Wednesday, 28 October 2009


Fall (Autumn for us British) is well and truly here. It’s getting cooler and the days are shorter but what I like about it is the opportunity to create clothes in delicious darker shades. With that in mind I dug deep into my stash and pulled out a lovely piece of shiny silk in a jewel toned purple-blue that I purchased at New York Elegant Fabrics, whilst on a trip to NYC last winter. All wrong for summer but just right for a festive season top –

It’s made from my ‘new best friend’ blouse pattern - Simplicity 2501 that I wrote about in an earlier post.

This time I made view B and I think it looks very different from my first version. It still has the tie at the neck but it has a plain bodice front (no peplum and waistband) and has some lovely puffy sleeves. To be honest, as I am quite small, I did wonder if these sleeves were going to be a girly indulgence that I would regret but, you know what, I LOVE them and think I can get away with them. However, please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on this count - is it OK for small girls to wear puffy things in shiny purple?

This version was slightly trickier than my earlier one, mainly because of the slippery nature of the fabric. The sleeves are a little fiddly because of all the pleats - my tip here is to be very accurate with the marking so that all the pleats are exactly the right size. To do this I used a combination of old fashioned tailor’s tacks and my new Clover Chaco Pen which I highly recommend – it’s so easy to use and works really well.

I also have to say how much I like this pattern, I’ve made two tops from it but I still think there’s a lot of mileage left in it because there’s more sleeve and collar options to try out and, of course, different fabric choices can give it a very different look.

But next up is going to be another dress. I love dresses and now that I’ve organized my fall/winter fabric stash there are several pieces of fabric crying out “Make me, make me – I’m going to be a lovely dress!” Let’s hope they’re right ……….

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


Being a London girl I felt that I really couldn't go another week without mentioning that great bastion of British style - Liberty of London

Strolling past last week I felt an irresistible urge to enter and was pretty glad I did because they had a sale on and this was my opportunity to indulge myself with a piece of their Liberty print Tana Lawn fabric. It's lovely stuff, it really is, but it's not cheap! Their regular price is £19.95 per metre (approx. US$ 33.00) - that's a lot for some cotton isn't it? So I was pretty pleased to get a discount. There's a lot to choose from - if you'd like to take a look at their range, here is the link to Liberty's Fabric Department.

After some indecision I went for this one, called Valerie's Garden

Liberty prints have always been popular but, as I'm sure you're aware, in the last couple of years they've been achieving iconic fashion status . Both Gap and Nike have included Liberty prints in their ranges and several designers have used them in their recent collections, including Marc Jacobs -

Now, I'm a big admirer of Mr Jacobs but unfortunately, at my age, I don't think the above dress would be quite right for me! So what am I going to do with my prize piece of fabric? I thought I would go down the more traditional route and make a classic shirt. I did make a shirt last year but, to be honest it was fairly hideous and didn't fit me right so I'm still searching for my TNT classic shirt pattern and I need to be sure the muslin is pretty perfect before I cut into my Liberty print. I'm thinking that I might try this pattern, no. 105, from last month's Burda Magazine
I'm looking for something not too fitted but not baggy and I like the yoke, the shape of the collar and the curved hem of this style. I'm hoping this might be the one!

So, what do you think about Liberty print fabric - do you love it or hate it? Is it too much 'old-fashioned English country garden' or do you see the iconic style possibilities? Can you get it where you live and, if so, is it expensive? I'd love to know ........

Friday, 16 October 2009


I had a bad time with this one and I really don't think it was my fault! However, Cynthia, all is forgiven because you are a wonderful designer and in the end it didn't turn out too badly. Without further ado let me show you a picture of the finished dress

I used some quite expensive crepe backed silk-satin purchased from Mood Fabrics on a trip to NYC and it's made from this pattern
Starting at the beginning, fitting a muslin didn't go too badly. I made an fba by creating a dart and rotating it into the waist gathers and I cut about an inch out of both the width and length of the back because it seemed unnecessarily long and droopy. Also the neckline, which is pretty low anyway, was gaping at the front so, to preserve modesty, I went against all the rules of these things and just pinched in the pattern tissue at the neckline and smooshed it flat with the iron. I have since discovered that what I should have done is made a little dart there and rotated it down into the waist gathers. Well now I know! but my quick-fix did the trick. So, all set to sew ...

Instruction step number 1: stay-stitch bodice front and back necklines 1/2" from cut edge. Except, and the sewing gods must have been looking down on me here, when I was cutting it out didn't I notice that the seam allowance round the neckline was only 3/8"? So, I'm issuing a PATTERN ERROR ALERT here - you need to stay-stitch 1/4" from the cut edge.

Next, I have a confession to make. I left out the pockets. It's not that I don't like pockets, I do. But I have to be honest and say that because there is a side zipper in this dress the instructions for inserting the left hand side pocket into the seam alongside the zipper was all too much for me. Probably, if I'd really applied myself to trying to understand it, I could have managed it - I can't blame Simplicity for their instructions - the fact is I just wasn't willing to work that hard. Shame on me!

So, here's where it went wrong. The very last thing you have to do is make the neck ruffle and stitch it on the dress. I joined the two pieces together and made a beautiful narrow hem all around both sides, I gathered the ruffle and attached it to the dress. Wow! It was beautiful and it was glamorous ....... until I turned round -

See how the ruffle flops down at the back and shows all the insides? Of course, it mightn't have been so bad if I hadn't used crepe backed silk which has a very obvious difference between the two sides but I didn't expect this to happen. Both silk and crepe are fabrics that Simplicity recommends for this pattern and, look, here is their line drawing of the back and the ruffle quite definitely sticks up.

I told myself that perhaps, if I wore it, I could stay standing with my back to a wall but, after putting it aside for a couple of days, I decided that it just wasn't good enough. So, I took the whole ruffle off, I unpicked one row of the stitching for the narrow hem but couldn't unpick the rest so I cut it off. I then recut the ruffle, which now had to be narrower and slightly shorter, but this time I cut the back neck so that it started to narrow in from the shoulder and became very narrow at the centre back and didn't flop down.
I think that looks much better!

Trauma now (almost) forgotten I do like the dress but Mr Fabulous says I look like a chocolate eclair in it - all brown and glossy. Now I love chocolate eclairs but do I want to look like one - I'm not so sure? However, next time I'm invited to a fancy dress party all I need is a can of spray cream and I'm good to go ........

Friday, 9 October 2009


I know you're going to look at this picture of my new skirt and think "wow! ..... that's dull" but stick with me because there's some interesting stuff going on inside.

This skirt is made from Simplicity 2564

so I could have chosen to add pockets, trims, belt loops etc. but I decided I really needed a very plain skirt - I wanted it to look good with my new top (Simplicity 2501), featured in my last post, but I also wanted to be able to wear it with lots of other things. Sometimes you just have to bite the boring bullet and make a wardrobe workhorse.

It's made from a grey medium-weight denim, so it should be sturdy and can be dressed up or down to be casual or smart. Size 12 fitted straight out of the envelope but to be really perfectionist I made a small swayback adjustment. I made the following changes from the pattern instructions - I used an invisible zipper and I mitred the corner of the left back vent, which looks much neater that just folding it over. Also, I lined the skirt, putting a lace trim on the lining hem.

Above is a picture of the inside of the vent and you may be thinking "what's gone wrong there, why is there is a fold above where the vent is secured to the skirt?" But the reason for this is 'lengthwise ease'. When cutting the lining out I referred to my oracle - Connie Long's Easy Guide to Sewing Linings - and what Connie says is "Whenever you connect the lining to the outside vent, lengthwise ease is important to keep the lining from distorting the outer seam". So, as per her instructions, this is how I drafted the lining pattern -

The green line is the cutting line for the outer fabric and the red line is the cutting line for the lining. As you can see, the lining is cut a half inch lower from the pivot point to the hem line at the centre back, blending upwards to the original hemline at the side seam (note that for this pattern I have allowed 1 1/4" for the skirt hem and 5/8" for the lining hem and the lining is 3/4" shorter than the skirt). When sewing the lining to the skirt you match up the pivot points so that the lining hem is raised up and becomes level and a fold forms above the vent. So it looks a bit wonky inside but I think that it does actually work to make the outside look better and doesn't strain or pull the seam when moving, sitting etc.

Incidentally I initially found it a real headache to work out how the lining vent was attached and which side needed to be cut off and where until I looked at Jackets for Real People by Alto, Neall and Palmer. Even though their explanation was for a jacket vent it's the same for a skirt vent and I found their illustrations really easy to understand.

Next time I make this skirt I think I'll go crazy and add some pockets!

Friday, 2 October 2009


Last week I mentioned that I'd bought Simplicity 2501 and here's the finished version

and here is the back view:

As this pattern supplies separate pieces for B, C and D cup sizes it was pretty easy to fit. I cut a size 8 for the neck and shoulders, grading out to a size 12 and using the D cup front. After that all I had to do was raise the waistband.

Essentially I made View D, which has the tie neck, waistband and peplum but without the sleeves. The front pleats and waistband add some nice interest to the bodice -

As you can (hopefully) see in the above picture I used a different material for the tie, the waistband and the covered buttons. I know what you're now thinking: "ah hah, she ran out of material" but, actually, I didn't - I just decided to do it this way on a whim. Both materials are cotton lawn that I had in my stash and they don't match but I think they complement each other, sort of. With the flowery fabric and prim little tie neck I was going for an 'English country garden' effect.

Instead of using purchased bias binding for the armholes I made my own, which is very easy to do with this kind of fabric and looks much nicer (and costs nothing). Here's a picture of inside the armhole -

Hemming the peplum gave me a chance to use the narrow hem technique taught by Susan Khalje in the Top 10 Couture Techniques online class with Pattern Review that I have just completed. I'm very envious of those of you who have been to classes with Susan in person, and I know she is doing one at Gorgeous Fabrics soon, but as I'm several thousand miles away this was a great alternative. I'm very keen to try out all the other techniques the way she teaches them - I'm on a mission to upgrade my sewing skills.

Coming soon - a skirt, from Simplicity 2564, to go with this top ..........

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