2016: the Year in Review

I always think it's useful to look back on the year just gone, especially with my sewing, as it helps me to realise how much I have achieved, how much I've improved, and helps me to refocus for the New Year.  

I gave myself some goals for 2016, which were:

1. Make my perfect coat. 
I didn't do this one. Maybe next year! In my defence, just as it turned to coat weather I was in my early pregnancy, and was sick and tired. I didn't have the energy to sew anything, let alone something big like a coat! I did find a truly gorgeous one which my lovely husband bought me. It's a dark green Diane von Furstenburg one (via TK Maxx), and is everything I wanted in a coat. 

2. Perfect the fit of my TNT dress patterns and make lots of versions of them.
Hmm. I began! I perfected the fit on a few of my favourite dress patterns and I did make some great dresses last year. My favourites by far were the two below. I'd even go so far as to say they are my favourite handmade items I have ever made (bar my wedding dress). Perfecting the fit was definitely a huge factor in their success. 

Magpie Feather dress (Flora bodice with Emery skirt)

A Thing to Shake the Heart dress (Anna bodice with Simplicity 1873 skirt)

3. Make more separates.

Yes, I did this! I made my first pair of trousers, a Sorbetto top and two viscose tee shirts

4. Restrict my internet time!
I actually did alright at this one, spending much less time on the internet. My sewing output was low last year but I had a far higher "success" rate than previous years!

5. Keep using up the stash! 
Yes, I think I did do this. Out of the 12 things I made in 2016, 8 were from fabrics that were already in my stash when the year began, including the scrap busting quilt I made. Of the other 4 makes, 3 were fabrics which were birthday gifts, and 1 was an impulse bargain. I'm actually pleasantly surprised as I write this - I really didn't go nuts with fabric buying in 2016. I only bought ONE new pattern is 2016! Wow! 

The Scrappy Quilt of Joy

I find statistics really satisfying, so I've done a bit of analysis. 

In 2016 I made a total of 12 items:
3 tops
1 pair of trousers
6 dresses
1 quilt
1 lingerie/nightwear set

10 of the above were prints, only 2 were solids (quell surprise).

Only 1 of the items I sewed turned out to be unwearable (that lovely tartan dress which was just too small in the bust).

Fabrics I used were...
100% cotton: 5 
viscose: 2
polyester or poly mix: 2
ponti de Roma: 1
100% silk: 1
srtetch cotton: 1

My Sewing Goals For 2017

To be honest this year I have only one: keep on sewing! Since we're expecting our first baby in May, I know that keeping up my sewing will be much more difficult in the latter half of the year, so if I can keep sewing even in tiny little bits, I will be happy. 

My happy little sewing space

Happy 2017 everyone, I hope the year brings you lots of happiness. I've just started off the year very well by passing my driving test! I'm so so happy to be ticking off this big life goal. Next challenge: baby! 

Fox in the Foxgloves Quilt

Some of our dearest friends were expecting their baby girl in early January, and I knew I wanted to make them a lovely quilt as a gift. I really wanted to find some lovely co-ordinating prints to make a herringbone quilt, inspired by some I had seen on Pinterest. I'm pretty chuffed with the result of my efforts:

Fox in the Foxgloves quilt 

My luck was in when I found these fabrics: a bundle of Cloud9 fat quarters from their Fox in the Foxgloves collection by Aneela Hoey. It was just what I was looking for, a nice mixture of different prints, cute and child friendly, but not overly cutesy. Plus I love the colours.

As I didn't give myself much time to make the quilt, and I didn't want to feel "bogged down" by doing it, I decided on a pram sized quilt for our friends. I actually think this size is more useful for a newborn. It can be used as a mat to lie on, a pram blanket or even just to snuggle in.

It really did come together quickly, I only spent 3 sewing sessions on it in all, which I was pleasantly surprised with!

The quilt top's herringbone design is made up of half-square triangles, which was really speedy as thankfully I opted for 15cm squares.

The quilting is stitched in the ditch of the herringbones, with white thread.

I backed the quilt with white cotton and used a thin 100% cotton wadding by Quilter's Dream. I didn't want anything too hot for the little one!

Choosing a fabric to bind the quilt in really took some deciding. I tried peach, mint, navy blue, a combination... and thankfully asked my husband for his thoughts at the critical moment. He's usually spot-on with colour or print decisions, and he said: "Oh, I thought it was just going to look like that. I think a strong colour on the edge would spoil the effect.". He was absolutely right, and when I tried white, the quilt looked much more balanced. Thank you, Liam!

So, in the end I used the backing fabric and folded it over from the back to make the binding. I would definitely do this again - it was really easy!

I'm so pleased with how the quilt has turned out. There are a few less-than-perfect bits (can you spot the 3 squares which had to be laid the wrong way round?), but hey, that's the charm of it being handmade, isn't it?!

We went to visit our friends and meet their baby yesterday, and oh my goodness, she is absolutely lovely. It's so wonderful to watch our friends being parents as well, they are absolutely besotted with their little girl and it just warmed my heart to see. They love the quilt, which I am so pleased about!

I will definitely make another pram sized quilt as a new baby gift in the future, since I enjoyed making this one so much. A smaller quilt is so much less tedious to make than a large one, and much less frustrating the squish through the machine when it gets to quilting time.

In fact, since this quilt used less than half of each of the Cloud9 fat quarters in the bundle, I am already making a sister version of this quilt as a gift for another pair of friends expecting their baby girl soon. I'll put it on the blog if it turns out much different to this one!

Thanks for reading! x

P.S. Here are links to posts about previous quilts I have sewn:
The Scrappy Quilt of Joy   (throw size)
Nautical Chevron Quilt      (cot size)

My Maternity Sewing Plans

(Yes, there's a baby on the way!)

I am so delighted to be expecting my first baby, due in May, and very excited for the new challenges and adventures ahead!

NOTE: this turned into quite a wordy post! I apologise, and I realise that not everyone will be remotely interested in my musings on my maternity style/wardrobe, so I honestly won't be offended if you skip it all! 

I'm almost 22 weeks pregnant now, and up until recently had not sewn a single piece of clothing for myself since becoming pregnant, due to a number of reasons....

  • I was very sick.   Like many expectant mothers, "morning" (ha!) sickness hit with a vengeance at exactly 6 weeks gone. I could describe it as feeling constantly nauseated, knowing I had to eat but then often throwing my breakfast / lunch / dinner / dry crackers back up again. I did eventually find that making sure I ate something bland every 2 hours helped keep the sickness at bay, but then it really ramped up around 16 weeks, before tailing off at 17-18 weeks. Now, I feel waaaaay better, much more like myself and am only occasionally sick now, which is honestly wonderful!
  • I was so tired!    Again, very common, but I wasn't quite prepared for how tired I would be. For the whole first trimester I pretty much just managed to work and sleep. Don't get me wrong, I am NOT complaining here, it is totally worth it and I am beyond grateful to be carrying this little baby! But the tiredness meant I just did not have the energy to sew.
  • I had no idea what I wanted to wear!    My usual default style is a fitted dress, with a very definite waist. This pretty quickly became uncomfortable, as although an actual bump didn't appear straight away, my waistline did get a bit thicker and my bust grew quite a lot straight away too. The clothes I get excited about sewing tend to be woven dresses, which just didn't seem practical when I was growing every week and really unsure of what I wanted to wear. Consequently I lived in baggy tops and jumpers for the first part, before I had told anyone the news, then quickly found that once my bump appeared I wanted to show it off! So I have been wearing much more jersey, basically just stretching the RTW tops I already have. I would LOVE to make some more though, with belly room for baby to keep on a-growing!
  • I had lost my sew-jo.   I think because of a combination of having not sewn in ages, not feeling inspired and not knowing what I wanted to sew, made me feel completely "meh" about sewing for a bit. Sewing a quilt really helped me get it back (coming to the blog soon!), and instantly rekindled my love for sewing.
One by one these four things have resolved themselves and I am now reeeeaaaally excited to get sewing some maternity clothes, both very useful basics and some frivolous frocks too (I do miss the frivolous part of my wardrobe, and I definitely miss the bright and bold prints!). 

I've been really inspired by watching Lisa from Sew Over It's vlogs about the maternity hacks she has done to existing patterns, and it really got ideas firing in my head. I also loved Zoe's posts about her maternity makes at Hello Zoe B, and found them to be very useful, inspiring and helpful. I have also been following Jessica's outfit posts on What I Wore. She is so stylish and gave me some great ideas on how to mix it up a bit, and what pieces might be useful in my maternity wardrobe. 

Things I would like to make:
  • T shirts in fun prints, with room to grow
  • Empire line swishy dresses to wear with leggings or tights and boots in the Winter, then bare legs in the Spring
  • A retro "tent" dress. I think they can look oh so stylish on a pregnant lady!
  • Vest tops for layering
  • A stretch pencil dress
  • A long jersey cardigan
  • PJs! 
  • A chambray shirt or shirt dress which may be useful for nursing after baby is born too
Hmmm, as usual I fear I have been overly ambitious with this list! That's a lot to cram in when I also want to make some things for baby. I will have the Easter holidays and also a few weeks of maternity leave to do last bits of sewing though, so there's that to bear in mind. 

Any tips on good maternity patterns or hacks? 

I promise to be back soon with some sewing to show you!


An Elephant Print Sorbetto

The Elephant Sorbetto

I love this print. Isn't it fun?! I've seen it around, and vividly recall Amy's blog post about her lovely blouse in the yellow colour way, debating whether these are actually elephants or woolly mammoths. Most days I'm pretty sure they're elephants, so I'm calling them elephants.

I bought this fabric on Goldhawk Road a few months ago. I was purely shopping for jersey that day and wasn't supposed to be making an unscheduled purchases, but I couldn't resist this, especially as it was only £3 per metre! I bought one metre, and the top used up roughly half of it. The pattern of course was free, so this is pretty much a £1.50 top. There's something really satisfying about such a bargain. Especially as the week after I bought this fabric I saw the exact same fabric in John Lewis.... it's 100% cotton and in there was £10 per metre. Bargainous win!

I've been meaning to make more Sorbettos for eons. My first one is here, and is great if only a bit too boxy and short. So I made my own lengthen/shorten line and added a good couple of inches to the top, cut a size smaller and raised the shoulder seams 5/8". Then I also needed to take a sweep out of the lower part of the armscye, and to be honest could still do with taking more out. Next time, next time.

I made self bias binding for the neckline and armholes using the genius "continuous bias tape" method (I will never be unamazed by this).  I French seamed all the insides, which makes me happy.

I considered a floaty little sleeve, but it has been such a hot September in London I have been longing for more sleeveless in my life. I'm really pleased with it. It was quick to sew, it's pretty neatly finished and I've already worn it lots.

The little elephants bring me joy. Especially down the front pleat where you have a normal one then a sideways one all the way down (not an accident, friends!).

My elephants and I are very happy!

My First Trousers!

I finally did it - I made trousers! I'm so thrilled. I mean, they're FAR from perfect, and really they're just a wearable toile, but they are, nonetheless, a perfectly passable and functioning pair of trousers. Yippeeeeeeeee! I can't quite believe how quick and straightforward they were to sew, either. I really enjoyed my first foray into trouser making! Who knew it would be fun?!

Colette Clover trousers, worn with New Look 6217 top
My "gateway" trouser pattern of choice was the Colette Clover. I have a pair of rather old but wonderful Uniqlo x Orla Keily cut-off stretch cotton trousers which I've been longing to recreate for a long old time, and the Clover pattern is a similar shape to start from.

I did quite a bit of blog snooping of Clovers, assessing how they seemed to fit on lots of different people, and fit adjustments people had made, and decided I would give them a whirl. I got the pattern in the Colette sale, so that's a bonus!

Since these were a wearable toile, I went for the longer length option with no pockets. I figured I could then shorten them to 3/4 length later, but it would be useful to have the full length pattern too.

I used this lovely tulip print stretch cotton from my stash (leftover from this Flora dress), and actually, when they started turning out pretty well, decided to keep the longer length. Somehow the longer length looked more "right" in this print.

I did do a fair bit of fit adjusting, but naughty me didn't make notes at the time like I usually do!!! The main adjustments though were:

  • slimming the legs down at both inseams and side seams considerably (and I think they're still a bit too baggy, particularly if they were 3/4 length)
  • flattening out the shape of the hip curve as my hips aren't very curvy
  • changing the shape of the crotch curve to fit more closely 

I also think I need to make a few more changes for the next version. Namely:

  • slim down the legs even further
  • perhaps decline to interface the whole waistband.... and instead just interface the seam allowances where the zip is inserted. I feel like one place it's really helpful to have a bit of stretch is a waistband? Maybe I'm wrong here and it would stretch out horribly with no interfacing?
  • make the waistband slightly larger. The current size is fine when standing, but not so comfy when sitting. It only needs a couple of mm adding at each side seam I think

I know there are still more fit issues to fix, but I reckon it's sensible to do the above adjustments first on my next version, then go from there. Most adjustments have a knock-on effect on other areas of a garment, after all.

These pictures were taken on our holiday in Provence. The photos are a bit dim, as the only day I could wear them was our only cloudy day, in the evening. It was too hot the rest of the time!

So now I am constantly on the look out for good quality stretch cotton, preferably polka dot of any colour. I think that the Clover could become a staple pattern of mine! I'm too late for this year but I can also see me using this pattern to make some lovely jazzy shorts for next summer.

Mostly I'm just proud as punch that I managed to sew a passable pair of trousers that fit and are comfy on my first go. When I was quizzing my friend as to whether the fit was actually good enough, her reply was: "If you were trying these on in a shop and asking me whether you should buy them, I would say 'Absolutely.'" She's right! I'd buy them! So I guess this wearable toile is a complete win.

V8888 Liberty silk camisole and shorts set

Hello sewing friends! It's been a long time since I last posted, or indeed made anything! I had a pretty busy July, where I also got very ill with what I now know was Glandular Fever. In my usual way I tried to plow on, and of course only made myself sicker.  Rest assured I recovered absolutely fine, though not very swiftly!

In July my best friend in the world, S, got married. It was such an incredible, happy day. I cried multiple times, of course. I'm such an emotional person and weddings generally have me weeping from the word go. It's just a beautiful thing to witness two people promising themselves to one another.

I was a bridesmaid, and so along with the other bridesmaid wanted to make some surprises for the Bride-to-Be. She loves handmade, thoughtful gifts so for her Hen Do both of us bridesmaids got her a few silly gifts, a nice "forever" gift and also each made something for her. This is what I made!

This camisole and shorts set were made from Vogue 8888 pattern. I made S, and my sister, the shorter length robe from this pattern as a thank you gift for being my bridesmaids, over a year ago. I have STILL not got around to finishing my matching robe, and therefore I never blogged them, as I was waiting to finish mine. I swear I will finish it and show you what they turned out like! Anyway, I made their robes in this beautiful Liberty print silk, and as usual I bought way too much (that'll teach me to believe the yield on the back of the pattern envelope!), so I thought it would be really nice to make S some summery PJs to match her robe. I know that she loves the robe and wears it lots, so I was pretty sure matching PJs would go down well.

And they did! Happily, she loves them. I guessed her measurements (eek!!!) as I wanted it to be a surprise. She is very petite and I roughly knew her waist measurement, so I wasn't completely stabbing in the dark. Anyway, they fit like a dream, and S loves them, which is the main thing! As a side note, her Hen Do was awesome. S arranged it herself, with a few surprises thrown in by us bridesmaids. It was a lovely, relaxed Sunday with tea, scones, cake, games, and crafting! S got each of her friends at the Hen to make a block for her wedding memory quilt. Such a great idea. Everyone got really into it, even the self-professed non-crafters! S ended up with such beautiful blocks. The quilt is going to look great.

Bust detail
Pretty scalloped-edge lace as underbust trim
I don't really have much to say about construction. I did change up the order of construction slightly, as I was using a lace for the underbust section that had a nice scalloped edge, so I didn't want to enclose it in a seam. I also decided not to overlay the cups in lace. I think in this fabric it looks better without the lace overlay.

Hem on the camisole

I also went for much thinner lace for the trim on the shorts hem. I think it looks a bit odd with the wider lace that the pattern calls for. I wish I had finished top of the shorts before attaching the elastic. Naively perhaps, I assumed the instructions would lead to the raw edge being enclosed when attaching the elastic, but this was not so.

Lace at shorts hem
All in all though, I think this pattern's a corker, and very useful for gifts. I can see me knocking up a few more robes for presents at some point, and maybe a camisole set for myself!

So, I mostly spent the rest of July recovering from the Glandular Fever, and then in August I did a grand total of one week's work before heading off to Provence on the most wonderful holiday. Ah it was the best! I did sew one garment to take with me - so I will show you that soon - but as soon as I got back from Provence it was time to head up to Edinburgh to appear in a play at the Festival. It was my first Fringe and I blinking loved it. It was so great. The cherry on top was that our digs were BEAUTIFUL. We were staying in a lovely house in North Berwick - right on the beach - so every morning before heading into Edinburgh to do the show I'd go for a stroll / run / paddle / stretch on the beach. Oh it was wonderful, and it felt so good to be out of the hustle and bustle, to have some head-space. Isn't it beautiful?

I will be back soon with some more garments to share! At the moment I'm finishing off an elephant-print tank top, so I better get that done soon before the weather turns all Autumnal.

Hope you're all well, sewing friends!

Liberty Carline Dress (BHL Anna / Simplicity 1873 hybrid)

Now, I've seen a fair few Liberty Carline print dresses on sewing blogs and, honestly, I have loved every single one. Being a Liberty print though, I had always assumed this fabric would be really expensive and out of my current budget. 

Not so! Minerva had it for £9.99 per metre, and so I used some of my birthday money to buy some. A good decision I think! It's a lovely quality cotton poplin, and the print is so vibrant. I love it.
When deciding what to make, I just could not get the Anna bodice out of my head. I think Roisin's beautiful version has stuck with me. I just think it's the most perfect match of pattern and fabric. So I decided to make an Anna bodice with the pleated skirt from Simplicity 1873. It all lined up pretty well - I just matched the bodice and skirt side seams first and only had to move a couple of the pleats slightly, but nothing too taxing or time consuming. 

A Thing to Shake the Heart dress (By Hand London's Anna bodice with Simplicity 1873 skirt in Liberty Carline poplin)
I only bought 2 metres of this beautiful stuff, so I didn't quite have enough to pattern match and I reeeeeally didn't have enough to make the hem facing I wanted. If Minerva had let me buy half metres I would've bought 2.5 (3 would've been way too much). So anyway I had to cut the hem facings on the cross grain (with one of them a little tiny bit off grain). It didn't seem to make a difference and I'm so glad I got to have my nice 3" hem facing! I just love them. Because the facing is a separate cut piece, it's weighty like a deep double fold hem but with no easing in required. What's not to love? 

My lovely hem facing, understitched to help it hang/sit nicely, and catch stitched in place
From the outside. Nice and neat and invisible!
I had intended to use an invisible zip for this dress, but for some reason I had it in my head that the background of this print is Ivory. It really isn't, it's a very yellowy cream colour, so the Ivory invisible zip I had bought looked ridiculous (yes I know it's just the zip pull on show really, but it still bothered me). Luckily I had an ordinary zip in cream in my stash, so I used that and put in a centred zip. 

I also did some more fit work on the Anna bodice, and I'm so glad I have finally fixed some pretty massive fit issues! When I made my earlier versions, I was much less experienced and, while I got so far with my fit work, I had a lot of neckline gaping that I really didn't know how to sort out at the time. I still wear two of my early Annas (here and here) but the neckline bugs me every time.
Really, what it boiled down to, was that I needed to raise the shoulder seams by a good 5/8". This is a standard adjustment for me, but I guess I didn't know that yet when I made my first version of the Anna back in the day! So once I had raised the shoulders, lengthened the bodice and redrawn the neckline, the back was perfect and at the front I only had a slight gape to contend with. So I split the wedge I needed to pinch out into two wedges along the front neckline, taped them down on my pattern piece and cut a toile. Imagine my delight when it was a goldilocks fit straight away (juuuuust right). 

Side view

I find it a bit comical how white my legs are in these pictures. I mean, I've got no problem with my skin colour, I quite like being pale! But there's pale and then there's almost whiter than the white wall behind me. Also spot the changing shoes! I wore the green flats with it all day but wanted to see which other shoes would go with it. Conclusion: I need some tan flats, preferably T bar. I'm all about the flats at the moment. 

I kept adding and removing the belt in these pictures too, just to be confusing! 

Anyway, I really love this dress. I wore it 
all day on Wednesday and blooming loved it. I felt all serene and swishy in it. And every new dress deserves to be danced around the living room in, right? 

Over and out x