Thursday, 29 December 2011

Not Jersey Shore

This year I discovered jersey!

Me and the girl from Vogue - hard to tell the difference huh?
Where have you been living? I hear you all cry!

I know, I know -  I avoided stretchy fabrics like they were contaminated because I had an irrational fear of stuff that clung to the body like a wetsuit, showed every lump and bump and was synthetic. Such a fabric snob......though I've always thought that wetsuits make the most wonderful foundation garments! I confronted my fears with a little bit of self-administered CBT and the result has been a flooding of knits/jersey/lycra/stretch into the wardrobe. Most significantly has been the wrap dress - see no zips!

I saw this dress (V7898) on Anne-Marie and thought it looked stunning, especially on her. So last time Vogue had their $3.99 sale on I bought it. Just prior to the Christmas break I tootled down to the local fabric shop and picked up a couple of knits (one of which was half price) and set to.

Believe me, this is the easiest, quickest, simplest wrap dress you'll ever make and it looks fabulous. No kidding: 30 minutes to cut out, 2 hours max to sew up - wear! And the best bit is you get to use hardware tools for the tie. Remember, I don't have an overlocker (serger) but I'd imagine if you have one you could make this dress in half the time. I cheated a little bit and didn't finish the seams on either of the dresses - there's no fraying with the knits.

The first version I made is plain - followed the pattern exactly -no mucking about. I've made a short tutorial about how I simplified Vogue's instructions for inserting the sleeves and for a speedier result. Download the PDF here.

The second version was the Christmas Day Dress. It's made of a finer knit and I sewed sparkles around the neckline and sleeve hems - yes, one at a time!

I attached a purchased trim (braid) and then alternated between sequins and  beads. It was nice, relaxing - I felt like I worked at M. Lesage, Paris.  If I get bored of the glitter bits I can easily remove them for a day-time look.

Here's me and Doris sharing a girly moment in our matching dresses. You can see the difference in the asymmetrical hemline here. I think that's what transforms this otherwise simple wrap into something else.

The dress is actually a part mock-wrap, in that the inside wrap is sewn to the inside side seam but the outside wrap is fixed through a hardware D-ring with a tie. It is surprisingly secure - a whole Christmas dinner and no adjustments were required.

However, I would say that the front of the dress is low! Some of you who have dress codes at work, or are a little modest,  may need to wear a camisole or T-shirt underneath. When I wear the Plain Jane version I have a scarf around my neck secured with a brooch. I made some adjustments to the Suzy Sparkle one and raised the wrap up about 5cm (2"). Wearing a scarf would just be silly with this one, hiding all that hand work.

The shoes are from Irregular Choice, bought ages ago. If you're looking for something a bit different, then look here. They are my party shoes and only come out of the box for special occasions. Can you see the mummy swan and her cygnets on the side?

The heels are engraved perspex for extra sparkle.
Even the inside is gorgeous.

A little nostalgic moment for us girls

 Thanks for reading. Ruth

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Too Much Time to make Crooked Things

and this is the reason we cut on the straight of grain..... 

With most of the festivities at a conclusion for the season and having (too much?) time on my hands I attempted a Burda Style magazine pattern. Pulled out the pattern sheets from the centre of the magazine and... no wait ...... Prttynpnk says it much better than I. 

Burda Style Magazine Nov 2011

Anyway, located the pieces I needed to make the above cardigan and traced them on to tissue paper. Had a bit of difficulty finding the straight of grain line but carried on regardless. Because I have an unexplained impluse to muck about with every pattern I use I decided to add a hood. And, I'd line the hood with a Chinese satin fabric and I'd face the fronts in the same and I'd reduce the width of the lapels.

Got the pieces cut out and sewed, including the raglan sleeves - got the hood cut, lined and attached to the neck line - got the facings cut and attached and then it struck me! The fronts were not lying flat. So I pressed, topstitched, pulled and stretched and nothing I did made a difference.

Image from Threads

Back to the pattern pieces and the straight of grain line on the front is about 10 degrees out - in other words, not straight at all. The orange line on the picture shows about where my grain line is marked.
SFX Collar

So I thought maybe I could use this special effect as a design element. You know, sort of ruffled collar look and have the facings deliberately hanging out - no - it just always looked like the fronts were wonky. The only location this garment was going to see was the inside of the bin.

I can't salvage much of the fabric either as the sleeves are two piece raglan and the fronts are goners. 
Nice idea though?

And so, if you ever wondered what happens if you don't cut on the straight of grain - this is!

Thanks for reading. Ruth

Monday, 26 December 2011

and now for something completely different....

I've been blogging for nearly two months and looking back over the posts I've made in that time has  made me re-evaluate my style. Are the clothes I make boring? (well maybe). But there's nothing in my wardrobe that says extraordinary, avant-garde, designer - WOW - set the world alight! I think what I make is SAFE: conventional clothes.

Leading up to the Christmas period I set to sewing stuff I would never have contemplated before. I rattled up a few things that I would probably never buy as RTW and pushed the comfort zone perhaps into mutton territory. Anyway, it's only you and me and a few close friends who have seen me in this stuff, so no member of the general public was traumatised or harmed in any way........and now for something completely different.......

Full length long haired white fur coat, patterned jersey scoop neck (sleeveless) T-shirt,
(p)leather Clovers.

The Clovers turned out just fine - though more adjustments were needed with a different fabric but not many. I omitted the pockets this time, really to save time but also to go for a smoother finish at the front.

The really good thing about the Clovers is that you can wear boots over them without the ugly and uncomfortable bunching up of fabric around the knees and they look just as good with a pair of shoes.

I avoided the invisible zip on this pair and went for a partially  exposed jeans zip - chunky metal teeth. A bit wiggly at the end because you only get to sew (p)leather once, so mistakes just have to be lived with.

 The problem with (p)leather is when you sew you puncture the fabric and every drop of the needle leaves a hole and no amount of steam pressing is going to take them out. Talking of pressing - use a pressing cloth - the last thing you want is melted (p)leather all over your ironing plate.  When sewing you can take in but never let out without a row of holes showing, so it's crucial that you're happy with the seams before you sew at all. Of course, you can't pin or tack (baste) either except in the seam allowance so trying on is somewhat difficult - bit of guess work really and just hope for the best. Sew large, try on inside out and mark up the take-in with tailor's chalk. One other thing - use a fairly large stitch length, minimum 2.5mm, as this row of puncture holes will act as a perforated edge and your trousers (pants) will just rip apart the first time you sit down!

The other problem is that the (p)leather sticks to the foot and the plate in the machine. You can buy a Teflon foot specifically for the purpose but time and £££ were an issue for me here. The Heath Robinson solution is to sandwich the fabric between two bits of greaseproof paper.  Once sewn, gently pull the paper away.

Try to sew as much as possible with the (p)leather to the inside to avoid this but hemming is the one place it can't be dodged.

I used a jeans needle in the machine too.

The T-shirt is McCalls M6078. Two pieces, front and back, both cut on the fold - wee buns!
It has a scooped neckline and the pattern comes with a variety of finishes and options. My fabric came from Tissu and is a four-way stretch lycra.

Burda 11/2011
The coat pattern is Burda magazine 11/2011 Fur Coat. I downloaded the pattern and printed it out; matched up all the A4 sheets and cut out a 42. With faux fur you want to keep the pattern as simple as possible - this coat has a back, two fronts and one piece sleeves. Each piece has to be cut out on single fabric as the fur was so thick the scissors wouldn't cut through. Also with fur, just cut the backing fabric not the fibres.

I made some alterations to the original - lowered the neckline and added a rolled collar with the intention of attaching fur hooks to the collar as a closure. I also lengthened the coat by 30cm (12") for a more luxurious feel.

The black satin lining is cut from the same pieces.

As most faux furs have a knit fabric as the base there is a little stretch inherent in the fabric. I used this to insert the sleeves before the sides were sewn. No easing of sleeve caps is needed as you sew the sleeve on the flat like a shirt sleeve. Sew the shoulder seams, mark your natural shoulder length on the fabric and match up the centre sleeve with the shoulder seam and pin the armhole edges together. Gently stretch the fronts and backs to fit the arm scythe as you sew. No easing, no wrinkles, no gathers.

The verdict?

When DH saw me in this, and I quote, "You're not going all glamourous are you?" So obviously he prefers the safe-look, or in his words, classic. However, he does like the (p)leather Clovers - as do I - so I think a second pair in tan or light brown might be just around the corner.

The coat is a no-no. It tickles my face and neck and is just too much Yeti for my liking. Added to which, I make a full-length fur coat and the temperatures here are sitting at a balmy 14 degrees Celsius, about 57 F.  Teenage son's friend wants some furry cushions for his bedroom/pad so this is probably where the coat will end up.

The T-shirt is grand - I'll keep it and make many more for summer time.

All in all, two out of three ain't bad.

Thanks for reading. Ruth

Saturday, 24 December 2011

For my readers.....

I hope that all your sewing projects for 2012 will be spectacular.
 May your trousers fit well, your dresses be dressy, your skirts swirly, your blouses beautiful, your coats comfy and, most importantly, you feel proud and delighted with your efforts. 

Health and happiness for the year to come.

Thanks for reading. Ruth

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Variations on a Theme

Well, time is moving closer to December 25th and I haven't a mince pie baked yet. I like cooking and baking but I'd rather sew.

I love tie/scarf necked blouses - reminiscent of Chanel, I guess - but all my existing patterns were laborious and consisted of loads of pieces - I wanted something quick and easy but still looked the part. Kwik Sew 3782. This is my first Kwik Sew pattern and quick and easy it certainly is. Are they all like that? The photo on the envelope is dreadful and was nearly enough to put me off but I desisted the urge of putting it back, thinking I could do some tweaks to make it better. I don't do sleeveless and the 3/4 length sleeves weren't doing it for me either - but the neckline is great, front and back are both cut on the fold and there are no darts!
The following are images of 5 (yes, 5) that I've made so far. Each one has full length sleeves but with a different sleeve finish.

1. Abstract patterned poly-satin in mauve/grey/cerise.
The bell shaped sleeve was cut to the original pattern length, pleated and sewn into a simple cuff band at the wrists. Dressy, for work or dining out.

2. Traditional shirting cotton in pale blue and white stripes.
Sleeve was lengthened, gathered into a broader cuff to more resemble a shirt and was inserted in the same method as if you were making a shirt. Casual, jeans navy trousers(pants) but can be dressed up when tucked in to a navy skirt.

3. Burgundy chiffon - need a camisole under this one.
Sleeve was lengthened to wrist and gathered into elastic. This creates a 'puffed' sleeve effect just right for the fabric. Definitely dressy.

4. This is a bright pink chiffon ordered from Fashion Fabrics club (Fashion by the Yard). Yes, that's what I thought when I opened the parcel! Obviously a mistake with the barcode. It really is the most boring fabric with horrible colours, but it is silk and lay at the bottom of the box until I found this pattern. The sleeves on this version are folded over and inserted into a cuff band. The cuff was then folded over and a button and button hole added. It's not a real cuff just made to look like one. The blouse looks alright with jeans and under a coat buttoned up the neck!

5. Finally, black and white chiffon. This used to be a sarong that a friend of my mother's gave me - thinking I could make something from it - so I did. I used the already finished edges as guides for the hem of the blouse and the edges of the sleeves - saved me from hemming them and gave me the straight of grain without a measuring tape! Here I lengthened the blouse and of course the sleeves. I zig-zagged black knicker elastic about 5cm (2") from the sleeve hem that sits at the wrist and the flounce hangs over the back of my hand. Both the blouse body and sleeves were lengthened.

Also, check out Loves2Sew's version. She made the same blouse in the most beautifully spring-like fabric with 3/4 sleeves. Great job! Inspiring each other.

I realise that my hanging versions of this blouse are not very inspiring - so here's a picture of it tucked in to a skirt and what a difference a little bit of styling makes.

Here's me wearing the same skirt but with the burgundy chiffon version and Vogue 8333 made last year.

Thanks for reading. Ruth

Monday, 12 December 2011

Mad (wo)Men

Inspirating styles

WARNING     Long rambling one.........

Where's that Martini?
I would never put myself forward as a style icon or a predictor of fashions - I just make what I want and what I think might suit me - BUT - the following suit was made about four years ago - long before Mad Men hit the British TV screens. It was during my "Chanel"  period that I was researching and reading up on styles of the period that I thought I'd do a sixties inspired suit. 

DH (who is considerably older than I am by the way) was already an adult in the 1960s and hates that fashion era - so I might have done it just to annoy him. I don't know, who knows where artistic inspiration comes from, as long as it comes?

I love fashions from the 1950s and '60s - to me it's the epitome of sophistication and elegance, or is that just the subliminal power of advertising? I was a mere child back then. I adore the aloofness of the models, you could smoke and not get cancer back then. I crave the whole image that you put a suit on in the morning with stilettos, stockings and girdle; full make-up and hair, looking absolutely glossy advertisement picture perfect and are still looking like that at 8.00pm, regardless of the school run, peeling potatoes, working, gardening, shopping, housework, doing laundry and with total disregard for the number of martinis you may have imbibed since 4.00pm! Mmmmmm.... my kind of lifestyle apart from the housey and mummsie things - just the clothes and martinis, thank you.

The pattern is Vogue 1127 Badgley Mischka but with a few of my alterations.
That's not me by the way - that's Vogue's model

It is raglan sleeved boxy jacket, funnel collar and with straight skirt: there's also a chiffon blouse included but not used here. The fabric is a lilac/pale blue-ish wool with a boucle style weave and came from the local fabric shop. Sleeves were shortened to 3/4 length and the skirt lengthened to below knee because Coco said so....with slanted bound pockets inserted (apparently this slims the hips).
As I was in my 'Chanel' period, I added Chanelisms to the jacket too.

The jacket acquired two front patch pockets, and the whole thing was trimmed with a purchased braid but instead of sewing it to the edges, I offset it by about 5cm (2") at hem and sleeves.

The three huge buttons on the jacket cost a fortune and I'm only just noticing from these photos how unevenly spaced they are. But never mind... the buttonholes are made now!

Slanted pocket detail

The trim is also around the skirt waist. The skirt was always a little tight around the waist: it was fine when I was standing but I couldn't eat a dinner and still be comfortable, but I've lost a bit of weight recently (unintentionally, so I'm keeping my eye on that) and now it fits perfectly. Maybe I was this weight when I made it? More probably I didn't measure properly the first time around.

I read recently that when you go ('cause you know we're always there - LOL) to a haute couture house in Paris, they never fit you in front of a mirror - as we (mad women that we are) have a tendency to stand taller, squeeze in and refuse to breathe while looking at ourselves. This is probably what happened here at the try on four years ago - Yeah right!

The skirt has artificial Hong Kong seam finishes - the heavy satin lining was cut about 5cm (2") larger than the skirt pieces and folded over the raw edges and zig-zagged in place - because I don't have an overlocker (serger).
Do you think he heard that?

I lined the jacket with a spray-painted patterned silk in coordinating tones. This was quilted to the shell fabric and hand stitched at the side seams and arm scythes. I'm sure I have a stash of this silk still at the bottom of the box, always intended for a matching blouse - I'll have to dig around for that to see if I still have it.
I also added the chain which was really needed here to balance the weight of the buttons at the front.

Underneath the suit is a vintage Vogue blouse in navy silk, V2859. This is a backwards wrap, the wrap being unusually at the back with a knot/twist at the front neck. And just look - Mad Men top with the same sort of style style!


So what's for next year? I hear you ask.
Well, here's an idea......

 It's the Titanic centenary next April 2012,  so watch out for......

Blouses with high necklines and lace decorations made in muslin and lawn cotton

Straight and long skirts with mock wraps or decorative gores

High and tiny waistlines - I mean those women all piled on top of one another must have waists of about 20cm (9"). Are they human?

The hats I'm not sure of.....especially that ostrich feather on public transport.

Lots of buttons - lots and lots of buttons - lucky for me and the dreaded zip then.

Was the zip invented and widely available in 1912?

So anyway, where was I? Oh yeah I've moved from 1960 to 1912.

If you want to stay ahead of the game or maybe just a wee bit interested in the Titanic and all that stuff then head on over to the 1912 Project. They are lending out vintage patterns to people who love to sew and would be interested in re-creating 1912 fashions from original patterns. Now, there's a challenge! Here's a excerpt from their blog:

Through out the next few months, leading up to the Titanic Anniversary I will be transcribing patterns, graphics and information from the 1912 editions of La Mode Illustree – a beautiful French fashion journal of the period – with the goal of making all of the patterns from the entire year available.
How Can I Help?
If you love to sew, and are intrigued by the 1912 era – you can help!
The  Library is looking for test sewers willing to post to the blog their experiences and photos in working with these vintage patterns.  If you already have a blog, all you need to do is post there and send us a cross link to the entry.  In return we will send you copies of the patterns to sew from as they are transcribed from the journals!
For an information package about the project  – you can email direct to

As Titanic was built in Belfast this is what the city have done to commemorate the centenary. It's called the Titanic Project and houses a museum of the White Star Line and other stuff. The shape represents the bow of the ship. I think my maternal grandfather riveted the Titanic, but I'll have to check that out with my mother; he certainly worked in the shipyard and she isn't willing to admit her age. My college is just across the road from this iconic building.
Finally, a non-sequitur is needed for the title I guess.

Corsets at dawn until bedtime?
Martinis at breakfast?
Are we women mad to squeeze our bodies into unnatural shapes for the sake of fashion?
Are we mad to sew clothes that, along with the rest of the free world, we could buy?
Are we mad to want a career, make homes, raise children and partners, and look good doing it?
Are we just mad?

Thanks for reading. Ruth