Thursday, 31 July 2014

Another post, another cocktail dress

I assure you readers, my life is really not fancy enough to warrant two consecutive cocktail dresses, but you never know when Don rolls in drunk on Scotch and expects me to seal the deal with Burger Chef. Don, you know I’m veggie!!!

A while back, my boss informed me that I had an industry awards event to attend. Wait. What? Cue, I have nothing to wear panic. At the same time I was due to think about a July make for the Minerva Blogger Network, so I decided to marriage the two and make a little cocktail dress using some gorgeous lace I had been hoarding in my stash from Minerva.

I always wanted this lace to have a chic life, transformed into some sort of slim fitting evening wear with sheer lace features on the arms. Racking my brains for the pattern I decided on Vogue 8766. You may recognise this from the Great British Sewing Bee when Ann made a very elegant navy lace version in one of the final rounds.


For my version I used Minerva’s super cool mesh lace. It appealed to me as it made me remember Michelle in Project Runway Season 11, when she painted a kind of sooty, Manhattan-inspired ombre effect on some wool, which turned into a big full skirt. Although pretty, this lace has a more contemporary, edgy look to it and I love the combination of traditional lace with the almost paint-splattered effect.

For the pattern I made a muslin cutting the size 10 for bodice and grading out to the 12 on the skirt. The fit was spot on and I didn’t have to tweak anything. Thank you Vogue!


The pattern itself is really straightforward, however, you may want to take extra steps in the construction process. If you’re using a combo of lace and lining (also provided by Minerva) as I have you’ll want to tack the bodice fabric and lining together so they are treated as one piece. To do this, tack around the edges and then a couple of lines down each bodice front. This helps to keep everything stable when it comes to pinning and sewing your darts.

When it comes to machining, the lining provides enough support to use a straight stitch. However, any stitching on purely lace should use a narrow zig zag.

The skirt, is treated as two separate pieces as you want the lining to hang free from the lace and also to be able to hem it. I let my lining hem sit flush with the raw edge of the lace (no need to hem this mesh lace). I tried shortening the lining but I didn’t like the effect.

I used French Seams throughout to finish the dress (including waist seam), working with a 5/8” SA. So that’s a 3/8” seam trimmed and then stitched at ¼”.

This guy didn't care that I was in a middle of an important photo shoot!

The sleeves have a nice dart feature on the cap, giving a little height and structure. I would imagine on a firmer lace, they would sit even more proud, but you can still see the effect here.


Personally, I found the size 10 sleeves far too wide for my liking. For this sort of look, I like a very slim fitted sleeve. It looks younger and more chic. With the sleeve folded in half, I simply measured 1 ¼” in at the sleeve hem and then using a ruler, pinned a line to the edge of the armhole. I then cut this straight with my rotary cutter. The mesh lace has enough stretch in it for you to be able to get it over your hand. I finished the sleeve seam with a French seam as seen here.


I used a regular zipper for the dress and chose to handsew it in. I prefer using a prickstitch as it’s nice and hidden, and gives you more control with the lace.


I felt really good in this dress and completely unique. I even got a lovely compliment from my MD’s wife who was really surprised that I had made the dress myself. Win! It’s definitely going to be a wedding/cocktail dress staple in my wardrobe!


Saturday, 26 July 2014

How do you like this martini, Mr Bond?

As you all know, Sally from Charity Shop Chic launched her own pattern line last month called Capital Chic. If you haven't checked out the unique and very fashionable range, first...why not? And second, get over there now!

I was lucky enough to be asked to test the gorgeous and super sexy Martini cocktail dress. Available in two versions, the Martini is very on trend featuring a crop top and high-waisted skirt that can either be made as separates or cleverly joined together. I opted for the joined version and here's how it turned out!


Now...I know you might be recognising this fabric as the very same fabric featured in the Capital Chic collection, well, um...uh....I have no excuse, it is the same. Why fix it if it ain't broken?! I saw this fabric at a sneaky preview of the collection and fell in love. It's a super cool, textured curtain fabric from Rolls and Rems in Lewisham. And I know how much Don loves me in a pair of curtains!

The thicker fabric actually provides the perfect amount of structure for creating the cropped bodice, which is designed to stand away from the body. It not only sews and presses like a dream but also helps the skirt to truly skim over those curves.


Sizing wise, I made the bodice and skirt in a 12 widening slightly at the hips. I really like how fitted the dress is supposed to be - so bear this in mind when making yours. If you prefer a looser fit, size up or make a muslin to see what suits you best.

The pattern instructions are nice and clear with helpful diagrams along the way. There are some great techniques for intermediate sewers who like the extra challenge in their sewing, including a lined vent, french seams, using the bodice lining to face the armholes and neckline, invisible zipper and boning (optional).


So, Mr Bond, what do you think?


Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Gillian Dress: McCalls 6696 sequel

They say most sequels are never as good as the first film, with exception to the Godfather 2...obviously. So, does the same apply to repeated sewing makes of the same pattern? I think, with the help of the outstanding McCalls 6696, I may have made a Godfather 2. But, the vote is of course yours dear readers *scratches face, ask your friends in the neighborhood about me. They'll tell you I know how to return a favor.

It's no secret that I love the McCalls shirt dress (6696). I first made it last year to wear on a date with Elvis at Sun Studios. Ever since, it's been the pattern I heartily recommend and praise. With zero alterations (I can make a size 10 straight out of the packet with no fuss) it makes sewing up a shirt dress a breeze, and so I have been eager to make a sequel.

This time around I opted for the straight skirt version, which omits the belt loops, and has short sleeves and pockets. I wanted a more classic shirt that would be suitable for perching on the edge of a desk while I write down Don's lunch order, or out for a sunny stroll in Greenwich. And what better fabric to do the job, but glorious chambray.


I bought this chambray in Toronto last summer while fabric shopping with my TO girls (Catja, Andrea, Sara and Gillian). Both Gillian and I bought some of this fabric, so I have named my dress in tribute to her. Gillian is one of the sweetest fellow sewers I have ever met, which makes a cool, easy and cute shirt dress seem pretty apt for such an equally cool gal.


The only alteration I made to this pattern was the gathering on the back bodice. I didn't mind it on my pleated skirt version, but for the straight skirt style I chose to omit the gathering. I did this by removing the gathering allowance and using the new line as the fold. As you'll see I had a brain fart and forgot the bottom of the back bodice has a greater gathered allowance. Doh! So, there is still some gathering there but I do like it and it's definitely less poofy than before.


Thanks to an overwhelming vote on Instagram, I used white thread for topstitching my yoke seams. However, after some deliberation I chose not to topstitch the collar. I've left this plain and prefer the finish.


The buttons are my favourite detail. I managed to find white rubber buttons in Kleins, Soho. They are really unusual and bendy, and because they are made of rubber, they have a nice 'grip' on the fabric.


Otherwise, the make was pretty much the same as my Sun Studios version. I overlocked all seams apart from the waistband and yoke, which are faced with the same fabric.

I really love this dress, it washes great and feels lovely to wear. It's already had a few outings including a Mexican feast in Toronto - seemed fitting that the chambray got to return home in shirt dress glory!

So, what do you think? Can I persuade you to jump on the McCalls 6696 train and start an epidemic of shirt dresses?

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Drink up folks! There's a new pattern company in town.

Hello everyone!

It's been a while since I last blogged because I've been so busy attending the amazing Minerva Meet Up weekend extravaganza, as well as visiting family and friends in Canada.

But, I'm back and ready to get sewing and blogging.

I have some lovely makes to show you over the next couple of days, but first I want to share some exciting news about a brand new Indie Pattern company that has just launched. Welcome Capital Chic Patterns!

I love this pattern line, not only because it's been designed and created by my lovely friend Sally from Charity Shop Chic, but also because I genuinely feel that Capital Chic Patterns is offering something different and unique to the plethora of sewing patterns now available to the home sewer.

Focused on work wear and cocktail wear, Capital Chic Patterns make for perfect day-to-night outfits. There is also great versatility to adapt the patterns for a sleek girl-about-town weekend look - of course stopping for a little champagne brunch along the way.

The awesome 'Cosmopolitan' dress

Named after cocktails, each of the PDF patterns comes with two variations included. Above, is the Cosmopolitan dress which can be made in either a blouse or dress, and features a gorgeous lace appliqué trim above the bust. The White Russian sweater below is also super cool; it comes with a selection of motifs (lion version in picture) that can be quilted onto the sweatshirt - sign me up!

The silhouettes of Capital Chic Patterns are certainly more structured and slimline, which really suits my personal aesthetic, creating a chic, stylish city look. As a city girl and participant in all things cocktail related, I'm very excited about making some of these patterns up! Don definitely approves :)

The clever 'White Russian' sweater 

The patterns’ difficulty ranges from intermediate to advanced, perfect for those looking to move on from sewing beginner styles. Available now for digital download from www.capitalchicpatterns.com as print-at-home and print-at-copyshop PDF files, the patterns currently come in five sizes, from UK 10 to UK 18, and are nested for easy blending between sizes. A wider size range may be available later in the year, depending on demand. They are also very affordable ranging from £8-10.

I have already made up a very special dress from the range, the Martini, but I'll save all the details for that post. Let me just say though, it's a hottie!

I know Sally has worked extremely hard on creating this amazing debut and I would like to wish her all the luck in the world. Get over to Capital Chic Patterns now and grab yourself a little something special - the cocktails are waiting!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

The John Lewis Sewing Bee and the Betty Bacteria dress

Just over a week ago, I was lucky enough to take part in a mini 'Sewing Bee' at John Lewis' flagship store on Oxford Street to help celebrate the store's 150th anniversary.

Run by the lovely Lisa Comfort from Sew Over It, the goal was to use fabric from John Lewis' special anniversary edition prints and aim to make a dress in a day. I was so excited to take part, especially after finding out that fellow Spoolettes, Roisin, Fiona, Amy and Emmie, would be sewing alongside me. I am also so thankful for having the opportunity to get to know bloggers Elena and Charlie. Saturday's do not get better than this y'all.

On arrival, after gushing at our gift of sewing box, scissors and Cath Kidston apron (John Lewis, you spoil us!), we were asked to choose our fabric and pattern. From the samples sent out to us a few days prior to the event, I knew straight away I wanted to choose the 'bricks' fabric in the grey and yellow, which looks like this. For my pattern, I settled on Sew Over It's 'Betty' pattern. It's a very cute retro dress featuring a fitted bodice with dipped back and full circle skirt. Considering that the fabric is a reproduced 1950s print, I considered this would a perfect pairing. Pictures of the finished dress are at the end of this post!

I think I can speak for the other girls in saying this day was a total blast. From start to finish, we had such fun sewing together, helping each other fit the dresses and playing on the fun sewing machines. We each got to use a Janome DC3050, which was a really great machine. I would definitely recommend this if you're on the lookout for a mid-range computerised machine.

Here's a few pictures to give you an idea of what went on!

 The John Lewis Sewing Bee in full swing

Emmie and I preparing to cut her 'Betty'

Love this photo of Emmie and Fiona

Working on my Betty


Me and my finished Betty

At the end of the day on the rooftop of John Lewis. (L-R: Freya, Lisa, Fiona
Elena, Charlie, Moi, Roisin, Amy and Emmie)

With Emmie and Fiona in our Cath Kidston pinnies
My gal Roisin with her finished dress - she is
The Dress Lady!

And here's my finished Betty in all her glory. If you're interested in this pattern, I have included my usual details of sizing and techniques etc at the end. Otherwise, meet Betty Bacteria! (Roisin and I named this fabric the bacteria dress as the bricks do kind of look like bacteria under a microscope!).



The deets!
During the Sewing Bee, I decided to cut a size 12 (slightly larger than my measurements) and reduce the fit. With Lisa's help, we adjusted the basted dress on the side seams and the shoulders, the latter being typical fitting alterations I make on commercial patterns. I also took in the back zip seam a fair bit, which helped produce that lovely fitting bodice and back neckline. 

I did manage to put in the zip and have a pretty much finished dress on the day, but when I got home I ripped it out and put in my preferred method of a handsewn lapped zipper. I used double thread coated in tailor's wax and a prick-stitch to attach the zip. I love the finish and the perfectly aligned waist seam. 

The neckline and armholes are finished by an all-in-one facing, which is then understitched to keep it in place. I finished the hem by overlocking the raw edge and then turning it up, easing in the fullness, and machine stitching. I took quite a bit off the hem as I prefer dresses to finish just above the knee. 

Betty Bacteria was worn to brunch today in Clerkenwell with my gorgeous friend Tania. To show just how fantastic this fabric is, these photos were taken AFTER I got home. So that's after a few hours of sitting in the sweaty hot sun sipping on a peach bellini. Hardly any creasing! Well done Betty Bacteria!

So there you have it. A fantastic sewing day plus a brand new dress for the summer. Massive thanks to John Lewis and Lisa Comfort and a big shout out to the other bloggers for making it such a fun experience.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Minerva meet-up dress tease

It’s just over a week until the much-anticipated Minerva Crafts Meet-Up weekend! I know myself and the other Spoolettes are very excited to get together for a weekend away up north, and to celebrate a weekend of sewing – I’m sure there’s going to be some mighty fine cocktail consumption going on. I also cannot wait to finally see the Minerva Crafts centre and meet Vicki and the team.

So what's this post all about?
As part of the weekend celebrations, Vicki has asked the bloggers on the Minerva network to make a super special outfit (using Minerva fabrics) to wear on the Saturday evening.

The final reveal of these spectacular outfits will take place on social media on the night of the meet up (14th June) and then subsequently on the Minerva Blogger Network and my blog, but we've been asked to produce a little teaser of our outfit plans to whet your sewing appetite.

Colour
So, as you can see here I’ve gone black. I’m using some of the hot self-lined Prada crepe available on Minerva’s website. It comes in a multitude of colours, but I’ve gone for classic black. It washes, presses and cuts like a dream. I experienced no shifting about and accepts pins like best friends. I am yet to start sewing this up, but I am certain I won’t have any problems. My favourite part of this fabric is the self-lined satin back. Talk about having a bit of luxury against your bits and pieces!





Inspiration
My theme for the evening is based on my favourite decade, the 1930s. If there’s a period in time that gets me excited (apart from Elvis’ gyrating hips) it’s the glamour of the 20s and 30s. The colours, lines, shapes, furniture, architecture…everything was so alluring and beautiful. I loved the women’s shorter hair, the dresses, the shoes and the flamboyance of a period struggling through an economic depression. This is a nice website showing the silhouette of 1930s daywear fashion. Evening gowns of that period, however, were typically cut on the bias and skimmed the body like liquid. At sewing school, I designed and made a 1930s evening gown in navy satin, which I should really blog as it's something I am really proud of.

Pattern
To help me achieve my 30s look for the Minerva Meet Up, I have acquired a special pattern that's not even out yet (watch this space!), and one that with some slight tweaks I’ll be able to convert into a full on flapping 1930s ensemble. There will be floaty legs, bust darts, waist darts, a nipped in waist…and all that jazz (sorry couldn’t resist!) So with a bit of luck, I’ll be turning up with Leonardo DiCaprio on my arm in full on Gatsby mode - not Wolf on Wall Street mode – we don’t want things to get too rowdy up there in Lancashire.


Thanks, Leo. Pick me up at 7!

I am quite excited about this make and when you see it, you’ll definitely think, ahhh, she don’t half love that sort of thing!

Stay tuned for the big reveal next week!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Cami, cami, cami, cami, cami, ca-me-lesole...

Title kinda works, no? No?! I did just overdose on a whole lot of home-made guacamole, so maybe the vitamin E made me think I could turn Karma Chameleon into Camisole. Rats.

Before I took my bum-bum to Brazil, I made this little camisole from some very special Mood fabric. I've been wanting to get into full-on summer making mood with some lighter, more feminine tops and have been spying a few camisoles cropping up in the shops.


For the pattern, I used the Camilla Camisole Pattern from Tessuti fabrics. Admittedly, I could have drafted this up, but when you're trying to get your bum-bum primed for the Brazilian beach, you don't have much time on your baby-oiled hands. Plus, clicking 'buy' on those patterns is...just...so...easy.

This is a really simple pattern to put together and I love it. There are only two pieces, a facing and the straps. The back piece has two darts while the front is dart free.

I used this metallic silver linen that I bought from Mood during my trip to New York in March. I was so happy when Sonja spotted this fabric, because I had been hunting high and low for anything that looked like the fabric used in the S/S14 Whistles collection. Have a look at their camisole and gathered skirt for drool-inducing goodness.


The camisole is cut on the bias. With silkier fabric, it will no doubt give that defined bias drape, but I am still happy with the way this linen has worked with the pattern.

I cut a size 12 but next time I will probably go for the size 10 as I had to nip this in quite a bit under the arms. I'm not a massive fan of an a-line top, so I also reduced the flare.

I finished the side seams with a French seam - if you do this, it's best to check the fit first before you do all the trimming and stitching required for this type of seam finish. The facing is narrow hemmed and then attached to the neckline and understitched.


The straps are supposed to be made in a rouleau style but this linen said, um no, I don't do that and you can sit here for a whole hour and make me try, but I'm telling you, I don't do rouleau! Okay, fancy linen, keep your pants on. So, I just made the straps by folding each long side of the strap into the centre, folding in half and topstitching in place.

The straps are then attached as you stitch the facing to the neckline, so make sure you check that the length of the straps are the desired length, before you head to your machine. The hem of the camisole is also a simple narrow hem.

My little silver cami was much needed in the sweltering heat of Brazil. During our stay on the island, Fernando de Noronha, we hired a buggy to get from beach to beach. As I am the only one out of the Szabo Corporation who can drive stick, I got the awesome job of driving this little demon. Here's me and a slightly creased and sweaty Camilla standing next to my ride.

Hey ladies.

Camilla is a really nice, simple pattern which I will definitely make up again. It's certainly a wardrobe staple that can be used for warmth in the winter (yes, I love a Granny vest), nightwear or cheeky outerwear like above - bloody bargain!