Friday, 23 February 2018

Sewing Make You Love Yourself

As I've got older I know exactly the shapes and look I want to create that make me feel confident and happy. Whenever I wear something uncomfortable or that doesn't suit my mood I have an overwhelming urge to hide. That's not to say I scream look at me, but at 6ft you just tend to get noticed quite a bit, so feeling confident in myself helps a lot. I can honestly say since I lost a bit of weight caused by stress at the end of my second marriage I have not had a day when I've not been happy in my clothes. I've found what I like to wear and I'm lucky enough to be able to make it for myself so that it actually fits.

In this post I want to share with you an amazing pattern that I've utterly fallen in love with for many reasons and to take part in #smyly2018 which means "sewing makes you love yourself". The challenge is focused on the benefits of body positivity and mental health through sewing and is hosted by instagrammers @hattie_van_der_krohn, @lisakisch and @athinakakou. 

I've always been drawn to designs and shapes from the 1930's to the 1950's, but the fifties are my favourite for shapes and fabric designs truth be told. I've never wanted to dress totally period, I prefer to mix it up in a way that suits all of my tastes. It's the fun and flirty shapes of the 1950's that are my favourite.  As a teenager I'd wear full skirts with fitted jackets picked up from secondhand shops (life pre the days of it being called vintage). From fitted wiggle dresses and skirts to colourful little cardigans thrown over the top is my favourite look as I've got older, but I do wear a fuller frock for those days I feel a bit girly. 

A few years back when my girls were younger I slowly put on weight. Not a lot, but enough to make me not want to draw attention to my waist and tummy as I felt self-conscious about it. I still wore things I made and liked, but not 100% liked or felt totally relaxed and confident in.  I never changed my love of wearing vintage and colourful printed clothes even when I stood in the playground. I guess what I'm saying is that I didn't try to fit in by not standing out. In my early thirties I'd realised finally that the horrible feeling of sadness I'd always had of not fitting in was not such an issue. I was always going to be on the outside because I'm not afraid to voice my opinions and just be me rather than try to fit in with the crowd. Therefore, it was much better to just carry on as I was and be happy with it. Funny how that change of mindset can liberate so much. Like a lot of other people I have had periods of complete lows, but truthfully these were caused more by my sense of inner self than any concern about my outer self, so I suppose I am fairly body positive. However, it took me a long time to feel secure in any sense that I was worth liking as a person. That's all I'll say on that subject though. 

So then we jump forward to 2015 and I had a body shape I didn't feel self-conscious about and I felt good in myself. That's when my wardrobe truly took off and I started filling it with clothes that I really wanted to wear.

Now the fabulous pattern that is starting to fill up my closet as I make more versions of it is the Rita Blouse from Charm Patterns created by the hugely talented Gretchen Hirst. I do use a lot of her patterns as they absolutely nail the shapes I'm most drawn to.

Funnily, I had been searching for this exact shape in a pattern but had drawn a blank and then Gertie announced she was launching the pattern for Rita. I was thrilled as I always start off with a shape I want rather than seeing a pattern first and being inspired.  

When the pattern was launched I downloaded the Pdf version rather than wait for it to be posted from the States. Sewing needed to start quickly. I chose to make it in the pink gingham in my first picture and now here's the best part, the pattern had a range of cup sizes up to a DD. Now I'm a 34 FF so narrow underbust but a few dress sizes up in the boobage. As it's gathered around the bust and then fitted in the panels underneath I was able to easily choose the size pattern that would fit me best with no alterations here. The only alteration I had to make was in the length of the bottom part, which I didn't do in my first top. 

It's an absolute dream of a pattern to make up, uses very little cloth which means some of the smaller bits of vintage cloth I have work very well with it and it feels wonderful to wear.

After making six of these tops I thought hmm, this would make a beautiful frock. I could see it with a full skirt as well as a fitted skirt. In my stash I had this gorgeous stretch cotton sateen which was perfect for a fitted frock so the fabric led the way.

The only changes to the pattern I had to make were on the blouse panels. I marked where my waistline is (which is slightly lower than on the pattern markings) and then I added 1.5cm for seams to attach the top to the skirt. I traced off a new pattern for the dress and searched for a pencil skirt pattern I already had.

My next thought was how am I actually going to get into the frock as I didn't want to have a zip all the way to the top which would alter the lovely line of gathering at the back neckline. 

I decided to put the zip a few inches down from the back neckline and drafted a placket to make it neat inside. To get into it with the zip open I simply step in through the stretchy neck and then zip up. It worked perfectly so I was thrilled.

I don't have any other photos of me wearing the finished dress as it was a bit tricky trying to balance a selfie stick so I could get a full shot when I was alone in the house. No able photographers were on hand that day. 

I wore the dress on Sunday evening and I'll be able to wear it for our Lindy Hop dance lessons too as there's enough room for movement in that skirt. 
It's so comfortable, which is a huge plus for me. I hate feeling like I'm wearing my clothes, you know too tight and you end up thinking I can't wait to get this darned thing off.

I'm beyond pleased with my finished frock and for me this one sums up what the #smyly2018 challenge is all about that sewing makes you love yourself. Well more precisely it made me feel good about myself, wearing something I made in a shape I wanted to wear. 

There will definitely be more of these frocks. I'm already thinking of a summery floral cotton with a full skirt as my next one. 

Monday, 18 September 2017

New convert to the Overall

Before I continue with my sewing catchup I thought I'd share with you my latest and most exciting make, one that I've worn every day since I finished the stitchery.  I'd seen various instagrammer and blog sewers sporting their versions of The Wearing History Overalls and loved them instantly. I queried am I too old, will I look an idiot, will I feel like an idiot wearing them? That's the problem with the memory I have of my cousin and her boyfriend in matching 1970's brown cord dungarees, they totally put me off one piece trouser anything, but I'm being won over. I thought these fit my love of the 1940's as Lauren has taken them from an original pattern of the period and updated it. I also fell for the fact that they show off your figure and have that gorgeous heart shaped front bodice. 

So I knew I had to have a pair and pressed buy on the digital download button. That way I had the pattern instantly to use, well after cutting and taping of course. As soon as I'd bought them, we all got struck down with the Novovirus so we had to write off the last week of the summer holidays totally. The first week back to school for Millie and for Rosey starting Sixth form was super busy and then finally I had my moment. I made my pattern up and then my lovely man gave me the money to buy the denim.

I was even most well behaved and washed the cloth first. I know you should do this each and every time, but I'm sometimes impatient and just get on with the whole making process.

Then I did something I never ever do. I actually made a Toile. Most definitely not a wearable toile because there's no way I'm going out in public in thin see through floral bedsheet overalls. 
Making the Toile helped me check lots of fitting issues I thought I might have being as I'm 6ft with a longish torso and my bust is a few dress sizes up on my body. I knew I'd have to lengthen the legs but actually this was only by a smidgen, the rise definitely needed lengthening as they were a bit high in the crotch and the straps needed lengthening slightly. Everything else fitted well so all good there I thought.

Once I'd made the Overalls up in the stretch denim I'd chosen I did have to do a few more alterations as this cloth handles very differently to thin cotton. As I wanted a fitted shape at the bust and waist I took in the underbust darts another inch on both. That meant I had to unpick the waistband I'd so neatly topstitched in place so I could move that along too. I'm so glad I did because I got the look I was after once all that was done.

To neatly edge top of the front and back bodice I made up some bias binding from the denim and that rolled along nicely by mitrering into each of the V points

I'm amazed by how straightforward these were to make as they look quite complicated, but don't let that put you off. I cut the pattern out the night before, had a bit of late night sewing and then finished them the next day. Luckily my mum was coming over for lunch so I asked her to buy me the buttons I'd totally forgotten to get. 

That was on Friday and first thing on Saturday I popped them on. From the moment I wore them I felt utterly comfortable and good in how they looked.  

I love the big button design over a placket to do them up, but when I needed a wee they certainly weren't quick to get out of, so best to get there before I'm desperately hopping from foot to foot, A friend put a zip in hers for this reason and I think if I make another pair then thats what I'll do too. 

The other super cute part of this pattern are the wide straps that cross over at the back. 

I wore them first over a 1950's blouse I'd made, then a t-shirt, but both with different cardi's for warmth and then in the evening opted for wearing them on their own which gives a nice bit of cleavage to make them a tiny bit more dressy. They look great with converse, brogues and boots too so they're really easy to mix and match.

Have you guessed that I'm really in love with this make. 

Overalls - Wearing History Pack B size 20 
2.5m stretch denim and Six buttons.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Sew Hello

Right O', I'm jumping back on this here blog again. 

I've missed writing in my little space to talk. Ever since all of the changes of the past few years I just lost my blogging mojo and with this life changing so has the focus of what I want to chat about and show you.  I'm still as creative as ever, probably far more so, but the focus has switched very much to my dressmaking adventures and that's what I'll be focusing on here from now on, along with all the usual chat about stuff in general.

Over the past two, nearly three years since being made redundant from education I've had the luxury of more time to sew and I've been using that time most productively. You could almost say bordering on obsessive. What I would give to have an endless supply of all the fabrics and patterns I'd like to work with. But hey ho, patience Lisa, you'll get to them one day. So I've been busily stitching away for myself, for my loved ones and for my lovely customers. 

I've decided the best start would be to show you many of the clothes I've completed since I last posted and then I will start writing in more detail about just one thing. That's my plan. I've five posts all ready and waiting to go. Steadily, one at a time.

      The Celine Bodice and Sophia Skirt from Boundless Style by Kristiann Boos at Victory  

My first frock is a late winter make from earlier this year in a soft tartan.
The patterns in this book are downloaded from a CD ready to print so there is the cutting and sticking element involved. I've bought quite a few digital patterns now from New Zealand and American designers rather then wait an age for the postage and after the first few it doesn't feel like too much of a chore putting all those pieces of paper together. If you're impatient like me to get your hands on a pattern then I think it's a blooming marvellous invention. 

The book is split into sections for a choice of bodices, sleeves and skirts so you have the freedom to choose how you'll put your frock shapes together. To be honest I mix and match patterns hacking them together all the time these days. Often I don't like the skirt in the pattern, just the featured bodice so it means I can get exactly the shape I want.

The darts on the Celine bodice and the Sophia skirt are one of my favourite features in this frock. The bust darts radiate out from the keyhole and the skirt darts follow this same angle. This bust dart feature means I don't have to do a Full Bust Adjustment which is normally essential having a upper bust which is two sizes down from my actual boobage. I've still not worn this frock, although I love it. It got put away on the WIP pile as I need to bring the zip in as it's a bit too big then hopefully it will get plenty of outings this season.

My next make was a request from Millie for trousers for her GCSE Textiles trip to the Cambridge Botanical Gardens.

She described the shape she was after, then we went fabric shopping and she chose a lightweight jersey which has a lovely drape to it. 

We drafted up a pattern taking into account the fact that as we're all tall it's not just about lengthening the legs, but the front and back rise too.

This was all a bit last minute so I ended up sewing it up on Mother's Day for her to wear the next day.  Luckily they worked out exactly as she had planned in her mind and she was thrilled with them.

Unbeknown to Millie I was working on a couple of makes for her upcoming 15th birthday at the same time. She'd said she loved the Mary Dress when she saw it in a magazine and as she likes completely different fabric patterns to me I knew I would be safe with the choice of a black and white frock for her.

I opted for solid fabric sleeves for her version and lengthened the arms while I was at it. 
This was a beautiful dress to make in a lightweight wool, the only difficult part was the curved yoke on the bodice which meant lots of pinning and slow and steady stitching to get it laying perfectly.

She's worn this a few times already as she loved it.

I also made her a blouse in a flamingo print rayon. I'd made this pattern up for myself and as she had loved the shape I knew it would be another suprise winner.

I made mine up in a vintage fabric using a 1970's pattern I found in the charity shop. I altered the sleeves from floaty balloons to cap sleeves which suit me far more. I think it has more of a 1930's shape now which I far prefer.

Shirt making for my love still continues. This is the last shirt he requested in a plain black and now he would like a black waistcoat to go with it. I've made him a waistcoat already which I'll show you in my upcoming posts.

My final two makes for today are a blouse and a frock from the same pattern in Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. I absolutely love Gretschen Hirst's designs. She totally nails it with vintage style and fun in my opinion.

I'd been searching high and low for a pattern for a blouse with a rever collar. I tried a few, but they didn't work out how I hoped, then I saw this one in my much thumbed book. Not sure why I'd missed it before, but luckily I spotted it in the end.

I love clothes that are figure hugging and fit with my love of vintage styles from the 30's to the 60's. For this blouse I used a contemporary anchor print fabric that I'd bought to make a man's shirt. Instead it became a lady blouse. 

Sailor Blouse - Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

This pattern is created from a dress bodice with the additions of a peplum and a lot of button loops to the front. I wish I'd mentioned it to my costumier pal beforehand as she gave me a great tip afterwards for making sure they don't slip and slide when sewing them all in place. Hey ho, I know for next time, if there is one.

As I loved the shape of the bodice so much I decided to make the full blown frock up too. 
I didn't buy any fabric specifically for this, I just used some charity shop cloth that had been hiding in my cupboard a while.

This dress has some really interesting features, piping on the sleeves, a waist stay which I'd not sewn before and the fabulous front zip which makes me feel all retro naughty nurse.

Zip Front Dress - Gertie Sews Vintage Casual

This is a great shape and fabulous to wear, but the fabric puts me off slightly so I guess I'll be making this one up again in something cheerier. That's after the long list of other makes I already have in my head.

I've so many other projects to share with you before I'm all caught up and then I plan to start talking in more detail about each of the projects I'm working on if you'd be interested.

Until then. Tatty bye.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Vintage Cloth Lover .... that's Me

Has it really been that long since I last visited blogland? 
It's now silly o'clock past midnight and I just got the overwhelming urge to write a post, as you do when you're a night owl like me.

My first news is very sad. Last week our dear Alfie Blue died. Back in the days when I blogged regularly, and we lived another life in the countryside,  he featured a lot in my posts with his funny loving ways. You may remember that he came and lived with the girls and I when we moved briefly to my mum's,  after selling our family home. Eventually we had to hand him back to his master and only saw him a couple of times after that. We had to accept that we had lost a lot and so we had to move on,  but hidden away in our hearts where it didn't hurt so much we missed him terribly. I was told he had died by my ex in a very short text so I don't know all the facts, but I do know he was loved incredibly by him and that's as it should be for a sweet kind soul such as our Alfie was.

Now to try and lift the mood I thought you might like to see what I've been stitching of late and to hear about some of my adventures. 

Well most recently, last weekend in fact, whilst my love was having a wonderful history trip time in Ypres with his dad and brothers there was a vintage fabric fair in Felistowe. The Festival of Fabric (run by Amanda Bowden of the Felixstowe School of Sewing) was something I'd been looking forward to for a while. When the time came I was utterly skint. My lovely man made sure I didn't miss the fabric fix I needed though by giving me enough pennies to do a bit of damage so like Cinderella we got dressed in our finest and off we went.

We walked into a hall of delights. Two of my favourite dealers were there, one who's a friend, so we had a good catch up too. Another lady I'd never met before, Vee for Vintage was selling the most ooh and aah cloth. I could have bankrupted us with her fabric, but restrained myself by buying these four.
I also treated myself to a beautiful wool felt brooch made by Lucy of 1940's Style for You who knits the most amazing vintage pieces, makes frocks and sells CC41 shoes, hats and dresses too.

Then we came upon The Vintage Pattern Shop. Good lordy too much delectable choice here. All the patterns have been reproduced onto strong paper with instructions which makes using these a lot less mind boggling than those with no instructions or even a clue which piece is which. 

We had a really interesting chat with Sonny, whose business it is,  about studying fashion, design and well you know all the stuff that dressmaking cloth addicts like.

Now that was on Sunday and that evening my love came home. We spent the next day together and as I do prefer him to fabric and sewing, I waited until the next day to get stitching the idea I already had in my head. 

Using the free pattern from Sew magazine (New Look K6447) and one of the pair of Fotheringay curtains I'd bought on Sunday, I got a cutting and a stitching. 

I can't believe I finished this frock in one day. Head down, no distractions and I was off.

To line the bodice I used a jewel bright purple cotton I found in my cloth cupboard. I love the surprise of seeing it there.

The frock had it's first outing the next evening when we went to see The Viceroy's House as a free preview, followed by dinner. It also scrubbed up well to take me for drinks with a friend at The Gin Palace on the Friday too. All in a frock that cost me £15 to make and is already earning its keep. 

Two days later, while Doris beat the hell out of the outdoors world and after I'd finished a few orders, I squeezed a bit more me sewing time in. This time I had a whirl with the Anna Dress from By Hand London. This comes as a Pdf so it's fun and games jigsawing the pattern together before you get to work on the exciting bit. Thankfully it's a really simple and quick make once that's done.

I chose the subtle barkcloth for this frock that I'd also bought on the Sunday. Even though there's a lot of this cloth, I didn't want to waste it pattern matching as I plan to make some bags from it too. 

I'm not sure if this was the right choice, although my Millie assures me it was.

 No photo wearing it as yet as it still needs the zip stitching in.

Finishing off a truly cloth and frock related week, a pal and I, who I've know since art college days, went to the Costume & Textile Association's free talk on the New Look. Boy that was interesting and has made me want to join their group too so I can go and look at the archives of amazing fashions they hold.

When I got home I started on one of the vintage patterns I'd bought on Sunday. I need to mention at this point that I'm not always industrious like this. In fact I haven't sewn this much in ages, just some weeks I guess you get the fire in your belly and I had the time. 

I chose to make the version with the tie and it needs a lot of cloth. Often with patterns I find myself choosing what I have in my stash that fits the amount needed. This cloth was gifted to me by a dressmaker friend after it was given it to her by a lady in her WI group. She also gave me another stunning 1950's piece that I haven't dared cut into yet.

As I didn't have enough to make the bias binding for the neckline and sleeves I bought some ready made black binding. I was also debating whether to make the ties in black. That's why this chunk of blackncloth (which is destined to become a man's shirt) is wound around the waist, I'm planning on it looking far more flattering than this and have decided I need to use the same fabric.

Now I think I'll end this post here for two reasons. One, I think any more and you'd be nodding off and two,'s 2am so I really should be nodding off. 

I hope and aim to be back shortly as I've lots to share if you don't mind.

Ta ta for now.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

My dressmaking year part 2

Now to reveal the other bits and pieces I've been whipping up this year.
Trousers, tops, accessories and a man shirt or two.

Many years ago I had to make trousers if I wanted any that were long enough for my 6ft self. Suddenly the shops figured out that tall women existed and hooray suddenly you could buy in lengths of 34" and even 36". Sometimes they're too long for me which is a very strange feeling indeed. I've never bought shirts for the same reason as the sleeves are woefully short.

Now I've always loved capri trousers. Shop bought capri trousers come up as pedal pushers on me (I might be exaggerating slightly here). Now there is far more choice in length, but not always in the print I want. I ordered the Sew Over It London Ultimate Trousers pattern for a quick and easy make. I loved everything about this style apart from the fact that the waistband skims the bellybutton. I felt as if the trousers were falling down all the time so I drafted a deep side fastening waistband to match the side trouser zip. The other plus of high waistbands is I can wear shorter tops without that bit of pink belly popping out.

My mum loves this style too so I've been making her a plain pair to wear, but she doesn't need them lengthening as she's far shorter than me. 

This is my most favourite, most worn top that I made this summer. It's from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. As with most of her patterns you have to modify another shape to create your chosen one, but that's fine as I get more and more confident with this dressmaking lark.

Sewing with jersey is an acquired taste and can make you curse a lot. According to my daughter's I swear a hell of lot while I'm sewing anyway so what's a few more expletives thrown into the mix. When I popped off to our local fabric emporium I swooned when I saw this cloud print. 

Then I spied gold skulls too. Equally gorgeous, but not as loved as my bright blue sky and clouds top.

A dressmaker whose style and makes I love on instagram is Back to Blighty. She posted a picture of a simple, but sweet summer top she'd made which I immediately wanted to make. Simplicity 1467 includes a great jacket too which I plan to make at some point.

I had some white cotton with a subtle feather print hanging about so that was the first top I made in this pattern. 

Wanting to make another more colourful one I found the fabric guided me. I had a small amount of vintage fabric from Pomme de Jour. An edge strip from a bed cover I think. It was just enough to cut the front as two separate pieces with enough for stitching and careful pattern matching so the join wasn't too obvious. With just enough left to make the neck yokes I added plain green cotton to the back and I kind of think it works.

I bought some gorgeous 1950's blue rose cotton from Donna Flower early in the year thinking I'd make it into a skirt. Then I came across Butterick 6217 designed by Gretschen Hirst and it seemed the perfect pairing of cloth and pattern.

I have to admit to having never worn this top. I throughly loved making it, think it looks great, but everyone time I put it on I think No, not right. No matter, sometimes it's the joy of the making and the extra skills picked up along the way.

My most loved designs for clothes come from the 1930's through to the 1960's. I adore the bias cut shapes of the 30's, 40's feminine tailoring, the flirty fun of the 50's to the zinginess and simple shapes of the 60's. I've always dressed in vintage clothes and those with a vintage twist. Although I've never been one to favour the full look, I just prefer to mix it all up in the way that I want to wear it. 

The top above is a 1960 Vintage Vogue pattern 9187. It looks like a simply constructed shell top, but it was actually quite a fiddly little devil as was finding a bottom opening zip for it.

One of my other most worn and favourite shapes is this top of which I have a few. It's a pattern hack from a dress pattern into a shape that I wanted to wear. Easy to layer over long sleeve tee's, dress up or down with cut off jeans for fun days at the beach.

Having really enjoyed making up the Arielle skirt I printed off the pdf version of Tilly and the Buttons shirt Orla. I personally find pdf patterns a pain, all that joining up of pieces before you can even draw the pattern. It's another preparation job to add to the list before I can get on with the fun bit of actually sewing, but if that's how some patterns come then so be it.

I made this one up for Valentine's, you know red hearts and all. What I love most about this top is the petal like collar and the lacy exposed back neck zip. It's simply a fun and sweet design.

Now we're moving briefly into the world of man makes. I've made three fitted shirt for my love so far. The first one was ok, but was a sod of a pattern. Then I searched for another and found Burda 6931 which is a dream to sew up once I'd got my head around the difference of man shapes.

He likes skulls and wears some great silver skull rings so I thought he might like this cloth whipped into a shirt. 

Well he was really pleased with it and so was I as it fits perfectly. That inspired me to get on with making another one in a cloth I'd chosen with him in mind. This one I made in record time once I had the pattern firmly in my mind. In fact all ready to wear on a night out with me in my newly finished dress too so we were a handmade pair.

Sometimes I get the urge to make an accessory or two to pzazz up an outfit. 

Scarves occasionally.

But, more often a brooch. I tend to wear a brooch with every outfit so I can never have enough. My favourite are kitsch plastic ones which are jolly hard to sew and felt ones that are far easy to get a needle and thread through.

This floral posy is my most worn, all time favourite which I made from vintage felt. How I wish they made felt with this stronger texture and in these richer colours.

This is it for now for my makes of 2016 so far, but I do have a few more pieces cut out waiting to hit the sewing machine. I warned you it has become obsessional.