Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Duvet Cover to Dressing Gown

Last week I decided to be a little bit sensible and sew something that I actually needed, using material that I already owned, as a quick break from getting tempted by all the pretty dresses, shiny new patterns and colourful material. Although what I made is still pretty and colourful, so it's all good. Here's my new dressing gown...

This is the second pattern I've made from the book 'And Sew To Bed' by Caro London (the first was my pyjama trousers), it's the Wrapover Short Dressing Gown. For some reason I felt a bit weird at first about posing for blog photos in a dressing gown, but then I decided that it actually covers more than some clothes so I should just go for it. But not subject you to too much of my pasty, milk-bottle legs, and definitely take the photos inside...

As you might have guessed from the title of this post, the material I used was actually originally an Ikea duvet cover. I bought it a couple of years ago, and it has already been used for some smaller projects (pre-blog) and there's a decent amount left still so I think I'm doing OK for the money I paid (which I'm sure was less than the current price of £20, which is still not bad!). The great bonus about using the duvet cover for this project was that the check used for the reverse of the cover gave me a ready-made contrast print which matches the colours of the rose print perfectly - yay! Here's a close-up...

You can also see one of the cute little gathered pockets here. Constructing and adding these was probably about as complicated as this got (i.e. not that complicated), so it was a pretty quick project to sew up, after all there's no need for particularly accurate fitting with a dressing gown really is there? You might not want to do this as a first sewing project because the instructions are a little brief, but they're still clear and fairly straightforward so shouldn't be anything to trouble people with even only a very small amount of sewing experience.

It would also be a good project to do if you wanted to practice a bit of top-stitching as you have to top-stitch all along contrast on the front/neck band, cuffs and pocket band, as well as all along the belt. My top-stitching isn't always the neatest in the world, but I took it slowly and I'm happy with how it turned out this time.

It's also a good chance to practice French seams, as they're used on all of the seams on the main material. The contrast strips are all attached and then folded back on themselves to enclose the raw edges before top-stitching too, so that combined with the French seams means the inside all looks nice and neat too!

There's not much else to say about this one I don't think - it was a nice simple project, which turned out just how I hoped it would and has given me a nice new dressing gown for the warmer weather. I'm planning on making one of the other patterns from this book soon, and once I've done that I'll write a full review.

Anyone else ever made anything from a duvet cover?

Monday, 12 May 2014

Sew La Di Da Sweetheart Dress

When I was browsing the sewing magazines in Smiths the other week, I was excited to see that this month's issue of Sewing World included a really pretty pattern for the Sweetheart dress by Sew La Di Da. It went straight to the top of my 'to-sew' list, and here's my finished dress...

What's not to love about a gorgeous full skirt and that pretty neckline?! I may have been living under a rock or something, but I hadn't really come across Sew La Di Da before I saw this dress in the magazine, but they have some beautiful patterns - I particularly like the French Gypsy and Rose dresses. They also have classes and workshops in Lyme Regis, and I love Lyme Regis so they must be good!

I cut out a straight size 14 - based on the paper pattern, I added 1 inch to the bodice sections (which is a standard adjustment for me) and then did a quick toile of the bodice to check that it would be OK, and it was. I'm pretty happy with the fit of the finished dress, the shape itself is really good but there's a tiny bit of extra space all over the dress. It really is tiny, and I don't mind this dress being a teeny bit on the big side because I'm planning that it'll be an everyday dress, and it's always good to have room to move in daily life! I think this would be a gorgeous dress to make for a special occasion too though, and if I were doing that then I'd probably use ever-so-slightly bigger seam allowances on the bodice section, particularly around the waist, to take out the slight looseness.

The instructions are presented in a fun vintage style and were really easy to follow. They're also accompanied by nice, clear black and white photos of each step so that you know you're on the right track. Tracing the pattern pieces from the pattern sheet included with the magazine was a bit of a headache, but that's the price you pay for getting the pattern free in a magazine, and I imagine wouldn't be an issue at all if you bought the paper pattern from Sew La Di Da.

At the point when you come to sewing in the back zip, the instructions tell you to try on the dress and have a friend pin you in to mark where you need the zip/seam to be. This wasn't an approach I'd used before, but it seems like it's probably a good way of helping you get a nice fit. The dress closes with an invisible zip - I'm not a massive fan of invisible zips but I thought I'd give one another go this time and I'm glad I did. And while it's not totally invisible, it is more invisible than it looks in this photo!

The material is a pretty cotton poplin that I got online from Chawla's - not the most user-friendly website in the world, but they have a good range of very reasonably priced materials if you're looking for a bargain! I thought the navy and floral print would be nice for spring, but also wouldn't look too spring-like at other times of the year. Plus it fits in perfectly with this week's Project Sewn floral theme, so I'm linking up with the sewalong there.

I hope I'll be wearing it a lot, but I'm not 100% sure - I do really like the dress and I would have worn it this weekend just gone if the weather hadn't intervened (see below), but for some reason the neckline on this one makes it feel slightly more dressy than my usual day dresses so we'll see how it goes. Speaking of necklines, the pattern also includes a lovely sweetheart neckline option (hence the name of the dress, no doubt) as well as this straight neckline that I used - I'll need to try that on another dress at some point.

I'll leave you with an obligatory twirling shot, and a warning not to try to take photos of a full-skirted dress outside in gale-force winds unless you want to be constantly battling with said skirt to avoid the world seeing your underwear!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Colette Anise

I should probably start by saying that I apologise in advance if this post is a bit overly enthusiastic and full of photos, but this project is the creation that I'm prodest of to date. I give you my version of the Colette Patterns Anise jacket...

I decided a few months ago that I wanted to try to make myself a jacket, mainly because I'd been looking at the Boden catalogue and was inspired by all the nice coloured and patterned jackets in there. I then spent a couple of weeks wondering whether my sewing skills were up to making a jacket yet, and debating between which pattern I wanted to make. I changed my mind a few times, but I kept coming back to the Anise - I really like the collar, and I thought the short length would be good with all my skirts and dresses, so I took the plunge and went for it.

As well as the pattern, I bought the Anise Companion and I think that was definitely a good move. Like all Colette patterns, the instructions and and diagrams that come with the pattern itself are great, but the Companion and all its photos were a great reassurance and helping hand with the slightly more complicated steps (mainly welt pockets - not nearly as scary as I thought they might be!). I'd definitely recommend the Companion to anyone thinking of sewing the Anise who isn't familiar with all of the techniques already.

I also liked the fact that the Companion was divided into 8 separate sewing days, which made everything seem more manageable - there are quite a lot of steps that go into making the jacket so it was nice to be able to cross them off the list section by section and feel like I was making good progress. I decided at the start that I'd take the project slow and steady and not rush it, and save working on the jacket for times when I could concentrate on it properly, so I also made up a couple of more simple projects along the way for when I wanted some sewing that I didn't need to think about so much.

I'll be honest and tell you that it wasn't all plain sailing - with the outer fabric, lining, underlining and interfacing, cutting out all the pieces took ages (although it may have seemed to take longer than it actually did because I told myself I WAS going to cut it all out in one evening, maybe if I'd stopped when I got tired and carried on the next day it would have been better!), and I found attaching the collar a bit fiddly and actually ended up handstitching a small part of that (but I can't remember why now because it was a while ago I did that - should keep notes during long projects!). There may also have been an incident (entirely down to my stupidity!) where I started stitching one of the buttonholes the wrong way and then had a fight on my hands to pick the stitches out of the linen! Overall though, everything went together really nicely and I didn't feel out of my depth, even though I don't have a massive amount of sewing experience.

I made a straight size 10 without making any alterations at all, and I'm pleased with how the fit turned out. My measurements put me somewhere between a 10 and a 12, and if I'd been making this as a winter jacket, think I would probably have gone for making the 12 instead to allow space for extra layers, but I think the fit has turned out just right for a summer jacket. 

I made the jacket using a lovely jade coloured linen that I got from Calico Laine. I was originally going to make the jacket in a patterned fabric, a la Boden, but then decided that I would get more use out of a plain coloured jacket, and that if I was going to spend all the time making a jacket then it would make sense to make something that I would wear a lot. I'd usually go for blue over green, but this is a lovely shade and goes with lots of my wardrobe so I think I made a good choice. And as you can see above, I used some fun patterned fabric for the lining.

My lining is a lovely Liberty lawn that I got for a bargain price on ebay ages ago. It had been sitting around being neglected for a while because I wasn't sure what to make with it, I love the print but it didn't seem right for tops or dresses, or at least not right for me, but I love it as a jacket lining. Cotton lawn isn't one of the recommended lining fabrics, and I'm not sure if it would be a good idea for a jacket that you'd be wearing with layers underneath, but I think it works well here as I'll mainly be wearing it with short-sleeved or sleeveless summery clothes. It's worked fine so far anyway! And it's pretty!

A little detail shot for you! I'm really pleased with how the welt pockets turned out - cutting into the middle of the jacket fronts was slightly scary, but with the Companion by my side it wasn't complicated, and it all turned out fine. 

The Companion has instructions for making bound buttonholes, but I decided to stick to normal buttonholes this time. I think they work fine with the linen, and I already had quite a lot of new techniques that I was trying for the first time in this project, so I thought I'd save bound buttonholes as something new to try another time! My buttons are self-cover buttons covered with some cotton that has been in my stash for a while. 

Overall, as you can probably tell, I'm really happy with this one! I enjoyed the process of making my Anise - it did take longer than whipping up a simple dress, but I got a great sense of satisfaction when I finished each stage, and especially when I finished the whole thing. I know it'll be a great wardrobe staple, and I'm looking forward to showing it off when the dismal weather we're currently "enjoying" goes away!