Sew Dolly Clackett #3: Rock Around the Clock

As soon as I saw this fabric propped up outside Classic Textiles on Goldhawk Road I thought: that's what my Sew Dolly Clackett dress is going to be made out of. And then I saw the price : only £1.50 a metre! I promptly bought 3. 

Now, most of us know that £1.50 per metre fabric is probably not going to be the highest quality we've ever bought, and I do too, but the print was just so damn cute. I love how their ponytails flip back over their heads. 

This couple make me laugh. They look a bit, um, thrusty.

The grain is all over the place, meaning I couldn't cut anything on the fold, which of course took extra time, but I kind of didn't mind. When I'm working with a fun pattern the pretty pictures distract me from tedium. 

I decided to make Butterick 4443 (a pattern I already had), view F with the V neck and little cap sleeves. I paid no attention to pattern matching. Lined her in lovely soft white cotton batiste, also from classic textiles. 

I was pretty darn excited because this is pretty much the first experience I've had of "it fits straight out if the envelope!". Actually that's a bit of a lie. I raised the shoulder seams about an inch. BUT THAT IS ALL. Consequently it was a very quick sew and I'm going to say what I've said about every pattern so far on this blog: I love it and I will be making more. Want to see?

Rock Around the Clock dress  (Butterick 4443)
I mean, the fit! The shape! 

Moving on to: the sleeves! 

They look cute on the line drawing, no?

Well, I sewed them up, lining them up with the princess seams like on the drawing, and they looked, in a word, Ridiculous. They were so small and didn't cover any of my arm, more like they were a small fabric seashell perched precariously atop my shoulder. The proportions looked bonkers.

I looked at them for ages, from many angles, hoping they'd grow on me (literally! Ha!) but they didn't. They just looked wrong and I knew it would spoil the dress, which was otherwise lovely, if I left them. Sleeveless would be ok, but I'd planned cap sleeves, dammit. I wanted sleeves.

Out came the unpicker and an episode of the Mighty Boosh. I was so desperate to rip those suckers out that I didn't even get a picture of the hilarious sleeves. You'll have to take my word for it.

I tried a tulip sleeve for the first time. How pretty?! 

Since the sleeve pattern was so tiny, I just cut two more, sewed the lining in etc and then used two sleeve pieces for the tulip, overlapping by eye until I was happy. 

I'm so glad I tried to tulip sleeve. I'm a fan. 

OK, enough pictures of the sleeves. I'm proud, OK?

So my dress is ready for a sock-hop somewhere. Wanna come?

My first ever lapped zip!
This, of course, is our soundtrack. I urge you to play this video. The music, the dancing, the OUTFITS. Love it all. 

Yes I did have a little dance around to this in my new dress. 

Did you spot the lady in the awesome trousers in the instrumental section? I want me some trousers (and a figure) like that!

But for now, I'm super happy with my dress. 

New shoes! Apple wedges by Mel. Come oooon summer sunshine...

Here it is in the picture below without the little petticoat. A bit less poufy and more summers day in the park style. 

Yes I own Dirty Dancing on vinyl. 

A few collages to leave you with!

Don't forget to check out all the lovely Sew Dolly Clackett entries here! Some gorgeous dresses being sewn up. I've got at least one more coming too. I can't help myself. 

Over and out!

I enter the wonderful world of Emery

I'm sure, like me, many of you will have been ogling the gorgeous Emerys being made out there by blogging seamstresses. And everyone has sung the praises of the pattern. I really wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and make myself a wardrobe full of beautiful Emery dresses. So I promptly ordered the pattern and got immediately excited. Here is my finished dress!

Flowers for Jane dress (Christine Hayne's Emery pattern) worn with Topshop shoes and excitable grin

I actually intended this to be a wearable muslin, but it turned out so well that I'm going to stop calling it a wearable muslin and just start calling it a dress ('cause I'm going to wear it lots, believe me!). In fact, I am so pleased with the result I've decided to enter it into the Sew Dolly Clackett competition! It wasn't my original intention, but since it fits the brief, and turned out so well, I thought, why not! You can see all the entries so far in the Sew Dolly Clackett flickr group.

This fabric, in fact, used to be a duvet cover. I bought it from TK Maxx four years ago to make my Rome dress (inventive name. I was going to Rome and wanted a new dress to wear around the Piazzas) and I have had the rest of the duvet cover sitting it a cupboard since then. Since it's not a precious fabric to me but is very pretty, I decided to make my "practice" Emery out of the rest of the duvet. There is still some left for a skirt or a blouse. Woohoo!

I chose a size based on the finished waist measurement on the pattern envelope and my high bust to the finished bust. Then I did an FBA (full bust adjustment) using this excellent tutorial on Christine Haynes' blog. Then after fitting I had to take even more out of the darts.

I had to take a little fabric out of the armhole, then adjusted the sleeve piece to fit. Next time I will take even more out of the armhole to give me a bit more room to manoeuvre. 

I used the skirt pattern pieces but pleated rather than gathered, using some lovely flattering box pleats. There were a few head scratching "oh no I have to do maths" moments when working out pleat placement, but my maths must've been OK because I managed to line up all my seams and darts. 

Now on to the back bodice. The front was now fitting just fine, but the back was way WAY too small. Didn't even meet at the back (despite my very careful measuring and choosing the size based on finished garment measurements). More head scratching. It was late by this point and I was getting frustrated, so I did the right thing and put it away for a day.

The bodice back then became a puzzle. I ruminated on it on the train to and from work. I drew little sketches of possible solutions while out and about. I geeked out reading every bodice fitting article I could find. 

There were a few solutions I was toying with:
- adding a triangle onto the pattern piece to close the gap at the bottom of centre back
- adding to the side seams (which would mean roomier arm holes, which would be good, would just need to alter sleeve piece again)
- move zip to side seam and make bodice back in one piece 

I was toying with these solutions, when on the train home I saw that Lauren of Lladybird fame had just posted this post about her Emery fit journey. It really gave me a kick up the bum to persevere and get the fit right. Lauren did and her dress looks awesome. 

It also gave me my Eureka moment: the simplest solution is always the best. 

I got in at 11pm and by 12 I had a perfectly fitting bodice. I realised I needed a triangular shape of extra fabric, and was stupidly going to add to the pattern piece when I've got two flipping darts taking out the exact amount I need to put back in! I mean, duh! I laid the back bodice pattern piece on my dress form without the waist dart sewn up. It fit perfectly. I mean absolutely perfectly.  I unpicked the darts from my wearable muslin and tried it on..... Victory! 

I do have a broad back, so it really shouldn't be a surprise that it doesn't need nipping in from waist to shoulder blade. I'm so glad I puzzled this one out, it was really starting to make me grumpy! 

I lined the bodice in a buttery soft white cotton batiste. Seriously, it's so soft I actually just want to curl up in it and make myself a cottony cocoon. I won't though, don't worry.

For my next version I think I will move my side seams back a little, as they're pointing forwards in this one. Also there is a tiny bit of fullness just under the bust, between waist dart and bust dart. Not quite sure how to fix that yet so any wisdom is most definitely welcome. 

Obligatory pocket shot. Sorry 'bout all the shadows!
So, after all that... The verdict? I love it. I can see why everyone is raving about it! And, oh, the possibilities. Square neck, V-neck, sleeveless, tulip sleeved, with the collar, with the bow, paired with different skirt patterns... Prepare to see many incarnations coming up. 

I'm absolutely a fan of using a pattern you love many, many times. It's so much more cost effective and time effective. All that altering time on a new pattern could be spent sewing up a new version of an already-tried-and-tested pattern.

I adore the pockets, most of the fact that they are sewn into the waist seam so they stay put. Genius.

I really think I need a purple Emery at some point. I'm feeling thirsty for purple! 

I'll leave you with another picture of my new favourite dress! She had a jaunt to the park yesterday in the glorious sunshine. I managed to eat an ice cream and not spill any on the dress (award please?).

I'm off to sew up another Sew Dolly Clackett entry. Yes I did get carried away. There's one more after that too....

Over and out!

The Ancient Mariner dress (Anna mark II)

I've named this dress after the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, purely because I saw a wonderful graphically illustrated version once, all blues and greys, which this fabric reminds me of so much. Every time I look at it I see the sea. 

I bought this fabric on my last jaunt Up North, and wanted to try the V-neck Anna. So here it is!

The Ancient Mariner dress (By Hand London's Anna bodice with McCalls 7316 A-line skirt) 

After my first Anna (the Lady Luck dress), I had a bit of neck gape to sort out. So, on the pattern for the higher neckline version, I took out a wedge in the centre neckline, and then drew the V-neck over that new pattern piece. I think it worked out ok!  I took two smaller wedges out of the bodice back neckline either side of the centre back in the same way, and I'm happy to report that this worked too! 

I'm a bit giddy

I foolishly went for my first ever attempt at pattern matching on the bodice centre back zip seam. Foolish because I then didn't have enough fabric for the skirt. Stupid Ree! I have a small flat, and even laying the fabric out to cut on the floor is a challenge in terms of space. So I often cut out a piece at a time, rather than umming and ahhing about a layout. Must do more umming and ahhing in the future. 

The foolish (and not altogether successful) first attempt at pattern matching. Aaaand a not very invisible zip.

Anyway, I had planned a pleated skirt for this version, with two box pleats in the front and two in the back, matching the darts in the bodice. But I didn't even have enough fabric for that! So I ended up being able to JUST squeeze an A-line skirt (from the already much used McCalls 7316) from the remaining fabric. I had no choice but to have an above-the-knee skirt. Desperate times!

I overlocked the seams because my new toy was flirting with me. She's a joy. I attached the facing and then did my first ever bit of understitching, which was fine except for my ham fisted way with the point of the V. I really want to try another V-neck just to get that point better next time. I sewed the facing to the invisible zip with my regular zipper foot. On the Lady Luck dress I hand stitched this bit but I much prefer the speed and neatness of the machine sewing I did on this dress. 

After the dress was all sewn together, it emerged that it was in fact a bit big all over. I have no clue why, since I measured carefully and used the same bodice pattern as the Lady Luck dress. I liked the dress, and LOVED the fabric, but it being too big made me feel a bit frumpy in it. I knew I'd wear it, but probably not feel all that great in it. So I took a deep breath and tried a Roisin inspired trick of boil washing it to try and shrink it a bit.

Bad mirror picture pre-shrinkage. 'Tis quite big.

It only flipping worked! The Ancient Mariner dress is now a lovely fit, and a bit more of a mini. I love it. I was irrationally terrified it would come out of the machine doll-sized and I would cry. But hooray! Not doll-sized, Ree-sized!

Ha! This face definitely needs a cartoon thought-bubble next to it. Caption suggestions?

Speaking of the very inspiring Roisin (see her amazing blog here), this is my first entry into the Sew Dolly Clackett competition. There will be more! Keep up with the wonderful dresses being entered here.

One more daft picture. Ta da! 

Over and out!

My Serging Journey #1

So, with excitement and a little bit of trepidation I plugged in my serger for the first time.

I have never used one before, and was so excited to finally have a go!

So, I thought I'd share my serging journey, as I know other people out there might be in the same boat, or might be thinking about getting a serger.

I will admit, they can look a bit intimidating. But I have to tell you, this one was really easy to use!

This was my mum's, it must be about 12+ years old, and I've had the serger since Christmas, but my dad couldn't find the pedal/lead or instruction book. On my last visit home we found the lead and pedal - woohoo! - but still couldn't dig out the instructions. I really, really didn't want to tackle beginner serging without instructions, since I knew absolutely nothing about it.

Well, I found the instructions! It turns out that on the Toyota website, they have PDF instruction manuals for lots of older models. I couldn't find the one for my particular model, the SL3477DS, but on inspecting the drawings, I figured the general manual for the SL1A series was close enough. I was right!

With the manual printed, I sat down at the serger, and discovered some massive knots in the threads.

So I had to rethread. Again, it looked scary, but with the colour coded picture on the inside of the cover, it was actually quite simple. And then I got serging!

It was immediately satisfying. A bit of fiddling with tension, trying out curves, different fabrics, general tinkering, and I was sold. I'm going to be using this thing a LOT.

This was how the stitch was sitting when I used default tension settings

With instruction manual I learned how to correct the tension so that the little crosses sit on the edge of the fabric

The instructions were really clear. So, from my first foray into serging, I'd like to offer any other first-timers a couple of tips:

1. Do not be intimidated. The serger is not scary or difficult to use!
2. Take your time. Playing with your new machine will be super fun if you don't put any time pressure on yourself.
3. Your instruction manual is your friend!
4. Tweezers are also your friend when rethreading.

Erm - that's it! Using a serger is so much less scary and complicated than I thought it was going to be, and it gives you an awesome professional, durable finish.

I'd love to hear your serging tips? What should I tackle next on my new toy?

Sewing haul from the Mother Land

Whenever I'm visiting the mother land (Leeds) I make sure to go to B&M fabric stall in Kirkgate Market. It's a treasure trove of gorgeous fabrics with lovely and very knowledgable staff. Plus it's very reasonably priced. 

I absolutely could not refuse these fabrics. 

The aim of the game was to get some great stretch knits to make some practical everyday staples out of. I've inherited a serger (!!!) and am raring to get going with T-shirts, cardigans, skater dresses and leggings. 

However there weren't many knits that fit into my colour palette, so I came away with this lovely, drapey grey jersey to copy a favourite cardigan with, and a piece of 4-way stretch red and white striped knit for the grand sum of £1 (bargain bin find of the day). I split this piece with my lovely sister, and we're both planning a summer bandeau top. Mainly serger practice for me but we'll see if it ends up looking anything like decent!

...aaand I found some lovely cottons of course!

Red and white spots are just always a winner. These are the perfect size, and this cotton has such a soft finish and lovely drape. It's destined for an emery dress when my pattern arrives.

Then I spotted this awesome blue geometric print cotton. It reminds me of a painting of the sea, and I just adore it. It's in my colour palette of course (see my wardrobe architect post here) and is such a fun, jazzy print. I think it shall be another Anna dress. 

And finally, I fell for this Eiffel Tower fabric. Oh wow. How could I leave this on the roll? It's just so awesome. In fact there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. I actually adore it. My only regret is not buying more: I can see it in a dress, top, skirt, shorts... But I shall have to choose just one incarnation for this beautiful hunk of fabric. 

A tip-off for any Leeds-based seamstresses... The lady at B&M fabrics was telling me that she has just been to the fabric show, and ordered lots of amazing prints. She was telling me they're coming in in March. Keep an eye out! 

The haul of sewing loveliness did not stop there. My dad's attic yielded the most exciting of finds. We originally ventured up there to look for the serger lead and pedal. I love rummaging around in the attic anyway. We found old photographs, my school artwork, mum's childhood doll and teddy, our old Amiga computer, joystick & floppy disc games (hilarious that we kept them! Why?!) and some sewing gems. I thought I had already been through all of my mum's old patterns and separated out the ones I might want to use. I was wrong. 

When I happened upon two big boxes of vintage sewing patterns, an actual squeal escaped my lips. Some of these patterns are incredible and will definitely be getting made. Some of them are hilariously dated 80s flouncy creations, but there were so so many heart-quickening stylish ones. So me & my sister decamped to the kitchen table to go through them all over a cup of tea.

Two of my favourites from the attic stash
There were loads that my Nanna had ordered from the Sunday People Patterns on mail order, still in the envelopes they were posted in. Apparently she had good intentions but didn't sew any of them up. They're all still factory folded!

There was a hand-drafted-by-mum pattern labeled "Marie ballet tutu age 5". Maybe I can use it one day !

There was also a big tin full of lace, bias binding and trims, plus an ice cream tub full of zips. Patterns and notions and zips, oh my! 

Some of the notions I brought back with me... Bias binding, twill tape and sew-in boning
I journeyed back down to London with a heavier suitcase but a lighter soul. There are so many ideas whizzing around in my head, I absolutely cannot wait to get going on some more sewing. Any beginner serger tips are more than welcome (since we managed to find the lead and pedal but not the instruction manual...) so please do comment below! I'll share my serging journey of course. 

See you soon!