Lady Luck dress (My first Anna)

Yes I am very late to the party, and early for spring with this green polka dot Anna. Isn't she lovely? 

The Lady Luck dress, By Hand London's Anna pattern
The green polka dot fabric was so hard to photograph well! I haven't quite managed to capture the exact colour. The fabric was a bargain from B & M fabrics in Leeds Kirkgate Market. This one's a lovely quality cotton.

Also may I please say that I really do think it looks much better in real life! Here I'm spotting a bit of crinkling, I think it's the way I'm standing!

Lady Luck dress with bargain Zara sale shoes
This is the first By Hand London pattern I have sewed and I adore it. From the packaging, to the lovely pattern and fab instructions - I truly could not pick any fault with it. 

I whipped together a muslin with sewable tracing paper first - the fit was all good apart from the side seams and back darts not matching the skirt seams. Hmmm. 

I discovered that the issue was partly that my waist "dips", and so I straightened that up. But the side seams were still not straight. 

After a bit of manipulation I managed to right them. What I did was draw a line where the bodice  side seams should be, in order to be straight and match up with the skirt seams. Then I cut along this line, and retraced my patterns adding seam allowance. It worked out pretty well! 

I also had to remove a fair amount from the centre back, and then I moved the back darts so that they matched up with the skirt panel seams. 

Moving the back darts
Thanks to all those alterations, all of my seam lines matched up...

The invisible zip went in really easily! Wooohoo! I do love the neat look of an invisible zip. 

It looks like here I might have a slight pucker at the bottom of the zip. But it's not all that noticeable is it?

I french seamed the shoulders and overcast the other seam allowances. I did a plain double fold hem. 

I was all ready to blog this. I put the dress on, pleased as punch, took some pictures and then went "oh". 

Try not to be distracted by the gorgeous patchy kitten
The flipping sleeves were just really really annoying me. They looked massive and stuck out from my body loads. Also I had clearly missed some glaringly obvious neckline gaping at the muslin stage. Gah! I will have to live with the neckline on this version but couldn't live with the sleeves. 

I sewed them up the side seams a bit more, making the arm hole smaller and bringing all that fabric on top round my arms a bit. They still looked big. So I sewed side seam up a bit more. Still big. 

The face says it all
It was at this point when I started to doubt my sanity. Was I being too picky? I went back around blog land and Pinterest looking at all the lovely Annas people have made. And not one of them had big sticky-out sleeves. Not only that, but no-one had even mentioned the sleeves being an issue. 

So I went back and sewed those side seams up further for a third time, and this time... problem solved! It was like magic! Now I officially adore this dress and am singing up to the I Love Anna Club. 

Hooray! Ree: 1, Massive Sleeves: 0
I see many Anna dresses in my future. Looking at these pictures I think it's worth doing more alterations, or perhaps tracing the size down for my next version. I did have to take quite a bit out of the centre back and I need to sort out the neck gape. BUT I still blooming love this dress, and am really proud I made it!

Can I wear it always? 

I just flipping love this pattern! It's one of the nicest shaped dresses I've ever put on, let alone made! I debuted the Lady Luck dress at my birthday dinner last night, and she was a resounding hit. Already cutting out version number 2...

I want to be a wardrobe architect, too!

I've been thinking lots about my wardrobe, and trying to streamline it, to fill it with amazing pieces that are so "me" in both style and function, and that I will love to wear. I want to open my wardrobe and look at styles, shapes, colours and ultimately outfits that I adore and feel good in. I get so frustrated with myself when I get into a "I've nothing to wear" sulk when I'm surrounded by clothes. Have you ever tried on three outfits on a morning before plumping for the one you "always" wear? It happens to me all the time.

That's why I love making my own clothes. I can craft myself the perfect wardrobe! For weeks I've been making myself scribbled notes about the pieces I need to make to fill the gaps or replace RTW pieces that don't quite work. And then on Sunday I stumbled across the Wardrobe Architect series on Coletterie. What amazing timing!

I love that there are tasks to do! Sarai has managed to make an almost overwhelming task really logical and pain-free. Thank you so much!

Consequently I spent a large chunk of time on Pinterest. I've skipped a few exercises (naughty) and have created "Colour" boards and "Silhouette" boards on Pinterest. These are the colours I came up with for Autumn Winter.

I've just seen this week's task to organise your colours. Here are mine.


Nearly neutrals:

Statement colours:

How interesting that I wear that bright blue as a "nearly neutral", but all my reds and pinks are "statement colours". Plus I really didn't think I had that many neutrals!

These aren't all perfect. I found it quite hard to create the exact right "dusky pink", for example. The images I've pinned are slightly more accurate, but I wanted a pretty, coherent and organised palette. Sue me!

I'll keep you updated on my progress as a 'wardrobe architect'! 

A Grey Matter

Winter is actually my favourite season. Controversial perhaps, but true. I love getting all warm and snugly and going for winter walks. I also love autumn winter clothes. All those lovely layers, cute knits, fun tights, wool skirts....

Except I only have two winter wool skirts. I only had one until this baby came along. I so much prefer wearing skirts and dresses to trousers so my two winter skirts were getting worn a lot!

Following the success of my vintage tweed Sherlock skirt, I decided another incarnation of McCalls 7316 was in order. At the same exact time, my best friend wanted to learn to sew a garment, so we promptly and giddily arranged a sewing date. It was mighty fun. We both made a lined A-line skirt (view B of the pattern) with a centre back zip. My best friend's first zip! And very neat it was too. 

McCalls 7316

I had fabric envy, she was using a glorious black & white houndstooth. 

I was using some of the Hobbs wool left over from Sylvie the Hobbs Wool shift dress: grey with lovely little flecks of orange, blue and brown in it. Very wearable for winter! And it has such a beautiful weight and drape. I used deep purple lining left over from the shift dress, and this time I used some medium weight interfacing for the waistband (learning from my lazy mistakes).

Again, very simple to construct, especially as I'd already made this pattern before. No alterations baby! I hand stitched the lining to the zip, also the inside waistband and hem were hand stitched. I'm quite slow at this so next time I'm going to try the blind hem foot on my machine. 

A slightly wobbly and uneven zip but good enough for me!

Anyhow, this very practical winter skirt is a great addition to my wardrobe, and I know it'll get worn lots. 

Helping my friend with her first skirt actually made me realised I know more than I think I do about sewing. But I don't know much about pattern grading! We had to grade down a lot for my friend's skirt, we altered a lot as we went and of course transferred alterations onto her traced pattern for future use. I did feel bad though that I wasn't better at grading the pattern right away from her measurements. I kept saying "it wouldn't take this long usually!". Luckily she wasn't put off (phew) and was very pleased with her skirt sewing. It looked flipping fab I must say. 

I really want to make the wrap version in view D, perhaps in a nice chambray? 

A line winter skirts for the win. Yes. 
Get one (or three) made!!

Worn with a bargain of a cashmere jumper. Cosy & warm!

Pyjama Time

These were supposed to be for my finances birthday, but my beloved old machine decided to break, ruining the surprise PJ bottoms and my sewing plans. I took the machine to the sewing repair shop on Deptford high street (I would recommend this shop to anyone, they were excellent and very reasonable) but alas, it was unrevivable. It was a vintage New Home. It used to be my mum's, it's the machine our childhood clothes and dance costumes were made on, and the machine I learned to sew on. I was a little bit emotionally attached to it and really sad it couldn't be fixed. The belt had gone and the parts they needed to fix it just couldn't be gotten hold of. That's the problem with using vintage machines I guess.

They did give me something for parts in part exchange for a new machine. I was SO sad about my old one going, but mega excited to get a new machine. Here she is!

My budget was relatively small, and I didn't really want a computerised machine (I'm old fashioned I suppose). After trawling reviews and trying this lovely Janome 525s out, I was sold. I love it. It's fantastic and does everything I need it to, plus it's great value for money.

Liam's PJs were the first thing I sewed on it, and it did a grand job. These are out of the Great British sewing bee book, and this time there was NO sizing information - just S, M, L. Very frustrating. I measured the pattern pieces at the waistline, deducted seam allowance and chose a size based on that (these are a small). It was pretty accurate and fit really well, but it would've been easier if the book had included the measurements.

Extreme close-up of fabric
I got this fabric from a lovely little shop on Goldhawk Road. I forget which one but the staff were so so lovely. It was only £3.50 a metre! Wowee! I only really used one metre so I've enough to make myself a pair of pjs from the rest. I know, I know, his & hers pjs - not very chic - to be honest I don't really care! 

It's quite a heavy 100% cotton. I didn't prewash it (naughty) but the PJs haven't shrunk when washed. Phew!

I've read on a few other blogs that people had trouble with this pattern and that there are some problems/mistakes in it. The only part I had trouble with was the waist of the front and back did not match up. I had to lop a big chunk off the top of the back before attaching the waistband. But this quick fix did work, so I'm definitely going to make some more pjs from this pattern (Liam even requested some more! Win!). I'm even thinking stretchy yoga pants for me in this pattern? Perfect shape. We'll see.

These PJs were so so quick to sew up. I overlocked all the edges inside, although french seams would probably have been better. For the tie tape I singed both ends with a match to stop it fraying, then doubled it back and sewed it down. I did try one of those little squares-with-a-cross-inside things on a test piece, but it was so wonky that I quickly abandoned the idea. And actually I think the simple way is more appropriate anyway. 

The holes for the tie tape to go through were made using the awesome 1-step button hole feature on my new machine. They turned out really great!

They've been worn and washed umpteen times already and they still look as good as the day I made them. it always makes me smile when I see him wearing them! 

Unselfish sewing is actually really fun! I've promised to attempt a shirt for him... Anyone know of a good, modern, fitted men's shirt pattern? 

Sylvie, The Hobbs Wool Shift dress

Sylvie in all her wooly glory. Worn with wide elastic Topshop belt

I've made a few of the projects from the Great British Sewing Bee book, and loved the photo of this shift dress in the book. 
from The Great British Sewing Bee book

I was going to full-on copy it and get a nice plaid to make it in, but all of the ones in my local fabric shop were a bit schooly - I know I'd look a bit like an overgrown school girl in them. That's when this lovely Hobbs wool caught my eye - grey with flecks of brown, blue and orange - perfect for a winter shift dress. And very soft too. 

The beautiful "grey" Hobbs wool

My mission in making this dress was for perfect fit. I've made quite a few well fitting dresses (before this blog existed!) but I've also had my fair share of dresses which look slightly sack like. In that instance I usually alter as much as I can to get it to fit. I never used to make a muslin. Now, however, my number one aim is for perfect fit in everything I sew. What's the point in making something specifically for my body, only to end up with something that doesn't fit? I'm on a quest now, to spend much more time and energy at the preliminary stages of measuring, pattern altering, muslin making and altering again. And that's just what I did on this dress.

I'm so glad I did, because the pattern had no finished garment measurements, and therefore no indication of how much ease is allowed. That's my greatest bugbear with the Great British Sewing Bee book. 

I ended up basically chopping it down 2 sizes at least. And then I took a big wedge out of the bodice neckline both front and back. I guess really what I should have done was make a smaller size and do an FBA. 

I'll probably wear it with a cardigan (and a goofy face)

But when I made up my real dress having done all those alterations, it fit marvellously. It has a centred zip, bust darts and waist darts at the front and back. Deep purple lining was an awesome choice (by my other half! Good call love!). It reminds me of Quality Street and in my experience that can never be a bad thing.

Lining and all-in-one neck and armhole facing

I love the finished result! It's quite smart so I'm not sure how much it's going to get worn - in hindsight the plaid would have been more casual. I'm sure it will get some wear because I'm so pleased with the fit! 

It clearly needs an iron

Sherlock skirt

Instagram snap of the Sherlock skirt
I don't fully know where this fabric came from. My grandad was a tailor, who sadly died when I was little. I wish I'd have known when he was still with us how much I would want to share sewing with him. I have so many questions I bet he'd be able to answer in a jiffy. Thankfully my mum also loved sewing and was awesome at it, and she's the one who taught me to sew. She also kept lots of my grandad's old fabric stash - mainly off cuts from expensive suiting, some really nice wools and tweeds. What my mum didn't use, I inherited. 

Lovely fabric
I found this lovely piece of wool in the loft, and have deduced it either came from my grandad or from a job lot of suit lengths my dad brought home from a car boot once for my mum, yonks ago. Either way, this fabric is gorgeous and I've wanted to make it into something fab for ages. It is quite a short piece, and I knew it would make an awesome winter A-line skirt. 

The buttons are vintage too, from my button box. Who knows where or when they came from! 

The pattern I used was McCalls 7316 (View C). This is a well-used pattern that I inherited from my mum, and it fit great straight out of the envelope.

McCalls 7316
^ I love the girl in the beret (who doesn't love a beret).

Construction was really simple, and I am in love with the finished result! I finished this in December and have worn it LOTS since. 

Yes I tried every possible way of catching the fading light to take these pictures...
I had to add a sneaky press stud as there was a bit of button-gape going on. I followed the pattern markings for button placement ... Perhaps I need more buttons and fewer gaps. Also I had just got a new sewing machine which does a one-step button hole. This excited me no end, since my old one only had a four-step button hole. However, I think for these globular buttons (definitely not the right term!) the button holes I one-stepped on my new machine are slightly too big. So I get a bit of movement and too much button hole on display. Live and learn, hey!

Attempting to show you the button hole issue
I cheated on a few bits. I didn't have any interfacing of the right weight for this fabric, so the button band and waistband don't have any. Oops. I am regretting this now, as I've noticed slight stretching of the waistband. Lesson learned - if you cut corners don't be surprised if those chopped off corners niggle at you (or cause stretch in this case). 

That said, I am so much in love with this skirt that I don't care about a tiny bit of waistband stretch. It's glorious, and warm, and made by me!