All posts by caroline

Bold Bajan Dress

When visiting the Caribbean earlier this year, I made a point of buying some colourful Madras Cotton Check fabric when we called into Barbados.

Since my return the fabric has been washed and waiting quietly in a corner for me to make into a dress as a memento of a lovely holiday.

Being somewhat down-hearted about the previous make using some unrepeatable fabric, I thought that lightning would not strike twice so went ahead and cut out another sleeveless shirt dress. This time I changed the collar to that used on the Kitty dress which I find very easy to make up and would hopefully reduce the time it takes to complete the construction.

The check on this fabric is uneven so I tried hard to place the design lines in a complimentary fashion. I think that it has worked and there are no glaring faults. Truthfully, most of the colour placement is a happy accident although I did take care to match the horizontal lines of the check. I am particularly pleased with the way that the collar check lines are in a chevron.

I cut the skirt as 2 panels each 30 inches long and this has made it possible to have a deep hem. The centre back seam is a flat fell seam with the second row of stitching completed by hand. The panels were pleated onto the bodice with inverted pleats lining up with the darts and side seams of the bodice. There is a pocket set on the right-hand-side of the skirt, hidden beneath one of the pleats. The hem was overlocked then turned up just once and hand stitched in place.

I used a very lightweight fusible interfacing in the collar, facing and button/buttonhole plackets. The armholes have been bound with a self-bias binding cut 1¼ inches wide and folded in half. All seams have been overlocked including around the pocket bag. There are 12 buttons down the bodice and skirt which came from my button stash. Buttonholes were worked on the machine and taking a hint from Sian of Kittenish Behaviour, I have used fraycheck ® for the first time.

I am delighted with this dress which I can wear now with a cardigan and tights, then again in the Summer with a light tan! My husband still needs to be won over, his comment when he saw the dress on the mannequin was “Well with those bold colours and check, everyone will see you coming!”

 

 

Fraser Tunic Top in Peach Schnapps Jersey

Back in June 2018 I purchased 1 metre of a beautiful viscose ponte roma jersey fabric by Lady McElroy called Peach Schnapps from Stitchy Bee at a cost of £14.90. The fabric is so lovely that I hesitated to make it up for fear of the finished garment not being worthy of such fine fabric.

Finally I have decided to bite the bullet and make up this lovely fabric. I have made the Sewaholic Fraser top a couple of times in the past so think of it as a TNT pattern – what could possibly go wrong?

I always retain notes when I make up a pattern, especially if there are any changes. Unfortunately, on this occasion my records have let me down as there are several points where, had I had sufficient fabric, I would have made changes.

I cut the standard size 20 but added a little to the side seams to ensure that the top looked more like a tunic and was not too form-fitting! I did not cut the hem band but instead added 3 inches to the length of the bodice back and front. I should have extended the front bodice by a further 2 inches to account for an FBA. As it is, the front rides up in what I think is an unattractive way. As I had a scant metre of fabric, I had to cut the sleeves as long as possible and then add a cuff which extended their length by a further 2 inches. Still not quite long enough and now they hit just below the crease of my elbow – not my favourite length.

I did remember that the neckline sits quite high and after stitching the shoulder seams I lowered the centre front of the neckline by 1½ inches, grading to 0 at the shoulder point. With the addition of the neckband this has brought the neckline back up by a further ¾ inch which means that it is still not quite as scooped as I would like.

At fitting stage I also noticed that although the sleeves are beautifully set in, the shoulder is a little dropped. I don’t feel that this is very flattering when one has a full bust and is something that I do try to avoid. I don’t recall this problem with previous makes so perhaps it is the weight of the fabric in the sleeves that is causing it.

I stitched the entire garment on the sewing machine using a lightning stitch length 3.5 for most of the construction. I did use the overlocker once I had basted the neckband and then top stitched 1/8 th inch away to set the seam allowances. I left short slits at the side seams,turned in ½ inch and then top stitched the hem in place.

In conclusion, unfortunately this is never going to be a favourite top and I have been unable to track down a further supply of the fabric. I will just have to mark this exercise down to experience and when my fabric-buying ban is over may well try another viscose ponte roma jersey fabric.

Ponte Roma Trousers Butterick B6388

Now I remember why I don’t like making trousers for myself. I have had my right knee and my left hip replaced. Even with the best efforts of the surgeons, this has resulted in a rather lop-sided figure, especially I notice that my right hip is higher than my left and my left leg is very slightly shorter. Fitting tailored trousers would be a nightmare but perhaps I could manage some made with a jersey fabric?

I ordered 3 metres of this lovely Chocolate Brown Ponte Roma at £6/metre from 1stforfabrics. The fabric was delivered superfast and beautifully packaged.

Included in the parcel was a free reel of matching thread. The tissue was from a sewing pattern – the front and back panel for a circular skirt. That’s great as I will be able to use it on a future dressmaking project!

Checking the measurement chart on the pattern I decided to make the XXL size – I could always take the trousers in, better to do that than make them too small! I checked the length by measuring the inseam and it was fine so went ahead and cut out the pattern.

First step was to baste in the pleats at the front, plus add the pocket bags. All straightforward.

As I had not made up this pattern before, I stitched all the seams with a long straight stitch so that I could check the fit. First fitting revealed that there was more than enough ‘wearing ease’ included in the pattern. I removed about 1 inch from each side seam and re-basted the seam. So now the trousers are nearer to a size L.

I then partially unpicked the basting stitches and used the overlocker to construct the trousers using my revised seamlines. Second fit showed that I still needed to take in the side seams slightly from hip to knee and also the back crotch was short. Lowering the curve by about ¾ inch and grading back to the original seamline did the trick. I added the waistband and inserted the elastic. I turned up the hems (the actual inseam length turned out to be 27 inches, I must be losing height!) and using a straight stitch length 3.0 on the sewing machine sewed up the hems with 2 rows of stitching ¼ inch apart.

I am pleased with the final result and depending on how these trousers wear, I may make another pair. However, I still don’t like making trousers for my ‘wonky’ figure!

Lucky Black Kitty Cat Pin Cushion

I have promised to offer an alternative to the Dachshund Pin Dog at the next meeting of Sprat & Winkle Quilters. I previously made up my first ‘trial’ using a free pattern from the internet.

Free internet pattern

My first attempt – version1

There are several areas that I would like to improve  and so I sat down and re-drafted/redesigned the pattern.

I added a long upright tail to the body and spent some time working on a design for the head that would also be included on the body pattern. By doing this rather than attaching the head separately it should do away with the ‘weakness’ that one often gets at the join. We don’t want a floppy-headed Kitty!

I used a fat quarter of Black background cotton fabric from my stash to make version 2 of the Kitty Cat Pin Cushion.

Pattern payout on a Fat Quarter of fabric

First, I made the ears which were turned right side out and folded before inserting into the dart on the side head part of the pattern.

Stitched up and ready for stuffing

Unfortunately by not paying attention, one of the ears is folded the wrong way and I think they are a little bit too ‘perky. They need to be wider at the base and set slightly lower down the side of the head but for this trial version I don’t think that it matters a great deal. I found that I still needed to make the darts in the leg parts of the underbelly gusset as otherwise Kitty would have legs splayed out flat rather than standing on all four paws. There is a gusset for the head which still needs some refinement as I think it looks more like a terrier dog’s head. Stuffing took a while, starting with the tail, moving onto the back legs, then the head and front legs and finally the main body.

  

Version 2 – Ready to play!

I feel that I have nearly perfected this project. Hopefully the next version will be the definitive Kitty Cat. Miaow.

Anaconda Antithesis print Sleeveless Shirt Dress

Anaconda Antithesis Cotton Lawn by Lady McElroy –   I have previously used this fabric print but in the Sky Blue colourway to make my TNT scoop neck dress.

  

At time of writing that dress has still not been worn as I have had nowhere special to wear it!

However, the fabric is just so lovely that when I saw the Sage Green colourway on sale at Fondant Fabrics, (£5.53 per ½ metre) I had to order some.

Just in case you have not encountered this fabric before, FF have the following as their description.

Cotton lawn is a light weight cotton with a plain weave. It is made using fine combed or carded yarns which are tightly woven, resulting in a silky smooth fabric with a lovely drape.

This is a high quality digitally printed cotton lawn by Lady McElroy featuring flowers, butterflies and snakes on a dark sage green background. Sophisticated yet quirky, this light, silky fabric is perfect for a statement summer dress, skirt or top. 

I ordered 2 metres of the 145 cms wide fabric and having the experience of cutting a sleeveless dress from 2.2 metres of 105 cms wide fabric I thought that this would be sufficient for yet another shirt dress. I was right.

As soon as the fabric arrived, the raw edges were overlocked and it went straight into the washing machine. Air dried in the bathroom and due to the fineness of the fabric, within a few hours it was dry and ready for pressing and cutting out.

As this fabric is so fine I decided to line the bodice with White poly/cotton. As I was lining the bodice there was no need for bias to bind the armhole edges but I was still a little short of fabric and thus the pocket linings are cut in the poly/cotton.

The skirt is made using two panels cut the width of the fabric x 26 inches long. There is a French seam at the centre back to join the panels together. I established the centre point of the panels and slashed to insert the pocket bags. I particularly like this method which also provides a little shaping to the skirt.

Although I did try to be careful with the print placement, you will notice that there is a flower perilously close to the apex of my bust. When worn however, it is a little further away than when on the mannequin.

The bodice lining is hand tacked to the waistline seam and the hem was overlocked before turning up just ½ inch and hand stitched in place. The finished back skirt length is 24½ inches, total back length 41 inches. There are 12 buttons on the front closure which came from my stash.

I love, love, love this dress and in a moment of madness have ordered another 3 metres of the fabric (!).

Next time I think that I will make a short sleeve dress with a different collar and possibly a gored/circle skirt. But for now I am working on refining the pattern for Kitty Pin Cushion.

 

Companion Carpet Bag by Mrs H patterns

I have finally started dressmaking again. This time yet another sleeveless shirt dress using ‘Anaconda’ printed cotton lawn. But before I post details of that dress, I want to tell you about my latest bag construction – the Companion Carpet Bag by Mrs H patterns.

The pattern was demonstrated on Sewing Quarter on 3rd October and I purchased the pdf pattern direct from Mrs H’s website. Details of the pattern are as follows:-

The Companion Carpet Bag comes in two sizes, small and large to fit frames 8.5”and 12”. The finished sizes are 12” x 8” x 6” (30.5cm x 20cm x15cm) for the small and 16” x 10”  x 6” (41cm x 25cm x15cm) for the large.

The Companion Carpet Bag features a full width front pocket, which you can trim with piping or lace, bag feet, leather handles and optional leather snap tab. Inside there’s a zipped pocket and a slip pocket. The pattern uses an internal tubular frame, either 8.5″ or 12″. You don’t need the top snap tab as the frame holds everything closed nicely, but it’s a great accent feature!

The Companion Carpet Bag pattern is suitable for pretty much any woven fabrics, from quilting cottons to upholstery chenille. All of the versions made by me have been sewn on my (really rather weak) domestic sewing machine, so you will not need any special machines to make this carpet bag.

I have been absolutely delighted with the bag which I feel represents the culmination of all my bag-making learning rolled into one beautiful project.

The outer fabric was some gifted linen that had originally been destined for landfill, the lining is a Lemon/White pinstripe cotton donated from a neighbour’s de-stashing last year.

The zip was from my stash acquired when my father worked at the Opti-lon zip factory over 50 years ago. The handles were in my stash and still marked up with a price of £5.50 so must have been lurking for a considerable length of time as I note current price is around £14 for a similar set of handles. The magnetic snaps were in my bag-making stash and cost about 50p per set. The 8½ inch bag frame which cost £7.10 and the headliner* foam wadding bought for about £2.75 were the only new purchases – both from eBay.

The bag was not a quick make as I completed the construction over 3 sewing sessions of about 2 hours each session. It would have been a lot quicker if I had not changed my mind about the accent fabrics AFTER they had been cut out, interfaced and basted to the headliner fabric! So I had to cut new pieces to be interfaced and applied to the headliner wadding. That all takes time!

The outer pocket is trimmed with some Cream satin piping that I bought about 15 years ago at a Doll Fair. It was only when taking photographs that I noticed it is on the slant.

However, I quite like the look as it exposes a little more of the floral print on the side panel of the bag, a happy accident.

I did make one addition to the bag and that was my signature clip hook just inside the top of the bag. Attaching my keys to this clasp prevents the inevitable scrabble around the bottom of the bag in search of those pesky keys! 

The fold over tab which I made to my own pattern has been ‘fussy cut’ to feature the floral print.

However, underneath is hidden an error on my part. I did not put the corresponding magnetic snap in the correct place. So now there are two but fortunately the original incorrect placement is hidden by the tab. Phew!

The bag frame slots into the hinge and has some teeny, tiny screws which were a challenge to deal with but luckily my husband had just the right-sized screwdriver. Feeding the frame through the channels was also a tight fit but finally it does look good.

Although I prepared a nylon mesh bag base panel this was not used as I did not have any brass-coloured bag feet to hand. Still the bag base is set aside for the next iteration so will not go to waste.

    

Flushed with the success of this small-sized Companion Carpet Bag, I have now ordered the larger bag frame – watch this space for iteration #2!

* headliner is a substitute foam for the In R Form Bosal Bag & General Foam Batting.

Mabel bag – free pattern from Swoon

Whilst I am still undecided about which dressmaking project to undertake next, I have made another bag. This time inspired by Sian of Kittenish Behaviour, I tried out the Mabel bag which is a free pattern from Swoon.

To make the bag I used a Fat Quarter of linen-look that I bought at Festival of Quilts for £1 plus another fat quarter of cotton print from my stash for the lining. The outer flap is made with some Cerise Pink needlecord that I had ‘knocking around’ in the sewing room! The magnetic snap and wadding came from my stash so this bag has not cost me a great deal in materials.

However, I am not ‘over-the-moon’ about the bag. It is all my own fault as I should have read the instructions and made a note of the requirements – Shapeflex and Peltex, neither of which do I have in my stash of bag-making materials. Instead I used headliner* and thus the bag is not nearly as structured as it should be. I also failed to take into consideration the ½ inch seam allowance that reduce the already quite small bag down to a much smaller bag, not large enough for my day-to-day requirements! The finished size of my bag comes out as 9″ wide x 5½ ” high x 3″ depth.

However, I continued with the construction taking note of the split in the wadding that happens within the flap and had I used the correct stiffening, would have made a much better job of forming the fold over the bag. The flap fastens with a magnetic snap.  The little (looks like a caterpillar!) handle was a new construction technique for me and looks quite cute.

I have added pockets (why make a bag without pockets?) in the form of a slip pocket on one side and a letterbox zip pocket on the other side of the lining panels. I also added a loop onto which you can attach a key ring that will stop the keys disappearing to the bottom of the bag.

Again I have learned a few more details about bag construction (such as reducing the top width of the gusset and cutting back the headliner at the top of the bag) which if I ever make this bag again, I will incorporate into the next iteration.

Meantime, this particular model is destined to be filled with small items of cosmetics etc., and parcelled up as a gift for my sister.

* a substitute for Bosal foam wadding.

Squiffy Sling by Mrs H

A recent promotion on the Sewing Quarter featured two bags by Mrs H. The first was the Squiffy Sling bag and the second the Companion Carpet Bag.

  

A while ago I purchased a paper copy of the latter as part of a gift to a friend but now having seen the frame bag made by Adrienne, I decided to purchase a second (pdf) copy of that pattern for myself. Whilst browsing the website and reviewing the feature on SQ I was intrigued by the Squiffy Bag and so purchased that pattern as well.

The Bag is described thus:-

Overview: Although the Squiffy Sling pattern is designed for beginners, the clever construction of this cross-body bag makes it an interesting sew with a quirky finished bag perfect for everyday use. The Squiffy Sling was designed for the Winter 2017 Bag Retreat with Mrs H.

Dimensions:Small: 8” x9” x 3”, Large: 10” x 11” x 4”

As this bag involves some ‘new to me’ construction methods, I decided to make the first bag in the smaller size. I used some of the fabric that came as part of a kit for making padded covers for Lever Arch files.

The fabrics are 100% cotton with one featuring a print of gardening motifs plus a coordinating plain in a lovely Terracotta colourway. I selected brass hardware from my stash and printed off the pattern and instructions. To ensure that I made no ‘newbie’ errors, not only did I read through all the instructions, I re-visited the tutorial and also took advice from a friend who had already made the Squiffy Sling bag.

The first task was to apply a fusible interfacing on the outer fabric, the contrast panel, the lining and the two pocket pieces. I also applied headliner* wadding to the outer bag. Usually when making a bag, one tries to keep everything straight and symmetrical but the charm of this particular bag is that it is ‘squiffy’!

I completed the window zip insertion for one pocket and made the slip pocket using some of the print fabric. A slight change was that I stitched a dividing line of on the slip pocket so that my mobile phone, notebook and pen would sit tightly in the pocket.

A new method of construction for me was to leave the bottom part of the zip pocket open to facilitate the bagging out of the bag. In the past I have always turned bags through an opening in the base of the lining, or slipped the lining inside the outer (wrong sides together) before stitching together at the top.

I particularly liked the fact that the lining has a separate pattern which is deliberately drafted slightly smaller than the outer thus ensuring a snug fit with no excess bagginess in the lining.

The construction of the strap was also new to me. For this bag you need only one rectangle (or D ring) plus a slider so that the strap can be adjusted in length. I shall certainly use this method again on future bags. The only slight hiccup that I had was ensuring the correct placement of the magnetic snap but by folding the flat fabric pieces over I was able to mark the placement and will now know for future makes of the bag.

Stitching all around the outer and lining before bagging out through the zip pocket was an ‘interesting’ experience but it did work well after a short tussle. Next time I will use a longer zip so that it is not such a squeeze!

  

I am delighted with the bag which has turned out well, and is just the right size. I have learned a lot and am already planning the next iteration before progressing to the Companion Carpet Bag.

*Headliner is a foam backed material used instead of Bosal in-R-form

Autumn Fields Shirt Dress

Recently I noticed that the Virginia Creeper on our garden fence was changing into its Autumn colours.

  

I love all those great hues of Rust, Terracotta, Orange, Tan, Purple, Burgundy and am pleased that having been ‘colour coded’ I am classed as a ‘Deep Autumn’. These colours are exactly right for my palette. Browsing through my stash of cotton fabrics I came across this length of pre-washed cotton print from the Lewis & Irene stable.

The print is their Autumn Fields range and this particular colourway is Acorns and Leaves on a Burgundy background. I had just 2.4 yards (2.2 metres) of 42 ins wide fabric and as far as I can remember this cost just £5/metre in the sale at New Threads Quilt Shop a couple of years ago. This length was originally purchased with a view to making a long-sleeved blouse. Now that I have ‘nailed’ the sleeveless shirt dress I decided to see if there was sufficient for dress #3.

I was able to cut out the pattern from this minimal amount of fabric but there was not quite enough for the under collar, armhole bias and one side of each pocket bag which are cut from the brown spotted fabric I have purchased ready for the lining of a swing jacket.

Construction was plain sailing and I was fortunate in finding just the right colour and size of buttons. There are 12 on the front bodice and skirt. The skirt length is just 24 inches with a 1 inch hand sewn hem.

The dress fits well and coordinates beautifully with my Burgundy tie- front cardigan.

 

A Gift – Adrienne’s Oriental Bag

Those of you who are regular followers of my blog will know that I do not like to make alterations. However, on a recent visit to my friend in London, I was gifted a partially-completed bag. This bag was most definitely not the sort of gift where you look into the horse’s mouth, it is not an alteration – more a ‘completion’.

A beautiful bag made using a charming oriental-style printed cotton combined with very authentic-looking faux leather and the finishing touch of a rectangular frame. Along with the bag came two lengths of the faux leather so that I could complete the bag with a shoulder strap.

After a week of procrastination I settled down to finish the bag. I re-machined some of the areas where the stitching was coming adrift and completed making the strap. I applied a nickel strap adjuster and would also have used swivel hooks but unfortunately I am ‘out of stock’ and being impatient, could not wait. However, it was a very simple task to attach the strap to the nickel rectangles that were already in situ.

The bag measures approximately 10½ inches high x 11 inches wide. It has a plastic grid base stiffener and 4 feet. Inside there are a window zipped pocket and a slip pocket. The frame is secured closed with a tab which has been fussy cut to highlight a bird from the print and incorporates a magnetic snap fastener. The rectangular frame opens to reveal a void of approximately 6 inches square.

     

I could not be more pleased with this lovely bag which is exactly the right size and in colours to complement my Autumn wardrobe.

I have never made a bag incorporating a frame, so this gift has given me the inspiration and incentive to make my own.