Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Let's all welcome Gentleman Jim

There's a new sewer (sewist, seamster....aghhh I give up!) in the sewing blogosphere and it's a man. Yey!

Welcome Gentleman Jim. Here's a little bit about him:

Gentleman Jim, a master tailor, pattern maker, designer, sewing instructor and clothing manufacturer, has been active in the garment industry since 1961. He began working in the garment industry in 1961 at all the finer men’s stores. Weber and Heilbrunery, John Davidson, Barney’s Men’s Store and  The Macy.  At age 20, Gentleman Jim began under the mentorship of Orie Wells of Orie’s Custom Tailoring, an exclusive tailoring store. Orie’s was located on 125th Street in New York City next to The Apollo Theatre. In the 60’s, Orie’s made custom clothes for all the great stars: James Brown, The Isley Brothers, B. B. King, Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, James Cleveland and many more.

He now has created a super cool blog, The Lost Art of Fine Tailoring, which you can find here.

To celebrate joining the blogging community he's giving away a fantastic set of his Alteration DVD. This DVD looks amazing and I am definitely keeping my fingers crossed for a win. You too can enter here! All you have to do is leave a comment on his blog and also post something on yours. Simple!

So lots of love and luck to Gentleman Jim in having a successful blog, and lots of luck to you in entering his awesome give-away!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Hey y'all, this is my voice and junk

During my coffee break this morning, I sat and watched the videos uploaded by other sewcialists showing off their lovely voices and different accents. (Thanks to Lady Katza for starting this back up.) And, I thought, hey wouldn't you all like to hear the cringey sound my vocal chords make? I hope you laugh at me as much as I laugh at myself. Seriously....#CRINGE

Anyway, there's a list of words and questions we have been given to say, which are as follows:

List of Words: 
Aunt, Route, Wash, Oil, Theater, Iron, Salmon, Caramel, Fire, Water, Sure, Data, Ruin, Crayon, Toilet, New Orleans, Pecan, Both, Again, Probably, Spitting image, Alabama, Lawyer, Coupon, Mayonnaise, Syrup, Pajamas, Caught

List of Questions:
What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house?
What is the bug that when you touch it, it curls into a ball?
What is the bubbly carbonated drink called?
What do you call gym shoes?
What do you say to address a group of people?
What do you call the kind of spider that has an oval-shaped body and extremely long legs?
What do you call your grandparents?
What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket?
What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?
What is the thing you change the TV channel with?


Wednesday, 21 August 2013


Just checking out this Bloglovin thing and it says to do this.

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Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Bombshell Swimsuit: N'awlins Style

After the mad rush to get my version of the Closet Case Files Bombshell Swimsuit pattern finished, I didn't end up trying this baby out until I got to New Orleans. However, that place was so hot I couldn't wait to get in a swimsuit and some cold water. Funny thing is, New Orleans really was so damn hot that even the outdoor swimming pool was like a warm bath. However, me in a cold shower wouldn't have been the best picture so here's me in front of a fountain at our hotel, the Maison DuPuy, located in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

A little unsure of posing in a swimsuit in front of people

I chose version B for my swimsuit as I liked the plunging v-neck. Mr S also deemed it to be the sexier of the two versions.

I enjoyed making this project, mainly because it is my first venture into swimsuit territory. I did want to take this with me on holiday, but I also treated it as more of a learning process/muslin, which if successful then great, but if not, no biggy.

If I sit-pose, they can't see me

Fortunately, it turned out acceptable-ish and definitely wearable. I love the fit of this swimsuit and find it really flattering across all those bits we usually like to hide when relaxing by the pool. My favourite thing about it, is how it sits on the bum-bum. It really gives it that bombshell look reminiscent of some of my favourite screen sirens: Monroe, Betty Grable and Jane Russell.

Old photo style

The instructions are pretty good for this pattern. In some places I was a little "uh...wut?" but I figured it out with some re-reading and brain tuning. I would also advise practicing your zig zag stitch length/width on scraps first before you start, unless you choose to overlock/serge your seams. The seam allowances are only 1/4 inch so it's important to be accurate and to make sure you line all raw edges exactly, otherwise you'll find some raw edges will slip and not be sewn. (Grrrr, yes this happened!)

For fabric I chose leopard print. It's one of my favourite types of print and I also fell in love with a picture I found of Liz Taylor rocking a similar swimsuit. I bought my fabric and lining from Fabricland, which in total cost me (including the swimsuit elastic) £13.

The plunging neckline is not only sexy but also tasteful. I didn't feel over exposed in this and I really appreciated the positioning of the front bust sections: Heather advises to pin the bust triangles approx an inch past the side seam to avoid side boob and roughly 3/4" apart at the centre bust. In doing so, I think this helps to maintain a more demure and chic swimsuit as opposed to a full on "I got bewbs" look. Not that I am in great supply of the latter, but should you have some nice pillows you'll be thankful for this coverage.

Drying time takes a while because there's quite a bit of fabric involved, but hopefully you'll be wearing this because you're in a beautiful hot location. Other than that it's a really fun project and a great starting point if you've never worked with swimwear before.

Having made this first version, I feel that I have a better understanding of how to make this type of garment, and how best to work with this fabric. Next time around, I'd like to try and high waisted bottom with a bikini top, but maybe next year :)

Jazz, the Mississippi and some blues.

As for New Orleans, what a great city! Driving into Louisiana was so fun, especially travelling over the bayou while listening to Elvis' 'Polk Salad Annie'. We stayed in the French Quarter, which was so busy and colourful. The famous Bourbon Street stunk of vomit so we ventured out onto Frenchman Street (recommended by sweet Elisalex) where we found some great music including some real rhythm and blues, and a ten-piece brass band that mixed traditional jazz with a more funky, modern sound. During the day we walked around, taking strategic air-con breaks in shops and cafes, or eating Beignets (ermagherd, yum!). We also took a ride on a traditional steam boat along the infamous Mississippi river; it's hard to top an afternoon where you're sipping on a bloody mary, listening to some jazz and watching the world float by without a care in the word. Ahhhh New Orleans, see you again one day.

Friday, 16 August 2013

The Sun Studios McCalls 6696 shirt dress

Not only is it my birthday today, but it’s also my first blog post for the Minerva Craft Blogger Network. Bring out the party streamers people!

Considering that my first project for the network was due to be published during my dream holiday to America's deep south, I decided to make something ultra summery with a vintage vibe to wear to the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis. For me, there was no better place to photograph this dress... well, there’s Graceland but that’s another story for another time.

In recent weeks I have become quite a fan of McCall’s sewing patterns, so I immediately jumped at the chance to make the pretty shirt dress (6696), which is available on the Minerva Craft website.

Rocking a Priscilla Presley hive outside the birthplace of rock 'n' roll!

The pattern features four dress variations and one pattern for a slip, should you choose to use sheer or eyelet fabric.

Inspired by the many dresses Betty Draper wears to smoke and drink wine in her kitchen, I opted for version A: the sleeveless shirt dress with pleated skirt.

Choosing the fabric was not easy. There is so much variety on Minerva, and so many combinations that would work for this outfit that I wanted it all. However, inspiration struck again when I saw this dainty polyester. It’s so beautiful, you will "ooh and ahh" out loud when it arrives on your doormat. Don Robot also loves it when he comes home from grocery shopping and finds me looking miserable and dissatisfied sitting at the kitchen table, two glasses of wine down. I still take his hat for him though.

Is that Johnny Cash coming down the road?

I loved making this dress. At first I thought the fabric would pose some problems as it’s a ‘slinkier’ polyester, yet it was a dream to sew with. A dream I tell you! It did everything I wanted it to and didn’t shift one bit during sewing. This included the more complicated parts such as the collar and belt bands. It also traveled really well – I hardly needed to iron it and when washed, it dried in an instant. Oh, and some red wine was spilled on it, but with a rinse under the tap it washed right out. Could you get a better best friend in fabric form?

 Elvis likes his women in gold belts too

Before starting this dress, I really recommend measuring the flat pattern. This is an exercise that I don’t usually do, but I applied it to this project and was surprised that I needed to cut a size 10 as opposed to my usual size 14 measurements. Of course it depends on your preferred style/fit, but this is definitely something I will continue to do with future patterns. It’s really simple to do: just measure the key areas and be sure to multiply twice (e.g. for front you need to multiply twice to get the full measurement) and subtract the relevant seam allowances. You’ll then get an approximate measurement and from that you can ascertain how much ease has been given to your size.

After measuring, I made a muslin of only the bodice (to be on the safe side), and it fit like a glove. Bazinga! The construction of this dress was really straight forward: I love yokes and find them fun in a geeky way. There is also some gathering on the back of the dress which adds a really nice detail, oh and be prepared for a big pleating session. The skirt is pleated all the way round the waist, however, this is really easy to do as long as you follow all the markings on the pattern.

 Back of the dress: gathers are placed at the yoke and waist

The dress features a faced waistband with belt loops. This is easier than it sounds and gives the dress a neat and tidy finish inside. The belt loops are simple to make and are basted before the waist band is added to the bodice and skirt.

I completed the arm holes with white bias binding, which I finished with hand stitching (slip stitch). I serged the seams inside to save time but I handstitched the finish of the button placket, yoke, collar and the dress hem to avoid any machine stitching showing on the outside. I used simple white buttons and didn’t need to shorten or lengthen the dress at all.

 Perfect for some rock 'n' roll twirling

Or for just hanging out at Sun Studios...

...looking cool

I love this dress and it will definitely be one of my go-to sewing patterns in the future. I can’t wait to try some of the other versions as well as the slip. If you like my version, don’t forget you can buy the whole Dixie Lou kit for this dress on the Minerva website. 

The Dixie Lou shirt dress kit

And what did my boyfriend Elvis think of my dress? Well, he decided to play a little song for me with the help of his pals while he gazed lovingly into my eyes...