Thursday, 21 August 2014

Cheers! The Champagne Skirt by Capital Chic





A short while ago, Sally from Charity Shop Chic launched a collection of patterns under her label Capital Chic. If you follow Sally's blog, you'll know that she's all about re-creating high fashion, sophisticated looks on a budget, and this ethos is carried through into her pattern collection. These are minimal, grown-up pieces which would work well in the office, or take you through to drinks in the evening.

I'm lucky enough to know Sally, and she was kind enough to offer me a free download to try out. I jumped at the chance to try out the Champagne Skirt:


Sally in the Champagne skirt - she does all her own modelling!

It's a pencil skirt, and it has frills - what isn't there to like!? I decided this would be a perfect work skirt for me.

Out came the scissors and tape - all of Capital Chic's patterns are PDF downloads - and I quickly put it all together. I've only ever used 1 PDF pattern before, and the download of that didn't go well (wrong size, etc), but this was a breeze. Sally has obviously put loads of work into making sure the assembly of the pattern is as pain-free as possible. There are lots of little numbers and letters in strategic places to help you match everything up, and nice clear cutting diagrams.

Enough of my waffling - here's my version:










I'm much more curvaceous than Sally, so the skirt is more figure hugging than in the website photo. I used a stretch sateen, meaning it could be tight without being uncomfortable, and lined it with a rose polyester. This is a size 14, which works well, though the wrinkles across the front are bothering me - either I need to add a bit of room across the hips in future versions, or I've just forgotten how to stand! Also, this fabric does tend to show every wrinkle, despite being black.


Back view
It's a pretty straight forward project, and only really took about a day of sewing to complete (probably less if you don't get distracted easily like I do). The instructions are clear, with excellent diagrams - check out this iron!:


Sally explains all the steps clearly and simply - I think a beginner could follow them easily - but of course I went rogue and used some of my own techniques. First,before I attached the frill to the skirt, I stitched it to it's lining, right sides facing. After trimming and clipping the seam I then turned the pieces right side out and under stitched the seam allowance towards the inside to give the hem a crisp finish. 

That probably sounds like gobbledygook, so here's a picture to help you understand:


The finished frill, with seam allowance under stitched to the inside. 
Then I attached the frill to the skirt, sandwiched between the lining and the body of the skirt; this seam was also under stitched.



I've worn this skirt to work several times already, and even had a few complements on it - this is definitely one I'd make again. Well done, Sally!


But don't just take my word for it - visit Capital Chic for yourself!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Minerva Bloggers Network - the Russian Dolls Blouse

For this month's Minerva project, I decided on something small and sweet, namely McCall's 6020, version C.

Version C in white (top)
On the recent Minerva meet-up, I admired all of the cute little prints they had in stock, particularly this one:


And so I turned it into this:



The blouse was pretty simple to put together, with a some bust darts and little tucks at the waist, front and back, for shaping. The trickiest part was the unusual front closure, which called for lots of clipping to produce these crisp right angles:





The sleeves went in really well - the fabric has a tiny bit of natural stretch, so they eased in without the usual puckering and gathering:


I used a catch-stitch to hold the sleeve hem in pace - you can just see a few of the stitches in the picture above.

I can already tell that there's going to be one thing that will drive me mad when I wear this blouse - the collar. The design pretty much relies on interfacing and gravity for it to stay in place, but of course as you move, it moves. I just know I'm going to be fiddling with it constantly!


But on the whole I'm pleased with how flattering this design is - it makes my waist looks freakily small in these pictures!


To finish, I added 3 little red buttons:


And that's it! Just in time for a short break I've got planned in Budapest at the end of the  month, where there are Russian Dolls everywhere you look (don't know why...)

See you soon!




Saturday, 26 July 2014

Summertime Shift

It's scorchingly hot here in London at the moment, and I'm terrible at dealing with it. All of my clothes feel too heavy and restrictive. This weather calls for something light and less fitted, something like this:

Vogue 7372, 1960's.
I love how the girl in the beret looks impatient, like she's thinking 'Hurry up , b****es, I've got my driving gloves on so I can drive to Paris in my E-type and steal a painting with Peter O'Toole'

The envelope drawings look pretty structured, and the instructions recommend it to be underlined for stability, but I decided to skip this or it would have been too heavy. 

And here it is:



I used a navy cotton I picked up on a recent diversion to Abakhan's with Katie of What Katie Sews. It's super light without being see-through, and is even a little stretchy on the weft. Best of all, it's sprinkled all over with little apples:


The dress appears pretty straightforward, but being a Vogue Pattern, and therefore aiming to emulate high-end designers, there's more to it than your average shift. Where other dresses would have stuck with a couple of darts here and there, this dress has princess seams front and back, pockets in the seams, tiny little bust darts, and a side zip. There's also a tricky button placket which was a pain to do, but I got there in the end:


And I love the apples so much I even made covered buttons emblazoned with them:

From this...

...to this!
I cut the pattern as is, without any adjustments - the fit seems fine:

This is me doing a 60's model pose
A few construction details-

French seams are my preferred method for finishing seams, but that was never going to work with the curves of these princess seams. Instead, I stitched them as plain seams, finished them with a 3-step zig-zag, then top stitched them close to the seam so they would lie flat:

Inside view of seams

Top stitching detail, with a bar tack at the base of the pocket.
It was a bit of a squeeze fitting the whole dress into the fabric I had - I bought it without knowing I was making this dress - so I had to save space by making half of the pocket with some scraps of red lining fabric:

Pocket detail


And finally the hems - I turned under the raw edge about 4 mm, machined this, then attached the hem to the body of the dress with a catch stitch:



And that's pretty much it!




Have fun in the sun, and see you soon!


Thursday, 10 July 2014

Minerva Bloggers Network - Burda 7210 Bomber Jacket

Hello! This month's Minerva project is yet another jacket (I think this is my 3rd - there seems to be a pattern developing......) I'm a bit late with the bomber jacket trend, but that's what I decided to tackle this month, with the help of this Burda pattern:

Burda 7210 - I made version A
Before I started this project, I spent ages and ages measuring and thinking and observing and comparing, and it definitely paid off. The picture on the packet I felt looked a bit baggy and masculine, which I didn't want. I measured side seams on the body and the arms, as well as the bust and compared it to some jackets I already had. This paid off in that I ended up cutting a size 38, which is 2 sizes smaller than the size recommended on the packet, and it fit just fine. I also shortened the body and the sleeves by 1 1/2", using the 'shorten/lengthen here' lines:

A bodice and sleeve pattern shortened along the 'shorten here' line - I think this is the first time I've ever used this line!
And here's the result:







I used a lovely stretch cotton sateen from Minerva, which makes the jacket just that little bit dressier than a plain cotton drill. It's much shorter and neater fitting than the original, which is what I was aiming for. 

Even though it appears to be a pretty simple little jacket, I tackled several new techniques in this project which I had previously been uncomfortable with. First up - WELT POCKETS!!!!

Welt pocket win!
I consider myself a pretty good sewist, but I've always had an irrational fear of cutting into the middle of an expanse of fabric, and so I've always avoided welt pockets, bound button holes, exposed zips, etc. But I got over that fear recently with some exposed zip success, and decided welt pockets would be the next logical step. I did some practice runs, some of which went horribly wrong - wrong side out, upside down, and so on. But I eventually got there and then completed the pocket you see above. And what's more, these aren't even part of the original pattern - you're meant to have zipped pockets, but I felt welt pockets were more attractive.

Next, ribbing:
Cuff ribbing
Neck ribbing
I've never used this ready made ribbing from Prym - it's great! For the waistband piece, I just cut the length supplied in half, and there was a pattern for the neck shape so you get that slopey, angled neck shape you see on all bomber jackets.

And of course, here's the bit where I added loads of extra steps and made life difficult for myself. The pattern doesn't call for lining, but that was never going to do for me! Using the neck area of the original jacket pattern, I drafted my own jacket facings, which looked like this:

Front facing (left) and back facing (right)
For the body of the lining I used a rose coloured polyester, and it all looked like this:



I'm pleased with the result, but figuring out how to put it all together gave me a massive headache. I finally worked out that you had to sew the sleeves together at the cuff in a weird tube format, then the waist and neck, and finally pull it all through and sew in the zip. It all looked an absolute mess and I was convinced it wouldn't work, so photos were the last thing on my mind - you'll have to take my word for it!




And that's it! If you like anything you see, be sure to stop by Minerva and check it all out.

See you soon!

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Mega Minerva Meet-up

If you look at any sewing blogs, you would have noticed a number of us talking about the big Minerva Crafts meet-up, which happened last weekend (14th of June).




And what a weekend it was! I'm still smiling and laughing to myself whenever I think back to all the great times I had in Darwen with all these beautiful, talented bloggers and the generous team at Minerva.

I set out at an uncivilized hour - 5.30 am!! - from chez Needles in order to get the train to Darwen, where Minerva is based, just an hour or so outside Manchester. Luckily, I had some company on the way - Clare Sew Dixie Lou, Crafty Ali Bobs, Emmy Oh Sew Vintage, and Sally Charity Shop Chic:


Emmy and Clare - are we there yet?
After a few hours travelling we arrived in beautiful Darwen. Since Minerva is spitting distance from the station, we jumped straight in. I knew that Minerva was one of the web's largest retailers, but the reality of it took me by surprise - it's a huge, crafty barn!








They really do have everything you'd need for sewing, knitting, embroidery, and most every other craft you can think of. I even saw some latch hook rug kits, which brought back memories of an unfinished one I started in the 80's. Throughout the day there were workshops; talks from By Hand London and Karen of Did You Make That? among others; prizes and demonstrations. (I managed to win a Terry's chocolate orange, which I'm saving for a special occasion). And there was time for just hanging-out with our fellow Minerva bloggers, as well as meeting those who had been following us and our projects on the bloggers network.


Emmy discovering the joy of covered buttons








The humongous warehouse next door








 Vicki and the rest of the Minerva team put on such a great event for us, but that wasn't all they had in store for us. All of this was a build up to the evening event, where we would be revealing our dresses which we'd been working on for the previous weeks. Enough of my rambling, I'll let the photos do the talking:


Just a small selection of the ladies who attended
Our venue for the evening - Ewood Park, home of Blackburn Rovers!



Pre-dinner drinks and mingling - still pretty civilised at this stage...
Sequin sisters - Vicki and Emmy

After dinner dancing! Non-stop great tunes courtesy of DJ Paul





As is the way when you have a number of Spoolettes in attendance, we managed to squeeze in pre-pre dinner drinks, where we had an opportunity to get a good look at each others creations:


Rehannon and Clare


Sally (just seen), Marie, and Ali
Emmy and Sally


Emmy and her gorgeous sequinned dress - the patience she must have had...



Kathryn in her 'Rachel' pose


Emmy, me, and Clare, also attempting some 'Rachel' poses


Me, Katie and Kathryn
(photos above courtesy of Emmie Oh Sew Vintage, What Katie Sews, and me)

What I love about these ladies and their outfits is that they all look absolutely brilliant and completely different. Everyone interpreted the idea of 'evening' in their own way, from jumpsuits to pencil skirts, florals to abstract, and a sprinkling of sequins. We even had a dress inspired by one worn by Cher in 'Mermaids'! (I'm looking at you Rehanon!)There was no real theme or one type of shape, unless you count looking fabulous as a theme.

Mine was inspired by the mambo scene in 'West Side Story', so that meant ruffles would be included. I also wanted some bare shoulders, but not strapless, so I used the Sewaholic Lonsdale as the top. I adapted my pencil skirt block into a wraparound, with a curved front edge at the front. This was all topped off with a curved skirt frill at the back, and an extra curved piece for the front. If this doesn't make sense, here are some photos to make it clearer:


I used the top from the pattern on the left, but with a pencil skirt. Then I added the frill from the skirt on the right. I also changed the bodice to a side zip. so the back wasn't disrupted with a seam. 


The skirt is a wraparound attached at the waistband - so 1 back piece and 2 overlapping front pieces. The front was edged with this spiral piece, which I drafted free-hand. This tight spiral meant that when it was added to the skirt it was super-frilly.


And because I'm super fussy about the insides of my projects, everything was lined, the skirts and frills were self-lined, ie a double layer sewn right sides together and turned inside out, and there was an extra piece of lining gathered under the skirt to give it some extra 'oomph'
And one final detail - I decided at the last minute to add some spiral boning to the side seams of the bodice, to make sure the top half of the dress stayed in place all night. I sewed little channels into the side seams and slid the bones in, then tacked them closed so they can be removed before washing the dress.


The dress was a joy to wear, mainly because the fabric was so comfortable - it was a cotton with a little stretch added, so it could fit closely to the body, but moved with you. Which was totally necessary, especially when dancing to 'Proud Mary' by Ike and Tina Turner - that was like an aerobic workout!

I had a great time hanging out with my fellow bloggers, and finally meeting Vicki and co. was a pleasure. It was such an inspiring experience that as soon as I arrived home I wanted to get sewing straight away. If you can visit Minerva, I urge you to go!

See you soon!