Thursday, 31 December 2015

My 6 Favourite Makes of 2015

Now we've reached the end of 2015, I thought I would share with you my favourite makes of the last year. And its been a great year!
For me 2015 was the year I felt I really got to grips with sewing, and can now sew a well rounded wardrobe all on my onesie.
2015 was the year I made my first coat, my first shirt, and fell in love with circle skirts and petticoats. It was pretty difficult to keep it at just 6 favourite makes!
I think this narrowly pips the vintage shirt dress to the position of my favourite dress this year. It really made me fall head over heels for circle skirts, and even better the fabric was just £2.20 a metre!
My first ever sewing class resulted in a perfectly fitting pair of trousers, after one big mistake and the discovery that each of my legs is a different size! I've used the adjusted pattern once more already and it's still perfect.
I was a little unsure about this at first, as it is something that won't get too much wear. I cant really wear it to work, or in the winter and I wasn't sure it'd suit me. However I think it looks quite stylish in the end and I got a great response from instagram.
I love this dress. Its summery and classy at the same time. Really wasn't sure about Mr Makes suggestion of red buttons, but I think they really make the dress in the end!
I love the casual look of this denim number and the sheer versatility of the pattern, I've made 2 other versions already.
 I made a coat! 'nuff said.
So whats in the plans for 2016?
A wedding dress. That's pretty much it.
Happy New Year! 
Emily Kate.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

What's New in the Shop for December?

There's been a few new skyline pillows appearing in the shop this year, and hopefully there will be many more in 2016. What I'm planning to do is add a few more UK skylines, and particularly south west UK ones, as 2016 will hopefully be the year that Mr Makes and I move back to the west country. I'd love to start trying to sell them in independent shops and craft fairs too.
For Christmas this year I didn't do quite as many handmade presents as I have in the past, but I had a few family members I knew would love a skyline pillow.
Cardiff, Wales
 Featuring the Millenium Stadium, Cardiff Castle and the Millenium Centre (complete with correct English and Welsh writing!)
Bath, Somerset
Featuring Bath Abbey, Pulteney Bridge and the Roman Baths. This might be by favourite design. Its very detailed though so rather time-consuming!
If you'd like to see a particular city in the shop next year, drop me a line!
Emily Kate.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Men's Christmas Boxers!!

Every Christmas since our first Christmas together a whopping 8 years ago, I've bought my man a pair of Christmas boxer shorts. It started off as a bit of a joke, as I wasn't sure he'd really wear them. But not only does he wear them, he wears them without fail throughout the year. Since he now has 9 pairs, odds are he'll be wearing pants with snowmen or reindeer on even if we're sunning ourselves on holiday in July.
Although I've been sewing for over 3 years now it wasn't until this year, and this post from Winnie at Scruffy Badger that I actually thought about making a pair of boxers for him. By the time I'd decided it was a bit late in the day, but I managed to find Simplicity 2741 and some fabric that was Christmassy but not thick quilting cotton, as much of it tends to be.
The pattern for the boxer shorts is just one pattern piece, cut twice. It has a fake fly front with snap closures, which I hadn't encountered before but the instructions were very clear. I often find the big 4 patterns harder to understand as I'm used to the indie patterns where every little step is laid out in minute detail. However these pattern instructions I found to be very clear, and the pictures too.
The boxers fit well around the waist as I know his waist measurement, but the legs are rather roomy so I think next time (next Christmas!) I will narrow the leg pattern piece.
I also made a pair for my Dad as although I've sewn things for my mum, sister and boyfriend before, I've never made anything for my Dad. He's a bit of an award shape so a shirt would be difficult as a surprise without taking all his measurements, and everyone needs boxer shorts!
Unfortunately the boyfriend was less than keen about modelling this make...and I really don't think anyone wants to see a 58 year old bloke with a chest drain wearing them either....(sorry Dad..)
Emily Kate.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

A Christmas Party Megan Dress

 My first Megan dress, from Tilly and the Buttons book Love at First Stitch, I made over a year ago. As that was in a thick ponte knit fabric, it seems to have become aligned with autumn\winter in my mind, and I hadn't actually thought about making another until I bought this beautiful black wool with red polka dots from Sew Over It. I thought with a few fitting changes it would make the perfect little warm Christmas party number. Although it's barely dropped below 15 degrees and I wore a summer dress out last week....!

The problem with my first Megan was that it was too roomy all over, particularly around the back neckline and zip seam. I wear it often, but I do feel its stretched over time, and as its made from a knit fabric I don't even have to undo the zip to get it over my head.
To get a closer, more form fitting dress I decided to take out around 1.5 inches down the centre back seam. I also took out excess fabric around the front and back neckline by overlapping the pattern piece and converting the excess into the darts.

I cut out my pattern pieces last Friday evening, and after a few hours sewing on Saturday morning (even with redoing a dodgy invisible zip!) it was ready to go for Christmas drinks that evening. It's just a really straightforward and easy pattern to sew up, and a great wardrobe builder. The only issue is that its one of the only dresses I have where the zip goes right up to the neck, and I cant reach it myself (and i'm pretty bendy!). So if I wear it out late and come home to a fast asleep soon-to-be Mr Makes, I've not got much choice but to sleep in it!

As I'm back at my parents house for a couple of days my mum was in charge of taking photos this time, and our rather needy labradoodle decided to photobomb...!
And as it's difficult to see the cute pattern on this fabric, here's a close-up...

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

A Winter Betty

I find that winter is a terrible time for my sewing and blogging. The dark chilly evenings and constant drizzle just make me want to curl up on the sofa under a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate. Factor in the only 7/8 hours of sunshine each day and a grumpy boyfriend with man flu and its incredibly difficult to get any decent photos taken.
I've also been incredibly busy with my shop this year after a quite a quiet September/October, with orders coming out my ears the last few weeks. Finally now the last overseas post in time for Christmas has gone and I have just over a week to make a few presents for my family and maybe even one for myself!
I did manage to whip myself up a winter Betty dress at last, after the enormous success of my first one. My poppy print version is my absolute favourite dress, and I always get compliments when I wear it out. However I did have a couple of minor fitting issues with it. It fit perfectly around the waist and bust, but I often find I get a little excess fabric in the middle of my chest that gapes a bit, and the same at the back.
To sort it out in the new version I took out the excess fabric from the pattern piece by converting it into the waist darts. Despite this I still found myself with excess fabric in the chest after making up the dress, and the waist seemed a little looser. I'm not sure if that is due to the fabric having more ease, my dressmaking shears being quite blunt so cutting out a bit slapdash, or if I just need to take even more fabric out there. Anyway, it's still a pretty good fit, and I just love the style of it.

This version was made in a lovely Melton wool from Sew Over It called Melton mist, which you can find here. Given how much fabric the skirt needs it was pricier fabric than I usually go for, but I loved the colour. It is at the moment rather itchy to wear, but I'm hoping that will ease after a wash or two. Its a great addition to my winter wardrobe, as I usually find myself in jeans and a jumper for most of the colder months!
Do you find it harder to summon the energy to sew in the winter?!
Emily Kate.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Bunting Banners

The list of stuff I’m optimistically planning to DIY for the wedding is currently about as long as my arm….Now its not much more than 7 months away I decided it was probably about time to make a start on things.

I have to say I’m not a big fan of bunting, (sorry mum) I think it’s just one of those things that has been somewhat overdone in the last few years. However I did love the idea of stringing up a few rustic-looking bunting banners in various places.

All I used to make these was some off-white linen/cotton blend, black thread and ivory bias binding and they took not much more than a morning to do all three. I cut out two of each flag to sew together so there would be no raw edges, and using bias binding to finish the top edge doubles as the ribbon to hang it up. I drew on the letters in washable ink and then freehand stitched over the lines, just how I do my skyline pillows.
My sister found this cute little wooden suitcase for me in the flea market. It’s over 100 years old and was a steal at just £15. I’ve been planning on making it into storage for all my thread and sewing supplies but hadn’t got round to it yet, so as cliched as it is these days, I thought it would make a great card box.
I may make a couple more banners at some point, I definitely intend to do one for the dessert table we’re planning. Maybe saying... ‘Let them eat cake!’

Emily Kate.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Rupert Bear Trousers

After the success of my first pair of Ultimate Trousers from Sew Over It, I thought it was about time I got round to making another. my first pair were originally going to be tartan, before the wrong-size-fiasco so I had to make a tartan pair eventually. Or as my mum called them, some Rupert bear trousers.
I discovered Lisa's tutorial on how to make the trousers high-waisted and thought I'd do that this time, as I find high waists very flattering. I also planned to add pockets since I really miss them in my grey pair. In the end I made the typical mistake of deciding I absolutely had to finish them by the weekend so I could wear them on my weekend away...and didn't have time to do anything exciting with them at all.
This was the first time using my adapted pattern, so it's great to see the fit is still just as good the second time around. The pattern is such a quick sew I made these in two mornings worth of sewing time. Unfortunately my least favourite job (cutting the pattern out) is made longer by the fact I have four individual leg pieces as my left leg is an entire inch fatter more muscular.
As well as the fit, I'm super happy with my pattern matching skills. Especially considering I had to cut out each piece individually.
The only problem with these I have is that I'm not sure I have many tops/jumpers to pair them with. but then again that's a brilliant excuse to buy more fabric and patterns. :-)
Emily Kate

Sunday, 8 November 2015

An Impatient Knitter

Do you prefer to knit....or sew?
 I first took up knitting a few years ago after I had finished studying. It took a whole Saturday afternoon of youtube-ing and reading before I finally got the hang of it....and then I was hooked. The repetition involved is very calming and comforting, and I really find it a great stress-reliever.
That first year I knitted everyone's Christmas presents and I started this blog. Then I started sewing.
Now don't get me wrong I still love to knit, but I find it hard to find the patience to knit an entire jumper when I can sew up a new top in a matter of hours. And then there's the price of the wool. I've knitted many many scarves, hats, gloves, socks, even a couple of pouffes but confession time...I've never finished made a jumper.
For my birthday this year my mum gave me an old book she found at someone's garage sale, mostly because she knows I love old books rather than actually thinking I would knit something from it. So I decided it would be pretty cool to knit something from a genuine vintage pattern.
I actually knitted up the front of the jumper pretty damn quick, but since then its been put on the back burner as I procrastinated my way through the last few weeks. Seriously if you ever want to have a very unproductive month/week/year, plan a wedding. It's truly amazing how many hours can be wasted perusing pinterest and reading wedding horror stories.
So I thought by sharing it with you, it might encourage me to finish this one. Hopefully by Christmas, or at least by the end of the winter months.
I cant be the only one with lots of half finished knitting projects....what have you got stashed away?!
Emily Kate.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Everyone Should Have A Petticoat...

After trying on wedding dresses it was pretty clear I was going to need a petticoat, and a big one at that. Since I was already certain I would be making my dress...bridesmaid dresses....and a bunch of other stuff, I looked at buying one to save myself a job.
However they aren't cheap. Most I found were at least £50 and some over £100. I also didn't like that many seemed to do the first tier in cotton without much gathering, it made the fullness start too low down rather from straight away at the waist.
So I decided, why not have a go at making one. A practice run. I was planning on wearing my Betty dress to a late October wedding so thought a petticoat would give it a bit of oomph (and an added layer of warmth!)
After a bit of research I found the best tutorial was this one from Sugardale. The basic premise is to double the length of the fabric for each tier. So I did the bottom one at 8 yards, then 4, 2 and then my waist. To get a fuller petticoat, you need several layers, each with the three tiers.
I decided to make my petticoat out of navy coloured net and ribbon as it would match my Betty dress.
Also i'll let you in on a secret...I'm intending on having a navy petticoat under my wedding dress. It'll match the bridesmaids, be my something blue, and also just make it a little different from your standard white dress.
I used some stiff dress net fabric I bought from eBay and satin ribbon to bind the edges. As net doesn't fray I didn't really need to do French seams or cover the raw edges with ribbon as she does in the tutorial, but I decided to anyway as I like the fact all the raw edges are hidden away.
All in all I found this to be a dead easy project, it was just a bit time consuming measuring out, cutting and pinning when you're dealing with up to 8yards of fabric. I did decide at the last minute to add an under layer of cotton. I cut a piece 10 inches wider than my hips and gathered it to fit the waistband.
So you can see the savings I made by making one, here is my cost breakdown:
4 metres of dress net - £6.20
16m ribbon - £2.20
Twill tape - £1.85
Thread from stash.
Total cost - £10.65
If you have even basic sewing skills, and the time to do it, I'd definitely recommend making your own. You can choose the exact colour and length you want and save yourself money at the same time. And you really should get a petticoat. Everyone should. They are so much fun to dance float along when you walk, and they give you a stunning 50's silhouette. What's not to love.

I think for my wedding dress petticoat I will be looking at doing at least 3 layers, maybe 4 to get the full skirt effect!
Emily Kate

Thursday, 29 October 2015

A Swish-tastic Betty Dress

I've always been quite a fan of 50's silhouettes, but getting stuck into Mad Men recently has made me really fall in love with the style. A cinched in waist is pretty much flattering on anyone, and who doesn't love a swooshy skirt?!
So when I saw the new Betty dress at Sew Over It earlier this year I couldn't resist. I bought it on a bit of an impulse, (which is a rareity for me!) but after I'd finished my Vintage Shirt Dress, so I already knew how awesome Sew Over It patterns could be.
However I think my Vintage Shirt Dress is now relegated to second place in my favourites list...because I LOVE this dress. Everything about it is super stylish, but also fairly simple to achieve, from the V-neck back to the circle skirt.
I actually finished it way back in the summer, and decided to wear it to the second wedding we attended this October along with my Coco jacket.
The fabric is a beautiful red poppy print with a navy blue background. It's some kind of cotton/polyester blend, I got it for just £2.20 a metre from Walthamstow market.  
I found the instructions to be easy and straightforward...This was actually the first time I've done the all-in-one facing, after trying and failing once before. I have got considerably more experience now, but it's explained so clearly I think even a beginner shouldn't have many issues. I did stay stitch the neck and skirt edges to stop them stretching, but I think also using some stay tape in the neck edge seam allowance would help it to keep its shape better.
I'm actually wearing a petticoat I made under this dress, which will have it's own special post shortly. It helps to give it a bit more volume, especially with thin cotton as it does hang straight down otherwise. It also makes it SO MUCH FUN to wear. I spent most of the night of the wedding swishing it about whilst strutting my stuff on the dancefloor.

I cant wait to sew another of these up, I'm thinking a little wool number would be just the ticket for Christmas.
Emily Kate.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

A Coco Jacket

As if just making a dress for my friends wedding wasn't enough, I decided to make a little jacket too, as I have two Autumn weddings to attend in the space of 10 days.
I first discovered Schnittchen, a German pattern company, after seeing Rachel's version of the Coco over at House of Pinheiro. I put it on my list for Autumn/Winter sewing plans as I planned to make a wool version but it's not going to be particularly useful when it gets much more than nippy on the temperature scale.

Schnittchen patterns are really reasonably priced with PDFs around 5-6 euros. Their patterns are quite folksy and loose fitting whilst still being uber stylish. The fabric I chose was a dark blue/navy boiled wool, with a polyester micofibre satin-like lining in a sort of mint green shade.
Now I contemplated not writing about my Coco jacket since I didn't manage to actually complete it according to the pattern. Its labelled as easy, which I would agree with, right up until it comes to attaching the lining. I've never done a bagged lining before which I why I think I had so many issues. I found the instructions to be seriously lacking when it came to the last couple of steps. I attached the two hems, but I couldn't work out how to deal with the difference in hem lengths without having a gap in my stitching. I googled and looked everywhere I could think but I still couldn't understand how to sort this out!
Me being me, I was struggling with this at 1am on Thursday, the night before we were travelling to Somerset for a wedding. In the end I gave up, went to bed, and ended up stitching the hem on my mums old machine the next evening. I then turned it right side out and slip stitched the hole left in each corner by had. You wouldn't notice unless you knew what you were looking for, but I'm still frustrated I was beaten by it which hasn't happened before.
So if you have a foolproof, clear tutorial for doing a bagged lining, please let me know!!!

When I was perusing the Schnittchen website more recently I noticed the Luciana dress. I love the fitted waistline with the V-neck so it's definitely going in my plans for next summer. I often find that a lot of dress patterns can be pretty similar so its great to see one a little different.
Please tell me I need to smile more when I'm taking photos... but this is what happens then. Crazy loon face.
Emily Kate.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

An Elisalex Dress

I've been planning this Elisalex dress for months it seems, thinking it would be the perfect wedding guest dress. Also I thought an added bonus that I'd have nice photos, because everyone takes lots of photos at a wedding right?! Of the bride and groom. So of course I didn't take any of myself in my dress, and had to resort to my usual spot in front of the hedge...

I actually ended up finishing this the night before said wedding, at my parents house. It was really finished almost a week before, but I couldn't decide on the length of the skirt or sleeves so kept putting it off. I then decided to hand sew the hems which meant I didn't really need my machine and could wait until I was back in Somerset so I could concentrate on my Coco jacket (which was finished the morning of the wedding).
I can't be the only one who sets myself ridiculous sewing challenges surely? I thrive off a tight schedule though...when I've nothing to sew for in particular things get put off. Don't worry though Mum I promise I probably won't do that with my wedding dress.
So... to the dress. The fabric I used was upholstery weight cotton, curtain fabric from here. I used a white cotton lawn for the bodice lining and decided to underline the skirt with it too, to make it softer against the skin and as it had a loose weave.
I was a little bit worried I would look like a curtain...I mean there are birdcages on it after all. But if I did no one told me, and the fabric has really grown on me. I did attempt a bit of pattern matching on the princess seams, which didn't work brilliantly... and the back seam, which really did! I found the pattern to be pretty simple, no techniques I hadn't done before. Set-in sleeves are a pain, but otherwise it was a breeze.
The fit I'm reasonably happy with, I cut a size UK 14/ US 10, but took a lot of the length off the skirt. I took a few inches off before I cut out, and then another two as it was still past my knees, which I didn't think flattered me at all. The bodice fit is really good, although I'm not sure if its a bit wide at the shoulders or just meant to sit like that. I can't really wear a bra with straps as you could see them poking out all the time.
I have to say I wasn't sure about the style of the skirt on me, I was worrying it made my hips/bum look huge when I looked in the mirror. However looking at photos I think it is actually quite flattering as it makes your waist appear smaller. It's also nice to have a different style skirt, as all my dresses seem to be gathered or pleated.
What have you been struggling to finish in time?
Emily Kate.