Monday, 30 May 2016

Love Sewing Magazine/Simple Sew, English Tea Dress

Excited and inspired by a trip to see Ancient Egypt at Manchester Museum on my Birthday, plus this lucky fabric find at Sheffield market lead to the English Tea Dress pattern looking a bit more like an Egyptian tea dress.
Having not been particularly excited by the pattern when I first saw it, this make was all about the fabric. The angular lines on the material teamed with the V neck and shaped bodice seemed like a match made in heaven. The only problem here, was I knew I was going to have to be super precise with my pattern matching. It took a few attempts lining up the pointy bits of the fabric design where the bodice meets the skirt- especially when it became clear to me that 'It'll do' definitely wouldn't do, as my eye was repeatedly drawn to my off centre points! A few tweaks and I go it a little better, but still not spot on. Next time eh?

Although I fell totally in love with the fabric when I saw it, it certainly didn't come without it's cons. It was a fraying nightmare most of the time, and unpicking things turned out to be a bit of a bugger. Also, I felt a lot of the gold threads pull and break while sewing. I'm guessing maybe a sharper needle might have helped? The visual result of the snapped gold threads could easily be hidden by cutting of remaining straggly ends, but I wasn't totally prepared for the discomfort factor! The dress is particularly itchy around the shoulder area, and though I think I could deal with it for a night out, I really don't fancy being stuck in it all day! I think it would certainly be a good idea to consider lining anything I decide to make with this fabric again...

Also, it has a particularly weird drape to it. Although very amenable with the iron, there's a kind of tin-foily quality to the fabric that stops it hanging quite right in the skirt! The next Egyptian English Tea Dress is definitely going to be made out of something a little more floaty and summery... Because despite it's faults, or shall we call them, characteristics, the fit of this pattern is great! I graded the pattern between a 10 and 12, the only change I think I need to make next time is adding some extra cms to the front arm holes as I can feel them pulling as I lift my arms up- which is a pain as I need to to get the damn zip down (I might need some help, eh?). The fraying 'characteristic' of the fabric has already lead to a slight tearing at the front of one of the sleeves... Which is pants because I've only had it on once!

But talking of sleeves- I absolutely love the design here. The pattern supplies three different sleeve lengths, the shortest being these cute little cap sleeves. The instructions however don't really shed any light on how to actually attach them, so I was lucky I found this wonderful tutorial over at After Dark Sewing. As the sleeves don't reach all the way around the arm hole, the trick is to apply bias binding around the gap. Beth at After Dark Sewing applies this binding right the way round the seam allowance, but I'm a little lazier than she, and I made just enough to tuck under the sleeves to keep the joins hidden. The rest of the sleeve seam allowance was overlocked.
(Please note future Angela, when you are reading back over this about to make Egyptian Tea Dress Two- or whatever culture you're raving about this week- it is important to put in the sleeves BEFORE bias binding the gap- otherwise it just doesn't work... But maybe you won't forget that in a hurry...)

Oh, and another word on sleeves while we're here. From my last post about the Big Simplicity Blog Meet Up you will see that I learnt a few tips off of the one and only May Martin when it comes to setting in sleeves. If you read my blog regularly (which turns out some of you do! Crikey!), then you'll maybe have got the gist that I think setting in sleeves is a massive pain in the arse and I'll do what I can to avoid poofy shoulders, even if it means just lopping them off altogether. So it was most handy when May Martin demonstrated this little technique she's named bubbling. If you missed it you can read about it in my Big Simplicity Blog Meet Up post, but what I want to say is I tried it here and it worked a dream! By far the smoothest sleeve experience I've had to date.

Another thing I am loving about this dress is my attention to detail in the zipper area. I knew I wanted the 'V's of the fabric to meet up down the centre back, and knowing there was no getting out of putting a zip in this time I had to take care when cutting out the fabric. I read a thing ages ago regarding pattern matching where you fold under your seam allowance on your paper pattern then line up your new edge against the fabric (don't forget to fold back out before cutting). This gives you a clear idea of exactly what you will see when you have sewn up- so knowing what area of the fabric I wanted at the centre back I used this technique to make sure I could match both halves. This uses a little more fabric as for the second half you cut you have to use a different area of the fabric in order to match (as you have cut through the design with the seam allowance of piece 1). So I did that- then using another tip from May Martin, I pressed the line of the seam allowance on both back bodice pieces so that I knew exactly where to line my zipper teeth up to. This avoids a wonky zip (why haven't I done this before?) and also guarantees the pattern match. Nice one!

Hemming was a pain- thinking my twin needle was going to add a nice finish, but it actually just puckered the fabric right the way round, as well as then experiencing some 'tunnelling' that Aimee had bought up on the train to Manchester last week. I might save the twinnie just for jerseys in the future.

I was surprised when I put this fraying, itchy, tin foily, puckered and slightly misaligned dress on, that it really didn't look so bad!
Someone get me some gigs then I'll have an excuse to wear it.


Currently listening to: Backwards Bird Inc, Morgan Delt
Location: Sheffield General Cemetery

Saturday, 28 May 2016

The Big Simplicity Blog Meet Up 2016

So in my last post I told you Aimee at Wrong Doll and I had plans to meet up with the lovely Shauni at Magnificent Thread this month for a rummage through Abakhan Manchester and a day of talking all things stitch. Turns out, the date we'd all saved in our diary was the same day the Big Simplicity Blog Meet Up was happening... Also in Manchester! What a coincidence eh? Having seen some snaps from last years London meetup it was exciting to think that we were going to get in on the action.

The day involved sewing demos from May Martin (former presenter of the Great British Sewing Bee) in person, as well as a Q&A session to solve any of our pesky sewing problems.

I scribbled down a lot of tips- So here's a round up:

*When sewing jersey on the overlocker- The 'Differential Feed' setting can help prevent your fabric stretching out and going wobbly. There are two sets of teeth- changing the differential feed changes the speed of these feet. The higher the number the faster the feet are going. The lower the number the fabric will stretch out more. For example 0.5 would stretch out the fabric- making it ideal for floaty hems. A setting of 1.5 would not stretch out the fabric- therefore much better for side seams etc.

*Walking feet- also good for using on jerseys when using a regular sewing machine. It is important the feed of the walking foot matches up with the feed on the sewing machine. A normal foot can clamp too tightly on the top layer of fabric making it shift as you sew. Walking feet therefore are also good for using on checks.

*TIPS FOR MAKING STRAPS- Make a long chain on the overlocker. Encase through the centre of the strap tube as you sew. Pull the chain to turn the strap. The chain inside the strap then adds stability and stops the strap stretching out. Nice one! If you're not using an overlocker you can also achieve success by catching the end of a piece of cord and using that to turn the strap.

*'Stitch and Tear' paper exists- Sew with fabric as a stabiliser then tear it off when your seam is sewn.

*Use card to flatten the foot on the machine when climbing bulk

*Using a jersey stabiliser in shoulder seams will stop the jersey from stretching (catch this in the seam on the overlocker, or sew straight through on the sewing machine)

*Hollow back pattern adjustments
-- Consider using 2 pairs of darts in the back instead of making existing darts chunkier.
-- It could be possible you need to take some length from the front of the pattern but not the back

*When notching- try to notch outwards so the pattern can be let out if needed

*Simflex Sewing Gauge is a thing! It stretches out so you can mark button holes equally. Looks awesome and I want one!

*Stitching sleeves without gathering
-- Match underarm seams/notches
-- Work over your hand to get a curve- bubble between the pins to allow ease
-- Only pin on the fitting line
-- Turn right sides out and adjust pins where necessary

*Sewing with leather/pleather
-- A piece of scotch tape on the bottom of the foot can help it glide over the fabric
-- Use the right needles- a Sharp Leather 80 should do the trick

(Me big fat head on front row!)

Phew! We covered lots! Aside from May Martin's workshop, there was also lots of CAKE (cake for brunch, cake for lunch, yes please), and lots of chatter with other bloggers. I was surprised to find a few people knew me from my blog which was a confidence booster I'll tell ya! Oooh yes, and how could I forget- there were goodie bags FULL of stuff! I got my hands on quite a few freebie patterns and the latest issues of Love Sewing and Sew Magazine. There are SO many things I want to make that my head was spinning by the time we finally reached Abakhan!

Thanks to Simplicity for such a great event. I learned loads and it was great to feel part of something... Also a great way to celebrate two years sewing for me!


Currently listening to: The Window Cleaner, Purson
Location: Merchant Rooms, Manchester

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Love Sewing Magazine/Simple Sew, Sleeveless Skater Dress

Yup, it's that pattern again! This time I wanted to make a version without sleeves. I'm still in love with my velvet version, but absolutely cursing myself everytime I wear it for not lengthening the bodice enough! I wanted another gothy looking fabric and thought this black jersey with white crosses might look pretty cool.

I made sure to add a couple of inches to the bodice this time... Though after I'd sewn in the skirt I found it sat a little too low from my waist and ended up taking off the skirt and cutting about a cm off the bodice.

I made the skirt again in 4 panels. I would have liked to have pattern matched a little better, but due to amount of fabric I had it was tricky. Still, there is an element of symmetry if you're looking that closely and I'm happy with the way the panel seams match with the darts on the bodice- these panels still not being something I have committed to paper pattern!

What I hate most about this pattern is the facing. I absolutely hate facings. Despite some beautiful understitching around the neckline, the facing was still flapping out at any given moment and would not sit comfortably at my collar bone. I ended up topstitching the neck. This was against my will but seemed like the only option to get that facing to stay put.

As with the last skater dress I omitted the zip (LAZY), as I can stretch this over my head with no problem! The bodice is lovely and symmetrical which I can't wait to point out to everyone I encounter when I wear it out, but I've got to admit... The dress doesn't excite me! I am BORED and need a new challenge! Tonight I compiled a little list of things I want to make, including trousers (NOT pyjama bottoms), a jacket and a few new dress patterns. At the end of the month fellow bloggers Aimee at Wrong Doll, Shauni at Magnificent Thread and I will be hitting Aberkhan Manchester and the Simplicity Bloggers meet up so fingers crossed it will be just what I need to get inspired to hit some new highs!


Currently listening to, Lonely at Heart, Jesse Malin
Location: Boots Folly, Strines

Child's Baking Apron

I've made it no secret that I've got the sewing bug. If anyone asks, my eyes widen, I throw my hands up and announce 'I just can't stop!'. It was no different when Neil, our lovely stores delivery man at work said he'd seen my latest creation in the Hospital news letter and complimented me on my skills. He then went on to tell me that his grand daughter had been asking him to get her an apron for baking- would I be interested in making one.
Usually I'd shy away from tasks and projects for other people, scared of getting it wrong or cocking up the fit, but I thought I could really have some fun with an apron. And what could go wrong?

With the information she's five years old and 'It has to be pink' I agreed and set to at the weekend. I scoured my Love Sewing mags for a child's apron, only to find a few adult ones! The pattern I settled on came from without a print out/cut out pattern, but more a few dimensions to get started. The blog post stated that the sizing was ideal for a two year old. Not being the most maternal, I'm not going to lie, I don't much know the difference between a two year old and a five year old, so I relied on a little guess work and sized the pattern up here and there as I went along.

The instructions on the blog are great, until I came looking for post number two which was nowhere to be found! Reading the comments someone else was on the search for it but it was revealed part two never arrived. This lead to me doing quite a bit of improv. when it came to attaching top, bottom and waistband. So for next time- if I remember rightly, I stitched waistband to bottom panel r/s together 1.5cm s/a. Top panel to waistband r/s together 1.5cm s/a. Then turned in 1.5cm along top and bottom of waistband (also turning under bottom of waistband), then bought both folded edges of the band together. Tacked in the middle then stitched. Hurrah!

Inside view

The only other alteration to the pattern I made was stitching a patch pocket to the front.

Really really pleased with the results! Apparently I'm much more accurate with cutting, measuring and stitching when I'm making things for other people! I'm tempted to make one for myself... Especially after trying this one on and my mom saying I looked like a bunny girl! Ha!


Location: Home Sweet Home, Sheffield

New Look 6180 Dress

With a new found love for shirt dresses I was excited to find a New Look pattern with a collar and nice flouncy skirt. I had some shirt fabric knocking around from a project that never happened and decided to set to and put it to good use.

The pattern is great and fits really well. I'm especially keen on the shoulder yoke seams that lend themselves to getting beautifully customised (tassels anyone?). The only alteration to the pattern I made was slightly changing the angle of the collar tips, as I ordered some metal collar tips from Amazon that I thought would really jazz up the plain fabric. In hindsight I should have lengthened the bodice by a couple of centimeters, as the elastic waistband isn't quite in line with my waist. It sits quite uncomfortably just above. This could perhaps be made slightly better by using a longer length of elastic?

So my main gripe with this dress is my choice in fabric. It's my own fault really for just grabbing what was to hand, but it turned out to be really really starchy feeling and definitely didn't drape in the skirt the way I dreamt of it doing! The stiffness of the fabric again makes for quite an uncomfortable wearing experience! On the plus side though, I'm really happy with the construction of the dress- the armhole binding is spot on, and collar construction is also pretty good to say I had to stitch in the ditch on the collar band which I hate!

I've already picked out some fabric for number 2 which I'll hopefully be getting for my birthday! It's much more drapey and much more exciting... So eyes peeled! I've been getting envious of some lovely versions I've seen online and can't wait to make mine again.


Currently listening to: Lowlife in a Highrise, Jesse Malin
Location: Crookes Cemetery, Sheffield