Monday, 5 January 2015

The Darling Lou Dress

This is the very seasonally inappropriate Darling Lou dress.  It's a mash-up of Megan Nielsen's Darling Ranges dress, and Tilly And The Buttons Lilou dress

This dress has been in the planning for a while now.  Since last May to be exact, when I saw Lizzie's Darling Ranges dress with a gathered skirt.  I really loved this, (especially the birdies fabric!) and thought the gathered skirt looked great.  Also, it has a faux placket (so no faffing about with buttonholes) and a zip in the side seam.

And this is what I had planned to make until about three weeks' ago when I saw Jo's shirt dress.  How gorgeous is this?!  I love this dress for several reasons.  1 - It's purple, and I have some very similar purple fabric which I had already planned to make a shirt dress with.  2. I love the details of the pleats on the skirt and the sleeves. The skirt pleats reminded me of the Lilou dress, so this is what I decided to use instead of a gathered dirdnl skirt.

I used the sleeve cuffs from Tilly And The Buttons Mathilde blouse
I drafted the bodice and sleeves using my block, but instead of following Lizzie's example and using a faux placket, I gave myself extra work by making a proper placket.  I'm glad I did though, because I wanted to practice plackets, and I love how it turn out.  Also, it helps to be able to unbutton the placket to get it on and off.  

Placket innards
Which leads me onto the side zip.  I like pockets in my dresses (these pockets are from good old Simplicity 2444), which meant that I had to end the zip above the top of the pocket on one side seam.  As I'm small, the distance between the underarm and pocket top was 10.5", so allowing for 1" below the underarm and 1/2" above the pocket, I ended up using a 9" zip.  I was hoping that this would be long enough, and it just about is (I'll just have to be careful when putting on/taking off), but it would be better to have a longer zip.  Which lead me onto thinking about how to sew an invisible zip into a side seam with a pocket.  I have googled it, but haven't had much luck.  There has to be a way around this, so if anybody knows, I'd be very grateful if you'd let me know!  I'm going to have a play about with some fabric scraps and a zip to see if I can work it out.


I'm so glad that I went with the Lilou skirt, it is lovely and flouncy, even in this light weight fabric.  I just folded in the seam allowance on the centre back and cut the skirt back on the fold.  Expect to see this skirt featuring in other makes; I have fabric for two more dresses that I plan to use it with (one being the purple shirt dress), and have ideas for another two.


The seasonally inappropriate fabric is some random viscose fabric from Sew N Sew in Belfast.  It was £3 per metre and 60" wide, so I bought 3 metres, and have about a metre left.  I soaked it in gelatine to stiffen it up a bit using the tutorials here and here, which I have done before with success.  It is then washed out when the garment is finished.  I recently read a tip about laying slippery fabric out on the carpet before cutting it to stop it shifting so much.  I wish I'd tried this, as I cut it on the wooden floor, and it still shifted a bit even with the gelatin.  But I'll know for next time, as I have some more of this fabric in a different print.

And because my fabric is so light, I thought a rolled hem might look nice on it.  Ages ago, I had got a Craftsy class called Beginners Serging, and learnt how to do a rolled hem on it.  This is a 4-thread rolled hem, and I thought it looked a bit sturdier than how my 3-thread rolled hem turned out.   My overlocker is a Brother 1034D which seems to be a popular model, so for anybody that is interested in trying this out, here are the settings that I used.

Remove the stitch finger - see page 42 of the instruction book for how to do this.

Left needle tension - 4
Right needle tension - 4
Upper looper tension - 4
Lower looper tension - 6

Stitch width - R
Stitch length - R


This is the first rolled hem that I've done, and I love how it turned out.  I would definately advice practising on a fabric scrap first though!

I'm delighted with my dress, even if it's too cold to wear such a light weight fabric just now; and because I didn't have any instructions to follow, I wrote some out as I went along on this notepad that my Dad gave me.  How great is this?  It has buttons on it, and ric rac! 


Have a great week!


Friday, 26 December 2014

Megan Dress

This is the Megan dress from Tilly's book, Love At First Stitch.  

My fabric is some random knit fabric that came from the sale rail outside Sew N Sew in Belfast.  I think the pattern calls for a woven fabric, but my fabric is a knit.  It doesn't have much stretch at all, so I thought I'd give it a go.  At £5 for 2 metres, it was a total bargain, so I wasn't too worried about wasting the fabric if it was a disaster.  The fabric turned out to be terribly off grain, but as it has a herringbone design, I pinned down the centre of the one the V shapes, and used that as my centre front.

I drafted the bodice using my sloper from the Craftsy bodice sloper class, and used the skirt from the pattern.  I just had to fiddle about with the skirt darts to make them line up with the darts on the bodice.  The sleeves are drafted from the Craftsy sleeves sloper class.  These short sleeves fit perfectly, but I need to do a bit more work on my longer sleeves as they are tight at the top.

I drafted the Peter Pan collar using the method in Gertie's New Book For Better Sewing.  I copied the shape of the collar from the collar of a top my sister was wearing recently, but I think I will make the V shape a bit wider.  Because my fabric is slightly stretchy, I used black cotton poplin for the under collar; but when I attached the collar it refused to lie flat, so I ended up hand-stitching it down.

I would have had this finished in the middle of last week if it hadn't taken a whole week for the zips that I ordered on ebay to arrive.  Naturally, I had every type of zip except the one I wanted in my zip tin.  So I sucked it up, and got the bus into town on Saturday morning to buy a zip.  I was home about half an hour when the postman delivered zips that I'd ordered...

When I was in The Spinning Wheel buying the zip, I also bought a new stitch ripper to replace one that I lost months ago.  I thought it had fallen into the pile of stuff under my machine table, but I didn't find it when I moved everything up into the attic a few weeks ago, so I decided it must  have been lost forever down the side of the sofa.  Aaand I found it on Saturday night in a bag that I keep nail polishes in!

But if I hadn't gone to The Spinning Wheel, then I wouldn't have got 2 metres of this lovely wool mix suiting from the sale table for £5.99 per metre.  There's always a bright side!

This would also have been blogged sooner had I got the photos taken at the weekend, but the remote control on my camera threw a wobbly, then the camera battery died!  Then there were two nightmare days in work on Monday and Tuesday when some of the mains electric failed, and no computers were working.  This was my problem because I work in the building admin office.  It was all very sigh inducing as it was one disaster after another when the generator then wouldn't work; but it's all fixed, and all the electricians who helped us were every bit as kind as crafters.

Naturally I asked Santa for some crafting goodies, and he didn't disappoint.  Unfortunately I forgot to ask for a drafting book that I wanted, but that's what Christmas money is for!

Anyway, I pleased with how my dress turned out, and even more pleased with my drafting!  I've spent most of today drafting another dress, and whilst drafting is time consuming, it's very satisfying.  Tomorrow I will cut it out, but now I'm off to light the fire and do some knitting.   I hope everybody had a lovely Christmas, and that Santa was good to you.


Monday, 8 December 2014

My new sewing room

As mentioned in my last post, and after much more work than I expected, here is my new sewing room which is in the attic.


I have to give you a bit of background on this.  When we moved into our house, the attic had a window and was floored, but had pull-down ladders instead of proper stairs (and still does - I was not going down the road of building a new staircase!).  It's your average three bedroom semi, and a lady who lives across the street told me that there used to be a family with seven children in my house, so I'm guessing some of them used the attic as a bedroom.  

We've always just used the attic to store the usual attic rubbish, which I've tried to be quite strict about keeping under control, but in May I hurt my foot.  What's that got to do with the price of fish I hear you ask?  Well, I'll tell you.  One of the things in the attic is my exercise bike (which I do use), and when I hurt my foot, I was under doctor's orders not to do any weight-bearing exercise, because there was chat that I might have a stress fracture.  Turns out I didn't, and I still don't know how I hurt my foot, but I'm blaming it on some new trainers which I have since given to the charity shop.  

Anyway, I'm getting very off the point!  While I was cycling away on my exercise bike during the summer, it hit me that the attic would make a great sewing room, because I was getting pretty tired of having to move about five things to get to my sewing machine in it's little corner in the back bedroom.  There wasn't a square inch of room under the bed in the back bedroom, because that's where all my sewing stuff was stored, and one end of the dining room table has recently become a permanent place for pattern drafting stuff.

So I thought it wouldn't take me too long to sort the attic out.  Turns out I was wrong, and it wasn't because there was too much rubbish - one dump run/charity shop run sorted that out.  It was the wooden panels on the slopey parts of the roof.  The attic is insulated in the walls and floor, so gets cold in the winter, and hot in the summer.  I'm not worried about any of my sewing things though, because in the twelve years that I've lived here, nothing that has been stored in the attic has been damaged by heat or cold.

The heat had made the varnish on the wood peel off, as you can see in this photo below.  Great flakes of varnish were lying all over the floor.  So I thought that it would take no time at all to remove the varnish from the wood.  Well, Lynne in December laughs manically at poor, naive Lynne in September!  I took two days off work, and expected to get the wood stripped and painted, but all I managed to do was about two square metres!  I tried paint thinner, but it was useless, and the sander we had was rubbish.  So eventually a new sander was purchased, and it took me a whole weekend to get all that blinking varnish off!  Then it was another whole weekend to undercoat and paint it and the walls.  Oh, and working above your head is not fun!

There was some very groovy 1970s wallpaper on the wall between my house and next door.  I would have loved to have kept it because of my weakness for a big mad 70s print, but it was too dark.  Here's a photo of it, which is a bit blurry because I took it on my phone.  It was vinyl wallpaper, so I peeled off the front, and painted the backing paper.

Andrew built some storage cupboards in the eaves, which also took about two weekends.  Oh, and then I had a bit of a disaster when painting them.  They're made from MDF, and I painted them with undercoat, then satin wood paint - and they were a streaky mess.  Andrew ended up having to sand them down, and I then re-painted them with ordinary wall emulsion.

I brought up my table that my sewing machine lives on, and got some new things in Ikea.  There is this little table for my overlocker, which cost less than £11!  And the chair at my overlocker was left in my house when we moved in.  The blue wheely trolley, which seems to be popular in sewing rooms according to Pinterest,

and this kitchen island to use as a cutting/work table (another popular thing on Pinterest).  Andrew put wheels on the bottom of it so it's really easy to move about.

You can see where I skillfully managed to walk some paint onto the carpet below the mirror!  Doh!
There was a bit of a disaster with this table too!  My sister and I had gone to Ikea to get everything, and I'm so glad she was with me.  I don't know how I thought I could manage it by myself.  We'd put everything in the garage until the painting was finished, which was about two weeks.  Then when I opened the box with the table top in it, the top had bowed by 1cm because of the cold.  There was an instruction leaflet inside the box saying to store it at least 20 degrees.  Might have been handy if Ikea had printed that on the front of the box!  

So we brought the top into the house, thinking that the heat would help.  I was giving off about it in work, and my boss suggested putting the top on the floor, and putting the dining table upside-down on top of it.  We did this, and it was a great idea, because the dining table is really heavy.  But the downside was that we couldn't use the table.  After two days, it was down to a 5mm bow, and Andrew got two containers from the garage that we keep logs in, put them on the top and filled them with water - and it did the trick! 


I was very pleased to get rid of the manky old net curtain (including various dead insects), and it had been replaced with a snazzy blind. 

Here are some before and after photos.  Please bear in mind that the before photos were taken after I had started to clear out the attic, I'm not that untidy!  That hideous brown and yellow chair (which was in the attic when we moved in) will pop up in another photo by the way.

I took off the shelves because I didn't want them, and then strategically placed the mirror and pictures to cover up the worst of the screw holes from the shelve brackets!  For the Potterheads amongst us, the two pictures on the left are from a website called Society 6, and I think it only took about a week for delivery.   Twilfitt and Tatting's is mentioned in chapter 6 in The Half-Blood Prince.  I happen to know this because I finished re-reading it on Friday, and I thought that picture was appropriate for a sewing room.

The Joey Dunlop poster and little photos on the brown beam are Andrew's.  They are staying because Joey Dunlop.  Maybe you have to be from Northern Ireland or be into motorbikes to even have heard of him, but he was a total legend.  This is my storage area for patterns, fabric, a box of yarn, and PDF patterns.  And there's that horrible yellow and brown chair again.  The stupid thing wouldn't fit down the ladders!  I've no idea how it got there in the first place.

So that's it.  It was definately worth all the work, I can't tell you how great it is to have everything in the one room, and not all over the house!  So far, I have been using my sewing room to finish my apron, make another Coco top and a christmas stocking for Friend's baby, and at the minute I am up to my eyes in sleeve drafting - as the mess on the table proves! 

Have a great week,


Monday, 1 December 2014

Suzie's Apron


I'd been meaning to make an apron for a while now, because the apron I have is truly a sight to behold - for all the wrong reasons!  But I hadn't found a pattern I liked until local sewist Suzie posted this tutorial a couple of weeks ago, and it was exactly what I was looking for.

I had planned to make an apron with the fabric I used for my Margot pyjama bottoms, but as I had already used it, I hit the scraps bag and came up with some red and white polka dot fabric left over from my maxi Anna, and also some red flowery fabric from my circle skirt Anna


Suzie's tutorial is really easy to follow.  The only changes I made were to shorten the bodice and neck strap, and to add a pocket.  The pocket on my old apron was the reason I liked it so much. I don't use an apron when cooking (because I am a rubbish cook), but to protect my clothes when doing the washing up, and taking out the rubbish.  Oh, and sometimes when eating, because I am extremely good at spilling things down my front.  The pocket is very handy for the garage key, and items for the recycling boxes.  I just measured the pocket on my old apron, added a seam allowance, and cut one for the new apron.  

An oven you say?  What's that for?
Here's my old apron in all it's glory.  This photo doesn't do justice to it's general tattiness.  My mum gave it to me, and it was from the pound shop.  It's fine for this time of year, but I do feel like a bit of a lemon when I go outside to put something in the bin in the middle of the summer!

In other news, after a lot more work than I ever anticipated, my sewing room finally got finished yesterday.  And I love it!  I will bore everybody stupid about it in another post, but I want to wait to next weekend to take some photos in the daylight.  Zippy loves it though.



Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The world's fastest sock

I cast on this sock on Friday night, and finished it last night!  I have never knit a sock so quickly, nor did I think it was possible.  According to Ravelry I last knit socks this time last year, which was far too long ago.  The photos are rubbish by the way, such is life in the winter, and I couldn't wait to the weekend.

I used my usual toe-up sock pattern, and the cuff pattern is from a pattern in Let's Knit magazine from July 2010.  It was from a cuff-down sock pattern called Skylar, and I really liked the look of the stitch pattern.  Sadly I can't find the pattern on Ravelry, so can't post a link.  My yarn is Regia Design Line, which I haven't used before and think it's lovely.


Most of this got done while I was watching the F1 qualifing and race on Saturday and Sunday, and also when I was watching Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire on Saturday night.  The new F1 season doesn't start until next March, so it will be interesting to see when the second sock is finished!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Self-drafted flounce skirt

Exactly a year ago I made my Flounce-a-lot skirt.  I love this skirt, and it gets worn at lot, so I thought I'd make another one.  But this time I decided to draft the pattern myself.  I used the Craftsy Pattern Making Basics - The Skirt Sloper class.  I can recommend this class if you want an introduction to pattern making.  It's very easy to take your measurements by yourself, and the actual drafting of the sloper is quick - I did mine, including making a toile, in one morning.
Already I'm seeing fitting issues!  It was a bit roomy at the hips, so I took it in a bit at the lower hip, but I think I could take it in right from the bottom of the waistband because it looks a bit lumpy in these photos, and also still feels a bit lose in the hips.

The class also includes how to draft lots of different styles of skirts, including one with a straight flounce all around the hem of the skirt.  It was that skirt that gave me the idea to give this a go.

My first skirt has a waistband that sits above the natural waist.  I had used the By Hand London Charlotte skirt pattern for it; and whilst it fits at the waist, I find the band then gapes above the waist.  I have the same problem with my Colette Patterns Ginger skirt.  Ultimately, I think this style of waistband doesn't work for me because I am so short in the body.

On the other hand, I find that skirts with waistbands that finish at my natural waist are a better fit.  My Simplicity 2117 and Simplicity 2541's (here and here) prove this.  The Craftsy class shows you how to draft this style of waistband, so that's what I did.


My fabric is some black linen that I got ages ago from Minerva Crafts.  This is what was left over from my black Anna dress.  I underlined it with some black lining fabric, and used some fabric left over from my Russian Dolly dress for the inside of the waistband.  I did a lapped zip because I thought the linen and underlining might be a bit too thick for an invisible zip, and I used some black polka dot ribbon on the hem.


I also added some ric rac between the bottom of the waistband and the top of the skirt.  Whilst I like the look of it, good grief it was a nightmare to sew!  I think I unpicked various bits about four or five times to get it to look ok.  Won't be doing that again!


This was easy enough to draft, and I quite enjoyed it, so I thought I'd do a how-to on drafting the flounce.  Before that though, I have to mention the Belfast Crafters Meet-up that happened two Saturdays ago.  We had a lovely day, and it was great to finally meet some local crafters, and also to be able to have an in-depth conversation about sewing without everybody else being bored!  You can read all about it here on Ruth's blog, and there was chat of trying to arrange something else in January.

I'll do my usual disclaimer of I'm no expert on this, just winging it from things off the internet!

First of all, you'll need a skirt pattern (obviously!).  For my first flounce skirt, I used the By Hand London Charlotte skirt pattern, which is a pencil skirt, but any pencil skirt pattern would do.  If the hem is narrower than the hips, then extend the hem out at the side seam so it is the same width as the hips.

Take the back skirt pattern piece, and trace it.  I appreciate that this is a pain in the bum, but it will be hacked to pieces, so is worth it.

Draw in the seam allowances, and mark a curve as in the photo below.  This will be the seam line between the back of the skirt and the flounce. The highest point on my curve (at the centre back seam) is 8 1/2" up from the bottom (this includes the 1/2" hem allowance), and the lowest point is 4" up from the bottom (also including hem allowance).  I drew the curve in using a french curve.

Now cut along the curved line, and also cut away the centre back seam allowance.  The flounce is cut on a fold, so the seam allowance isn't needed any more. Re-trace the upper part of the skirt back, remembering to add a seam allowance at the bottom of the curve. 

On the lower back skirt piece, mark vertical lines up from the bottom to the top.  I did mine 1" apart, starting at the centre back.  The last bit beside the side seam allowance is smaller than an inch, but that's ok.  Cut off the side seam allowance - this makes the next step a bit easier.

Cut along the ruled lines.  Initially I left a little "hinge" at the top, but ended up cutting through them completely, because they kept ripping.  

I'll apologise now for the next three photos, they were taken on my phone.

The most important part of the next bit is that the longest and shortest pieces are at a 45 degree angle.  This is where a grided mat comes in handy.  Arrange all the pieces so the top edges are touching each other, as in the photo below.  This took a bit of faffing about, and I had to stick each piece down with masking tape because my paper was off a roll, and the pieces kept curling up.  You can see how the two rulers are at a right angle, and the longest and shortest pieces butt up to them.

Trace over the outside edges, and fill in the gaps at the bottom to make a curve.


Add a seam allowance to the top of the piece (the shorter curve), and also to the side seam (the shorter straight line).  Mark the longer straight line as "Centre Back Fold", and cut this piece out on the fold, the same as the skirt front.  When cutting, notch the top of the centre back fold, this helps to line it up to the centre back seam below the zip.  When everything is cut out, stay stitch the curve on the top of the flounce, and also the curves on the bottom of the two skirt back pieces.

Here's how I put the skirt back together.  The white thread is my basting thread which is holding the underlining on.

I used a lapped zip, so on the two skirt back pieces, I sewed the centre back seam up to the bottom of where the zip finished, and then inserted the zip.  For an invisible zip, put the zip in first, then sew the rest of the centre back seam.

With the wrong sides together, line up the shorter curve of the flounce with the curve at the bottom of the skirt back.

Line up the notch on the flounce at the centre back with the centre back seam on the skirt back, and pin along the curves to the edges.

Sew this together, it pays to take your time with this bit, and it should look like this:

Something that was mentioned in the Craftsy class is that a flounce is more flouncey if it is cut on the bias.  I didn't have enough fabric to do that, but it would be interesting to see if there was much difference.

After this, I attached the skirt front at the side seams, and then attached the waistband.  I thought the waistband would be a bit trickier because the skirt wasn't layed out flat, but it was easy enough to attach.  If you've any questions, or something doesn't make sense (which is quite possible!), please leave a comment, and I'll get back to you.

Have a great weekend,