Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The Clare Coat!

Hello! I have returneth from the depths of poopy nappies and over-caffeination to proudly introduce my latest make - the Clare Coat! Not only am I a little chuffed with myself for completing a rather large sewing project, but also one that has my name on it. Before you think I've soiled myself in sheer narcissism, no, this is the brand new pattern from Closet Case Files and I'm very touched that Heather Lou has chosen to name it after me. More on that later! First, the coat.

Heather has created, what I believe, is a great introduction into coat-making. Although, if you have already dipped your toe into coats, this is still a unique, very wearable pattern to add to your wardrobe. I made version A, which has an asymmetrical zip, bracelet sleeves, front welt pockets and collar, whereas version B is a more traditional-looking coat yet flaunts a fabulous dramatic funnel neck.

I decided to make version A as I liked that it was different to anything else I have, and I envisioned a cosy, coat with a huge check reminiscent of Westwood or 1960s outerwear. To achieve this, I used a poly-based wool alternative from Minerva (I'm vegetarian and try not to use wool in my sewing), which I am beyond pleased with. And, it's aptly from the 'Quebec' range so quite perfect for a pattern from cool Montreal. Soft to the touch and surprisingly warm, I love the hazy effect of this fabric, plus it coordinates perfectly with River's buggy. As a Mum, you've got to meet the demands of a child who currently has a better wardrobe than you! Life was a lot easier when I was just dealing with Elvis and Don.

In terms of construction, this coat will get your geeky sewing juices flowing without risk of strops and drunken sobs in the corner when it all goes tits up. I made a straight size 10 and needed no alterations. I don't mind sharing my measurements as I think it's helpful for others deliberating sizes: I am 36-27-40 and found the 10 fit me perfectly. For the record, I'm also a tall bird at 5'9 and the coat finishes just above mid-thigh for me. Heather's instructions are super clear and straightforward, reassuring for anyone new to coats who may feel a little intimidated. Don't - this would be such a great starting point. My version only used tailor's canvas in the collar whereas the rest required fusible interfacing to give it suitable support. In my opinion, the finished version hangs very well and I like how the collar sits a little proud from my neck.

The coat has that wonderful long zip, which if you've been swooning over Heather Lou's version with the rest of us, you'll see how you can really pimp that up with a chic zipper tassel. I may investigate this to update my version. I bought my brown zip with bronze teeth from Minerva as Vicki kindly matched it to my fabric for me. Sewing the zip is easy and it's finished with a lovely placket, another nice feature which contributes to the overall polished finish of this coat.


Initially, I wasn't sure whether I would stick with the shorter sleeves or lengthen them. Being tall, I also have monkey arms and even standard sleeves can look short on me. However, I decided to stick with Heather Lou's intentions and I am so glad I did. I love how chic they look pushed up a little more. Take mama for coffee, bubba...yes, okay, I'll pay. Again.

I may forget my name most days but I can
still pattern match!

I've been out and about in it already on my daily walks with River in the park, and I really do love how easy it is to wear with jeans, oh, and my disco chelsea boots. I've also tried it with tights and mini skirts for a full on 60s vibe and it looks great. This is definitely a fun coat, and as you have seen with Heather's own version, it can make a statement with to-die for bold jewel colours. So many options!

You may be asking why Clare, and I can't really answer that either as most days I look in the mirror and see a tired Mama who used to date Don Draper. He left me when I was with child. We're not surprised. But seriously, it feels very heartwarming to be liked and respected enough that, after the huge undertaking of work involved in releasing a sewing pattern, the designer wishes to put your name on their product. It is genuinely so very cool and exciting. Although I fly to Canada at least once a year to visit in-laws and friends, I finally met Heather Lou for drinks this summer in Montreal and fell a little in love. I am just pleased I wore my best perfume and silver shoes. We had dinner with Gillian and the sweet newly-weds Andrea and Ian, then a picnic the following day when Sonja just happened to drop by. What a stalker! (Jokes, my dear Pug Mama!) We had such a great visit and I did try to convince my Canuck to move to Montreal but he said the winters are too harsh - the man doth been in England too long! So for now, I shall tread the streets of Greenwich in my Clare Coat, content in the knowledge that I squeezed both a child and a coat into 2015! Thank you Heather Lou xx

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Funny how time slips away: McCalls 6436

Well, hello there, my it's been a long, long time...

...since, I came round these parts and showed you something I made MINUS a huge, big growing belly full of baby. But, it's no illusion, Mama and Elvis are back in town!

It's been almost 4 months since River was born and within that roller-coaster of newborn chaos and two operations to remove my stubborn placenta (thank you for all your well wishes) I found the time to make a shirt. Not just some quick and easy top, but a SHIRT. Excuse the self-promotion, but I am pretty chuffed with myself and wanted to show other sewers on the verge of motherhood that the sewing machine doesn't have to collect dust when that baby pops out. Snippets of time may just be snippets but they can mount up to a glorious wad of time when added altogether, albeit slowly but surely.

So, here it is - McCalls 6436 in a sleeveless version.

I wanted a shirt for the summer that would be easy for nursing and just the right shape to remain fitted yet hide some lumps and bumps I'm not prepared to flaunt just yet!

As you know, I am a huge McCalls fan-girl so 6436 was the perfect option for me. You can make a sleeved version but I opted for this light and breezy sleeveless shirt complete with fancy epaulets and mandarin-style collar.

Based on my new post-partum bewbies I cut a pattern size 12 (usually I cut a straight 10 from McCalls) but I opted to go a size up for a looser fit. I'm pretty pleased with the finished result.

I first started making this shirt during a lovely stay at my parents. My Mum gave me the much-needed push to get started and while River cooed and googled on the floor, I cut out the pattern. Unfortunately, tracing is a new casualty of motherhood. I will pretty much rely on measuring the flat pattern pieces now and a rough tissue fit as my snippets of time have no time for tracing patterns on my hands and knees again. Also, I've been sewing long enough now to know my body and the changes I need to make to achieve a relatively good fit.

Once the pattern was cut I raided my stash for a suitable cloth. Again, no time or inclination to trek to fabric shops, but instead a welcome push to finally start using up my stash. I dug out this lovely cotton that I purchased in Mood last year on my trip to New York. It's sheer but opaque enough to not need anything underneath.

When I got back to London from my folks, it was then merely a case of whenever there was a window, sew something! Be it, pinning a couple of darts, sewing a seam, basting, pressing a seam allowance. And, hey, suddenly you begin to see the shell of a shirt. I also didn't cut corners and french-seamed side and shoulder seams as well as hand sewing the finish of the button placket and collar band.

As a new Mum with limited time, I actually really welcomed the chance to apply nicer finishes to this shirt. In a new world where a messy house, baby puke and delightful nappies are now standard, it's nice to have something where you can regain aesthetic control. Doing the final press on the french seam or the last hand stitch were like taking a sip of a margarita...ahhhhhhh.

The epaulets are a sweet little addition and super easy to do. The armholes, shown above, were finished with a poly satin bias binding I had in my stash. Buttons were purchased, begrudgingly, from Rolls and Rems in Lewisham - I see their customer service has not improved since I've been off radar having a baby. Sort it out RnR!

I am so proud of getting back on the sewing saddle and making something that I not only enjoy wearing but also a type of garment missing from my wardrobe. My sewjo is definitely re-ignited and I can't wait to start on my next project.

Yes, having a bubba is tough and means your time is at the whim of a tiny little boss, but it's nowhere near impossible. Instead it means you actually have more motivation, more inclination and less time to worry about imperfections. Go on fellow mamas, go sew!

Monday, 23 February 2015

A round belly and a round cocoon coat

Another blog post! I hope this last hurrah of energy means baby Szabobobo is on her way...

I've been meaning to blog my coat since November, but just never got round to it. I've been sewing lots (and not just baby stuff), it's just I never really felt like bringing it to the blog - anyone else ever feel the need for a blog sabbatical? However, with baby almost here, I thought I'd put on my favourite wedges, some make-up and take some pics of me in all my swollen glory. Mr Szabo and I have realised we don't have that many photos of me documenting the pregnancy - so, baby Szabobobo here is what your Mama likes to get up to in her spare time.

Towards the end of last year I made a cocoon-style coat, which I've been wanting for some time having seen some gorgeous versions from Stella McCartney and other designers. I wanted something over-sized, which would work with my pregnancy and after.

For the pattern I chose the Round Coat from Burda - minus the dodgy faux fur panels at the bottom. I initially had the Burda magazine with the pattern, but I took one look at those pattern lines and thought, um... NO! So I bought the PDF, although it might be the lesser of two evils it still made me want to collapse in a broken heap.

For some time I've had this camel coloured wool coating in my stash - it's from Dalston Mill and was quite pricey at the time. Although I don't buy wool anymore for ethical reasons, I didn't want to be wasteful and decided that if I loved this coat, I'd probably keep it for a long time anyway, so it would at least be unwasted and sustainable.

Pattern wise...well...it's Burda, so after the whole nightmare of sticking together the PDF pattern and realising that certain bits were for a completely different pattern altogether, I then had the instructions to deal with.

To be fair, the coat is fairly straightforward to begin with. There's no collar, lapels or even set in sleeves to fuss about, you just sew up the panels and the raglan-style sleeves and you pretty much have a coat! Plus, being pregnant I decided against doing any grand tailoring techniques. I figured this kind of coat is supposed to be loose and slouchy - I also felt that less time sewing, is more time eating.

Turns out my only issue making this was adding the lining.

As you can see I chose a brushed cotton from Calico Laine to make the coat warm and cosy. However, Burda's instructions for inserting this made as much sense to my preggo brain as a life without grape nut flakes (I can eat a box for England) plus the lining didn't fit the neckline facing, so at that point I chucked the instructions aside and did my own thing. I trimmed the lining neckline to make it bigger and then, making sure I had both sides symmetrical, I pinned the lining to the facing and hand stitched it in place, leaving two pleats at the bottom near the hem for ease. It seems to have worked well and the coat hangs nicely without being pulled up at the bottom. Huzzah!

Another step I added myself was to use nylon horse hair in the coat hem. I tried without first but the hem really lacked structure - with the horse hair it has a far better shape, plus is a tiny bit weighted.

To finish, I used medium sized poppers from Ray Stitch, which I self-covered with lining fabric. To do this, cut out a big circle, sew a large running stitch around the edge, make a tiny snip in the middle to push the 'male' part of the popper through, and then gather fabric around the popper. I'm still wondering whether I should have left these silver, but I haven't really felt arsed to change them!

Um, wind.

So, that's my coat! I've worn it lots and it's super warm. If I made it again (which is unlikely) I would probably add more structure to the inside of the two 'button plackets' to stiffen them up. Burda do not make any suggestions for this, but I think it would help the look of the coat when buttoned up.

If you like the style of this, I would definitely recommend you check out Jane's amazing blue coat and Jo's super delish 'coat of many compliments' for similar pattern/fabric options.

Currently on the sewing table is a denim shirt with poppers for easy nursing access - I'm hoping to finish that before the big arrival. However, if I go quiet again, you know why. See you on the other side!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

I just can't help believin'

That I have met such an amazing bunch of people (& community) through sewing.

Yesterday, I thought I was meeting Tania and Sally for a relaxed lunch in Cafe Rouge in Greenwich followed by some wedding make-up shopping for Sally in the afternoon. I even packed a little bag of make-up samples to show over coffee and carbs - you know, cos I'm such a beauty expert and all ;)

However, on arriving at Cafe Rouge I was completely floored by a table of Spoolettes (Re, Lou, Nicole, Fiona, Jo, Emmie, Katie, Sally, Tania, Alison) waiting to throw me a surprise baby shower. Seriously, I thought not only my heart was going to burst but also my pants with an excited little baby wanting to join in on her first sewing meet-up. I was absolutely surprised, elated and sincerely touched.

Oh and did I mention Elvis was there?!

Rehanon, in the words of Matt Dillon, you rock my world!

Last night, lying in bed and thinking how lucky I am, I wanted to tweet a big thank you but somehow 140 characters didn't cut it, and had no way of expressing how grateful and overwhelmed I am. So I decided to wait to write this blog post AND to show you all photos of the amazing gifts I received.

So, Shrimp and I would like to say a huge huge huge thank you for our amazing baby shower. It was perfect and despite hormonal sweats I felt amazing! Thank you to everyone for being so generous and big thanks to those who contributed to my gifts but couldn't make it, you were sorely missed - hugs to Rachel, Roisin, Jane, Janene, Kathryn and Ness!

Here's how much Shrimp and I got spoilt:

A gorgeous knitted elephant from Lou

Beautiful denim dress and Elvis taggy comforter from Alison - so cool!

Things got soulful when Re gave me this incredible book
where I can write letters to Shrimp to read when she's older. 
Let's all cry now!

Speechless! This mega cute denim jacket from Emmie complete 
with TCB logo and Spoolette embroidery on the back. AND, 
inside she sewed in a yoke using the John Lewis fabric I used
to make my Betty dress. AGGGHHH!

Elvis and hot pink! Gorgeous baby taggy made by Katie
So so cool!

Froggie power! This awesome hat from Tania will definitely make 
its debut in Canada in the summer. And check out the
awesome bibs!

This blew everyone's mind! Sally made Shrimp her very own
Spoolettes bowling shirt complete with name embroidery - this chokes 
me up every time I look at it.

This was done by hand. BY HAND!


If Jo doesn't make me a matching pair of knickers, I'll cry.
How cute is this dress and knicker set? I need this!

Ahh Mrs Needles knows me too well. Not only did she find
this amazing Elvis bag, but when I opened my Joan nail 
varnish I think I gave the same convulsion-like reaction as
when my parents gave me an Atari STe for Christmas. 

This nail varnish is called....ALEXIS. I'm wearing this for child birth. FACT.

Also not pictured is a gorgeous knitted cardigan for Shrimp.

Close up of Joan. This is how you look after application.

Completely in love with this amazing Neals Yard gift set from
everyone! I love this stuff. So so thoughtful...thank you so much
everyone xxxx

We spent ages in Cafe Rouge - it was fantastic - talk about ladies who lunch! Afterwards we went to the pub and suddenly it was getting on for 10pm. Normally I am in something elasticated and stretchy, beached on the sofa, contemplating the eternal snack vs. heartburn conundrum - but there I was, in a gay pub, drinking soda water with a 9-month baby cookin' away. Thank you Spoolettes! You gave me a lease of energy and a much-needed dose of pre-bump-Szabo revelry yesterday - I'll treasure it forever as another amazing moment in this epic, beautiful, crazy journey of growing the biggest part of me I'll ever have....so now, come on baby, we're all waiting!

Obviously not wearing Joan's nail varnish but some 
sort of trailer trash fancy dress costume ;) (And incase
anyone was about to phone EMERGENCY, those curtains are long gone)

Monday, 29 September 2014

Sewing for the man. Burda 7045 shirt.

This latest project was promised almost two years ago. I'm that crappy when it comes to sewing for Mr Szabs.

On a trip to Berlin, some moons ago, we went to the very cute and candy store-like Frau Tulpe. If you're ever in Berlin, I definitely recommend taking a trip to Mitte to check this place out. I got some lovely Michael Miller prints and some unique German cotton.

Patient as ever, I asked Mr Szabs if he saw anything he liked for a shirt. Surprisingly, he chose a sweet Autumnal-esque floral print. An idea was born, but one that would fester for said two-year period. Oops! However, our two-year anniversary rolled around and as two years represents cotton, I finally set to work.

Now, before I show you the finished result, let me tell you how fussy my guy is with shirts. They have to be slim fit with no baggyness AND no ridiculous Harry Hill collars (which I find most sewing patterns have). I've made Mr Szabs two shirts before, and they've been great but still not quite perfect. This time I decided to try Burda Style 7045 as there are two styles and one shirt has the option of darts.

My baby Daddy

In making this shirt, I first collated the flat-pattern measurements and then compared them to one of Mr Szabs favourite RTW shirts. The size I opted for was a 34, which seemed small, but added up to the RTW and his body measurements. The changes I made were to grade at the neck and shoulders to accommodate his collar size, and to grade the awful collar down to something a bit less comical! Seriously, Burda, wut?

I wanted to make this shirt as a complete surprise, but luckily my cautious side stepped in and showed it to him a few days before our anniversary. All I can say is, phew! A fit of giggles ensued as, yep, the shirt was definitely a little too snug. It's all that popcorn, my little sweet-toothed Canuck!

Although I had already flat-felled one side seam (and oh how neat and handsome it looked) I opted for a cheeky save, and stitched the other side seam at just 1/4". Albeit a tiny seam, it saved the day and made a huge difference to the fit. My client was pleased. I then zig zagged and mock flat-felled said tiny seam, as unless Tim Gunn takes Mr Szabs' shirt off for an inspection, who will know?

 Canadian guys rule <3

I could then carry on finishing the shirt adding the collar, sleeves and cuffs. I love doing these parts of a shirt, it brings out my geeky sewing side. I always use this method to get super-duper pointy collars - if you've not tried it before, do, it will change your life!

Button-wise I didn't have time to order anything special, so I used some standard shirt buttons I picked up in one of those handy packs in Sainsbury's. No shame!

Instructions-wise this pattern was pretty good. The shirt includes sleeve plackets, and I thought that as far as instructions go, these were quite clear. I have made these plackets before so I did have a fair idea of the construction process, but a shirt-newbie may scratch their heads a little. 

Mr Szabs really likes this shirt, and is pleased with the fit. It's still not 100%, but I think I am only one step away from the perfect go-to-pattern for his shirts. I asked him for his alterations, and he would prefer a shaped bottom (on the shirt!), which I agree with. I am not sure why this pattern has such a straight hem, fine I guess if you're just tucking the shirt in, but not great for casual wear over trousers. He'd also like a firmer collar, so I'll employ those little plastic thingies into the corners next time. I'll also go a up a size so that I can properly flat-fell ALL the seams and possibly lengthen the sleeves a little. Otherwise, I think we have THE pattern for Mr Szabs Shirt-Making Emporium.

I can't resist including these out-takes. During the photo-shoot Mr Szabs decided to copy what he says I do when posing for my blog photos! HA HA HA!!!!  



Have you made your guy a shirt? Which pattern has been your most successful so far?

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Dip your toe into shirt dress heaven. Come make the 6696 with me!

Hey peeps!

Belly is growing, but I'm still a-sewing.

My latest make is another McCall's 6696. As you know this is my favourite pattern ever and I've already made two versions (if you want to see them click here and here).

The great news is that I will be teaching this pattern at Ray Stitch in London starting on the 28 October. The course will be three evenings (over three weeks) and I'll show you how to get to grips with an entire shirt dress, including collars, button plackets, pockets - the works!

This is version B of the pattern, which is a straight skirt with darts and pockets.

Yes, check out that check matching. You're welcome. 

Although this is marketed as a summer pattern, it's definitely adaptable for the colder months. Ray Stitch sent me some stunning dark brown Japanese fabric to make up the dress, giving the pattern a whole new lease of life as a cosy Autumn day dress. I imagine this dress with thick tights and a big chunky cream cardigan.

Unfortunately, there are no pics of me modelling this little beauty as it's been made for a size 10 mannequin, which is sadly no longer the size of my pregnant bewbs and belly! But I'll stroke the leftover scraps until I can order my own wad of this lovely stuff.

You can find details and how to sign up for the class on the Ray Stitch website. The shop is located on Essex Road in Islington, close to Angel tube and Essex Road mainline station. 

How will you wear yours?

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Two Netties and a Bump

Even though it's been over a month since I last hung out in blogger, I have been sewing and have some overdue makes to share with you all. My recent makes all have a certain thing in common...they stretch(!) as I am now 3 1/2 months pregnant with my first bubba! Our little 'Shrimp' is doing super well and I couldn't be more in love and happy. So, obviously, I have needed to think about sewing up some cool maternity wear that isn't a one-way ticket into frumpsville.

First up is a pattern I am really in love with. Nettie!

Before we get down to the nitty gritty, I just want to say I didn't test this pattern, nor am I stroking the rather gorgeous backside of Nettie's creator, Heather Lou (although I wouldn't say no...) - I am genuinely positively pleased this pattern exists in my life.

I first made the bodysuit as a little test in early August to see whether I picked the right sizing. I used this awesome knit I picked up in New York in March. I can't remember the shop, but I think it was the day me, Lauren, Sonja, Devra and Trice hit the town in force. It's more of a knit than a jersey so has some lovely stretch to it to accommodate the expanding weeks ahead.

I chose the scoop front, high back version with long sleeves. For sizing, I cut the size 10 on top and graded out to the 12 on the bum-bum, as I can always do with a little room in that area, especially now (see next photo!). The fit was perfect and couldn't be more comfortable! I really love the design of the bum and hip area - it's not the vag-slicing cut of the 90s but more of a lean towards the 50s, not dissimilar to the Bombshell Swimsuit. As a result, it's very comfortable to wear under your chosen bottoms and you don't find yourself wriggling about or having to do a covert reshuffle of your bits and pieces.

Another reason why I like this pattern is that it's super fun to make up. With experience, I now really enjoy working with knits and stretchy stuff, especially adding neckbands. For this project I used only my sewing machine and a narrow zig zag stitch, switching between a single stretch needle and a twin stretch needle for top-stitching.

When working with stripes, it does take a bit more time as you need to concentrate during pinning the pattern to fabric to ensure you're matching the stripes correctly. I usually start by pinning a specific area on the side seam of the front, then matching the same spot on the back. I then pin almost each stripe to prevent movement. It takes some time but it's really worth it.

Say hi to the bump, but check out that stripe matching!

This version of the Nettie will definitely last me for a while and will be nice and cosy with the colder months coming up. 

Once I had the fit of the Nettie down, I could get started on what I really wanted to use the pattern for. Back in Spring, I had the dream of a white and navy stripe t-shirt dress for Summer. Luckily in March, I spotted Lauren buying the perfect fabric in Mood and I grabbed about 5 yards too. Didn't care about cost and weight, I wasn't leaving that treasure behind!

I also made this up in August to wear on my birthday. It was bit of an overcast day, but I did wear it to eat my super lovely breakfast made by Mama Delle. She even found me alcohol free bucks fizz!

Even though this knit was less stretchy, I still decided to follow the same sizing (10 on top, 12 bottom). I used Heather Lou's stretch guide and was confident this fabric would work. For style, I chose high front and high back and added short sleeves to achieve the t-shirt dress I had in my mind.

I worked with my sewing machine and overlocker for stitching and finish, using a twin stretch needle for top stitching. For some reason, the twin needle got fed up with the hem and started skipping stitches so I reverted back to the single needle. I wasn't prepared to put up a fight!

Again, I didn't have to make any alterations and am really pleased with the outcome. It's now a month later, bump is bigger and the dress is still a brilliant addition to my wardrobe.

I am thinking of making another dress version in a heavier black jersey or a ponte for the Autumn to wear with tights and boots. Yey for Nettie! 

On a side note the following really made me chuckle. I saw on GOMI a comment that my Martini dress I tested for Capital Chic Patterns was too tight. I made that dress back in mid May pre-preggers to wear to a wedding, yet didn't get around to taking photos for the blog until July...well let's just say my body had started to enjoy some swelling in the belly and bewbs area already!!! I knew I was running out of time to photo that before Shrimp was like, nope, I'm not being squeezed into that, Mama! So, the dress may have looked a little more snug than intended, although I still think it looked good. Anyway, it gave me a good giggle. Jerry's Final Thought...don't judge a book by its cover people, that book just might be knocked up!