My Me-Made-May 2014 Focus: Looking back – and ahead

Option A 2

This time last year, I was an avid sewing blog reader but had yet to really get stuck into making my own clothes. I loved seeing what people wore for Me-Made-May 2013 and I’m delighted to be participating in it this year.

I plan to wear at least one item that I made myself every day in May, but I don’t intend to post daily photo updates (so if you’ve subscribed to this blog, don’t worry about being suddenly inundated with Lady Stitcher selfies!). Instead, I’ll do just one or two round-up posts to document my participation.

One of my main incentives for taking part in MMM’14 is the opportunity to actively review my technical progress in sewing.

I’m also aiming to use Me-Made-May to work out more outfit combinations than I currently have in rotation and find more interesting ways to wear the things that see less light of day. I’ve only made about a dozen garments so I’ll have to get pretty creative in how I put things together if I’m going to get through the whole month without lots of duplication!

The MMM project should also help me identify gaps among those garments. I already know that I want to try my hand at making trousers, but I suspect that I should also focus my sewing more on making tops, shirts, blouses etc. By the end of May, I hope to have devised a shortlist and some kind of (feasible!) plan for sewing specific pieces to fill those gaps.

It also feels like good timing for some sewing reflection: lately I’ve been trying to assess why I wear certain things I’ve made much more than others and why there are some garments (i.e. trousers) that I have yet to even attempt making.

If you want the full low-down on Me-Made-May ’14, you can find all the details over on So, Zo’s blog.

Have you participated in Me Made May before? Did it help you to set new sewing challenges or to reconsider unworn me-made garments?

Cats and Cocos: Stress-free sewing

Mousey

I had some dental surgery last week which has laid me low for a while. I  haven’t been up to tackling any big or tricky projects post-surgery, but last weekend I wanted to sew something – something simple. So, I turned to two of my favourite things: cats and Cocos.

The first project I worked on was a sweet stuffed toy for the cat. Working from Creative Pixie’s handy mouse-making tutorial, I used some fabric left over from my Murphy dress for the body and cut the mouse ears from the same grey knit as my first Coco. I also inserted a bell from a Lindt chocolate Santa and some dried catnip along with the mouse stuffing to spice it up a bit for her, then secured a string tail. The stuffing also came from leftovers – I had used it for the needle case I made at Christmas.

Our cat is pretty tough on toys so I’m not sure how long this little creature will last! It was really quick to make though, so won’t be too hard to whip up a few more when the time comes. Plus, it’s a handy use of fabric scraps – and she’s certainly been enjoying it.

Cue a cat-smushing-toy-in-face photo:

Cat Face

Cat Heart Mouse

And then for a bit of selfish sewing… I’ve had a lovely soft, very lightweight, polka dot jersey on standby for a while. I found a yard of it in a remnant bin for a few euros and thought that one day, I’d get around to making some kind of pyjama top out of it. Well I forgot all about that until I saw Stitch and Witter’s cosy bedtime Coco and remembered that I had squirreled this fabric away.

The polka dot knit (it’s an off-white base with grey dots) is very lightweight so I made the yoke and short sleeves out of some of the leftover red fabric from my sporty Coco to preserve some modesty.

Night Coco Front

This is one soft pyjama t-shirt! I’ve been holding off on wearing it since making it on Sunday so I could photograph it and now I can’t wait to snuggle into it! I like the way the unfinished sleeve and bodice ends suit the softness and casual feel of the top, so I’ve left them unfinished.

What do you turn to when you want to do something craft-related, but don’t want to commit to a big project?

Vintage pattern pledge: My grandmother’s Style 3685 shirt dress pattern

Style 3685

Firstly, a big thank you to everyone who commented in response to my recent vintage pledge plea! After receiving lots of brilliant and very helpful advice, I agree that the best way forward with this dress is to take a bit of a break from it before trying again from a different angle.

In the meantime, I thought it would be good to work on a totally different vintage pledge project – one that I had been looking forward to for a while. This 1972 shirt dress pattern, Style 3685, is one of several beauties I found in my grandmother’s collection. She passed away while I was a child and although I can vividly remember her having a big, heavy sewing machine, I don’t remember her sewing. It was a lovely surprise when my father found a box filled with her old sewing patterns from the 50s through to 80s last summer. I put a few aside to make when I had built up better sewing skills.

Shirtdress Style

I picked up this lovely floral rayon at a Jo-Ann’s branch while visiting family in America over Christmas. (I really wish there was somewhere like it in Ireland – they had just about any sewing or knitting implement you could think of!) I don’t have many florals in my wardrobe and as this was at the ridiculously low price of less than $5 a yard, I thought I’d try something new.

It’s a very light fabric for spring, but I think it will be fine with tights layered under and a thick cardigan on top. (I’m also optimistically hoping that I will get a lot of wear out of it over the summer, sans woolens…)

I’ve left off the topmost button – the one that should close the collar. The space on the collar opening for putting in a button and buttonhole is pretty tight so I could really only put in a small, shirt button. However, I’m holding off to see how I like wearing it without a collar button before risking inserting a buttonhole there – I had some problems machine-stitching the buttonholes in along the dress front and finished half of them by hand.

Shirtdress sag

As you can see, the dress is a bit too big (I’d say almost a full size too big), but I wanted the option of a loose-fitting dress for hot weather AND something that I could layer vests and tights under in the colder months, so I’m pleased with the finished piece.

Skills learned: Generally making a shirt dress! I don’t know if it’s typical of shirt dresses or not, but the way the front facings were incorporated into the front panels and folded back in around the collar base makes the front section really smooth and helps it all sit tidily.

Recommend pattern?: Yes! Although some parts were a bit tricky, the instructions were very straightforward and I don’t think this is a difficult make. I’ve been shoring up shirt dress patterns for over a year now but had yet to take the plunge and found this a great introduction to them. I’d like to give it another go, in a heavier fabric, but I’d probably take in the side seams and shoulders for a tighter fit if there was less drape than with this rayon.

Are you taking part in A Stitching Odyssey’s vintage pattern pledge? Or have you worked with family-owned patterns?

Pattern Pledge Style

Sewing advice plea: Should I call time on this vintage pledge project?

Butterick 5747

The interesting waistband first drew me to this pattern – but there began my woes with Butterick 5747…

I’ve been working on one of my projects for A Stitching Odyssey’s Vintage Pattern Pledge recently (a 1960s pattern, Butterick 5747), but have hit a serious snag. I’ve made the bodice, skirt and waistband but the problem is joining them all together.

The first hitch was figuring out how to make the little tab things on each side. The instructions were quite confusing and called for the back parts of the waistband to be sewn to the front, then pushing the tab through the join from the wrong side to the right. This worked fine in the end (albeit a bit puckered, as you can see in the photos below), but meant that the seam allowance at the tabs for joining the waistband to bodice and skirt was used up and tucked inside the tabs.

Here, the tab is facing forward towards the dress centre, as per pattern cover – but see the puckering at the tab base? ARGH!

Terrible Tabs

So joining the skirt to the waistband was really fiddly at the tab joins: it took several attempts to make sure that there wasn’t a gap in the waistband-skirt connection. Joining the bodice, though, has been really frustrating. The front sides need to be gathered and squeezed in along the bodice’s V shape to fit into the acutely pointy part of the waistband – and it’s just not happening!

Here’s a couple of shots of the bodice and skirt parts:

Skirt front Bodice front

So, I’m loathe to abandon the bodice, but right now I mostly just want to stick a short zip into the back of the skirt section, hem it, and say it’s done. Dilemma! Do you think I should just cut my losses and finish this up as a skirt? Can I do something with the bodice? OR should I take a bit more of a break from it and re-approach the waistband and bodice with fresh eyes? Has this worked for you on troublesome sews?

Any and all advice is very welcome!!

Coco the third: Finally adding pockets

Coco 3 Front View

After hitting some serious snags in a project I’m working on for A Sewing Odyssey’s vintage pattern pledge, I took a bit of a break from it this week to clear my head and do some stress-free sewing.

I’ll keep this post brief because I’ve already written twice recently about using this lovely pattern from Tilly and the Buttons: first, I made a grey long-sleeve roll-neck dress, then I had a go at hacking the pattern to make a sporty, casual, colour-blocked top.

Even after both of those projects, I still had some of the grey fabric, which I bought specifically for Coco, left over. A couple of weeks ago, I spotted this lovely gold ponte on Guthrie and Ghani’s website and thought it would make a nice contrast against the grey. I also wanted to finally have a go at making a Coco which incorporated pockets!

Coco 3 Back View

I’m not a particularly quick sewer, but this pattern is so speedy to make up that I was able to put this dress together completely before lunch on Wednesday (unusually speedy for me!). The pattern is also simple enough to allow multiple adaptations (check out Tilly’s Pinterest board of Cocos for some brilliantly creative examples, like House of Pinheiro’s second Coco).

So, are you all set for Friday’s Coco party?! :) (My party track pick is ‘Shout’ by the Shangri-Las.)

Coco Selfie

Sporty Coco: A second run at sewing knits

Sporty Coco Back

I absolutely loved working with the Coco pattern by Tilly and the Buttons when making the roll-neck dress version recently and I couldn’t wait to try making a top with it. I found it quite difficult to find suitable knit fabrics in Dublin, but last week I came across a lovely bright red double knit in The Cloth Shop, where I bought the grey knit for my Coco dress. It’s considerably lighter in weight than the grey fabric, but has only 2% stretch.

I had a good bit of the grey knit left over from Coco #1 and thought it would work as a more stable and contrasting fabric alongside this bright red knit in a colourblocked Coco. So, I used the heavier material as a yoke and shoulders and used the lighter stuff to finish the front, back and sleeve lengths.

There was a lot of guesswork involved in figuring out how long I wanted the yoke, or how much of the grey I wanted in the sleeves, so cutting the fabric involved a lot of procrastination! (Happily, Tilly has since posted a handy tutorial online for making a contrast yoke Coco.) I was worried about where the seamline would sit on the bust and how that might affect the way it sits. I was also uncertain about how to match up the grey part of the sleeves with the front and back, but think I’ve figured that out now (learning by doing!).

Sporty Coco Front

It’s the most sporty item I’ve ever sewn (and I think it went a bit Star Trek with the colours I chose…) but I like the fit and it’s so soft and comfortable to wear! I’ll wear it a couple of times to check the fit, but I might just take in the upper sleeves slightly as they’re a tad loose. Interestingly, I didn’t have any sleeve issues with my grey Coco dress, though I have read other bloggers finding them too loose (might be something to do with the weight of the grey fabric?). I had planned to put some cute contrast heart pockets on, but thought better of it after handling the fabric a bit more – I think the red would sag under pockets.

Planning Cocos

I had been putting off sewing knits and jerseys because I don’t have a serger, but I think this pattern has given me the confidence to try my hand at other jersey fabrics and patterns, like this cute dress by Salme (who are having something of a sale at the moment) or the much-blogged Renfrew by Sewaholic.

And speaking of sewing knits, have you seen that Colette Patterns is bringing out a book dedicated to the topic AND new patterns for knits? If you subscribe to their book/pattern announcement list here by 8 April, they’ll send you a free chapter of the book before its release.

Skills learned: Working with knits; mixing fabrics.

Recommend pattern?: Definitely! It’s a very satisfying simple pattern and having made both the dress and the top options, I can officially say I’m hooked on (a) this pattern and (b) sewing with this kind of fabric.

Moonrise Kingdom dress: Channeling Suzy Bishop with Simplicity 1913

Moonrise Kingdom dress

To mark the opening of Wes Anderson’s new film, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, Dublin’s art house cinema The Light House held a special Anderson-movie-themed costume party on Friday night. I’ve never sewn a costume from scratch before and thought it might be fun (and challenging!) to try it.

After a quick Google Image search of Anderson’s film characters, I thought Suzy Bishop’s yellow dress from Moonrise Kingdom could be a pretty close match for one of my patterns, Simplicity 1913. I’ve made it up once before, but had issues with the upper back being a bit loose (which in retrospect I’ve put down to the semi-disaster that was my invisible zip insertion!).

So far as I could tell from hazy screenshots, Suzy’s yellow dress has princess seams in the bodice and an A-line skirt with a really short hemline. The dress also has a white collar and white cuffs. I was only able to find this strong buttercup shade of yellow in a heavy-ish cotton (it’s not very soft to touch and looks susceptible to piling). I thought I’d be more likely to wear it again if I made the cuffs and collar as separates – and kept the hemline at a more comfortable length! I lined the bodice with some light grey anti-static lining I had already, but skipped lining the skirt to save time.

Image

Now, I really can’t remember why on earth I bought a collar pattern, Simplicity 1727A, when they’re pretty easy to draft by yourself. I think it was back when I was planning to learn dressmaking but hadn’t started, and was looking out for discounted simple patterns that could be made up myriad ways and worn in lots of different outfits. I hadn’t tried it before, but being tight on time I thought this would be a good opportunity to give it a go! I also adapted this pattern piece to make the cuffs.

Moonrise Kingdom cuff

I definitely got a much better fit with Simplicity 1913 here than the first time out – I still haven’t mastered invisible zippers but I had a better idea of what I was at this time around. Now that I’ve actually used the collar pattern, I can think of dozens of really cool variations using sequined fabric, animal prints, embroidery, beading…so many options!

Moonrise Kingdom collar

The collar is attached to a neckband which closes at the centre front with a button. I left it untied and tucked in under the dress (it fits tighter when I’m inside it!) to look more like Suzy’s collar.

Skills learned: Making neck bands and pointed collars.

Recommend patterns?: I think you could probably draft a variety of lovely collar shapes by yourself, but I have to say that I found Simplicity 1727A really easy to work with and will use it again.

Some of the directions on Simplicity 1913 were a tad confusing (especially the parts about the bodice lining – I ended up just doing my own thing to line and finish the bodice), but I think this is a really nice dress design. Interestingly – and usefully – the pattern includes a good array of suggestions and pattern pieces for customising the dress. It always feels like much better value when a dress pattern comes with alternative skirt or sleeve options!