Selfless Sewing: Double Trouble Outfits

Selfless Sewing | Pattern . Paint . PanIn the few years before I moved to Cornwall, one of my nephews has been the recipient of more of my sewing creations than anyone else, including myself. I’ve graduated from endless bandana bibs and fabric shoes, to dungarees and t-shirt rompers, to full on big boy clothes. I always feel kind of guilty that his elder brother doesn’t get much, so I decided to make them both outfits, which unfortunately aren’t matching due to their virtually opposite styles.Selfless Sewing | Pattern . Paint . PanFirst up is 3 year old Baby Bear. When I was last at Birmingham Rag Market with my sister (his mum), she picked out a brown checked fabric for £4 a metre for me to sew another Berkshire Blazer as his green velvet one gets worn a lot. I used an assortment of polycotton scraps left over from the bandana bib making for the crazy lining, added some navy pleather elbow patches and a requested hanging loop. The outer fabric was such a loose weave that I didn’t think welt pockets would work, so there are some dodgy faux welts (AKA fabric strips) on the front instead. I also cut the back piece on the fold and left out the front darts because of the loose weave and my laziness.Selfless Sewing | Pattern . Paint . PanThis is the third Berkshire I’ve sewn and although I love the results, there’s a few things I’ve found with the pattern. The fabric requirements are generous; in the two previous versions I’d used fabric that was much more expensive than I’d ever bought before, and was left with quite a lot, and with this version I got the blazer and waistcoat out of 1.3m. The instructions don’t mention when or where to interface; I’m not sure if it’s because it’s classed as an intermediate pattern though. Also, I almost ran into trouble on the wool mix blazer (not pictured on the blog) when sewing the buttonholes as the fabric layers were so thick, so you might need to think about bound buttonholes.Selfless Sewing | Pattern . Paint . PanThe waistcoat was self drafted and uses more scrap fabric as lining for the back piece, this time some blue winceyette from a Mario costume I’d previously made for Big Bear. The front and faux notch collar (is that even a thing??) are one piece, lined with the same fabric and then folded back on itself. I bit the bullet and did proper welt pockets seeing as the faux ones looked a bit crap and this kid loves pockets.Selfless Sewing | Pattern . Paint . PanWhile we were at the Rag Market, Baby Bear decided he wanted to spend some of his money on three white plastic elephant buttons (I think he wanted a reason to use my “sewin’ ‘chine”) so I drafted this pullover shirt with a stand collar and button placket, and played with stripe placement. I tried the continuous placket cuff method, with a very narrow cuff and stashed button. I’m pretty happy with the sewing and stripe matching in general, but it could do with being a bit bigger as it’s a bit of a squeeze getting it on and off. Selfless Sewing | Pattern . Paint . PanThe cord trousers were upcycled from a pair I’d made Big Bear for Christmas. They were without a doubt the most professional looking item I’d ever made, all french seamed and nice contrasting waistband and pockets, but I must have snipped too close on the faux fly, because after Big Bear wore them continuously for 4 days, a hole appeared where the fly curve meets the front seam, and my heart broke a little (just like when Baby Bear painted acrylic paint on his Christmas gift handmade shirt). Anyway, the only way to fix them was to unpick multiple seams, cut them down and make them Baby Bear sized.Selfless Sewing | Pattern . Paint . PanBig Bear is much more picky with his clothes than his little brother, and, if given the chance, would live in tracksuit bottoms and hoodies because he hates anything itching his skin.Selfless Sewing | Pattern . Paint . PanThe Christmas cord trousers were acceptable probably only because his favourite aunt had made them and then told an exaggerated story about how the shop lady said this was the softest fabric in the whole shop. So, I found a perfectly sized cord offcut at the Remnant House in Bude and raided my stash for pocket/waistband fabric, matching ribbon for the hem, and elasticated waist buttons. I bias bound the front and back crotch seam and french seamed the legs. The fly is another faux fly because that’s what he likes. I added an angled back yoke, but ran out of fabric for patch pockets, so I think it might look a bit girly.

I drafted a raglan sleeved t-shirt and upcycled a charity shop man’s t-shirt with a fine grey and white stripe. I unpicked and reused the ribbing from the neck, but stupidly didn’t make the back neckline higher, so it looks a bit rubbish. I serged and then topstitched all the seams to hopefully stop whinges about itching.Selfless Sewing | Pattern . Paint . PanI found a lightweight jumper dress in the same charity shop that I upcycled into a hoodie. The original arms were pretty thin so I just cut a new sleeve cap. I sewed then serged new side seams, shoulder seams and then the sleeves. The hood was made from the top back of the dress and sewn to the neck with a stretch straight stitch. To be honest, the more I tried to match the stripes, the less matching actually happened, but I doubt a 7 year old really cares.Selfless Sewing | Pattern . Paint . PanWe did a quick photoshoot when they came down to visit, and I now have complete respect for all those sewing bloggers who manage to get amazing photos of their child models!Selfless Sewing | 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 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