Wednesday, 16 November 2016

A Second-Chance Shirt

No two sewing patterns are created equal. That’s something I’ve really noticed recently. I always used to think for the basic no-frills items like shirts and trousers, one good pattern would do. And maybe it would if it ticked all the boxes and fit like a dream, but most of the time that’s not the case.
That being said, me being the tight-arsed cheap thrifty person I am maybe isn’t such a bad thing, as if we all bought every sewing pattern we wanted there wouldn’t be any money left for fabric. Or food.
So this shirt pattern is from the first Great British Sewing Bee book that accompanied the first TV series. I’ve made a few things from it, with varying degrees of success. I’m won over by the stylish pictures and the fact I have many patterns for just a one off cost of £20ish (it’s probably a lot less now) but in reality the patterns, or some at least come with a fair amount of issues.
I actually made this shirt back in January 2015 and wrote about it here. I discovered after that the reason for it coming up so small was not just my bad measuring, but also the fact my printer decided to regularly ‘shrink-to-fit’ after I’d asked it nicely not to and I was too lazy to measure the damn box.
 
So I thought perhaps it was time to give this pattern another shot. It is well into autumn/fall now at least, which is definitely the season of all things tartan. I measured properly and this time cut a size 14.
 Things went along reasonably well, although I found the lack of any kind of notches to match up once again infuriating. When it came to the collar I found it to be too big, by some margin. Even using gathering stitches to ease it into the neckline didn’t help enough and I ended up cutting close to an inch off the end of it. Those things aside, it came together in a few hours.
 
I’m reasonably happy with it, or as much as I can be with what is decidedly now quite a naff pattern. The shoulders are two wide for me so the seam is sitting too far down my shoulder. It also feels like the ‘relaxed boyfriend fit’ they were after is happening at the top, but by my waist it is pulled in more. So it feels like a cross between a fitted shirt and a loose, relaxed fit one, not really belonging in either camp.
I do love the fabric though, and I’ve worn it out for autumn walks several times already. I’m not convinced it was the kicker to bring back my sew-Jo though as I’m still struggling with finding the time and energy.
What may help is the sewing room I will (fingers crossed!) have in the next couple of months…watch this space.
Emily Kate


Monday, 24 October 2016

A Summer Sophie Swimsuit

I've got something very topical to share with you today on this wintry blustery Monday. Or not.
I don't know what it is about October; maybe its the nights closing in, or the colder weather, but it does terrible things to my sewjo, or sewing mojo if you will. My list of sewing projects for the autumn/winter grows and grows and yet it feels like too much effort to actually start one.
 
So whilst I try my best to regain it, in the meantime I have something I finished back in August to share with you. Unfortunately I'm not going to be modelling this one for you... Mr Makes wasn't oh-so-keen on the idea, and given the average temperature currently I don't fancy standing in my little courtyard garden in a swimsuit.
 
 
The Sophie swimsuit is by Closet Case Files, and is available in two styles, a full swimsuit and a bikini with high waisted bottoms. As this was my first ever attempt at a swimsuit, and the first time in a long time that I've sewn with stretch fabric, I decided to enrol in the online Sophie workshop. The cost is $49 (£38, at least at the time!), which seemed a lot when I had just finished paying for a honeymoon, but does also include the pattern. Heather is a brilliant teacher, and goes through each bit in plenty of detail so I found it completely invaluable and as a result found it quite an easy sew!
 
The best bit I found was the first lesson when she talks in detail about each material you need (there's a lot!) and alternatives if you can't find exactly what she suggests. There's even a list underneath with suggestions on where you can find supplies online for those in the US, Canada and even the UK! Although it can add up to quite a bit with all the bits and bobs you need, I almost have enough to make another entire swimsuit, or a bikini top at the very least. Heather also outlines how you can make the bikini into a long line bikini and options for colour blocking etc, which is something you wouldn't get with just the pattern.
 
 
Whilst I found the instructions fairly straightforward thanks to the lessons, I couldn't find a stretch needle, or the patience to wait for one in the post, so I settled for a ballpoint one. That would have been okay if it weren't for the fact it was a little old and blunt, so it kept skipping stitches in the zig-zag stitch. As a result, this is a project I am simultaneously proud, and not proud of. I mean, I made a swimsuit! But if you look close, on the inside the stitching is a bit of a mess all round. I also didn't take the advice to spread the weight of the straps through the bra cups, and so they are pulling the fabric awkwardly at the top.
 
 
The fit is pretty good generally, I'm happy with the bodice, but the bra cups are a tiny bit on the small size. I think I would go up a cup size on the next one, or just a half, but take out a lot of fullness from the centre. 
 
So there we have it, my first attempt at a swimsuit. whilst I'm not sure how much wear this one will get as the fit could be better, I will definitely be using this pattern again and for all my swimsuits in future!
 
Emily Kate.


  

Friday, 23 September 2016

City Break - My Capsule Wardrobe

Something a bit exciting to share with you today. Sew Over It have just realised their first eBook, that is, a book of 5 patterns in PDF format only. For those of you that come here often… you’ll know I absolutely love Sew Over It patterns. I’ve made the Ultimate Trousers, Vintage Shift Dress and Betty Dress, and each is an absolute staple in my wardrobe.
 
http://sewoverit.co.uk/product/capsule-wardrobe-city-break-ebook/

In this book the patterns are :

The Erin Skirt – a short or calf length button up pencil skirt.

Molly Top and Dress – knit item with long or short sleeves.

Lola Coat – Waterfall style coat/jacket in two lengths

Mia Jeans – stretch fabric jeans with fly front and pockets.

Alex Shirt and Dress – button up dress or shirt.

I have to say I wasn’t 100% about the concept when I first heard about it. A book of patterns specifically for a City Break? But what it really is, is a suggestion for when you might need a capsule wardrobe, and 5 (well 10 including two versions of each) great patterns that work interchangeably together to make one. I love me a city break, but these patterns would also work great for me for workwear.
I love the design of the book, it’s well thought out and well-illustrated. Lisa doesn’t just tell us these patterns work well together but jaunts around Paris and London in different combinations of the patterns throughout the book. The patterns themselves are also a great selection. I often find with pattern books the patterns are a bit over simplified, but with things like jeans and coats, these definitely aren’t. I also really appreciate it when pattern instructions are illustrated with actual photos of the process, rather than diagrams; as I learn much better from seeing things being done! (or as close as I can get..)

 
 So when it came to making one of the patterns I was a little bit naughty. Firstly I didn’t listen to Mr Makes’ advice after asking which one I should make. I went a bit outside my usual box, and went for the button-up pencil skirt, the Erin. Then I ignored the clear suggestion to NOT use a stretch fabric, and picked a mid weight chambray weave denim with just a teeny tiny 2% stretch.
I don’t think the stretch was too much of an issue, although it made the waist a little roomier. I am happy with the sew, but I can’t help but think Mr Makes was right, I’m just not convinced the style of skirt suits me. I’m contemplating hacking it a little and cutting up to the shorter length.
That being said, I’m fully intending to make other patterns from the book. The Lola coat is right up my street, and the Molly top will make a great autumn staple for layering. Watch this space….
 
Apologies for the rather pained expression on my face in these photos...I was keeping an eye on the maahoooooosive spider that was behind the camera!
 
 
******Disclaimer******* - I was sent an advance copy of the eBook with no obligation to use or write about it.
 
Emily Kate.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

The Ultimate Snazzy Trousers

This is my third pair of Ultimate Trousers from Sew Over It after my Rupert bear tartan trousers, and the original pair from my sewing class. And they really are ultimate trousers. Easily my favourite pair yet. I LOVE them.

I wasn't really sure about my fabric choice at first. It's a stretch cotton I bought months ago from Fabrics Galore with these trousers in mind, but when it got to actually making them I was worried the print might be a bit loud and not suit me.
I decided to try a high-waisted version of the trousers, which Lisa has helpfully done a pattern hack for here.
 
 
This make wasn't without issues though... I thought my days of unpicking were more or less over, but apparently not. I ended up unpicking the zip and waistband twice! After I had installed it the first time, I tried the trousers on. I don't know whether I had been a bit over generous on the extension measurement, or my waistband was a bit wide, or if they were intended to be that high, but they ended not far from the bottom of my bra. Not the most flattering of looks...
 
So I marked where I wanted them to end, ripped the zip and waistband out and cut them down to the right length. Then I got to the same stage again, everything was perfect, and the zip pull flew off the end of the zip. Third times a charm though, and after a new zip everything was sorted.
 
When it came to pattern matching these trousers. I tried. I really did.
 
 
As you may have read about in my first ultimate trousers post, I apparently have one leg fatter than the other. (yes really) This doubles my cutting out time as I have 4 separate pattern pieces. I spent a fair while trying to make sure the centre front and back of the crotch seam pattern would match up, only to discover I had accidentally cut the back pattern pieces the wrong sides up, so they were the wrong way round. I managed to fix it by laying the pattern pieces on top of the fabric ones and drawing in the stich line, but it meant the front and back seams weren't going to match anymore.
 
I was a bit miffed about it, but when they were actually finished I loved them so much I didn't care, besides which the pattern makes your eyes blur if you look too long!  
 
I finished these just a couple of days ago, and have barely taken them off since. The high-waisted style makes them flattering and comfy and they don't budge from my waist like trousers tend to.
The stretch cotton also makes the seams feel that much more secure, I don't feel like my crotch or waist seam is in danger of ripping when I bend over. I'm completely converted to using stretch cotton for this pattern, and I've already spotted a beautiful flowery fabric for my next pair.
 
 
The pattern may be a bit too snazzy for small town Somerset, I've had quite a few looks strutting them down the high street, but i'm pretty sure everyone's just jealous...or at least that's what I'll tell myself!
 
Emily Kate.



 

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Autumn/Winter Sewing Plans

September is national sewing month. It's also #sewphotohop month over on Instagram. Are you taking part?
 
August was not the most productive of months sewing-wise for me...or anything-wise really. I have a real tendency to get lots of things done, if I don't have much time. If I have very little work and lots of time, I can waste whole weeks days at a time not doing a whole lot (watching the Olympics..!)
So September is a whole new month, and the start of the autumn months. So I thought I would share my sewing plans for the Autumn/Winter season with you, in an effort to re-start my sewing mojo.
 
 
 
This was actually on my sewing plans list last Autumn, but I got somewhat sidetracked with my wedding dress. Hopefully this will be the year I finally sew a sweatshirt/jumper!
 
 
Winter Coat
 
 
I haven't got a pattern in mind to use for this one just yet. I am in love with full skirted 1950's style double-breasted coats like these, so perhaps a vintage pattern is the way to go. 
 
 
 
 
Something else that's been on my list for a long while. I've recently completed the Sophie Swimsuit course, so can't wait to get stuck into another well-explained pattern from Closet Case Files.
 
 
Deer and Doe - Melilot Shirt

 
I've not tried a pattern from Deer and Doe yet, but there are so many I'd like to! I saw a beautiful version of this shirt on Instagram recently so had it to check it out.
 
What are your sewing plans this season?
 
Emily Kate

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Silk Wedding Ties

When I originally wrote my list of what I was planning to make for the wedding, ties didn't feature on it at all. It was only when I read a blog where someone had made their wedding dress, their bridesmaids dress, and attempted to make their grooms whole outfit that I thought I wasn't being ambitious enough.
 In all seriousness though, I thought it was a lovely idea to make part of the grooms outfit too, to make it extra special. I didn't fancy making his suit and he can be pretty picky when it comes to things like shirts, so I settled for the tie.
 
 
When we had decided on poly silk/satin for the bridesmaids I realised the same fabric would work for ties, and it would mean the colour was a perfect match. So I planned to make one for all the men in the wedding party.
This was really something that was supposed to be 'ONLY if you have time', but once I got the idea in my head I got carried away as usual. I ended up making them when really I should have been concentrating on the bridesmaids dresses!
 
After a spot of google research, I found this article, which I found overwhelmingly helpful for constructing a tie. The only problem was, they never mention which pattern mentioned they use. I plumped for Burda's Osman tie, as it didn't seem too skinny and was quite an inexpensive download. Annoyingly I found out later Sew Over It also has a tie pattern.
 
Mr Makes didn't fancy having his face in it...but wanted to show off his beard growth!
I didn't do the tip as instructed in the pattern, instead using the article above to do a more professional finish. For the tie lining fabric I used a similar curtain lining from eBay. When it came to folding up the tie around the lining, I found that this pattern had an extra fold-in. So at the centre seam it would be several layers of fabric on each side, and as the silk I used was already medium-weight, it would just be too thick.
I cut down the pattern so that after folding the edges in there would be just one fold to the centre. In retrospect, the fabric I used was probably a little on the heavy side anyway, as they didn't have as much fluidity as I would have liked. But then it was the perfect choice for the dresses!
 
The main centre seam has to be sewn by hand in silk thread. This was actually a blessing as it meant I could pin each tie together, and then take them with me when I left to work in London for 3 days each week without my machine. I ended up sewing 5 of them one sunny afternoon sat in a Wandsworth park for several hours!
 
 
I also ordered some cute handmade labels from this Etsy shop so I could sew one in each tie, and mine and the bridesmaids dresses.
 
 
As well as his tie, I made a little pocket square for my groom just a few days before the wedding. It's just a simple 15" square of silk with double fold edges. For tips on how to fold them try Brit & Co's article.
I made him a little wedding present too... a pair of boxers! Despite the fact they have reindeer on them, the pair I made him for Christmas are worn as often as the washing machine allows, so I thought it was about time he had a new pair...
 
Emily Kate.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Tips on Baking Your Own Wedding Cake

When I told people I was going to make my own wedding cake, and dessert table, that seemed to be the thing that pushed them over the edge. Make your wedding dress?... sure, bridesmaids dresses even but the CAKE???! Which is kind of ridiculous really. I might be more of a sewer than a baker nowadays, but I wasn't planning anything too difficult. And whilst the cake would have to be done nearer the big day, my dress was finished with weeks to spare, so the two didn't interrupt each other.
 
 
As well as my cake, my mum and I made various things for the dessert table. Lemon cheescakes, chocolate mousses, profiteroles, cupcakes, brownies and other treats. Unfortunately they went down rather too well and I haven't found a single photo of the dessert table before it was demolished by the hoardes!
 
 
I wrote about my practice cake a few months back and my DIY cake topper, but I thought I would share what I had learnt when it came to the real thing. So here are a few tips...

  • Make it in advance and freeze it. - Even if you're not making a cake that is usually made far in advance like a fruit cake, sponge cakes can easily be made ahead and frozen. Contrary to what you might think, freezing the cake after wrapping it well in Clingfilm actually keeps it moist. I took out the largest layer the night before I iced it and the smaller ones just an hour or so. They are also easier to cut and ice if still slightly frozen. Every dessert we made was also made in advance and frozen, and you would never have guessed.
      My timeline looked like this:
      The weekend before - Make all desserts and wedding cake.
       2 days before wedding - Take biggest layer of cake out of freezer and make icings.
       1 day before wedding - Take all desserts out of freezer. Take cake out, ice and sandwich layers.
       Day of wedding - transport to venue, stack layers and decorate.

  • Think carefully about what you plan to make - Given that we had a very DIY wedding, I wanted a cake and desserts that needed very little to no work on the actual day or day before. The cake just needed sandwiching together, and I chose desserts that could be frozen as is.

  • Let someone else arrange the cake on the day - I was constantly told by our vicar, my mum, mother-in-law, the hairdresser... that I could do all the DIY-ing I liked until the actual day, when I would have to delegate jobs. As difficult as this was for me, its true, you want to enjoy every minute of the day and concentrate on getting married. Mr Makes' mum kindly stacked the layers of the cake on the day and did a beautiful arrangement of fruit and gypsophilia around it.

  • Think about how you will store it and transport it. - Each of my layers was quite tall so I had to get some deep storage tubs. Make sure they are airtight so your cake won't dry out overnight.

  • Practice - Practice and perfect your cake recipe, even its a straightforward sponge. And practice the entire process, from baking and freezing to assembling the cake. Then you know how long it will take, and any issues you might have.
 

 

 
I'd definitely recommend making your own cake if you like a spot of baking, or enlist a family member to do it for you. Cake is one of those things that you can really save on as ingredients cost very little and its just a case of investing time and love into it.
 
Emily Kate