as she saw it on me over Christmas and loved it. Can't get more of a compliment than that really. Just awaiting the fabric delivery.

Over the last year I have become mildly obsessed with jersey and stretch fabrics. I would never have thought that this would happen as I have never really felt confident with knits, my makes in general have either come together by complete fluke or fallen apart within moments of wearing them for the first time, usually due to poor fabric choices and probably bad sewing technique. Through trial and error I have finally come to a place where I can make something and know it wont be a total fail! Whilst sewing my Charlotte Kan Elskan dress I had a mini revelation that I can add neckbands and sew with a twin needle without messing the whole thing up. It was also the first hem that didn't go wibbly. And I have worn it to death, it is absolutely my go to going out dress now. Yip!! I kind of launched into jersey from there, especially as winter necessitates some warm cosy clothes. It's funny how you feel rather overwhelmed by something and then all of a sudden it doesn't feel scary anymore. That's what persistence gets you. I still stumble from time to time with fabric choices as if I am honest its difficult to predict what you will get from an online order sometimes and lots of shops don't put the percentage of stretch on their stretch knits so you have to guesstimate whether its suitable. Plus the issue of not being able to feel the fabric and drape it in front of you means its scary to buy. But armed with some knowledge about what I am looking for means I am getting better at it. And you know I am at that point where I might just order myself some posh merino jersey from the fabric store for a hefty price tag per metre because it sounds delicious and I don't think I will destroy it anymore when I cut into it!

Anyway I digress. I have made a couple of Grainlines patterns now (another one to blog about soon!) and I have found them all to be so easy to follow and straight forward to put together. The fit is made for me, being a straight size 10 I don't need to make any alterations which is dreamy when it comes to easy sewing. The only thing I managed to mess up on this is the sewing of the band to the front. It is too tight and consequently wrinkles a bit mid way down. The fabric has stretch but the pieces at the front seemed to struggle to reach the required length and easing the fabric to reach the required length was a total mistake. But hey you live and learn and it isn't so awful you wouldn't want to wear it. Plus I don't think anyone has actually realised so its probably just me being persnickety.

My second issue is the slip stitching around the front band - you sew the band down by hand rather than serge or machine sew it. I had to redo it a couple of times as the stitch doesn't stretch with the fabric and it popped a couple of times. I am not sure if I am doing something wrong but I just put it on more carefully now. Once on its not an issue. Anyone else made this and know the solution here? I fancied just serging it on to be honest but I am not sure if it would sit flatly.

What I really like about this cardi is it feels kind of elegant to wear, its stylish whilst being a staple wardrobe basic. The cute hidden pockets are a lovely little feature and the seam across the cardi half way down the body means you can play about with colour blocking, just like this wonderful version from Christine Haynes. Endless possibilities!

The fabric was a weird one. When I was sewing it together it gave off a really weird plasticy smell that has only faded after a couple of washes. It also seems to like to come apart a little. I have had to sew in a couple of threads that have just come unravelled for no reason. The best thing is the wrong side of the fabric, it is red and gold in colour and so pretty. I think it might actually look quite nice sewn as the right side.

If you are struggling with fabric choices then both Fabric Godmother and Dragonfly fabrics do lovely basics colour palettes of ponte roma which is perfect for this piece. Girl Charlee has the most wonderful patterned ponte if you want something a little more wow! The Fabric Store sells lots of heavier weight merino jersey but it is expensive so you need to make sure you can cope with cutting into that fabric when you get it!!

So in conclusion I am going to make more of these, one for my Mum first but then when I have time definitely another one for me. I love, love, love it! What do you think?

Monday, 2 January 2017

Cleo Pinafore dress - Finished!

Happy New Year to everyone and thank you so much for following me through 2016! Its been a year of big happenings, getting married and turning 40 being the major events for me along with the general political turmoil in the UK and everywhere else in the world; for many 2016 is a year to forget but for me its definitely had its highlights. The one thing that has stayed constant is my addiction to sewing and during this last year I really do feel like I have turned a corner, wearing everything (practically) that I have made, falling in love with jersey (more posts on jersey makes to come) and just generally finding my groove and feeling like I can tackle anything. With #sewmystyle and #2017makenine putting me on track for a busy 2017 of sewing I thought I ought to catch up on the last few makes that I made in 2016. First off its the gorgeous Cleo pinafore dress from Tilly and the Buttons.

I bought this pattern as soon as it came out, though I have to be honest and confess I wasn't sure if 40 is too old to dress in a pinafore dress without looking slightly like mutton dressed as lamb....however as long as I keep my roots dyed to stave off the inevitable grey I think I can get away with pretending to be younger for a little while longer :-) Actually the Cleo is a surprisingly flattering silhouette, not too tight as it made to be unfitted to the body and the mini isn't so short I feel like I am flashing my bits to everyone. I probably wouldn't feel confident to wear this length in the summer but with a pair of oh so thick tights my pins can be exposed to the world! It feels more sophisticated than girlie to me which is the look I was going for by choosing black corduroy. For a girl that lives in jeans both for work and play its great to find dresses you feel confident in. I need more please!! Apologies in advance for the poor light but I managed to miss the sun when it came out today due to my camera battery dying on the only sunny day over the last week...! Typical!!

As with all Tilly's patterns Cleo came together impeccably and the instructions were as usual crystal clear. I love that there are a couple of versions to choose from and different pocket placements to mix it up a bit. I stayed classic pinafore/ dungaree dress for my make with a pocket centre front which is true to my nature style wise. I chose the classic dungaree buttons and clasps, which are really easy to get hold of on EBay should you need to hunt some down.

Just to prove there really is a pocket there! Black is so hard to photograph!!
The most annoying thing about this make was the fabric. Corduroy is like the devil. It was impossible to cut out and ruined all my pattern pieces as I went. Just the sheer effort of getting pins through some bits were enough to make me want to toss it away somewhere. And I swear that the fabric has blunted my scissors! To add insult to injury it leaves little remnants of itself everywhere and I mean everywhere... !! My carpet was covered by the time I finished making Cleo. It also attracts every bit of fluff from all corners of the house which makes it look like its been laying around to gather dust for months. Not quite the look I was hoping for! (Thank the Lord for lint rollers). Even my serger hated this fabric. It is the first time since owning it that I have had to resort to a zig zag stitch on the seams because I couldnt get it to feed through nicely. I had to unpick the serger threads a couple of times and was almost at the point of fraying the fabric beyond repair before admitting defeat.  It has put me off using it again for a while to be honest but I do like the final outcome. Maybe with time I will forget the pain!

As corduroy is a pretty thick material I opted for a contrast facing, using some  fabric by Leah Duncan which is called 'City Lights Night', a quilting cotton that I had left over from making my Papercut Patterns  Rigel Bomber. I then used my serger to create a lovely red stitching line around the outside to prevent any fraying. Only I will see it but I like a bit of contract pattern and thread sometimes. It worked nicely and doesn't feel at all bulky.

So is Cleo a dress I would make again? Yes definitely, maybe in a lovely denim next time. I am also tempted by the kits that Tilly has put together on her site, such a good idea. However with so many sewing plans to tackle this year I am not sure when I will the chance to make another one. How about you? Is Cleo on your sewing list this year?

If you fancy seeing my #2017makenine hop on over to Instagram to check out my future makes by searching for @sewing_beautifully. It would be amazing to see what you are all planning for 2017. Happy sewing everyone!

Sunday, 13 November 2016

The Sew Over It Pussy Bow Blouse - Finished!

It's a dark Sunday evening and I am cocooned in a snugly jumper and a pair of handmade Margot pyjama bottoms from Tilly's book, 'Love at First Stitch', trying to forget I have to get up for work tomorrow. I want to sew but I can't quite gather the energy to move so I thought I would type up my review of the Pussy Bow Blouse from 'Sew Over It' instead. It's a lot more glamorous than my current get up (although having only just made pj's for the first time they are so much nicer than shop bought ones and made in a lovely bright Liberty Tana lawn for some added luxury).

This pattern has been around for ages. How have I not managed to sew this beauty up before? It is in essence a pretty easy make, though I chose to make it in the most annoying fabric. I decided having never sewn anything in silk I would make an effort to rectify this and bought some of the most beautifully patterned and coloured dobby satin silk from the lovely Dragonfly Fabrics. Now I bought this a good few months ago but they still have some in stock so grab it here if you like it. The fabric features tree branches and lovely splashes of pinks, blues and other colours in the background. It is truly sumptuous. If you have not heard of dobby before then the first thing you notice about this fabric are the lines of  thread that punctuate throughout, which look slightly like small stitches in lines across the fabric.

The fabric is very fluid and drapey and so great for this shirt pattern but so difficult to cut out. I know now that there are much better ways to cut silk than laying the expensive fabric on carpet and cutting out with my scissors, but I am like bull in a china shop and just got on with it choosing to learn from experience rather than the warnings of others. I would avoid this technique as it is only by the skin of my teeth that the pieces I cut out were OK and if they weren't so great the mistakes were often hidden in the seam allowances. I spent ages laying it smoothly on the floor, carefully lining the fabric up and trying to pin the pattern pieces on without pulling the fabric all over the place. It took FOREVER!! The lines on the dobby silk were actually quite useful for positioning the fabric correctly and about the only reason the pattern pieces weren't all stretched out disasters...!

I went to the effort of hand sewing the pieces together, with a double whammy of pinning them with silk pins as well before putting them through the machine as I was worried they may slip all over the place. This worked well and everything sewed up nicely. It was especially important for the front of the shirt which is made up of two pattern pieces. I wanted to pattern match the tree branches and general pattern across the front. I am actually really surprised it looks this good due to the inaccuracies during cutting out, but it worked and looks pretty great if I do say so myself.

I sewed up the version with the lower neckline. The ties are sewn right to the bottom of the v-neck in this version and the tie hangs low on the shirt. You can style it with a big bow or leave the ties hanging down. I think it's a really flattering style. I love the way the sleeves pool at the wrist, the cuffs are small and delicate and the closure is a button and a loop of fabric. It is the epitome of feminine style.

I finished off the the seam allowances using a french seam to avoid fraying and to neaten the edges in a nice way. Silk deserves the classiest of finishes, don't you agree?! Annoyingly I managed to snip the fabric in one place whilst trimming the seam allowances back and had to quickly fix it with a small piece of iron on fusible interfacing. Its like you try so hard not to snip you involuntarily cause yourself to make mistakes.

I would like to make this up again in a more stable fabric as I think the finish would be better. I am not sure after hanging it in my closet that the hem isn't a touch wonky and on close inspection the v in the neck where the tie is attached wasn't easy to finish neatly with this fabric. Thankfully its hidden by the tie when its done up. And hey I am being critical as I am proud of this shirt. It is my first wearable silk item using a fabric I have been nervous of sewing up, forever. 

So what do you think? Have you made a pussy bow blouse before or are thinking of lining one up on your sewing list? Happy sewing whatever you are making!

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Wear Lemonade Dita Dress - Finished!

The Dita dress from Wear Lemonade has been on my 'must do' list for a while, though I only recently bought the pattern. I have been hearting this pattern company and their uber cool French style and the effortless chic of their designs for a while and eventually I had to give in and buy this pattern.

I think you can tell from my previous post about the gorgeous Elskan dress from Charlotte Kan that I love a good old batwing dress. The Dita is another dress that utilises this eighties silhouette but also features a really flattering wrap design. The dress is made to wear either with the v-neck at the front or the back which gives the dress a lot of versatility. I personally prefer the dress worn in the traditional way with the low cut wrap at the front, though this is only because I don't think high necks are my thing.

The reason that prompted me to eventually buy this pattern (other than loving the design) is because I was venturing to the posh bit at Ascot racecourse and needed a dress. I don't have loads of Ascot worthy dresses as my going out clothes rarely get more exciting than jeans and a top and loads of things from last year are frankly too small (sad face). The dress code for Ascot is pretty strict - dresses to be at least knee length, no strapless, halter neck or spaghetti straps and no exposed midriffs.....pah like any member of the public is going to get a glimpse of my midriff any time soon! But in all seriousness I was out of work and needed a quick, simple, cheap make that feels glam. So in walks Dita.

I wanted a drapey, flowing fabric but originally wanted something with a little body. I thought crepe would be a winter ready dress fabric that would have a lovely drape and would work well with the dress. I looked everywhere as I had specific ideas of what I wanted, which always means you can't find anything at all...! Long story short I came across the gorgeous digital tapestry crepe fabric on the Sew Over It website. It wasn't quite what I was thinking of but I liked its bold colours and in narrowing down my search I kept coming back to it. When it arrived, whilst I loved the colours, I was a little disappointed that it was more like a polyester silk type fabric - I also thought it was black not navy in the background though that is probably due to my computer monitor giving me a false colour representation. The fabric is very smooth, swishy and drapey but also really thin (should have read lightweight on the fabric description and believed it!). I didn't think a crepe was like that though so it was a real surprise, I always assumed it was a slightly heavier, rough feeling fabric. This meant I went through lots of pre-sewing thinking about whether to interline the fabric to give it more body or just to get on with it and sew... In the end after buying some black lawn to interline it with I decided not to bother because I wasn't sure whether it would work well and in honesty I was in danger of running out of sewing time before the big event.

Cutting this fabric out was a little annoying as it stretches slightly when you lay it out but with time and perseverance it was OK in the end. I think the skirt section on one bit was a little uneven but nothing that couldn't be hidden in construction. Sewing it was such a pleasure. I assumed it may slip all over the place but actually it was super easy to control and sew. The overlocker didn't really like it that much but to be honest sometimes it just throws a hissy fit and I have no idea why...

The construction is super simple as there are so few elements to sew together and there are no tricky techniques, so its perfect for beginners. In the end I whipped it up pretty quickly. The thing that took time was hemming the skirt as there is quite a lot of fabric. Things that you should be aware of with this pattern. The skirt is shorter than I would normally cut and sew, I lengthened it to the longest length available on the pattern and it was just right for me (just above the knee) but I would say if you are tall you may find it comes up a little short. The tie needed sewing down rather than just pressing, but this is likely due to my fabric choice more than anything. Without topstitching it looked a little 'baggy'. The biggest thing with this pattern is that the front falls open which can be annoying and the facing can pop out a little. I found that even when securing the front facing at the shoulders and at the waist it popped out and this is mostly due to the fact the front naturally sags which is part of the design. Wear Lemonade suggest a pin at the bust but I think this looks a little like it doesn't fit plus I wasn't sure this fabric would take kindly to having holes put in it. My preference was to purchase a lacy slip from M&S. Works a treat. So if the front falls open a little it doesn't feel like I am exposing myself to the world.

The best bits about this pattern are that its a really flattering design, it sews together impeccably and it has English translation alongside the French sewing terms. OK not all of it is perfect but its 99.9% perfect and so much easier than trying to decipher the French! Basically I love it so much and think after all my worries the fabric is just perfect for this pattern. I feel like I have a proper going out dress now. Just have to find another occasion to wear it!!

I hope you liked reading about Dita. What is on your sewing table today?