Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Bellini & bunnies

If I really like a finished garment, it's fairly common for me to then dream up an infinite number of different versions in my head that I could possibly create. Most of these don't happen because I don't have endless amounts of time on my hands, or enough money to be able to afford all the fabric that I'd need, but sometimes the perfect fabric is just sitting there already patiently waiting to be used, and that's just what happened for this project, my second version of the Capital Chic Bellini blouse!

I quite like making second (or third, or forth....) versions of a pattern. I know some people might prefer to always use different patterns so you're potentially using new skills and not just doing the same thing, but the way I see it, a second version of a pattern means that you don't have to worry about muslins and possible fitting issues, and you can just get on with the fun of sewing - always a good thing as far as I'm concerned. Plus you can be fairly confident that you're going to like the end result if you liked your first one. I also figure it's fine to have multiple versions of the same pattern as long as they're all a little bit different and you're going to wear all of them. And that's definitely true in this case!

In some ways, there are similarities between my two Bellinis; they're both made of fabric with a small-scale print on a blue background (albeit different shades of blue), but they feel very different. I made my first Bellini using a nice crisp cotton, whereas the fabric for this version is viscose, which has much more drape to it so feels very different to wear. Plus the prints are different - this one may look like slightly odd blobs from a distance, but look at it up close....

....and you see it's actually BUNNIES! Yes, I have a whole herd (is that the right collective noun?!) of rabbits jumping about all over my blouse. It's probably meant for children, but I like it so it's all good. I bought it from Fabric Rehab, at the same time as I bought the fabric for my Cambie and first Lilou - that was a good fabric haul!

I used the same buttons as I did for my first Bellini, but this time in pink to match the pink bunnies. I realised that I actually also used the same buttons in blue on my Sureau dress last autumn! Obviously I like little flower buttons, and the people that make them have a strange ability to produce them in exactly the right colours to match my fabrics.

In terms of the pattern itself, I stand by everything I said in my post about my first Bellini - the instructions are nice and clear and I really like the finish of the blouse, it's all so neat and tidy and professional-looking. This one was slightly less of a joy to sew than my first one, but that's entirely down to the viscose not behaving as nicely as the cotton did. It didn't slip about too much though and was totally manageable, just not quite as cooperative as cotton!

I possibly like this one slightly less than my first one too. That's not to say that I don't like it, I definitely do, but the way that the viscose hangs means that I can sometimes get a bit of gaping between the buttons if I'm not standing quite right, which doesn't happen with my cotton one. It's a minor problem though, and I should probably just use it as an incentive to have better posture - it definitely won't stop me wearing the blouse anyway.

So there we go, that's my second Bellini for you! I'd like to try another version with the scalloped collar, or possibly some collar embellishments at some point, but it might have to wait for a while because I've got so many other ideas buzzing round my head at the moment! Do you like making multiple versions of the same pattern too?

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Little Red in the City Cria Cardigan

If you saw my OWOP post, you'll have already caught a sneak peek of this project (and the photos of it will look very similar to my OWOP day 1 outfit!). I'm taking a little break from talking about sewing today, and switching to knitting and more specifically my Cria cardigan.

The pattern is by Ysolda Teague, and is the first one that I've tackled from the lovely book Little Red in the City. All of the patterns in the book are gorgeous, but I chose to be sensible and knit this pattern first because I'm still a relatively inexperienced knitter, and I'd never knit anything using the top down seamless method on circular needles, and this seemed like it would probably be the simplest of the patterns for trying out those skills and getting used to them. There's some lovely cabling and colourwork in the other patterns in the book, which I'll definitely be trying out at some point, but I thought the simpler details of the Cria would be more within my reach at the moment.

The Cria has a garter stitch yoke and edgings, with stocking stitch sleeves and main body. The book features long and short sleeved versions - obviously I went for the short sleeves as I wanted this to be a light summery cardigan. My version is also a couple of inches shorter than the version in the pattern because I wanted it to be waist length to go over my summer dresses. To get the shorter length, I just measured the length of that I wanted it to be down my back and stopped knitting at that point - a definite advantage of the top down method! The pattern in the book also has front pockets, but I chose to leave them off because of having a shorter length, and also because I didn't think I'd use them, and by the time I got to the point where I'd have to add them in, getting it finished quicker seemed more appealing than adding the pockets if they were really only going to be decorative. Possibly a bit lazy, but I don't miss the pockets at all so I'm happy I made that decision.

The knitting didn't go completely smoothly, and this is actually my third attempt! The first attempt was pulled apart fairly quickly after I'd been a bit uneven when picking up stitches along the shoulder pieces during the yoke setup. The second attempt got quite a bit further, probably further than it should have done to be honest! I was almost finished the yoke section when I realised that I hadn't been doing the make one stitches quite right (entirely due to my own stupidity rather than anything wrong with the pattern or instructions), and that was why I had holes forming at the edge of the sleeves. I considered soldiering on and just darning the holes closed, but I knew I wouldn't be happy with that, so I ripped the whole thing apart (not a happy process!) and started again. Thankfully it was third time lucky (apart from hurting my wrist at one point meaning I couldn't knit for a week or two), but all this did mean that I finished it much later than I originally wanted to. Never mind, better to take my time and do a good job than rush to get things finished by my self-imposed deadlines!

I used Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk 4 ply in Vanilla, which I got from Black Sheep Wools - yes, I realise it's meant for babies, which I clearly am not, but it's a super soft yarn and the finished cardigan feels lovely to wear.

I originally wanted to use some pearly buttons, but I couldn't find any in a colour that looked quite right with the yarn so I decided to go with wooden buttons instead to keep things neutral. I did have to laugh when I was looking at buttons, and was briefly wondering about going down a completely different route and using strawberry buttons and a lady standing next to me told me not to because "if you use those, they try to eat them", obviously thinking I was going to use the buttons on something for a child - I didn't like to tell her they were for me, and hopefully I can be trusted not to eat buttons by now!

So there we go, that's my Cria cardigan! It's not faultless, there are little imperfections here and there, but they're not very noticeable if you don't know where they are. And even though I know where they are, I really don't mind them - I'm definitely still learning and knitting this cardigan taught me a lot, which is always good. I'm glad I persevered and ended up with a very wearable cardi at the end of the day. I'm now trying to master the art of intarsia for a jumper I want to make this winter, but I'm looking forward to trying some of the other Little Red in the City patterns at some point, if nothing else, I NEED a Chickadee in my life! Have you been doing any knitting lately? 

Friday, 12 September 2014

OWOP: My Week With Lilou

I had a good think about what pattern to choose for OWOP (One Week, One Pattern) - my Emery dresses and Hollyburn skirts were both strong candidates, but in the end I opted for my Lilou dresses from Love At First Stitch because I thought they might provide more different styling options so be a little more interesting to look at together. Here's what I've been wearing for the last week....

Day 1: Berry print Lilou with soon-to-be-blogged Cria cardigan (carefully not showing you the trainers I'm wearing at this point - a bit ugly but much better for walking through a muddy wood than pretty shoes!). This was meant to be my outfit for the Outfit Along this summer but I didn't get my knitting finished in time. I got there in the end though, and I'm really pleased with how the two of them look together.

Day 2: Floral Lilou with RTW cardigan (which I didn't need for a large part of the day because it was so lovely and sunny!) and pretty beads. I love this dress - just putting it on makes me feel good! It features some of my favourite colours, so it's no surprise that when I made it I already had a couple of things in my wardrobe that look like they were made to go with it. I wore this for a day out with a friend, and it felt great all day.

Day 3: Denim Lilou with RTW t-shirt and me-made belt (tutorial here). Today was a work day, but I don't need to be smart for work and comfort it much more important! This outfit is so comfy, but still looks nice and presentable. I've worn my denim Lilou a couple of times already, and I like the fact that it's a bit of a blank canvas for combining with different colours and accessories.

Day 4: Berry print Lilou with RTW cardigan. I've had this cardi for ages but don't wear it very much. I dug it out of the back of my wardrobe because I thought it would work well with this Lilou and I'm really like how they look together so the cardigan might be getting more wear now!

Day 5: Denim Lilou worn under my Capital Chic Bellini Blouse in a (not very) cunning attempt to mix things up a bit and make it look like I'm actually wearing a top and skirt instead of variations on the same dress all week.

Day 6: Floral Lilou with RTW cardigan and leggings. As I said above, the number of cardigans in my wardrobe that I could wear with this Lilou is probably a good indication of how much I like all the colours in this fabric! This outfit felt a bit dressy for a day sat in front of the computer, but it's still really comfy and it's nice to be a bit smarter every now and then so it's all good!

Day 7 (today!): Denim Lilou with RTW t-shirt & leggings and me-made belt. Possibly my favourite outfit of the week! The more I wear my denim Lilou, the more I love it - the weight of the denim gives the skirt a lovely swish when I walk, which is always fun. I also really like wearing my fabric belts with this dress, and the t-shirt was a charity shop bargain the other week - it looks like it's never been worn, is great quality material and was only £1. So this outfit is a bit of a winner as far as I'm concerned.

I've really enjoyed wearing my different Lilou dresses this week for OWOP, so a big thank you to Jane for organising it! Although I won't miss taking the daily photos - I usually take blog photos in places where there aren't many people around, but I can't really do that on a daily basis and I've been getting some very odd looks from my neighbours as I've been prancing around the car park this week! Has anyone else had the same problem?!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Scrap stash busting: fabric-covered elastic waspie belt tutorial

Much as I love sewing, it's causing me an increasing problem: scraps! I have an ever-growing fabric stash, but it's pretty much all scraps of many and varying sizes. I decided that it was time to do something about them before they actually take over my entire flat, and with that in mind I'm starting an occasional series of scrap stash busting posts using patterns and tutorials that I've found, or ideas I've come up with myself - mainly to make myself put at least some of that lovely fabric to good use, but if I manage to give anyone else some ideas along the way then that would be great! I'm kicking off the series today with a tutorial I've come up with for this fabric-covered elastic waspie belt (you might have caught a sneak peek of it in my post on my denim Lilou!).

There are many great belt tutorials out there already (such as Tilly's bow belt and A Beautiful Mess's fabric belts), but I have a RTW belt (you can see it in my post about my Winifred dress) that I wanted to recreate and I couldn't find any tutorials that were quite what I wanted, so I decided to make my own. This is a great project for using up long, thin pieces of material (as a guide, the piece I used was 105 cm long x 12 cm wide), and the finished belts are a brilliant way to jazz up a plain outfit.

To make the belt, you'll need basic sewing kit, your material, a belt buckle and elastic the same width as your belt buckle. I got both my buckle and elastic from Tailor Mouse (belt buckle here and elastic here), but there are plenty of other places you can find them.

First, you need to cut your elastic and fabric to size. The best way to do this is to put your elastic round your waist so that it fits snugly but is still comfortable - cut it at this point and measure.

For the fabric, you'll need 1.5 times the length of your fabric (this creates the slightly gathered effect and allows the fabric to move when the elastic stretches), and the width will need to be twice the width of the elastic plus twice the seam allowance you want to use. For example, I cut my elastic at 70 cm, it was 5 cm wide, and I used a 1 cm seam allowance, so my fabric was 105 cm (70 x 1.5) long by 12 cm wide ((5 x 2) + (1 x 2)). If that all sounds a bit complicated, don't worry - it's very simple from here on in!

Once you've cut your fabric, fold it in half, right sides together, so that the two long edges match up and pin in place.

Sew along the long edge using your chosen seam allowance, remembering to back stitch at either end to secure.

Turn the fabric tube right sides out. You might find using a chop stick helpful here.

Press the fabric tube, and at the same time press about 1 cm at either open end under to the inside of the tube.

Put one end of the elastic into the middle of the fabric tube at one open end, and start pushing it through.

When the other end of the elastic reaches the start of the fabric, use a pin to secure it in place underneath the pressed-under edge of the fabric. Then continue pulling the elastic through the tube until it reaches the other end and secure that in the same way.

Take one half of the belt clasp. Pass one end of the fabric/elastic tube through the front of the clasp...

...fold it back on itself to enclose the clasp, then pin to the fabric on the side of the back of the clasp. Making sure that the fabric/elastic isn't twisted, repeat these steps using the other half of the belt clasp and the other end of the fabric/elastic.

Sew the two ends in place - use a zig zag or lightning bolt stitch, and sew a couple of lines close together to secure.

And you're done!

If you've got any questions about making the belt, or anything in the tutorial isn't clear, just ask and I'll try to help. And if you make a belt, I'd love to see it! How's your fabric scrap collection? Have you got any recommendations for my scrap busting project?

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Autumn-ready Lilou & OWOP

It may not be quite autumn yet, but I thought it was time to get thinking about sewing some clothes that can be worn at the moment, but will also still work once summer has definitely come to an end, instead of disappearing for a few days and then returning again as it seems to be at the moment. My Love At First Stitch Lilou dresses have been definite favourites this summer, so I decided to make another version that I could layer up and wear as the weather gets colder. Here's what I came up with...

Denim might not be an instantly obvious choice for a dress, but this is soft-washed denim (from Fabric Godmother) and it feels lovely and hangs really nicely. It also holds the pleats in the Lilou skirt well - you can see those pleats much better in this plain fabric than you can in my other Lilous where the pleats get a bit lost in the prints. The other advantage of denim is that it'll go with pretty much anything in my wardrobe. Also, as I don't really wear trousers, denim skirts play the same role for me as jeans do for many people, and I think this Lilou will get worn just as much as my denim skirts do.

A sleeveless dress might also seem like a bit of an odd choice for autumn, but one of the good things about the shape of the Lilou bodice is that it can easily be worn pinafore-style over a top or a blouse as I've worn it here, and there are also no sleeves to get caught up under cardigans or jumpers so that'll make it good once autumn hits as well. This dress is a little warm to wear on the nicer days we're having still at the moment, and it does look a bit odd if I try to wear it on its own without any layers, but I have worn it a couple of times already and it's super comfy, and is casual whilst still looking nice if that makes any sense?!

I used a regular centred zip for this version of Lilou instead of an invisible zip - partly because I wasn't sure if the denim, being a slightly heavier weight fabric, would work that well with an invisible zip, but mainly because when I went to buy the zip my local haberdashery only had white invisible zips, which I knew definitely wouldn't work and I was being impatient and didn't want to wait to find a different zip. It's a pretty good haberdashery, and they have a decent range of colours and sizes in normal zips, but only ever seem to have white or black invisible zips for some reason. I suppose they must find that's what sells but it seems a bit odd to me that they don't have more colours.

Other than that, I used the same size and length changes that I've used for my other Lilous (size 6 at the bust and hips, and a 5 at the waist, 1.5 inches added to the bodice and 2.5 added to the skirt) but didn't make any other changes. Part of me thinks maybe I should have tried adding pockets to this version, because I do love pockets and they are useful sometimes, but that part of me isn't arguing too strongly with the part of me that likes it how it is, so I think this one will stay pocket-less and I'll maybe try adding them next time I make the pattern.

Oooh, look - another contrast lining! I particularly love the pretty print compared with the plain outer fabric on this Lilou, and as I've probably mentioned before it's a good way of using up off cuts from other projects. This time I used the remains of the fabric that I used for my Mortmain dress, and it reminded me that I really should make another Mortmain soon - another project to add to the list!

As this is now my third Lilou (fourth if you count the one I made for my Mum!), there's not much else new to say about this one - but I'm really happy with it. It came out exactly as I imagined it in my head and I know it will get worn a LOT! I've also decided that I'm going to use my Lilou dresses for OWOP, which is being organised by Handmade Jane and is kicking off this Saturday. Is anyone else joining in? What pattern have you picked?