Sunday, 24 May 2015

Anna-Lou the second, and Featherweight the second

This is my latest Tilly And The Buttons Lilou mash-up that I mentioned in my last post.  You'll be pleased to know that I think I've got Lilou out of my system for the time being, as I'm not planning any more - at the minute!  This one is my second mash-up of the Lilou skirt and By Hand London's Anna bodice - the first one is here.  
To be honest, I'm not really in love with this, but it's because of the fabric.  It's from the By Hand London Kickstarter to fund printing fabric, but the fabric is quite crispy.  I washed it when I got it; then, once the dress was finished, I soaked it in fabric softner and washed it again.  It helped a bit, so hopefully it will soften more after a few washes.

It's a lovely dress though, and went together without a hitch.  I cut it all out on a single layer, and am delighted with the print matching on the back.  And what's not to love about all the bright colours?!  I think I'll take it in a bit more at the waist though.

And talking of lovely things - want to see what I got on Friday?  Of course you do!

It's Singer Featherweight 221K.  Long term readers may remember my post about my other Featherweight.  That one belonged to my Dad's Mum; this one belonged to my Mum's Mum.  It turned up in my Great Aunt's house, and we didn't even know that she still had it until recently.  My Mum kept it to show it to me, and was then going to throw it out because the light is broken, and she thought that I wouldn't want it cluttering up my house.  How wrong was she!!!  

A bit of googling tells me that it is a 221K4, and it's from 1952.  The light is broken (I'd already unscrewed it when I took the photo above), and there are some exposed wires in the foot pedal; but I threw caution to the wind, plugged it in, and it worked (and didn't fuse the whole house)!  Andrew is going to re-wire it for me, so hopefully it will be working properly soon. Below is a little video of it in action that I posted on Instagram, you can see the light fitting hanging down at the front.  This caused quite a bit of excitement from my family!

A video posted by Lynne (@ozzyblackbeard) on

I am absolutely thrilled with it, and am very lucky to own two lovely Featherweights.  

Tomorrow is a bank holiday here in the UK, so I am off work.  Hurray!  I have sewing plans, but the spirit (and weather) have been moving me to tidy up the garden over the weekend, so I might do a bit more of that.

Have a great day whatever you're up to.


Thursday, 7 May 2015

Lilou Dress

Recently Sara asked me if I would like to take part in her first Dress Up Party blog tour.  Throughout May Sara will be featuring guest bloggers reviewing their favourite patterns, and there are loads of prizes to giveaway.  As I need absolutely no excuse to make a dress, naturally I said yes! 

So now that Spring is finally here, it's time to start thinking about summer dress sewing.  Naturally I have lots of dresses planned, but for my first one I thought I'd make my fourth version of Tilly And The Buttons Lilou dress.  The other three are here, here and here.  This one is closest to the original dress, as it seems that these days I can't leave a pattern as it is.


I knew I would have to draft the bodice from my block due to my multitude of weird fitting issues, and I really was going to make it as it is on the pattern; but I wanted to try out a boat neck bodice, so that's what I did.  I've taken the waist darts in a bit since these photos were taken, as the area under the bust was a bit too loose.

I wish I'd thought about the print placement on the bodice back!
I absolutely love how this dress turned out.  The fabric is by Michael Miller, and the print is called Atomic.   I love this.  I'm trying to be a bit more experimental with colours, and I think I got that right with turquoise and orange!  It's 44 inches (112cm) wide, which is too narrow for the skirt pattern - the pattern instructions recommend using 60 inch wide fabric.  So I just narrowed the pattern pieces; here's how I did it - it's the same as on my Dolly-thorn dress.

I folded each skirt piece in half longways.  The corners of the hem and waist wouldn't match properly to allow them to fold completely flat, so I matched the hem corners together.  Once it was folded flat, I cut along the fold line in the middle of the pattern.  I left a little hinge at the top, and overlapped the hem until the pattern piece fitted onto the width of the fabric, then I taped the join with some masking tape.  This means that I can open it out again to use as the original pattern piece again.


You can see in the above photo where the pieces are taped back together down the centre.  It throws the shape of the hem out a bit (you can see this more on the top pattern piece which is the skirt front), but it's easy to even up when hemming.  Obviously, this will make the skirt less flouncey than the original, but it's still lovely and full.


I also lined the bodice using some white cotton lawn; and in a fit of doing things properly, I actually followed the instructions in the book.  I'm glad that I did, because it's a while since I lined a bodice, and I am particularly pleased with how the bottom of the lining attached to the dress.


So that's Lilou number four!  I hope you aren't bored of seeing me make this, but I really do love that skirt.  I have one more planned; I really tried to talk myself out of it, but the fabric keeps telling me that that's what it wants to be!


Monday, 27 April 2015

Dolly-thorn dress

Are you bored of the pattern mash-ups yet, because I'm not!  This one was inspired by a dress I spotted on the interwebs somewhere.  That's a vague sentence, if ever there was one!  Anyway, said dress is on one of my Pinterest boards.  I love Pinterest, it's so handy for organising things, and I've been making a list of my summer sewing based on a lot of things I've saved.

This particular mash-up consists of my heavily modified version of the bodice from Butterick B5603.  You can read about how I modified it here, and here is another version.   The skirt is from Colette Patterns Hawthorn dress.

I managed to match the print on the front, it's a wee bit out on the back and I didn't have enough fabric to match it at the centre back.

The fabric is one of the two fabrics I bought in February when I was visiting my friend in England.  Here's what it said along the selvedge - Asian Collection Alfred Shaheen for Free Spirit Westminster Fibers "Asian Blossoms".  I loved the colours, especially the blue/green background and the purple flowers, so I bought 2.5 metres. The background colour looks quite blue in these photos, but it's a bit darker and more green in real life.  It was £8.50 per metre, reduced from £12.99 per metre, and who doesn't love a sale?! 

The fabric is 45 inches wide, so the skirt pattern pieces were a bit too wide for it.  I narrowed them by cutting up the middle of the piece, and overlapping the cut edges.  Here's how I did it:

Fold the pattern piece in half - I think one piece wouldn't match at the top and bottom, so I made the bottom match.


Cut up the middle leaving a hinge at the top,


Overlap until it fits on the fabric.  I taped it together with some masking tape, so I can easily take it apart again to use at it's original size.  Ignore the tape on the left, that's holding down the placket from the original pattern so I could cut the front on the fold.  Also, I might want to press my pattern pieces a bit better before I use them.  Ahem...


I used a lilac zip for the lapped zip because I couldn't find a zip to match the main colour in the fabric, and also - why not. 

I also made an adjustment to the bodice to fix some gaping at the neckline.  Here's a link to the tutorial I used from Bernie And I.  This is one of those things that is so simple that it's genius!   Thanks to Lara from Dreaming Of Avonlea for putting me on to this.

I decided to add some piping to the seams under the bust and at the waist.  I ended up making the piping with some bias tape and piping cord.  Making it was easy, but as is the way with piping, it was fiddly to sew (or maybe that's just me?!).

I had also wanted to put piping around the neckline and armholes, but didn't have enough bias tape to do it.  My bias tape was from The Spinning Wheel in Belfast; it comes in 2 metre lengths, and I bought one.  When I went to buy some more, there was none left in lilac; and, after much searching, I couldn't find it on the internet!  It turned out to be for the best though, because I think piping at the neckline and armholes would have been a bit much; and sewing the seam binding on the facing nearly killed me!

That blinking seam binding and I nearly came to blows.  That stuff is currently at the top of my sewing hit list - even above tulle.  It was such a faff to work with, and absolutely refused to stay in place.  The deep curve in the all-in-one facing looks like the cats chewed it, and that was after it had been unpicked a few times. 

And then this happened.

That was when I finished for the night!  The next day I ended up basting it in place, which seemed to do the trick.  

But after all that, I love the finished dress!  


Have a great week!


Saturday, 11 April 2015

Invisible zip in right hand side seam with inseam pocket

As mentioned in my last post, I couldn't get the idea of a pocket in a side seam with an invisible zip out of my head.   Naturally I googled it, but didn't come up with anything - maybe I couldn't think of the right words to search for!  So after some experimenting with scraps, I think I've worked out how to do it.  

I will include my usual disclaimer that I am not an expert, and my how-to's are mainly to remind me of how I ever did something.  If they are helpful to someone else, that's great!  I'm not going to re-invent the wheel by explaining how to sew an invisible zip; instead here is a link to my favourite way to do it.   Here we go... 


-      Invisible/concealed zip –  The bottom of the zip needs to finish below where the lower edge of the pocket will attach to the skirt.

Have a look at the photo in Point 5, and you will see that the end of my zip is about 2" below the bottom of the lower edge of the pocket. 

-          Two pocket pieces

-          Dress to sew them into!


Attach the skirt to the bodice, and finish the edges of the sides.  Also finish the edges of the pocket pieces.  Press the zip teeth with a cool iron.

I appreciate it doesn't help that I used a fabric that doesn't have an obvious right side, so here’s how I have labelled the pieces in the photo below:



The right sides are the sides that your hand will touch when you put your hand in your pocket.  If you have a fabric with an obvious right side, then this side faces up as in the photo above.



The zip is right side up (the side that has the zip pull attached), the FRONT RIGHT HALF will attach to the front of the dress, the BACK LEFT HALF will attach to the back.


One of the pocket pieces needs to be attached to the zip, so that when the zip is undone; both pocket pieces will be at the front of the dress. 

  1. Lay the zip down on top of the side seam of the dress, matching up where the top of the zip will attach to the top of the side seam (blue pin on the left in the photo below).  There is normally a notch on the pattern to mark this. 
On the wrong side of the zip, mark where the zip meets the waist seam.  I have marked the back of my zip with white chalk.  The waist seam is marked  with the red pin on the right in the photo below.  

  1. I like the top of my pockets to be 6cm below the waist seam.  I imagine most people will like a longer length, but I'm quite small.  We now need to mark this length on the zip.
            On the front of the FRONT RIGHT HALF of the zip, measure your preferred length
            down from the chalk waist seam mark.   In the photo below I have marked this with
            the orange pin which is at a right angle to the zip. 

Take pocket piece A, and lay it right side up.  Take the FRONT RIGHT HALF of the zip and lay it right side down on the pocket piece – right side of the zip and right side of the pocket are touching each other.

Line up the pin marking the position of the top of the pocket with the top of the pocket piece.  Pin the zip to the pocket using your seam allowance.

You can see in the photo where the white chalk mark on the zip lines up with the red pin marking the waist seam.

Sew the zip onto the pocket piece using an invisible zip foot.


I like to understitch the edges of my pockets to the side seams as I think it makes the seam sit more neatly.  Feel free to skip this bit if you don’t do that.

Fold the right side of pocket piece A back on itself, so it and FRONT RIGHT HALF of the zip are both right sides up.  Press, using a cool iron so the zip teeth don’t melt, and understitch about ¼” from the edge of the teeth.  I used my wide zip foot for this, and sewed through the pocket, the pocket seam allowance and the zip tape.  In this photo, the pins are roughly where I will stitch.

  1. Take pocket piece B and attach it to the FRONT of the dress as normal.  If the fabric has an obvious right side, then both right sides will be facing up as in the photo below.

  1. Now we will attach the zip and pocket piece A to the front of the dress and pocket piece B in one step.
Pin the FRONT RIGHT HALF of the zip to the front of the dress, lining the two pocket pieces up, one on top of the other.  Mark the seam allowance at the top and bottom of the pockets (I've done this with white chalk).  Pin the two pocket pieces together as in the photo.  Sew, pivoting at the seam allowance at the pocket top and bottom.  I used my invisible zip foot for all of this, including sewing around the pocket, and it worked perfectly.

Here's what it looks like with the zip pulled closed.  You can see the LEFT BACK HALF of the zip on the left.

6. Sew the BACK LEFT HALF of the zip to the back of the dress.  Sew up the seam above and below the zip,and there you have it!

I hope it makes sense, the bit about the distance between the waist seam and the top of the pocket got typed about 15 times!  If anybody has a question, please leave it in the comments and I'll get back to you.


Sunday, 5 April 2015

Hawthorn Lou Dress

This seems to be the year of the pattern mash-up for me, as I have made a few and have some more planned.  As the title suggests, this is a combination of Colette Patterns Hawthorn dress bodice, and Tilly And The Buttons Lilou dress skirt.


The idea of a purple shirt dress has been lurking in the back of my mind for a very long time, and this fabric has been in my stash since last summer when I bought it from Dragonfly Fabrics.  It's Robert Kaufman Brussels Washer, and the colour is just called Purple.  It's a linen/rayon mix, and is lovely and light and drapey.

After the success of my last Hawthorn, I immediately cut this one out.  I used my sleeve block to draft the sleeves, and am pleased with the fit on them.  I have a slight issue with the armscye though.  On the front, there is a small pool of fabric about half way down.  I was wondering if I need to remove a little bit from the cross front of the bodice, or am I straying into the dark and dangerous realms of over-fitting?! 


Also on the back there is a little bit too much fabric at the bottom of the armscye.  I can fix this by taking a bit out of the side seam on the bodice back.  I can live with these on this dress though. 


One thing that I am disappointed with is the collar.  It looks ok from the front, but it's a bit of a dog's dinner at the back.  When I attached the collar, it absolutely refused to sit flat - even after I pressed the bejimminies out of it.  I ended up having to hand-stitch it down, and it's not a pretty sight.  Luckily my cardigan and/or hair will hide it!

Good grief!!  Just, good grief!
I had the same problem with the collar on my Megan dress, and put it down to the unruly fabric.  At first I thought that I should have used a heavier interfacing on the purple collar, but now I'm wondering if it was all in how I drafted it.  I drafted it using the method in Gertie's Book For Better Sewing.  This involves slightly overlapping the shoulder ends of the front and back bodice pieces before tracing the neckline.  From my Craftsy pattern drafting classes, I have learnt that my shoulders are shorter than average pattern drafting standards, and now I'm wondering if the overlap on the bodice shoulders was just too long for my short little shoulders.  This is a pretty convoluted and specific issue!  I did make a toile (and why don't they show up every issue?!), so I'm going to try out the armcye fixes on it, and also make a collar without the shoulder overlap to see how it looks.

But before anybody thinks that I hate this dress, I absolutely don't!  I love the swishy skirt, and am delighted with how the button placket, neckline, sleeves and bodice fit turned out.  The very best thing though is the zip.

There really is a zip in that seam!
Remember how I said that I got a bee in my bonnet about an invisible zip in a side seam with a pocket?  Well, I worked out how to do it.  I will do a separate post about it, because there is a lot to explain, but it totally works!  And also bonus sewing points to me for taking the trouble to make a proper unbuttoning placket and not a faux placket, because I discovered that I wouldn't be able to get the dress over my head with undoing the buttons!


So in celebration, here's a photo of Luke Spookling.  He has recently been convalescing on The Blanket after spending five nights in the vets because he had an infection.  He's normally not allowed to even look at The Blanket, but if I happen to dose off under it on the sofa, I can guarantee that when I wake up, he'll be lying on it.  So he got special permission to use it when he came home, because then I knew he would stay inside for longer.  But he's back to normal now and eating everything in sight.

Happy Easter!


Thursday, 26 March 2015

Hawthorn Dress

This was supposed to be posted about a week and a half ago.  I even had most of this post already written, and then I ran out of thread when I was topstitching!  But I'm getting ahead of myself; let's start at the start.

This dress is the Colette Patterns Hawthorn dress, I've loved this pattern since it was released, but what I don't love is the fit on the first one I made.  That busy fabric print hides a multitude of sins!  I'd been planning to make another one for ages, and when I dug out my pattern I nearly passed out when I saw all the alternations that Past Me had noted to make on the next one.  So I drafted my own version from my block.

I re-drafted the bodice and used the skirt pieces from the pattern.  The only changes that I made were to make a separate placket for the skirt, and to draft a 5/8" seam allowance on the bodice neckline and front.  The original pattern has 1/4" seam allowance there, and I remember having a bit of trouble with it on the first one.

As you can see, this one doesn't have the Peter Pan collar.  I spotted this lovely version by Marie, and that's what inspired me.  Marie is the queen of Hawthorns by the way, she's made so many lovely versions.
My fabric is some cotton sateen from ebay, and was only £3.99 per metre and 145cm wide.  I bought two metres, then kicked myself for not buying three so I could have made sleeves.  I didn't think that the print would need to be matched, but it turned out that it did.  Two and a half hours later, and with sore knees, I finally finished cutting it out.  Oh, and everything had to be cut on a single layer...


I used some cotton lawn for the facings as I thought the sateen would be too thick on the buttonholes, and the buttons are from The Spinning Wheel in Belfast.  I also used bias tape to face the armholes.  After a bit of practising on a fabric scrap, I used the triple stitch for the top stitching, and am pleased with how it turned out.


It went together without a hitch, until the aforementioned running out of thread on the top stitching.  That was two Saturday evenings ago.  I made an Emergency Thread Dash (because that's a bona fide thing in my house) to Dunelm Mill on the Sunday afternoon, but they didn't have the colour I wanted, so I had to order it on ebay.  I didn't get the thread until Thursday because we had no post on Tuesday as it was St Patrick's Day, and then I went to visit Friend in England on Friday where I had a brilliant time.  Fabric purchases were made, but I'll share them another time.  


I have to thank everybody who suggested recycling the skirt on my Sureau of doom.  I think I'm going to make Tilly's Delphine skirt with it, and maybe put a trim beneath the waistband to brighten it up a bit.  I'm so glad I'd just chucked the dress in the corner of the sewing room, and not in the bin!


Sunday, 8 March 2015

The Sureau of doom

My sister bought me this pattern for Christmas (the pattern being Deer and Doe Sureau), and the fabric is some suiting that came from the sale table in The Spinning Wheel in Belfast.  I think I paid about £12 for it.

I'm going to start off by saying that this is an epic fail (hence no modelled photos) - except for two things (I am nothing, if not contrary!).  Let's start with the bad...

1.  The front shoulders.  I made a toile and the shoulders were too high, so I took a bit out at the neck edge of the shoulder seam on the front and back.  On my toile I got some drag lines going from the neck seam to the front underarm.  I hadn't set the sleeves in very well, and though that was the problem.  Turns out I was wrong.  I should have only taken a bit out of the shoulder seam on the bodice back.  Of course I realised this one the dress was finished!

2.  The next problem is that the bodice is too wide between the underarms and waist.  I could take it in, but it has a side zip, and as I'm not going to wear it, there is no point.

3.  The gathers skirt. From past experience I know that the only gathered skirts that suit me are ones' that are made from the width of the fabric, and the fabric is cotton.  Frumpsville anybody?!  What was I thinking?

4.  The colour of the fabric.  A valuable lesson was learnt here.  Up close, ie when I was holding the fabric in the shop and sewing it, this fabric is lovely.  It has little stripes of red, green and purple/blue.  I loved it. 

See what I mean?
But from a distance - blurg!!  It looks like something straight out of a Victorian melodrama!  In future I shall be taking a few steps back from the fabric to see what it looks like from a distance.

The good bits:

1.  The sleeves are great because they fit.  I've working on my Craftsy pattern drafting classes, and had been having trouble trying to get my sleeves to fit.  I have finally (hopefully!) cracked it with these.  After a lot of toiles, these sleeves are a Sureau/self-drafted hybrid; but, crucially they fit.  I can actually reach forward without fear of the back giving way - always a bonus!

2.  I mentioned in this post about trying to come up with a way of attaching an invisible zip into a side seam with a pocket.  I really got a bee in my bonnet about this, and was determined to find a solution - and I think I have!

I've made lots of notes, but want to try it again before I blog about it.  It seems to have worked quite well though.

I did take a bit of a gamble with this dress.  I couldn't decide whether or not to try and draft it myself from my block, but I've found the Deer and Doe patterns fit me pretty well, so I went with the pattern instead.  It also turned out to have a lot of fitting issues with the back which I won't bore you with.  I will try it again at some stage, because it's a lovely pattern, but I will draft the bodice and do something different with the skirt.  Ah well, it's not the end of the world and I don't have many epic fails, so all in all, I can live with this failure.  

I did learn from it though, and drafted my next make from my block.  It's the Colette Patterns Hawthorn dress, but the details are for another post.  It's nearly finished, I did the buttonholes and buttons after lunchtime today, and now I'm waiting for some bias tape that I ordered on ebay so I can do the hem and armholes.  

Have a great week,