Christmas 2014: Sewn Gifts

Apologies for the complete lack of posts recently; life, and a dodgy internet connection have gotten in the way, but hopefully I’ll be better at posting now.

I’ve split my handmade Christmas gifts into a few posts (all with equally dodgy photos taken too late at night before my mad wrapping session).
This post involves needles, thread, fabric and lots of buttons.

Heart Cut-Out Girls Dress

Heart Cut Out Dress | Pattern . Paint . PanI told my only niece that I’d make her whatever dress she wanted, and this is the (slightly toned down) result! I self drafted a bodice and added a heart cut out at the back, slightly squared off neckline and flutter cap sleeves with a scalloped skirt hem to make a dress that’s wearable for more than dressing up!

Heart Cut Out Dress | Pattern . Paint . PanThe main fabric is a cotton and the skirt and sleeve lining some kind of poly, both from a visit to Tahim’s Drapers in Coventry (online store here), with a scrap of pink cotton from my stash for the bodice lining and hem, and a navy scrap for the waistband and sleeves. I used pearl-ish flower shaped buttons on the full length button placket at the back.

Berkshire Blazer

Velvet Berkshire Blazer | Pattern . Paint . Pan This is my 4th Berkshire, and it’s definitely my favourite yet! However, it’s been over 6 months since I last sewed this pattern and I had totally forgotten how annoying the pattern is. Seams don’t match and there’s so much ease in the sleeve cap. Anyway, I’ll draft my own pattern next time. This is navy cotton velvet from the same trip to Tahim’s Drapers, with navy and white striped polycotton lining and some ancient store bought navy satin bias binding trim. I decided to use the bias binding as I thought it would make the welt pocket easier as it’s so much thinner than using velvet for the welt flaps, and it worked; I think it’s probably my best welt pocket yet. I added the bias binding to the top of the patch pockets and at the sleeve hem too. Velvet Berkshire Blazer | Pattern . Paint . Pan

Campervan Shirt

Campervan Shirt | Pattern . Paint . PanAnother nephew is campervan-crazy and saw this cotton fabric while we were at the Birmingham Rag markets back in the autumn. I didn’t buy it then, but found it again when I visited Tahim’s Drapers. The pattern is a RTW rub-off I made for the first time last Christmas but that still fits now. I tried to make it easier for myself by not having a proper button placket and didn’t add a back yoke or front pocket as I thought they’d just get lost in the print.

Campervan Shirt | Pattern . Paint . PanThe underside/inside of the collar, collar stand and cuff, and the cuff placket is plain blue from some ancient Ikea fabric, and the button placket on both sides and bias hem is a scrap of cream polycotton. I really thought it’d be way too crazy, but I think it’s actually quite cute, and I’m quite happy with all my pattern matching, despite the headaches it gave me at the time!

Personalised T-Shirt

Personalised T-shirt | Pattern . Paint . PanThis was meant to be a super quick make to use up some iron on letters my sister bought years ago, but due to my serger refusing to serge more than 2 layers of fabric, it turned into one of the most rage-inducing projects ever! I nearly chucked out the whole thing since I was pretty sure my sister had totally forgotten about the existence of the iron ons, but I eventually persevered, mainly because I really liked the personalised back yoke. I used grey jersey scraps and a navy t-shirt in my up-cycle box, so essentially this was a free project!

Christmas Pyjamas

Boys Christmas Pyjamas | Pattern . Paint . PanThese weren’t a Christmas present as my sister bought the brushed cotton stag fabric and asked me to make my nephews new pyjamas for Christmas Eve. My guestimating on how much fabric I needed (£3 per metre from Birmingham Rag Market back in the Autumn) meant I needed to add contrasting panels using some dark grey jersey I’d bought to make myself another Lady Skater variant, but I think they actually look better with the stag pattern broken up a bit. I drafted a cross over neck design into the front yoke, and a matching back yoke. I learnt my lesson and serged all my pieces before sewing them together so my serger couldn’t have a sh*t fit. The sleeve hems are finished with self fabric bias tape, and the leg hems are turned up twice and machine stitched. The trousers in the photo are pre-elastic which is why the waist is so straight. Apparently they are the most comfy PJs ever, so that’s a definite win!


Almost Ava Again (and DIY piping cord)

Ava | Pattern . Paint . PanMy last Ava is probably one  of my most worn Me-Mades despite it’s issues because it’s looser fit makes it so comfy and it also seems less dressy than my various Simplicity 2444s. So I thought it was about time I took a break from S2444 and re-tried Ava. This is some cheapo (£2.18/m) floral polycotton and contrast navy polycotton (£3.06/m) from Trago Mills (just for a change!). I still have over 1/2 a metre (of 2m purchased) of the floral and 1/2 of the 0.5m of the navy left, so the dress was £4.83, plus a £0.04 Malaysian zipper from my stash.

Even though the sizing guide gives finished garment measurements, when I measured the actual pattern pieces, I found there was a massive difference, which would explain why my first dress was so loose. Here’s the sizing chart from the pattern:IMG_6424a

However when I measured the pattern pieces and minused the seam allowances (5/8″ or 1.6cm), the finished garment size for the size 12 was 113cm at the chest and 86cm at the waist. What??Ava | Pattern . Paint . PanSo I decided to go down two sizes and make the 8 this time. I also redrew the seam line between the back upper and lower bodice to be a straight line as I think the original curved line kind of emphasises the curve in my spine.Ava | Pattern . Paint . PanI also decided to try my hand at piping, but as it was all a bit of a whim I had to DIY some piping cord by twisting 4 strands of the yarn I’m using on my jumper (yes, it’s still in progress, 1/2 an arm and the hood to go) then using my widest zig-zag stitch to bind them together. I haven’t used piping before so I can’t comment on how it is in comparison, or how it will wash (cheapo acrylic yarn that’s meant to be machine washable at 40), but I like the effect. From a distance the piping matches up either side of the zipper, but up close the bottom line is out by a few mm’s, but not enough that I could be bothered to redo it.Ava | Pattern . Paint . PanI had to re-sew the centre of the ‘v’ between the two front bodice sections because I stupidly thought I could get away with not stay stitching and just pinning loads. It made a nasty, wonky ‘v’, but once I stay-stitched the ‘v’ on both pieces, they came together well are are pretty even. Ava | Pattern . Paint . PanInstead of doubling over my bias binding the neck and arm holes, I used the bias binding as a sort of reverse facing. All the interior seams are serged because I was being too lazy to french them, and the hem is serged, double turned under and machine stitched. I made covers for the top and bottom of the zip to stop any scratching and look nicer!Ava | Pattern . Paint . PanAs you can see in the top zipper cover photo, I ended up having to increase the SA at the top of the bodice by 1.5cm, tapering into the original seam line about 5cm above the waist, as there was still a lot of gape especially if I raised my arms. And I couldn’t be bothered to trim and re-serge the edges obviously.

Altogether, despite how grumpy I look in the photos, I’m pretty happy with this version; it is a better fit, but then I can’t be  fatty and eat too much, and I’m not 100% convinced about the fabric. I think something other than floral should be next…except I have one last piece of floral in my stash to use up.Ava | Pattern . Paint . Pan

Same Same But Different

Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanI think I’m definitely getting my money’s worth with Simplicity 2444. It’s the perfectionist in me wanting to get it as close to right as I can figure out how to. I really thought I’d nailed the chest bagginess this time, but perhaps changing the neckline brought a bit of it back.Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanAfter my last version, I overlapped my adjusted pattern by 1cm at the neckline and added it to the waist darts, before redrawing the neckline to be lower and wider. Now I think it should be a couple of centimetres lower.Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanI also decided to try an all-in-one facing rather than fully lining the bodice for two reasons; 1) I’ve not done any kind of facing before, and 2) I was getting fed up of having to trace, pin and sew 12 darts for every lined bodice. I interfaced and overlocked the facing before attaching to the bodice. I did sew the original pleat skirt but it just wasn’t looking right, so I ripped it off and just gathered it. I did my second blind hem by hand because I felt like doing some hand sewing (that lasted about 15 minutes max).Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanFor some reason, this is the first time I’ve sewn pockets into any of my dresses, which is wrong because pockets are virtually essential.Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanThe fabric is a polycotton I had on my Ebay watch list but then found at Trago Mills for less (£2.18/m) and as a double bonus, I was only charged for 1m of my 2m (I later found out there was a patch about 2cm from one selvedge edge that was mis-printed for about 5cm, so perhaps that was why, but it was small enough not to effect my cutting out). It’s definitely not great quality fabric, but it’s fine for a £2 summer dress. You can’t get a dubiously produced budget high street dress for that!Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . Pan

Pattern Hacking 2444

Hacking Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanI debated whether or not to post this dress, but in the interests of being unbiased and sharing my not-as-successful projects too, here it is (plus the unfortunate sight of me without makeup).

I’d been interested in having a go at rotating bodice darts, and seeing as Simplicity 2444 was the closest, well fitting pattern to me at that precise point when motivation struck, that was my base. However, it presented problems due to the original dart positions, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure if what I did a) was correct or b) would work. I didn’t take photos of my steps as I went, but this is what I did to produce 2 darts that both point towards the bust point (as opposed to the 2 diagonal darts, neither of which point exactly to my bust point):

  1. Found the bust point by trying on my white & blue S2444 and then marking this point on my pattern copy.
  2. Mark the middle of each of the original darts at the bodice bottom.
  3. Draw a line between this middle point and the bust point. Repeat for 2nd dart.
  4. Measure 2cm down from the bust point to mark the dart apex point.
  5. Draw lines between the dart apex point and the original ends of each dart leg on the bodice bottom. (Think how clever you are and how you’ll never have to buy another pattern ever again).

I then rotated one dart to be a waist dart with a vertical central line and the other to be a bust dart with a horizontal central line.   Hacking Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanBut then, after all that faffing around, I chose to use some gingham fabric that has a bit of stretch to it, so in the end, I can’t really tell exactly how well my alterations have worked. Fool.

I bought this brown and cream gingham fabric from a fabric shop on Ebay and I’m pretty sure they mistyped the price, as when I purchased it, it was £0.99/m with free P&P. To be fair, I did wait a few days to see if they noticed and changed the price, but then saw that other people had bought some so thought I might as well and could just use it as a muslin. It was advertised as a brushed cotton, but I’m not convinced at all. On the plus side, it’s quite thick so no see-through-ness is going on. The stretch did give me a bit of trouble with pattern matching in a few places, but I was also pleasantly surprised as most of it does match up (although some of my top stitching leaves a lot to be desired).Hacking Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanI also drafted a peter pan type collar and a-line, curved hem skirt, both finished with a binding, and a faux placket that I haven’t got around to adding buttons to. As the fabric was so stretchy, I didn’t need to add any fastenings, however when I cut out my pieces, I forgot to minus the centre back seam allowance before I cut it on the fold, which also doesn’t help me see how my alterations fit!Hacking Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanI think in a different fabric, it could be wayyyy better, but in this I kind of feel like a dinner lady or a cleaner. It’s been worn around the house a few times because it is comfy and a decent length, but I’m not convinced it’ll ever be worn in public! However, I have another dart hacked 2444 peplum pattern drafted, but it also involves stripe matching and so far is proving to require too much brain power to cut the fabric. Sometime soon!Hacking Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . Pan

A Tale of Simplicity 2444, Part 4

Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanIf you were wondering if I was ever going to sew a pattern as it had been designed, this is the dress. I finally got around to altering the bodice pattern to get rid of the upper chest bagginess, and the skirt is shorter than drafted, but other than that, this is the real Simplicity 2444.Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanPinching out the excess fabric at the neckline of my blue floral 2444 showed me I needed to remove about 4cm, or 2cm from each half of the bodice. I followed the info in this post from Bernie and I to remove the excess as follows on both the front and back:Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanThe fabric is upcycled from a hand-sewn thick cotton sheet I got at a charity shop for £3.50 a few months ago and the lining is once again polycotton from the Remnant House in Bude. Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanI decided to push the boat out and hand stitch an invisible hem (my first) and I’m pretty impressed with how invisible the stitches are. Maybe I should have french seamed things, but the overlocker won out for speed. The OCD part of me is really annoyed that the bodice darts and skirt pleats don’t match up. When I remake the skirt then I’ll alter it so they do, and also see if I can make that centre pleat lie better as this version sticks out a bit on the left.
Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanI drafted a simple a-line skirt for the skirt lining, which due to my lack of fabric (seriously, I need to learn to buy more than 1m of lining fabric) is a tiny bit tighter than I’d like, but still wearable. Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . Pan I think my upper bodice adjustment worked well, although I will take out another 2cm (1cm each side) next time as there’s still a little excess fabric. I do love this dress, but it’s just so white, I’m not sure it’ll get as much use as I want it to!Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . Pan

A Tale of Simplicity 2444, Part 3

Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanI’m still undecided about this dress. I like it in theory, it’s my favourite colour and I like that the bodice fabric is a bit unusual, but I’m not convinced that the skirt is very flattering, it’s a little short (for a wedding) and the neckline has stretched out a bit. After I finished it, I realised if I didn’t wear it to my friends’ wedding then I wouldn’t wear it at all, so I guilt-tripped myself into wearing it! Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanSo, despite the chest bagginess of the previous version, I still didn’t do anything to solve it, but simply drafted a new lower neckline. The bodice fabric is upcycled from a skirt my Nan had custom made in Malaysia years ago and was bound for the charity shop. I want to pretend it’s something fancy, but I have no idea. In real life it does match the georgette I used for the skirt and the polycotton lining (both from the Remnant House in Bude), and they are all a lot greener than in any of the photos.

Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanThe mystery fabric was a bit of a pain to sew as it’s quite loosely woven and wanted to stretch out all the time. I understitched the centre front of the neckline and then handstitched the lining and main fabric together to try to stop the gaping (unsuccessfully).

Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanCleverly I only bought 1m of lining fabric, so had to cut extra panels to get the width, and then add a broderie anglais strip at the bottom when I realised the dress was virtually indecent without it. The zipper insertion into the skirt confused me for a while and resulted in some crazy construction. I should probably have sewn it into the lining and let the georgette hang completely free.

The day of the wedding was crazy weather-wise; I was woken up to a massive thunder storm and torrential rain, which eventually cleared and by the time I left my sister’s house it was grossly humid so after faffing around with luggage at the venue, I felt kinda icky. But the wedding was beautiful and I am glad I decided to sew my dress rather than get a RTW one. Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . Pan

A Tale of Simplicity 2444, Part 2


Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanThe second 2444 dress started off as a self drafted hack, using the original bodice back (but with a slightly lowered neckline and narrower straps) and changing the front to a draped/pleated faux wrap. I really thought it would work and perhaps if I’d had more patience it would of eventually, but I wasn’t feeling the trial-and-error-ness, so I re-cut the front to the original pattern just with narrower straps and a slightly lower neckline. Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanThe outer fabric is a viscose I originally saw at Trago Mills last summer but didn’t purchase as I was having some dilemma about fabric stashing, and then regretted it as when I went back they’d sold out. But then, fast forward to a trip to Birmingham Rag Market at the end of March this year, and I found the exact fabric at £2.50/m, plus 25cm free as I finished the bolt. I’ve seen it in a different colourway on the Regency Rags Ebay store for £2.99/m and also on at a wayyyyy higher price. The lining is a polyester crepe du chine from the Remnant House in Bude, also for £2.50/m. Both of the fabrics had the potential to be a pain to cut out and sew, so I liberally doused them in spray starch first, and it was sooooo much easier. Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanI added a waistband just because I like them, and made the skirt of two very gathered rectangles. I wasn’t sure how long I wanted it, so had to cut the skirt bottom once the dress was assembled and it was horrible. I want to say the hem only looks wonky in the photos, but the reality is, I’m pretty sure it’s wonky in real life. As I’d only bought 1 metre of the lining, and had already cut out the wrap bodice front in it, I had to do some creative piecing when I changed plans, but it worked out fine, and actually gave me some ideas for some intentional piecing on future dresses. I decided to use a scrap of (totally unmatching) polycotton for the inner waistband just to give it a bit more structure. Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanThe lining skirt is another pair of pleated rectangles using as much of the left over fabric as possible. I changed the zipper to the side, and hand sewed the lining to it after machine sewing the outer fabric, and added a hook and eye at the top. Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanDue to my messing around with the pattern, I’m not really sure what size this dress ended up; it fits better than the peplum, but there’s still a lot of bagginess above the chest (not surprising seeing as I didn’t do anything to fix it). EDIT: I took the photos after it’d been washed (even though I prewashed both fabrics) and the chest bagginess seems to have disappeared, yay! Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . PanBut it’s really swirly and pretty, and I can pretend like the less full skirt lining makes it safer for windy days. I think it would have been dressy enough to wear to the wedding (and actually I think I should have worn it) but in the end I was swayed by the third version’s dressy-ness as I knew this dress would get worn lots anyway.  Simplicity 2444 | Pattern . Paint . Pan

A Tale of Simplicity 2444, Part 1

Simplicity 2444 Peplum | Pattern . Paint . PanI’d seen so many lovely versions of Simplicity 2444 that I decided I should splash out and buy it myself. Except instead I stalked on Ebay for few weeks and managed to get it for about £2 including P&P instead of £8+, score! I was hoping this pattern would give me some dresses I could potentially wear to my friends’ wedding, and then also wear regularly enough that they weren’t just special occasion dresses.Simplicity 2444 Peplum | Pattern . Paint . PanMy first version is made of a pale floral polycotton remnant I purchased for 50p from a charity shop in Bude a few years ago. I’d never gotten round to using it because there wasn’t enough for a dress, and it’s a bit too stiff for the type of tops I normally wear. Simplicity 2444 Peplum | Pattern . Paint . PanI decided to use the bodice part of 2444 to test the fit and add a self drafted peplum out of the remaining fabric. I wasn’t sure if the result would a) be wearable or b) be something I’d want to wear, as I’ve never done the peplum thing before. Simplicity 2444 Peplum | Pattern . Paint . PanI finished the neck and armholes with a bias binding facing I made out of the scraps (the first time I’ve done it, and I think I pulled it too tightly as it’s a bit puckered), and serged the other seams. Simplicity 2444 Peplum | Pattern . Paint . PanI made a pleated peplum by cutting the remaining fabric into two equal rectangles, and then one of those in half again to allow for the zipper, and made the pleats line up with the darts (sort of!). I didn’t want to lose too much length or make the hem too stiff, so it is serged and turned up once. Simplicity 2444 Peplum | Pattern . Paint . PanSidenote: The cows in the field behind my house are possibly the nosiest in the world. Except for one who was far to busy chewing the cud to run over and look at the silly girl taking photos of herself. (Gratuitous cow photos to follow).Simplicity 2444 Peplum | Pattern . Paint . PanThe fit is a bit loose, and there’s quite a lot of bagginess in the upper chest which seems to be common with this pattern. I’ve worn it more than a few times in the recent hot weather, as it’s quite breezy and cool, yet looks like I’ve made an effort, but it definitely needs some alterations. (Ignore the random chair I’ve been repainting for weeks…months maybe). Simplicity 2444 Peplum | Pattern . Paint . Pan

A Victory (ish) for Ava (ish)

Considering I got my sewing machine in 2007, the first non-vintage sewing pattern(s) I ever bought was the Perfect Pattern Parcel #1 earlier this year. Previously, I was loathe to spend the money for two main reasons; firstly, because the few vintage patterns I’d got from charity shops had ended up unfinished due to fitting issues, and secondly because I naively thought I could draft out whatever pattern I wanted myself and have it fit perfectly. (I think a lot of my early sewing was spent stitch-ripping and sewing in my underwear as I trial-and-errored my way through projects).

When I read about the Perfect Pattern Parcel, I decided maybe I shouldn’t be so prejudiced against every sewing pattern ever drafted. Even if my mistrust of patterns was validated, part of the money was going to charity and I’d have to get some good karma back for that, right?Ava dress | Pattern . Paint . Pan I decided to start with the Ava dress by Victory Patterns (and now you understand the post title, non-sewing friends!), thinking it could be a possible dress to wear to my best friend’s wedding. But with my pattern mistrust, I decided to use some cheap fabric first: a floral polycotton on sale at my sort-of-local fabric shop (Trago Mills near Liskeard), and a polycotton broderie anglais from my local fabric shop (The Remnant House in Bude), both at about £2.50/m. Ava dress | Pattern . Paint . PanI didn’t make a muslin, which was probably was my first mistake. I did however add 2 inches to the bodice along the lengthen/shorten line because of my height. I swear I measured properly and chose the right size for the rest of my measurements, but after sewing the darts and one bodice side seam, it was obvious it was ridiculously big and no pinning (admittedly I gave up pretty quickly) fixed it, so it got thrown in the corner for a few weeks.

After reshaping and increasing the width and length of the front darts, and increasing the seam allowance at the top of the side seams, I figured it was acceptable enough and finished the bodice, and added a waistband and gathered rectangle skirt instead of the pattern’s skirt (due to lack of fabric and because I was being lazy).Ava dress | Pattern . Paint . Pan

The zipper went in without any hassle, and was pretty well hidden, except that since the dress has been washed one side of the lap has decided to flip the wrong way just above the waistband. I could get the iron out. But I won’t. Ava dress | Pattern . Paint . Pan

I wasn’t really sure how to finish the seam allowances on the zipper side, so used some extra self-fabric bias binding from the neckline and arm holes. The seams on the opposite side are faux french seamed on the bodice and french seamed on the skirt. I also faux french seamed the shoulders and the contrast fabric to the main fabric, and hand stitched the waistband facing down, although my patience did not extend to hand stitching the hem so it’s a narrow double turned machine hem. (Spot the multiple thread colours in the photos below!)Ava dress | Pattern . Paint . PanAva dress | Pattern . Paint . Pan

And then, once it was all finished, somehow the combination of not taking enough time over fitting and losing a few pounds has meant that it’s got quite a lot of excess space at the bust, and a little at the waist, although that comes in handy for those big lunches and sneaky summer ciders. Ava dress | Pattern . Paint . Pan

So, when I remake Ava, which will be happening in the near future, I think I’ll be going down a size, however this dress is still my most worn item at the moment, so it’s a win in my book.Ava dress | Pattern . Paint . Pan