30 January 2011

Fine Line Between Love And Hate

When I was a teenager, I detested animal print. I associated it with everything that was cheap, common and trashy.

Oh how times have changed......

10 years on and I can't get enough of the stuff. Don't get me wrong - the shiny, stretchy fabric still leaves me feeling queasy, but check out these for classic inspiration, from the 40s through to today.

I'm progressing slowly with my next creation, but I am progressing.
Whilst I'm not convinced my attempts with black and white animal print will result in such gorgeousness, I'm going to give it a go.

And you'll be pleased to hear, my fabric neither stretches nor shines!

28 January 2011

Thankful It's Friday

It has been a long old week.

And all my good intentions to sew until my fingers drop off have been scuppered. Mainly, I hate to say, because of work again.

When work takes over my life and I'm left with no time for hobbies, I feel blue. Sometimes, I wish I could stay at home all day making pretty things and baking cakes......

I have, however, started on my muslin for Vogue 8511. And yes, shock horror, I am actually making a muslin!! But don't you think muslins always look so sad and ugly?!

Anyway, I'm still sneaking a minute here and there at work to take a peek at everyone's blog updates - it keeps me sane when I'm drowning in spreadsheets!

What would you guys do if you never had to work again???

23 January 2011

French Vintage

So far, our french adventure has been wonderful so thought I'd share a little touch of it with you guys.

Yesterday, we took a road trip to Milau. This old town is famous within the glove-making industry, known for creating exquisitely elaborate gloves sent to designers across the globe. The Milau museum documents the processes undertaken to create the gloves, right from the tanning of the leather through to stitching the final pieces together.

There was a whole room dedicated to pattern designs! These were from the 1920s:

Plus a workroom set up as you'd find it all those years ago:

They designed and made gloves for the likes of Chrisitan Dior, Christian LaCroix, Nina Ricci, Karl Largerfeld. These Hermes ones were amongst my favourites (although there were far too many to include on here!):

Something that struck me was how tiny the gloves were - my chunky knuckles wouldn't stand a chance in these!

After the museum, we walked around the town (pretending to be french but probably looking more english than ever) and came across a darling little vintage store.......It was naughty of me but I couldn't resist!

Hope you've all enjoyed your weekend.....I'm looking forward to getting stuck into the animal print dress when I get back!

20 January 2011

When Work Takes Over

I love my job. I know that's often rare nowadays, but I feel as though I'm one of the lucky ones.

I work as an indirect buyer for a quintessentially British retailer. Our whole team works incredibly hard but mainly because we all have a lot of fun doing it.

This week, I've been implementing a project I've been working on for the past 6 months and have been running around like a headless chicken - it was one of those times when you think you've covered everything and accounted for all eventualities but then the little things start to unravel.

The unravelling has led to late nights in the office and subsequently, absolutely no sewing - I haven't even had time to cut out fabric!

Depressing. Very depressing indeed.

Fortunately, the husband and I are off to France tomorrow to visit the parents-in-law. Okay, so it does mean there will be even less sewing activity until next Tuesday, but it also means I finally get a break.

Apologies in advance for the lack of blogging.......I intend on sewing until my fingers fall off on my return!

Hope you all have a lovely weekend - can't wait to catch up on all your blogs when I get back.

17 January 2011

I Actually Won Something

I'm so excited!

Marie, over at A Sewing Odyssey, held a fabulous giveaway for reaching 50 followers. She was offering a choice of 2 vintage patterns and I immediately fell in love with this one.....

And guess what - I actually won!

Now, the pattern's a little small (and by that I mean a lot small) but I'm hoping that progression will lead to abilities in upscaling. Perhaps not one to try immediately but very excited to give it a go once I'm improved a litte (and again, by that I mean improved a lot!).

Thanks Marie! I absolutely love it!

16 January 2011

Completed New Look 6826 - Phew!

From my last couple of posts it's clear that this dress caused me some problems when, in actual fact, it should have been fairly straight-forward!

So let's get going with the review.......

From my past experiences (which are limited, granted) I decided to increase the darts in the bodice and reduce the amount of material in the neckline before I cut the pattern. I was hoping this would solve my 'full-breasted' issue and help the neckline to sit flat. And it worked - YIPEE!
My first pattern adjustment and it was a success, who would have thought it.

Moving on to the dart situation.
I sewed and then re-sewed the bust dart approximately 10 times. I couldn't escape the 'cone-shaped breast' look and felt Madonna was the only person that could pull this off!
But lo and behold, a comment from Vintage Girl saved the day (thanks for that!)
I was reminded that the dart needed to taper off the fabric to nothing rather than be sewn to a point and, taking some extra care (and by that I mean sewing slowly), I finally managed it!

I also had a problem with the darts in the back of the body. Thanks to my round bottom, the darts separated too much - which meant the back of the dress lost it's shape and made my bottom look even rounder. Only way to overcome this was to sew down the darts. Turns out, this not only totally fixed the shaping issues but also looks pretty cool!

My next problem was sizing. In terms of pattern sizing, my measurements are as follows:
Bust - 12 / Waist - 16 / Hips - 16
So I sewed accordingly. My gut feeling was that the bodice was too big, especially as it needed to sit nicely under the breast in order to work as an empire line. But I didn't follow my gut and put everything together anyway.
It was definitely too big (which, to be honest, does wonders for a girls confidence!) but it also meant that, if I intended on wearing the dress, it needed further adjustments.

A call to my mother-in-law (retired designer for Jaeger and Topshop), gave me my solution - I was to pull in more material into the bodice darts and similarly, pull in the same amount into the pleats on the body. Genius. And success!
She also explained that this is probably what I should for future patterns anyway, given my measurements - apparently it's a neat way to take sizing from 12 to 16 without the excess all ending up in the side seams....

So enough of my chat, here's the final product:

So it turns out, after all the issues I had, I kinda like it.

I think the main reason for this is because it has taught me a lot! Pattern adjustments, darts, fitting adjustments....this one had it all for me.

And even though I turned a fairly straight-forward pattern into a bit of a mission, it worked. So I'm happy.
(apologies for length of post on this one - it would seem I had a lot to say!)

15 January 2011

Well, There Were Definitely Issues

My latest project is FINALLY complete.

I felt like giving up with this one - there were a number of issues along the way and at each point, I was ready to put it aside and move on to the next.

Bodice darts created cone shaped breasts; Necklines wouldn't sit flat; The bodice was larger than expected; Back darts were too short.

Yes, there were definitely issues. However, I ploughed through and I'm actually pleased that I did.

'Proper' shots to follow tomorrow but thought I'd pass on a taster...... (please ignore the lack of ironing as its late at night here now and, to be honest, I don't like to iron at the best of times!)

At the end of the day, it's finished and it's wearable - it will never be a favourite of mine but hey ho......it means I can move onto the next and learn from mistakes made.

Which also means that I got to visit the fabric store today (possibly the best part of sewing?!) and I bought these...

Yes, you have spotted more needlecord at the bottom right there (I just couldn't resist) but I'm actually most looking forward to using the animal print. Fabric details escape me I'm afraid but I already have something in mind for it!

More to come on that tomorrow......along with detailed review of New Look 6826.

12 January 2011

Darts - The Bane Of My Life


Why am I never able to sew bodice darts without it ending up looking as though I have cone-shaped breasts!

I'm giving in for the night.

Hopefully tomorrow night will bring me some dart success (once I've taken the seam ripper to the bodice for the 4th time!)

11 January 2011

More Needlecord? Why Yes Please.....

My longing for needlecord has not yet been satisfied so I have started my second winter outfit this week - New Look 6826.

Given my neckline issues on my previous outfit, you would think that I would have followed my own advice of creating a muslin version first. But, no. I dived straight in and I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

I know it's naughty and if the material were super expensive I would definitely follow the right process, but when push comes to shove, I'm too impatient to make the same dress twice.....

Its a flaw - I have to confess that I have many!

Anyhow, things are progressing nicely. I'll either end up fairly smug that my resolve to avoid a muslin version had no impact on the final result, or I'll be cursing that I should have most definitely learnt my lesson the first time!

9 January 2011

Completed New Look 6457 - Albeit A Little Short

First week back at work after the Christmas and New Year break. Always tough, no matter how much you enjoy  your job.

This year, the first week back was made a little more bearable by the fact that I've spent virtually all of my non-working hours doing the one thing we all love to do....sitting at the sewing machine and finishing something.

My first complete project of 2011 - New Look 6457 (option E) with amendments

Ok, I'll begin by admitting that my judgment in terms of skirt length was slightly off and this dress is even a little short for me. There's no getting away from it. That being said, when worn with jodhpur leggings rather than flimsy tights, it's not entirely ridiculous.

Construction wise, this was a fairly easy creation.
Instructions are straight-froward and there are fewer pieces than other patterns I've made in the past which always limits the number of mistakes one can make!

My only issue was with the neckline......it ended up sitting fairly awkwardly, creating gaps between the dress and my chest.

In the end, I had to come to terms with the fact that I was suffering from my age-old issue I have with clothing - my bust is fuller than the pattern allowance.

Unfortunately, it was a little late for 'hidden' adjustments on this one so I had no choice but to add darts into the neckline to remove the excess material and make it lay flat against my chest.......
Now, diagonal darts (that I could have made look as though they were purposefully added) just wouldn't flow into the bust seams smoothly, no matter how hard I tried. And the harder I tried, the more frustrated I became.
So eventually I succumbed to the final lone option of adding a centre dart instead. It wasn't particularly pretty, but on a positive note, it called for some fabulous buttons to act as camouflage.

I also added an external, fully visible zip to the dress, updating the pattern to match current designs you might find in the shops. I tend to have a soft spot for them.

Overall, I'm fairly pleased with the results and have learnt my lesson to include darts into the pattern from the beginning when making anything with a low neckline............
Alternatively, I could stop being so lazy and create a muslin version before moving onto the real thing.

Hmmmm, anyone else suffer from the temptation to skip the (often much needed) practice piece???

4 January 2011

Birthday Treat & Winter Dresses

My standard winter attire consists of:

Dresses - Tights - Boots.

I'm known for it amongst my friends, but it's something with which I'm happy to be associated. For a start, it allows for the application of 1960s inspiration wherever possible - always a good thing - and it's also super comfy.

Just for a bit of insight....you'll never see me in jeans or trousers (unless I'm at home in my pjs), due to the fact that the resulting split between my top and bottom half emphasises all areas of my pear shaped figure that I would, on a regular basis, attempt to disguise.

So, I'm on a mission this winter to make myself some seasonal dresses to accompany my ever faithful tights and boots combo.

Its my birthday today, so I decided to treat myself and took a trip to the fabric store on my lunchbreak. I'm never one for knowing exactly what I'm looking for when I go to the store - given that I'm fairly new to this, I guess I like to feel the fabric in my hands before making final decisions. I deliberate massively which inevitably means I spend hours wondering around each aisle before eventually opting for the first fabric I found!

But not today. Today I knew what I was going in for. I wanted needlecord.

I'm not sure where my fascination with needlecord comes from. My mum loved dressing me in it as a child so maybe it stems from that but really, I just think the texture of the fabric is so seasonsal - thick, warm and soft. Perfect.

I searched, found and bought all in the space of 20 minutes. Definitely a record.

I bought these patterns a while ago and they've, so far, sat in the bottom of the drawer but I have now deemed them worthy of my new needlecord.......

I plan on making option E from New Look 6457 (the main picture) but have already decided to shortern the skirt considerably and ignore the piping. I guess I'm going for 'kitsch' rather than ' prim' on this one.

I have high hopes for New Look 6826. Option B definitely epitomises that 60s look and the blue needlecord should work nicely.

So my next projects have been decided. I love that feeling. Full of anticipation and hope followed by the longing to get home and sit at the machine.
Unfortunately, I'll have to make do with my laptop at work until 5pm.

3 January 2011

Completed Simplicity 2591 - The First

Okay, so I'm cheating a little with the timeline here as this was technically, completed in 2010, but still, it was my first completed project so I felt it should be included in the journey.

Meet Simplicity 2591:

I wasn't sold on the gathered neckline option so opted for option A......turns out, for a first dress, it was a little tricky.
What you don't really see from the pattern picture is that the side of the dress is made up of long, deep pockets. Looks great on the finished product (and pockets are a guilty pleasure of mine) but blimey, it caused me some problems in the construction.
Somehow - and I sound vague because I actually cut the side pieces twice and this still happened! - one side of the dress was wider than the other. Clearly something went a little wrong....being new to this, I'm afraid your guess is as good as mine.....but I blindly adjusted and fiddled and it's not particularly noticeable to the naked eye.

Other features of the dress seemed fairly straightforward. Gathered skirt, front and back, worked well and, although my sleeves ended up a little smaller than they probably should have (mainly due to poor sewing), my top arms are not particularly loved so undertops are my wardrobe staple.

Completed project:

I absolutely adore the material, which always encourages me to pick it out from the wardrobe....just cotton, but the colours and the pattern make me feel all warm inside.

It's certainly not perfect but it's wearable - an achievement in my mind. Plus, given it's the first one, it will always hold a special place in my heart!

p.s. now that my sewing activities have a real home, photography will improve....

2 January 2011

The Year Of Sewing

I guess it would be good to start with how I've ended up here, writing this blog........

The way a person chooses to dress has always intrigued me. An external representation of their character. Definitely a powerful thing.

This intrigue dragged me into the world of fashion. I certainly don't pretend to be all knowledgeable on the subject but when I choose to delve into it, the escapism it provides is second-to-none. The extravagance, elegance, frivolity and beauty of it all makes me tingle and even though the chances of me ever being able to afford an Oscar de la Renta dress are slim, I can at least dream.

However, this dream eventually pops and I find myself back in the real world, with a wardrobe that bores me and limited income to splurge on pretty outfits. What's more, I have been born with 'child-bearing' hips and a big bust. Now, mood-depending, I often see these 2 things as a blessing.......my new hubby certainly does(!).........but when it comes to finding clothes with that perfect fit, i struggle.

Oh how I wish I could find a dress that softly skims the hips, allows for a full bust without pulling and doesn't bag at the waist.

Then a year ago, I faced what could quite possibly be seen as the biggest decision a girl has to make.....her wedding dress. I wanted lace, full stop. I also wanted a vintage dress but my dad wanted white, full stop (given he was covering the cost of the entire wedding I afforded him this!). So I went hunting for a vintage-style, white, lace dress and, as ever, struggled to find the perfect fit.

And then I realised that what you see doesn't necessarily have to be what you get.......I had found a dress I liked but it wasn't 'the one'. Specific features bothered me - the sleeves (or lack of), the neckline, the fit of the bodice. So we bought it and we had them changed. Just like that. It was perfect.

Sewing skills were suddenly deemed essential. Post-honeymoon, I completed a 6-week dressmaking course to learn the basics and have now found myself here.

I have a lot more to learn and I am positive there will be mistakes made along the way, but fingers crossed I'll pick it up eventually and slowly build a wardrobe of my own creation.

I have already found so many of you doing the same thing and I am so excited to start this journey, picking up as many hints and tips as possible!

Here's to 2011...........The year of sewing.