Category Archives: Sewing

A dress for someone else’s life

Last weekend I set out to make myself a Myrtle dress, my patterns having finally arrived (thanks to Susan at Sewbox for putting replacements in the post straight away and checking they’d arrived; no thanks to the Post Office for losing the first set). I traced off the pattern, grading from a M at the shoulders to a L at the bust and XL at the waist and hips, cut out my fabric (some purple viscose jersey I bought from Tissu Fabrics ages ago), found my ballpoint and twin needles and started sewing. I struggled a bit with the suggested twin-needle hemming technique on the back bodice but by the time I’d done both armholes and the neckline I’d more or less cracked it, and by the end of the afternoon I had something that looked like a dress.

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Unfortunately, while it may have looked like a dress, it didn’t function like a dress. I’d managed to hold the bodice lining together with the back when I was attaching the skirt, rather than together with the outside of the bodice, the result of which was that there was no gap at the waist for my body to go through. So I spent over an hour yesterday afternoon unpicking the stitching at the wait and tried again, and this time I actually managed to make a dress.

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I’m really pleased with the fit; looking at the photos, I should probably have done a full bust adjustment, but I don’t think it’s too bad as it is. And if the hem is horribly bodged (which it is; I think possibly I should have stretched the fabric as I was sewing it to keep the fold flat, because it kept going a bit wonky and twisted), who looks at the hems of people’s dresses anyway? And it even looks OK from the back.

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The only trouble is that somehow this isn’t the dress I’d envisaged. I’d thought there would be a bit more coverage on the shoulders, that the draped neckline wouldn’t drape down so low, and that the skirt would cover my knees (I did cut out the version which said it should be just below knee-length, so I’m not sure what happened there – it’s not as if I’m particularly tall). In other words, I thought I was making a dress that I could wear to work, but what I appear to have made is a party frock. When I never go to parties.

Shiver my timbers!

After last weekend’s dressmaking/wardrobe musings I ordered copies of the Colette Myrtle and Moneta patterns and was planning on spending this weekend making a Myrtle out of some vibrant purple viscose jersey I bought ages ago. However, the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley, and if the postal service is involved it’s generally a dead cert; even though I ordered the patterns on Monday and they were despatched on Tuesday they haven’t arrived yet, so given that I’d washed the Laura Ashley pirate fabric I decided that I might as well do something with that instead.

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Somehow, I don’t think I’ll be wearing this one for work…

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I used the Colette Ginger pattern; I love the shape of the skirt and I think it probably suits me better than the McCalls A-line which is the other skirt pattern I’ve made, although the front seam does pose some problems when working with a printed fabric.

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It sewed up surprisingly quickly (I think this is probably a sign that I’ve got better at sewing) and it was good to have more practice at inserting an invisible zip, which I’d only done once before.

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I was rather annoyed to discover as I was pressing the back seam that I’d somehow managed to get a small v-shaped tear in the fabric (I suspect I caught it with my scissors); hence the rather visible patch. But I don’t think it matters that much, given that this is very definitely a casual (and extremely silly) skirt anyway…

New skirt

A couple of years ago I wandered into Darn It & Stitch at lunchtime on my birthday and, because it was my birthday, decided to treat myself to a metre and a half of bright yellow cotton with a red and green apple print to make into a skirt. A couple of weeks ago, I finally got round to actually making it into a skirt.

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I used the basic McCall’s A-line skirt pattern I’ve used several times before, and added a lining in plain yellow polycotton because I find that linings add a bit of structure to skirts in lightweight fabrics and stop them looking so wrinkly after being worn for a while. I also find that, possibly because I don’t have a particularly well-defined waist, on the unlined versions I’ve made the facings tend to wrinkle up around the waist, and the linings help them to stay flat.

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I think that if I ever make an unlined version of the skirt again I might actually sew the bottom of the facing to the skirt all the way round, to create a kind of yoke.

I didn’t make any effort to match the pattern at the back seam, which maybe I should have done. Still, I think it’s my best zip insertion so far*.

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I just hope that the weather cheers up enough that I actually get an opportunity to wear it soon. I’ve been feeling very meh about clothes recently, but as I keep browsing shops websites failing to find anything that I really fancy wearing I think this is just the result of having one of those wet grey Mays when most of the time it could still be March and being utterly fed up of (a) tights and (b) the small subset of my wardrobe’s contents which can be worn with tights but won’t look utterly ridiculous if the sun actually comes out and the temperature gets up to 20C.

I’ve been thinking about dressmaking recently, and what kind of things I’d actually like to make. Cotton skirts in fun prints are all very well, but can only be worn for a few months every year, and I want to make things that actually get a fair amount of wear. I’d like to find a slightly heavier fabric that will make decent mid-season skirts; I do have some wool-mix tweed to make a winter skirt at some point, but haven’t found anything yet that seems to be good for in-between weather but still office-appropriate. And I still want to make dresses, but given that all the dresses I wear regularly are jersey it would probably make more sense to concentrate on learning to make jersey dresses – I have the patterns for Tiramisu and Audrey and keep considering buying Moneta – rather than making dresses out of woven fabrics which are always going to be difficult to fit and never as comfortable as jersey. However, I think my next attempt is going to be this dress in this Treasure Island fabric. It certainly won’t be work-appropriate, even if I get it to fit, but I want to prove to myself that sewing can be fun, and how could a dress made from Treasure Island fabric be anything other than fun?

(Also, because everyone is mentioning the shoes, they are from Office, and I bought them a couple of years ago in a dreary wet spring because they were fun. They’re also not really very comfortable, so I don’t wear them much, but they are definitely fun.)

*Even though this is a standard zip, when I was getting the zip foot out of the bag of sewing machine accessories I found myself idly wondering where my invisible zip foot was, and then turning out the drawer of my sewing desk in a vain attempt to locate the invisible zip foot. When I put the standard zip foot away I discovered the invisible zip foot, at least temporarily visible, sitting in the bag of accessories where it had (presumably) been all along. Clearly my invisible zip foot wants to give me every opportunity possible to make the feeble “oh dear, I can’t find my invisible zip foot” jokes I persist in making despite there being no evidence at all that anyone has ever found them at all amusing.

A handbag!

I am somewhat obsessed with bags. Not designer bags – I hate blingy bags, prefer lightweight fabric or nylon to leather, and will always rank practical considerations over aesthetic ones – but I’m always looking for the perfect bag, the one that will be both pretty and practical and will be just the right size to fit all the things I want to carry. (Actually, I have probably already found the most perfect bag I’m ever going to find, my purple Kipling New Raisin, but I keep looking just in case I come across one that’s even more perfect.) I hate all the bags in the shops at the moment (bling is definitely in, as are straps so short you can only carry the bags in your hands), so I thought maybe I’d try my hand at making my own. I really like the look of this convertible bag, but for my first attempt I decided to use a kit from U-Handbag, to make their Simply Stylish Bag.

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I wasn’t entirely impressed with the kit; it arrived without the printed pattern, though a pdf version was emailed promptly in response to my query about this, and when I came to make the bag I found there was barely enough fleece included and definitely not enough interfacing (I ended up having to piece together scraps to interface one of the bag pieces, as I was making it on Easter Sunday and none of the shops were open). Also, there were some small errors in the instructions, where RS and WS were mixed up and if I hadn’t used common sense and looked at the photos I would have ended up with the pocket and the tab back to front, and there was also a step where it said “do this to prepare for topstitching” and then didn’t actually tell you to topstitch, but it wasn’t too tricky for an intermediate sewer to make.

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The kit came with a short leather strap (about 60cm) but I much prefer bags to have longer straps that I can wear across my body (shoulder straps always slide off my shoulder unless I hold them there), so I ordered some webbing and a metal slider and ring to make a cross-body strap for the bag, which I like a lot better.

It’s come out very nicely, though I’m not actually sure I’ll use it; the open top, with only the flap as closure, seems rather insecure, and the bag is wider and shallower than I prefer. It’s certainly not right for my everyday stuff, though I might find a use for it on weekends; then again, the main point of making it was to learn how to make a bag, not to have a new bag, so that’s fine.

Lazy Sunday afternoon

I spent this morning writing a job application, which was dull and tedious (all the more so because on current form I’m not remotely confident of even getting an interview), but at least I got it done by lunchtime and had the afternoon to do fun things.

I made a new and improved case for my phone, with penguin-print fabric and a tab and popper to fasten it rather than elastic and button.

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(The tab is a little bit wonky, and the perfectionist in me is rather disappointed and wants to declare it a failure, but the pragmatist in me says it’s fine, and I can always claim it’s deliberatly asymmetrical, and PENGUINS, and lalalala SHUT UP PERFECTIONIST I CAN’T HEAR YOU.)

And then I went for a walk, and saw a lovely butterfly.

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And, more importantly, I picked 250 grams of blackberries, so there will be blackberry and apple crumble tonight.

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And yet…I can do all the fun, relaxing things I can squeeze into the days, and I can be feeling better than I have done in years (and I am, truly), but that still doesn’t make me OK. Getting over a breakdown (and I think reaching the stage where you can’t get through a day at work without crying and have become convinced that people are out to get you counts as a breakdown) is hard, especially when the professional help available is more or less the equivalent of telling someone with a broken leg to rest and not put too much weight on it for a while, rather than re-setting the bone and fitting a cast and offering physio to help regain a normal range of movement. So I still have moments of feeling very low, I get tired very easily, and I’m worried about what the future holds. The days have got noticeably shorter recently, the weather is cooler, and even though autumn is my favourite season I’m worried about how I’ll cope with another winter. I’m applying for jobs, but I’m worried that I won’t get another job and will have to go back to the stressful job that was a major factor in the current bout of mental ill-health, or that I will get a new job and find that I can’t cope with that, and then I don’t know what I’ll do.

A bit of sewing

I got a new phone several months ago. It’s taller and narrower than my old phone was so alas, the penguin case I made for my old phone didn’t quite fit, and I’ve been meaning to make a new case for it for months. I finally got round to it this afternoon.

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I used the same fabrics as I did for the pencil case I made earlier this year. That seemed like a good idea, given that I do like the combination of fabrics, but now I think maybe it’s a bit too matchy.

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The case is a very snug fit anyway, because I based it on the listed dimensions of my phone and failed to allow for the fact that I have a clip-on case on mine. So I might see if I can find some different fabric and make a second one. I think I’d also prefer a fabric tab with a bit of Velcro or maybe a popper or even a magnetic snap (or would a magnetic snap cause my phone to go loopy?) to the elastic and button.

Actually, I’m finding that I quite enjoy making cases and project bags. They’re much quicker and less fiddly than clothes, so less daunting if I just want to spend an hour or so sewing at the weekend. The only trouble is, I already have so many project bags, and there are only so many things in my house that I can make cases for without turning into Crazy Cozy Woman. I have been idly toying with the idea of setting up an Etsy shop but then again, I’m not convinced that I’m good enough to make things to sell yet…

Spinning and sewing

Given that the fabulous photos posted during last year’s Tour de Fleece were one of the things that convinced me to start spinning, I was looking forward to joining in this year’s myself. I haven’t managed to spin every day, due to being away last weekend and sometimes too tired or late home on a worknight to fit any spinning in, but I have definitely spun more than I normally would and have spun half of a braid of rainbow gradient BFL from The Yarn Yard:

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I started the second half today:

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I’m not going to finish by next Sunday, but that’s OK. And I think it will be lovely when it’s done and plied up.

I’ve also been doing some Tour related sewing; I’m spinning along with the Archers Listeners group on Ravelry and there are prizes awarded each week to people who’ve posted their progress pictures (I won a big bag of raw alpaca fleece last week – I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with it, but I think I’ll have fun finding out!). I offered a handmade project bag as a prize, and actually got round to making it today so it can go off to its new home tomorrow.

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I used this tutorial, which I’ve used before, though I made the outside all one fabric and cut a paper template 30cm tall by 27cm wide for all the pieces. I thought the bicycle print fabric was appropriate!

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It’s lined in pale blue, though you can’t really see that in the pictures, and rather than sewing fabric ties I used blue and white spotted grosgrain ribbon. I’m quite pleased with how it turned out and I hope its new owner likes it!