Friday, 20 December 2013

Minerva Blogger Network: a D&G style tweed dress

I really loved Dolce & Gabbana's A/W 2013-14 collection this year, particularly the inclusion of so much tweed and houndstooth. I loved the loose fit of some of the garments, such as the swinging coats and a short a-line dress, so much so that I decided to make my own version for my last Minerva make of 2013.

Here's the £730 version from Dolce & Gabbana. I love how understated this is; the fit is loose with an accentuated A-line, simple round neck and 3/4 sleeves.

Fortunately, I found some lovely tweed on Minerva's website and adapted a simple McCall's pattern (2401). I chose this pattern because not only did it offer the right neck line and sleeves that I wanted, but I love the fit of their patterns especially in the bust.

Here's how mine turned out!

To get this dress from the pattern I first decided on the length. I knew I wanted it short as per the D&G original and so I simply measured from the shoulder to my desired length and slashed the pattern (adding a decent hem allowance beforehand!).

I then added the A-line shape. You can choose how defined you want your A-line to be, but I went for a full Mary Quant flared shaping. After I made my dress I was a little worried that it was TOO flared and I'd take off like a kite with the slightest gust of wind, but I consulted my 1960s guru, Mama Delle, and she quickly reassured me that this was perfect and very Quant. Thanks Mama! To achieve the A-line, simply mark your flare from the existing side seam/hem corner and then draw a line up to just below the bust. You can then gently shape where it meets the side seam near the bust using a french curve or free-hand. 

When working with the tweed, I really took my time, especially when creating the darts. To begin with, I decided to keep the bust darts and the back (diamond) darts. The pattern does call for front waist (diamond) darts as well, but I omitted these in order to keep the loose shaping at the front. 

After cutting I removed the darts from the paper pattern, replaced the pattern over the fabric and thread-traced my darts using white thread. Thread tracing is a couture method used on delicate fabrics. You can just about see this here:

After cutting, I also stabilised the shoulder and neck seams by tacking silk organza to prevent any stretching. 

From that point onwards, sewing the dress was really easy and straightforward. This type of tweed from Minerva was a joy to work with and was very cooperative. Perhaps it got confused and thought it was actually going to be a real D&G dress, so behaved itself - sorry tweed, you're stuck with a Dixie Lou label for now.

For the zipper, I decided to a do a handpicked lapped zipper. I pressed the zip seams to the required 5/8", positioned the zip and used double thread coated in tailor's wax to stitch it in place. If you have never tried hand-sewing your zip, I highly recommend it. I not only find it really therapeutic, but I love the finished effect. Threads do a great tutorial here

The pattern doesn't call for lining, but I lined mine by making a complete second version of the dress in black polyester lining (also included in my Minerva kit), which I attached at the neck line. I did, however, still overlock the seams of the tweed as this stuff frays like there's no tomorrow. Even though the seams will not be on display, overlocking will increase the life of this dress. If you choose to line your dress, make you sure you clip your neck seam so that when you go to turn your dress, the neckline behaves itself and sits nicely for you - then you can pose like this! 

To finish, I hand stitched my lining to the zip tape, hemmed the dress and the sleeves, and hemmed the lining - also hand stitching it to the dress fabric. 

One thing I loved about the D&G advertising campaign for A/W 2013 was the drama! If you have a google you'll see lots of brilliant dramatic scenes depicting women crying, in woe, in passion - all very Italian. Have a look.

I thought I'd recreate a little Italian drama myself. Obviously, I was supposed to meet Don Draper for lunch, but me being so busy juggling my romances with George Peppard and Elvis, I got my dates mixed up and when I reached our rendezvous spot for a quick how's your father, he was nowhere to be seen. FML!

Oh. Don.

Okay, back to reality. I love this dress and it's super warm. It will probably make its debut at my big work event at the end of January in Amsterdam, which will be appropriate as it will be cold, cold andoh yeah more cold! If you fancy making this yourself, you can buy my kit on the Minerva website here.

Have you spied anything high-end on the catwalks and made your own version? 

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Sewing up Christmas: Quilted Table Runner and PJs

Here's a bit of a change from me - some selfless sewing! Recently, I got a bit crafty and decided to make my Mum something super special for Christmas. Not only is she an awesome Mama, but next week I'll be travelling to Canada for the holidays and it will be my first Christmas away from home, so there was even more reason to make her a little keepsake. 

On a trip to Ray Stitch at the beginning of November I found some gorgeous festive fat quarters. At the time I wasn't quite sure what they were going to be, but I bought 4 anyway. I also added some extra designs from eBay to the mix.

After some deliberation, I decided to see if I could find a tutorial online for a quilted table runner. My Mum does a cracking Christmas dinner and her table always looks so beautiful. I also thought that by making something for the table, I'd still be there in spirit on Christmas Day.

I found this awesome easy tutorial called the '12 Days of Christmas Table Runner'.

And here's how mine turned out:

The tutorial suggests cutting out 27 5" squares, but I ended up cutting a few more to make my runner a bit longer. Once you have your squares, you sew them together in a 3 x 3 block and then cut that block in half horiztontally and vertically, until you end up with this block on the right.

I ordered some batting from eBay as well, and some festive backing fabric which is red with gold reindeers. This is my first quilting make, so I was a little unsure about certain aspects (the batting, what weight, what kind etc) but I am really, really happy with how it all turned out. I used basting spray to keep the patchwork, batting and backing together while I quilted the runner with long parallel stitches.

I finished the edges with red binding from Minerva Fabrics and even got my mitred corners right using this tutorial.

I am at my Mum's this weekend and we opened all our presents to each other. She loved the table runner and last night slept with it at the foot of the bed. Success!

My other Christmas sewing was two pyjama bottoms for my nephews. During my stay in Toronto in the summer I picked up some awesome Batman and Spiderman flannel on Queen Street destined to be fun PJ bottoms. I used Kwik Sew K3589 and had my Mum send me some quick measurements.

After pre-washing the fabric, I was so upset. They turned into bobble city! I was horrified. After some googling, turns out cheaper flannel can do this but you can pretty much rescue it using a pumice stone. It worked a treat - phew! (Just nobody tell my nephews I used my pumice stone on their new favourtie pj bottoms!) Has anyone else had this problem with flannel?

Here's how they turned out!

And of course, here they are being modelled by my gorgeous nephews today after our 'Christmas Day' dinner.

 I don't know what this pose is, but I LOVE it!

 Gorgeous George - such a darling inside and out

 If only my blog photos looked this good

Action shot and the 'present room' as he called it

I really enjoyed doing some selfless sewing! As soon as I get back from Canada I am starting back on a shirt and PJ bottoms for Mr S. I'm also more determined now to continue with my dream of making a full size quilt. I already found a pattern and began cutting out squares some months ago but it got relegated to my top shelf, so that's definitely a plan for the new year. 

I've had the most wonderful day with Mr S and my family. I'm so lucky and happy to belong to such wonderful people, they light up my life. And, they also eat and drink as much as me, especially tea, cheese and cadbury's biscuits. Who could want for more? While I go hunt out more cheese and pickled onions, tell me what Christmas sewing you have been doing?  

Thursday, 5 December 2013

If you talk in your sleep don't mention my name: the Presley Pencil Skirt

Although I've been a bit absent of these parts for a while, this little Christmas elf has been beavering away... be it work, sewing or drinking cocktails in Soho. I have been putting in the time people!

One of my favourite makes has happened though and I am so in love, even my quinoa porridge tastes good this morning. So, without further ado, I introduce you to the Presley Pencil Skirt.

Man, I love this and it was so quick to make. You could knock one up well within an evening.

I first saw this fabric while out on a Spoolettes outing, meeting Amity from Lolita Patterns. After dragging Sally around Regent Street and Oxford Street in search of the holy grail of burgundy velvet ties (long story) we met up with the other girls and proceeded to do what we do best: fabric shop and drink cocktails. Somewhere between the two, Sally and I fell in love with faux gold leather fabric in The Cloth House and we knew it had to be a gold pencil skirt as blogged by the awesome Cotton and Curls. The fabric was £25 p/m but I only needed half as there is no grain so you can squeeze out your front and back skirt blocks easily.

The gold I chose is this lovely white gold distressed faux leather. It's a beauty.

To make this up, I used my basic skirt block and tapered it into a pencil skirt at the bottom. If you're adapting a skirt pattern to a pencil skirt, always remember to angle out your hem allowance so that when you go to fold the hem up, the circumference of the hem matches the circumference of the skirt. Make sense? No? Okay here's what I mean:


The first pic shows the original line and hem allowance. The second pic shows the hem allowance folded under the pattern so that you can trace the skirt line (trace just your hem allowance). The third pic shows the hem unfolded and the tracing marks on the hem allowance. Notice how it comes out at an angle to match the skirt? You'll then have a new cutting line. You do this so that when you come to hem your skirt, the circumference of the hem matches the skirt. In other words, because the hem tapers down the circumference gets smaller which causes problems when you try to fold it up and hem - there will not be enough fabric to sit nice and flush.

To stitch this baby together I first tried a standard needle and polyester thread and it worked fine. I stitched the side seams, darts and back seam from slit up to the zipper point. My warning here is be sure of your fit. Definitely make a muslin first or use a pattern you're really happy with. This type of fabric will not allow you to unpick as holes are permanent. Yep, not cool. So you have to be sure as you can only taper in not out - you have been warned.

Next, I inserted an invisible zipper, which really wasn't a problem at all. I pressed my seam allowance gently using my organza pressing cloth and once I had that crease the rest was straight forward. You can press all the other seams in this way too.

Now for the cool part - I glued the hem and waistband! This fabric has a nice black silky backing and because of the fit, I didn't bother lining it. Instead, I grabbed some super glue and got sticking.

Back slit after being glued

This meant the project was done in a jiffy and I could wear it for Christmas drinks with my colleagues on Monday. We went for a delicious Moroccan meal at Momo's and then on for cocktails at Bob Bob Ricard in Soho where I discovered my new favourite drink - salted chocolate martinis. Oh my!

To finish my outfit, I teamed this skirt with a new black roll neck from Phase Eight and black heels from Marks & Spencer's, which I am crazy about. Not only are they vegan but they are just the right height for me and so comfortable. And let's not forget my vintage panther brooch. Elvis is smiling upon me.

So, that's my latest make and something special for this season. What glitzy things are you making to rock around the Christmas tree?

<Playlist: If You Talk in Your Sleep - Elvis Presley>

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Down in the alley: The Spoolettes go bowling!

Just incase you left the planet last weekend, The Spoolettes hit the alleys and went bowling!

This was a long time planning. but we finally got a date down that we could all make and one that gave us plenty of time to make our shirts. Yeah, you read that right, all TWELVE of us made our own bowling shirts and I can't begin to tell you how impressed I was with the results.

For me, I toyed with the idea of which pattern to use but in the end I decided to draft my own. I was a little nervous as I hadn't actually worked with this kind of camp collar before, but it was all pretty straight forward and mega points go to camp collars for not having shitty collar stands to deal with. Yey!

I chose a hot pink cotton poplin from eBay and here's how it turned out. Excuse the toilet selfie.

What you can't see is my Dolly for President badge!

To break up all the pinkness, I added some animal print ribbon to the sleeves because as you know I love me some animal print! The thought of embroidery did not last long in my little head. I thought of all the hours I'd spend doing that versus making something else and decided to see if I could make someone else do it for me. Oh yes, eBay you deliver again! I found a great seller who makes these gas station style name badges, and ordered a 'Dixie Lou' straight away.

Simply iron on and bowl, baby!

Here's a better pic of the finished article and one that isn't in a toilet (actually at this point it still needed buttons!).

That collar looks pretty camp to me

So, that was my shirt for the big event. I loved making it; I loved the challenge and I got to test my drafting skills with something new. So it was a winner all round for me.

The bowling itself was one of the best night's out I've had in ages. I love the Spoolettes so much and it makes me so happy to know I have found such a wonderful group of friends through sewing. Seriously, I'm glowing just writing this.

A few of us met up in a pub to begin with. Here's Alison, Kathryn, Sally, me and Fiona. Check out those shirts! Kathryn's is actually made out of a galaxy duvet cover. Genius! Sally's is another incredible refashion, Alison was displaying some really badass embroidery while Fiona was super cute in her top from a vintage pattern. Adorable!

At the lanes, we grabbed our drinks (who are the Spoolettes without a drink in their hand) and started nailing those pins. Okay, well, some of us hit the pins and some of us hit the gutter, but seriously, who would Dixie Lou be without heading for the gutter, right Mrs Bee? ;)

We really had the best time. I cannot wait to go again as I want to decorate the back of my shirt. I ran out of time and inspiration for this and I hang my head shamefully. But, fear not, Spoolettes, I gots me some ideas cooking.

 Yeah, Spoolettes bowling shoes shot!

 Rehanon looking more fabulous than fabulous

 I would

Oh Palma Cristal you drink of bowling champions 

 Sally showing true bowling form

 Me, Kathryn and Mrs Needles

Alison perfecting her bowling stance 

The winner! 

The Dude abides. Kathryn drinking a white Russian

 Dinner in Ray's Diner. Thanks Ray for my yummy 
veggie burger and hard shake! Peanut butter and whiskey if anyone's asking.

This made me so happy. Oh Don, you're always trying to get with me, 
even when I'm bowling 

Sally kindly sent me these next photos and they crack me up. It looks like I like to inhale my beer!

For our next event, we're planning a posh frocktails night and I'm pretty excited! Head over to our Facebook page if you want to join in on future events with the coolest girls in town. 

Sunday, 24 November 2013

And we have a winner! My Big Giveaway Results...

Super pleased to announce the winner of my big giveaway.

Just to remind you, up for grabs was a MASSIVE bundle of fabric kindly donated by Minerva Crafts as well as a brand new copy of The Complete Photo Guide to Fitting, kindly donated by moi! Oh and some lovely Christmas fat quarters and thread for a lucky overseas winner.

I used a random number generator thingy-me-bob on the internet to pick a winner and....

<drum roll please....oh thanks royalist kitty whoever you are>

Congratulations, Marylou!

You are the winner of all that lovely fabric and the book! You didn't say if you were in the UK...hope you are, but please email me at with your address and I'll post all this amazingness to you this week.

And now for our overseas winner!... Kitty? Kitty? Oh... he's gone. But.....

Congratulations, Gillian!

Yey, my lovely friend you won! (A total honest draw, I promise). Gillian, I'd bring your stuff over when I am in Canada, but as it's Christmas fabric, will seem pointless by the time I see you, so please email your address and I'll post this off to you asap so you can get crafting some Xmas goodies. 

Thanks to everyone who entered! Only another 354 followers to go until I reach 1000...god knows what I'll giveaway then ;)