Six Month Dressmaking Review

Okay, so I started sewing in January after acquiring my sister’s sewing machine at Christmas. Six months on and what have I made? Here’s my six month review:

The Nun Skirt

img_7146-1My first attempt at following a pattern was this yoke skirt from The Great British Sewing Bee’s book. It turned out ugly but it fit! It had a working zip (although not exactly ‘concealed’) and was fairly symmetrical. I made an error in putting interfacing in the hem (I know better now!) which, of course, doesn’t work – it only makes the skirt look very stiff!

Never worn it out and about and I don’t have any intention to. However, when I looked at it again the other day I did feel pleased to see how tidy it is on the inside and how symmetrical the seams are.

 

Keyhole Blouse

My first experience of setting in sleeves, framing necklines (and a pretty tricky one at that!), making bias binding… the list of ‘firsts’ goes on! This pattern would have been better in a lighter fabric with some stretch rather than 100% cotton but I live and learn!

I have worn it out a couple of times but the sleeves are a little snug so I’ve worn it less than intended. Very good top for ‘food baby’ days!

 

The First Kate Dress

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Apologies – it could have done with a good iron before I photographed it!

This pattern was challenging at times but also a great learning curve. Unfortunately, I decided part way through that I didn’t like the texture of the fabric so it’s not something I’ve worn out of the house. The excessive amount of material in the back was also an issue (which I was able to rectify for attempt #2).

It was pleasing to make a dress though as I do love skirts and dresses, despite spending most of my time in jeans!

 

The Second Kate Dress

img_7152I set about sewing the second Kate dress fairly promptly after finishing the first as I knew if I didn’t do it then I wouldn’t do it at all!

This time I used a patterned fabric but sensibly chose one which doesn’t really have an ‘up’ or ‘down’ design so it didn’t matter if I cut the pieces out in different directions! This fabric is much thinner and does stretch a bit around certain seams, such as the bust. I adjusted the back so the fit would be better and lengthened the waist ties. I went for sleeves ending just above the elbow and use a bit of contrast stitching.

I would have happily worn this dress out and about but I made a rookie error… Whilst trying to snip some loose threads I accidentally cut the fabric right at the front of the neckline! A more prominent place I could not have chosen if I’d tried. 😦

As such, I have tried to fashion a collar of sorts to cover the mistake but it hasn’t worked. Another item destined for the ‘never worn’ heap.

 

Chiffon Butterfly Top

Needing a break from jersey knits, form fitting and bust adjustments, I opted to make a floaty chiffon top to wear over vest tops this summer.

I am happy to report I have worn this top on many occasions! Yay! 🙂

It’s loose fitting but not as loose as it was intended by the pattern designer as I gathered some of the fabric in the back and made it into a ‘feature’ so I didn’t look like I was carrying quadruplets. I lengthened it a bit so that it ends on the hips rather than the waist. French seams throughout mean it’s hardy and neat.

 

Strawberry Blouse

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This is the make I am proudest of. It is soooooo neat and tidy and symmetrical that I am amazed I made it!!

It’s cute and fun with it’s strawberry print and I love the collar. However, I’ve yet to wear it out and about because I haven’t found the right occasion yet.

My only gripe is with the sleeves, which should have been a little less voluminous.

 

 

Maxi Skirt (Work in Progress)

img_7160Not an easy item to photograph! Apologies for the rather crap image.

This is a ‘freestyle’ project so it’s taking a bit of time to finish as I’m just making it up as I go along! The aim is for a full, voluminous skirt (with front godet), high waisted with a detailed waistband and side ties and side zip. The back of the waistband is also detailed in its design. Lovely soft, cool fabric in navy with little pink feathers (or leaves) scattered about it.

 

Pink Linen Tank Dress (Work in Progress)

This is my most ambitious make so far. Although it might look like it has less structure than the blouse, the bodice comprises of several parts so there’s plenty of room for error. Also, the fabric easily frays and is see-through in bright light so it’s fully lined throughout. The back of the dress (right) is better than the front because I’m having problems with the panels that join together at the front. The fit it a little too snug and makes one look like one is modelling a Wonderbra…! The lining is also visible in places. Too ambitious a project for a beginner like me? Yes but that’s how I learn – by challenging myself.

 

The Next Six Months…

Who knows what I’ll have attempted, failed and succeeded at by the New Year. I’ve got tonnes of patterns to inspire me and certainly a good stash of fabric! By this time next year, I hope to have made a beautiful, fully-lined summer dress for my friend’s wedding with a colour co-ordinated blazer. So all the mistakes I’ve made over this first half of the year have been excellent tuition for the end goal.

I’d like to make a couple of shirts/t-shirts for Karl and some children’s clothes for my many nieces.  I have yet to attempt making trousers or working with denim fabric (though I did make a kick skirt for a doll in ridged denim aged about 13!) so these are exciting projects I can look forward to. 🙂

Cuppa Cuppa Cuppa Cuppa Cuppa Chameleon 

I’m into twisting song lyrics into titles and food-related odes at the moment. I don’t know why.

Anyway… Yesterday I made cupcakes! Not made them before but thought I’d give them a go, mainly so I could try out my new icing syringe! I actually find most cupcakes too sickly because of the icing to cake ratio so it’s not a ‘go-to’ recipe for me.

I’ve ordered a book with 100 Mary Berry ‘cakes and bakes’ in it because my Simple Cakes book is a bit limited now unless I want to make deserts containing fruit (I don’t) or a pecan pie (I do but I don’t tend to have pecans just lying around at home).

Although the book’s currently on order from Amazon, I was still able to use its cupcake recipe as it’s one of the preview pages available to view online.


Thanks to recently acquiring a posh muffin tin (I say posh because it was £6 down from £12 and it comes with a 5-year warranty) I could actually make cupcakes that resembled the correct shape rather than flat bun-type ones. They turned out light and fluffy. 🙂 

Twelve cupcakes, some pink food colouring and about 20 minutes later…

Some questionable icing, I hear you cry. You’d be right – there’s a reason I like making traybakes and ‘rustic’ cakes! Still, it was quite fun.

The icing was a bit too thick to easily pipe so I added a couple of teaspoons of milk.

This icing nozzle pattern (above) just kept reminding me of Iced Gems! 

My feeble attemp at an iced heart!

And a rather scary face with a scarecrow’s nose!

Luckily this icing wasn’t sickly at all and there’s a good cake-to-icing ratio. I would have gotten more inventive and used more colours but it was about 10pm on a Sunday night so I didn’t have the energy! 

(I also made brownies but we all know what they look like so no pictures this time!) 😉

Inspired by this pretty bowl when I visited Coughton Court (National Trust) earlier; wouldn’t it make a lovely fabric print?

And someone at the house has been crafting away – loving these beautiful paper roses as the centrepiece. Stunning. 😍


And a little momento of our visit – a cast iron bunny! Yeah, it might look like chocolate but I can assure you it would hurt a lot more if it landed on your toe! (Strategically placed where Rodney – the real rabbit – has a tendency to think it’s okay to wee… Hopefully this will deter him!)

Quiche Me, Quiche Me, Quiche Me Baby

I am rather too excited. I’ve just made my first quiche and it tastes nice!

Although I may bake quite often, I’m rubbish at cooking. When Ant at work (I’m Dec – it’s a long story) recovered from her horror that I use pasta sauce from a jar and not homemade from scratch, she started to give me cooking tips. I’ve not tried her foolproof way to honey-roasted carrots yet but I lept straight on the quiche idea because I adore it but get every so downhearted about the boring ones for veggies in the shops. 

She must have seen my look of intense doubt because she hurriedly reassured me I ‘could buy the pastry’ if I wanted to. Phew! I once made pastry from scratch for a veggie Christmas main dish and it was, shall we say, rather thick and heavy. My mum and one of my sisters used to make a nice wholemeal pastry for quiches so maybe I’ll work up to that…

It’s not the neatest make ever but it tastes good! I love pastry. *contented sigh*


Now I’ve tested it out on myself, I can make Karl a ham and cheese one and then let my imagination go wild for the next one! 😀 

A Pink Tank

Even though the maxi skirt isn’t complete yet, I couldn’t help myself but start on another sewing project this weekend! As I’ve said before, I like to have several projects on the go at a time because then I can flit between them depending on my mood. Because the maxi skirt is ‘freestyle’ and not aligned with any pattern, it’s taking a while to come together. So, in the meantime, I thought I’d start a pattern with lots of structure in comparison!

My pink linen blend arrived so I set out to make the Tank Dress 115 in June’s Burda Style magazine. Apparently there is a version A and a version B but the only difference I can detect is a shorter hem length on one over the other… I decided to make it following the longer pattern as I can then decide whether to shorten it at a later date. Although the pattern only requires you to line the bodice, I will have to line the skirt as well as my fabric is more flimsy and transparent than the one used in the pattern. This is the first Burda Style pattern I have attempted and I must say the pattern pieces and directions are rather confusing! I have had to ‘wing it’ a little bit as a result.

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The project aim…

I realised at around 5pm on Sunday that I hadn’t done any sewing so far that weekend so I cut out the necessary pattern pieces in the freshly laundered linen blend. I even took the time to measure 1.5 inches around each piece first to allow for seams! That’s a fair bit more organised than my usual ‘Oh-that’s-probably-about-one-and-a-half-inches’ (it never is!) method!

I sewed for about 5 hours and this is what I have to show for it…


The front of the bodice was tricky and still needs some tweaking. At one point it looked a little ‘Madonna’s Cone Bra’-ish (!) so it’s improved but it still doesn’t sit as flat as it does in the pattern picture.

The skirt looks almost too wide in the photos but it’s all cut to the same pattern size (12). The skirt is meant to be in a ‘tulip’ style so it’s a little more fitted than a gathered skirt but also has a bit of shape to it.

I might have to use some strategically placed interfacing in the high waist band to support the skirt but I’ll have to see how it progresses.

Of course, in all honesty, I’ve really made two dresses here because I had to duplicate the entire thing in the lining fabric! I probably should have started with that part as then I could learn from the practice but never mind!

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For my first attempt at lining I’m not too ashamed of my efforts!

Oh, and who doesn’t love pinking shears?! They have been a God-send. I use them to temporarily prevent fraying whilst I’m constructing the garment before I then sew a more durable edge, or, in this dress’ case, to tidy up the loose fabric inside the lining so there aren’t any lumps and bumps.

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It’s almost 9pm on Tuesday evening so I’m going to work on this for an hour or so and hopefully will have another update before too long. 🙂

 

Flowers, Flowers Everywhere!

I’m working on a freestyle maxi skirt at the moment, which I hope to be able to finish soon. In need of a short break, I thought I’d share with you some new fabrics I’ve bought. 🙂 I actually have more on order (I’m addicted) – a lovely candy pink linen which I want to make a shift dress from – but we’ll start with those I have!


First up is this chirpy floral chiffon which will become a maxi dress in time. It’s bright but not overpowering so I think it will be perfect! I have 4 metres of this one. Just to give you an idea of how large the flowers are on it, here’s one next to my hand to give it some scale;


No ‘ditsy’ flowers here!!

Next, from the same online store (On Trend Fabrics on Etsy.com) I bought 2 metres of a woven chiffon in an unusual colour for me to pick; yellow. I don’t suit yellow, nor am I particularly drawn to it, but this pattern is lovely and I was caught by the mention of ‘grey’ (one of my favourites!).


Dare I say it’s a little bit more yellow than I thought it would be so I think this fabric will make a skirt or a blouse but not a dress, unless it’s for someone else!


The print on this one isn’t as big but it’s still sizeable.


Above are the lining fabrics I bought. The pink one is a bit ‘plastic-y’ but the white one is okay. The pink lining is for the summer dress I have planned in butterfly chiffon and the white will go under the first fabric in this post.

Now, this next one isn’t new as I’ve had it since just after Christmas (when I spent £50 in the sewing section of John Lewis!) but I don’t think I’ve shared it before.


It’s a John Kaldor fabric and I think it’s a viscose blend. It’s quite weighty but still okay for summer (this is Britain after all) and would make a stunning long, fitted, cowl neck dress. Sadly, I only bought a metre so that idea won’t be realised but I’ll come up with something!

And finally, here’s the fabric I’m using for the aforementioned maxi skirt…


It’s a lightweight polycotton I bought online a while back (The Textile Centre on eBay.co.uk) and I love it. I’m super excited to get this skirt finished so I can flounce around in it!

Bye for now! 🙂