Foxy Delphine: Love at First Stitch skirt

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The lil’ fox is incredibly difficult to photograph in my poor-lit house, but the gold thread is much more noticeable in real life.

While making my grey Colette Truffle dress recently, I began thinking about different ways to embellish garments to add a special, personal touch. I love that the Truffle has a simple style as it makes it really easy to accessorize for different situations – it’s a very handy go-to dress to have in the wardrobe – but I was also itching to add something more permanent to it to spice it up a bit.

Around that time, Ingrid of We The Sewing posted about embellishing clothing with embroidery. On reading her tips, I knew that this was exactly the technique I wanted to try out.

So when Tilly Walnes released a preview of the lovely projects included in her new book, Love at First Stitch, I immediately thought of making a simple grey Delphine and trying some hand embroidery. Happily, I still had some of the soft suiting fabric I’ve used on my Frankenskirt and Truffle dress, and I traced out the Delphine pattern as soon as I got my hands on the book.

Lady Stitcher Foxy Delphine Prep

I pinned a sketch of the fox to the skirt in different places to check the position I wanted before tracing it on to the fabric.

This is my first time embroidering anything on clothes and I followed Ingrid’s great tips for planning the project, from sourcing a simple line drawing via Pinterest (this fox), to tracing the pattern onto the fabric using a wheel and dressmaker’s tracing paper. Initially, I planned to stitch a bright blue or neon pink animal character onto the skirt, but when I was looking through the skein selections at the beautiful haberdasher A Rubanesque, I discovered some amazing metallic DMC threads and decided that gold (shade: E677) would be perfect for this project.

I used an embroidery hoop to keep the skirt fabric tight enough to stitch without puckering, but clamped it loose enough not to crush and mark the fabric. I divided the skein into two-strand threads for sewing because one strand was too light and I was worried that three would tangle. I should note that this metallic thread was more liable to split and fray during sewing so I found it easier to work with shorter lengths, and I just used backstitch.

Here’s a close-up of the finished fox. He’s imperfect, but I like him:

Fox Finished Lady Stitcher

I’m really happy with how this first foray into embroidery embellishment worked out. I like the simplicity of Delphine’s design and the subtle shine of the little golden fox against the soft grey fabric. There’s a stronger contrast between the yellow of the thread and the skirt fabric in real life than in these photos, and the fox sparkles a little when the light catches him.

I also managed to get the invisible zip in really smoothly using my regular zipper foot (yes, I’m done with that pop-on invisible zipper foot!). The Delphine is a lovely simple skirt to sew and, as with all the projects in her book, Tilly includes a range of simple but inspiring ideas for customising your skirt.

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I already have two excellent sewing books for learning new techniques, The Colette Sewing Handbook and The Complete Photo Guide to Garment Construction by Christine Haynes (I think Tilly’s book sits somewhere between the two) but I was really drawn to the patterns included in Love at First Stitch. I’m currently working on a Clemence skirt with fabric from my stash and hope to try my hand at the Mimi blouse soon too.

I won’t go into outlining the new book at length as there are already plenty of reviews out there from its blog tour (House of Pinheiro has compiled a particularly good overview), but I do think it’s brilliant value for five lovely and very wearable patterns, as well as being a handy sewing guide. There’s no harm in having more than one reference when you need sewing advice in a pinch – sometimes the different descriptions can help something click better.

A second sewing book I bought recently was a beautiful guide to cross stitch by Sophie Simpson called Storyland Cross Stitch – so I might be trying some cross stitch on clothing soon too!

Have you tried any new clothing embellishment techniques? How did they turn out?

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Me-Made-May ’14: The halfway point

I, Sue (ladystitcher.wordpress.com), sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’14. I will endeavour to wear at least one item made by me each day for the duration of May 2014.

Here we are – it’s the middle of May and we’re already halfway through this year’s Me-Made-May project. I’ve really been enjoying taking part so far and have found it quite challenging to not just keep wearing my five favourite things over and over.

I’ve been sharing daily updates of my pledge progress on Instagram and have pulled those photos together for my first MMM round-up post.

First 5

Day 1: Moonrise Kingdom dress, seed stitch scarf | D2: Easter Mortmain and RTW jacket for a wedding | D3: Grey Coco | D4: Vintage Pledge shirt dress, RTW cardigan | D5: Colette Mabel skirt and Sorbetto top (plus charity race medal – it was a family day out!)

The most notable absences in my handmade wardrobe are tops, trousers and cardigans/sweaters. I don’t plan on chucking out my RTW wardrobe any time soon, so there’s no urgency in making cardigans but I would really like a wider variety of tops that aren’t T-shirts. I also really want to make trousers, too! I have two patterns to hand but haven’t found the right fabric yet.

Second 5

Day 6: Grey and gold Coco, seed scarf | D7: Remnant fabric skirt (not blogged), RTW shirt and vest | D8: Beignet skirt, Simplicity 1693 top, RTW top | D9: Grey Coco, basketweave scarf (not blogged) | D10: Grey and gold Coco, RTW sweater, seed scarf

Since the start of May, I’ve realised just how often I typically reach for jeans, a T-shirt and a sweater in the morning. Looking back over these photos, I’m really surprised to see that I only worse jeans once in the first half of the month. I’ve also realised just how much I was wearing my grey and colour-blocked Coco dresses pre-May; I’ve consciously been limiting their rotation for MMM’14 but have already worn each a couple of times.

My pledge focused on better incorporating my handmade clothing into what I was wearing rather than trying not to repeat any outfits. That said, I’ve been happily surprised at how many outfit combinations I’ve been able to put together from the garments I’ve made.

Third 5

Day 11: Coco #5 | D12: Gingham Japanaese pattern dress (not blogged), RTW cardigan | D13: Sleeveless Mathilde (not blogged), RTW jeans | D14: Sporty Coco, Beignet skirt | D15: Nettie top (not blogged), RTW skirt

The pace of my sewing has slowed down since the start of May. For the first ten days, I was visiting with family in different parts of Ireland and since I’ve come home, I’ve been focusing on finishing my Owls sweater. I fell a bit behind Kat and Sabrina’s knitalong during the sewing frenzy for Sew Dolly Clackett and Sew For Victory and I had a bit of a nightmare with the magic loop method. I’m getting back on track now that I’ve sourced the right sized double pointed needles and am aiming to finish the sweater before the end of MMM.

Of course, having some me-made trousers to put with it would be nice too… 🙂

Making Mabel: Burgundy knit skirt using Colette Patterns

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I bought the Mabel pattern as part of the patterns-and-book package offered by Colette Patterns recently. I really like this style of short, fitted skirt, but didn’t have much luck with the few I’d tried on in shops – they always seemed too tight across my hips and too loose on the waist. The burgundy ponte is left over from my Coco #5 dress.

Despite the simplicity of the pattern and its instructions, I did manage to make a heap of silly mistakes. (This may be why sewing at 2am is a bad idea…) Somehow, I mixed the front and back pieces up and didn’t realise until it was all pretty much together, so I suspect the side seams sit a tad differently on my skirt than they might have otherwise. I also completely forgot to make the waistband lining until I was attaching the waistband, so that was jettisoned. Instead, I used a double needle on the top edge of the waistband to smooth it down. 

When I finished putting all the pieces together and tried it on the first time, I really wasn’t sure about this. But, funnily, once I sewed the shiny metallic buttons on, I loved it! I’m not sure why they made such a difference to me, but I much prefer it now.

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It’s a lot shorter and tighter than the skirts I usually wear, so I’m not sure how brave I’ll be about wearing it when warmer weather arrives and it’s time to discard tights. I think I have enough of this fabric left to make the pencil skirt version, though, which might be a good summer solution!

Skills learned: Working with a double needle

Recommend pattern?: Colette Patterns have a strong reputation for releasing well-drafted patterns with clear instructions and this definitely fits the bill. I’ll be making Mabel again soon in the longer version and would definitely recommend it as an easy pattern for sewing simple knit skirts.

I haven’t been able to get any good shots of Mabel while away from home this week, but I did take one shot of me wearing it with my Sorbetto top and leggings after doing a 5k charity walk with my family over the first weekend of Me-Made-May ’14:

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Sew For Victory Outfit: Skirt and Blouse from Simplicity 3688

SFV Front

One of the first blogs I was drawn to when I started reading about sewing online was the brilliant Lucky Lucille. I loved the site’s focus on vintage clothing, the sneak peeks inside the finished garments, and seeing Rochelle’s sewing skills. I know it sounds obvious that if you can sew, it logically follows that you can sew whatever clothing you want, but Rochelle’s blog really helped me to realise the impact personal sewing can have on your style and the breadth of options it opens to you.

When I signed up to take part in Sew For Victory 2.0, I decided that two things would guide my project: 1. to actually sew an outfit for the challenge – something I’ve never done before; 2. to sew something for summer, as most of the clothes I’ve sewn so far have been suited to cooler weather.

SVF Fabric

I don’t have any authentic 1940s patterns, but I picked up Simplicity 3688 – a 40s reproduction – in a recent Simplicity sale and bought some lovely Irish linen for the skirt and a sweet flower-pattern Liberty lawn for the shirt. (I think I’m more drawn to patterned fabric after Sew Dolly Clackett!)

I left out the sleeve headings and the front bodice pleats on the shirt because, while I don’t want to completely eliminate the 40s design elements, I find looser clothing more comfortable and wasn’t sure how often I’d wear a blouse with strong shoulders.

The skirt is a snug fit though, because I got a bit overzealous with my French seams. Going overboard by a tiny fraction when making French seams isn’t much of an issue if you have just two side seams to work on, but the cumulative effect across several panels is another story! That said, I think this is the best-finished garment I’ve ever sewn and I’m really pleased with the result.

Here's a weird side-selfie showing the lapped zipper more closely

Here’s a weird side-selfie showing the lapped zipper more closely.

Both items were really easy to sew – the directions are quite clear and the design elements are simple enough that it doesn’t take too long to put it all together.

 All of the Sew For Victory projects are being compiled through the group Flickr page – take a look through all the lovely creations!

SFV Back

Frankenskirt ‘n’ Sorbetto: Old patterns and modern pdfs

Frankenskirt Exhibit A

Shortly before Christmas, I realised just how limited my ‘work wardrobe’ has become of late. Most of the jobs I’ve worked over the past five years have not required anything other than smart casual clothing. So, in the spirit of smartening up the casual a bit, I decided to make a grey skirt that could be easily matched with the tops, shirts and cardigans I already own.

The main body of this just-below-the-kneee skirt comes from Simplicity 5914, one of my mother’s patterns (I’m not sure she ever made it herself, mind). The copyright is marked 2002. The waistband comes from one of the patterns I ferreted out of my grandmother’s collection, Style 4914 from the early 70s. I find wide waistbands so much more comfortable to wear than the narrow kind, especially when it comes to eating and sitting down – crucial factors in my pattern selection process!

Vintage Skirts

The skirt design is pretty straightforward: six panels sewn together, stitched to a waistband at the top and hemmed at the bottom. I put a lapped zip in the back for a bit of variety among my skirts, though I’ve just noticed that the photo below makes it look like there’s a gap at the back. Not the case: I’ve just somehow neglected to properly zip up the zipper *cringe*. (So much for my only New Year’s Resolution of taking better photos…)

The fabric is grey suiting from MyFabrics.co.uk which was reduced to clear. To be honest, I’m not sure which side of it is the ‘right’ side: one side is a darker grey and smooth to touch, the other is a lighter colour and feels like a thin brushed cotton. I can’t imagine a suit made out of the brushed side, but I think I might have a go at making the Colette Truffle dress (minus the front flappy part) with it.

And speaking of Colette Patterns, the top in these photos was made with their free pdf download, ‘Sorbetto’. It’s a really quick pattern to use, but I did decide to make matching bias binding which always takes a bit of time. The fabric is some kind of mysterious poly-something-blend from Murphy Sheehy in Dublin and was really nice to sew – it wasn’t slippy and didn’t fray to nothingness along the edges. One change I will make for future Sorbettos is the length – it barely comes to my waist once hemmed (and even then, with a small hem) which is fine for tucking in to skirts but a tad too short for me to wear un-tucked.

Skills learned: Working with a busy-print fabric for the Sorbetto; incorporating different design elements of different patterns for the skirt.

Recommend pattern(s)?: Yep, if it’s still out there, the Simplicity 5914 is a great basic skirt pattern which could be easily adjusted for different lengths or materials. I definitely recommend Sorbetto as a good basic top pattern. If you haven’t given pleats a go yet, this front panel is a great intro to them, or you could just edit the pattern to leave it out for a nice and simple sleeveless top. (You could probably also adapt the pattern fairly easily to make more pleats, come to think of it.)

A Pattern Pledge Note:

Yesterday, Marie at A Stitching Odyssey outlined her plan to focus on working with the vintage patterns already among her (amazing) collection and I’ve decided to join in, pledging to make at least three pieces from my (much smaller) assortment. For a while now I’ve been planning and re-planning projects involving these family patterns, but for some reason I feel more daunted by those than the vintage ones I picked up elsewhere. (Maybe I don’t want to ‘waste’ them…?) I’m visiting friends over the next week, but when I get back I’m going to start working on actual, tangible projects to meet my three-pattern pledge. Here goes!

Vintage sewing: Wool houndstooth skirt (and matching cushions…)

Pattern

This skirt suit pattern was one of the first I ever bought, McCall’s 7501. It was one of three vintage patterns I bought online a few years ago when I planned to learn how to sew, but hadn’t actually started yet. If I had been dressmaking at the time, I’d probably have known a little bit more about pattern selection and about vintage patterns in general – especially in terms of instruction detail.

Once I started sewing, I found the instructions for this pattern really vague and I basically made up how to do go about it, so the ‘vent’ is a back split instead. Also, I didn’t realise just how much ease they allowed for in the pattern. Quite a lot, it turned out. As in, inches and inches! Which is not a bad thing in a very fitted skirt (who wants to be trapped in a below-the-knee skirt they can’t walk or sit in?), but it did result in wasted fabric as I hacked into the side seams to make a neater fit.

Vintage Skirt Pattern

If I was making this now, I’d go for an invisible zip at the back (and measure the pattern pieces before cutting any fabric!) but I am really fond of this skirt. The fabric, in hindsight, is really not dressmaking material at all. It’s a fairly heavyweight 100% wool in a red and cream houndstooth pattern, which means it weighs a tonne to wear but is the cosiest thing in winter and looks great with a smart shirt or a warm sweater.

I like the below-knee length and the darts in the back worked perfectly in shaping the skirt towards the waistband:

Skirt back detail

Skills learned: How to adjust a skirt for a better fit; making a skirt slit.

Recommend pattern?: Yes, but it’s really not a beginner pattern. Or at least, not for the complete beginner who decides to have a lash at making a simple skirt and seeing how it goes. Otherwise, it’s a lovely pattern to use. I would love to make the full suit, using the pleated skirt option once I have a bit more experience – the red one on the pattern cover is gorgeous.

Well after the fabric cutting/hacking, I had some oddly shaped bits and pieces of this lovely wool left over. I’ve recently been trying to make our living room more coordinated and more cosy, and thought that this fabric would make some lovely cushion covers. I didn’t really have enough for a full cover so I cheated. Twice.

Covers

The first is an envelope-style one, but I’ve only used the red wool on one side (there wasn’t enough for a full side panel, but I could manipulate it to make the envelope opening) and grey polycotton on the other side. I feel I should point out that the envelope ‘flap’ closed over better before my cat decided she would squeeze herself inside for a cosy nap.

The second cover is a side-tie one inspired by this how-to guide from the British Sewing Bee. I decided to use what I had left of the wool as a contrast stripe along one end of the cover and to use a grey polycotton for the rest. Only, it turned out that I didn’t have much left of that either, so instead of fully lining the cover, I just created a false lining effect by making a kind of fabric lip attached at one end to the cover. It’s just tucked over the exposed end of the cushion insert and remains concealed once the ties are closed:

Cover cheat detail

The cushion inset does fit inside the cover shell, I’ve just pulled it out here to better highlight the ‘lining’ flap which encloses it.

What kind of fabric ‘cheats’ have you used to get the effect or finish that you wanted? I’d love to hear more tips for using spare bits and pieces!

 

Finally finished: my first Beignet skirt

Beignet front other

I finished a few sewing projects recently but have had difficulty finding the time (and the lighting!) to photograph them for blogging – until now! So here’s my first Beignet. I guess this is what is referred to as a ‘wearable muslin’ – I used a navy polycotton to try out the pattern first time around and check the fit. I’m not sure it’s the ideal fabric for this project as it wrinkles like mad, but I’m actually really happy with it and can see myself getting a lot of wear out of it (especially like this, with a collared shirt and sweater).

I had a bit of a panic attack about three-quarters of the way through making this (basically when it was too late to go back and make any adjustments without an awful lot of hassle) because I somehow suddenly thought I had cut out the wrong size. Turns out that it’s actually a perfect fit. This is the ‘2’ and I like that it’s not skin-tight, so I have room to a) sit down and b) eat.

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The process

I still consider myself a beginner sewer and I was a bit daunted that this pattern is graded ‘intermediate’ by the designers, but the instructions were brilliantly comprehensive. It’s the most technical project I’ve taken on so far and I learned a lot of new techniques and skills while doing it, including making pockets, buttonholes and belt loops. The lining was definitely much more complicated than anything I’ve done before, but even in saying that, the directions guided me through the whole process.

I lined it with some grey anti-static lining and found these lovely buttons at The Cloth Shop. At Eur0.50 each, I think they add up to being more expensive than the rest of the skirt put together, but they really finish it nicely and I like that they’re each a little bit different to each other.

Overall, I’m really, really pleased with this one and will definitely make it again (preferably in a more skirt-appropriate fabric!).

Beignet buttons