Posted in Sewing

Completed: Sewaholic Patterns Pendrell Blouse

For someone who spends part of their day teaching about fashion, I am really not very fashionable. I don’t own any designer clothes and have very little interest in labels.

My students would say this is because I am old (they are kind like that) but it really has always been the case. As soon as I was interested in clothes I was either making them (badly) or buying vintage pieces from charity shops and jumble sales. I used to go to a jumble sale in Lancaster, where I grew up, and you could fill up a bin bag of clothes for £1. (OK, maybe I am starting to sound old now.) But the fact is that for as long as I have been old enough to dress myself, I have worn what I like rather than what is in fashion.

That said, I do like to keep an eye on the latest trends. A cursory glance at what is happening in the world of couture, for work purposes, and an active look at fashion magazines and high street shops because, frankly, I love clothes and can’t help myself.

It was while browsing the internet, looking at the latest RTW clothes and this season’s trends, that I came across the trend for ruffles and frills. I don’t know about you but I love a good ruffle!

Take this as an example. This, now sold out, top from French Connection is oh so lovely.

frill top

It got me thinking about a top I made two years ago (you see, I was into this style long before ruffles were fashionable)  – the Pendrell Blouse by Sewaholic Patterns.


The Pendrell Blouse is a top for woven fabrics, which has princess seams and three variations of sleeve.

I made view B, the frill sleeve version, when I made this top the first time round. I made such a mess of it though. The top has gathered cap sleeves and then another gathered frill which is set into the princess seam. So far so straight forward. The problem I had was that I didn’t line my frills up properly at the back and it just ended up looking awful. Also, for some reason, I still really struggle to get nice gathers. They looked so lumpy and uneven on this top.

I wore the top a couple of times before sadly chucking it in the recycling bin. I have this one grainy photo, taken on my phone, where you can just about see it.


Inspired by all the frills on the high street, I decided to have another go. Again, I went with view B and this time used some soft red cotton I have been hoarding for a while.


My measurements for this pattern have me at a size 12 bust and size 8 waist/hips. There is quite a lot of ease in this pattern though so I just went off the finished measurements and cut a straight size 8.


Knowing that I messed up the gathers and the positioning of the frill last time I made it, I was really careful this time to make sure everything was measured and pinned correctly. I also made the effort to stitch in those gathers on the slowest speed setting that my sewing machine could muster, checking each gather as I went along. It was laborious and possibly a bit unnecessary but it meant that, finally, I have sewn up some gathers that I am proud of!


Overall I am really happy with the fit of this top. It is probably meant to be a bit looser on the bust than mine is but I think I prefer it this way. I have more of an hourglass figure than the pear-shaped figure Sewaholic Patterns are designed for, so I generally prefer things to be a bit more fitted. Loose tops can hang unflatteringly off my bust and make me look a lot bigger than I am. The only adjustment I would probably make if I were to make it again it is to shorten the length. I will wear it tucked in, so it’s not a huge problem, but it is a little too long on me to wear untucked.


I’m pretty happy with my second attempt at this cute little top though and, hey, Iam wearing something fashionable for a change!

Posted in Sewing

The Seamstress Tag

Have you seen the thing that is doing the rounds on Instagram at the moment, where you have to write 20 things about yourself and tag others to do the same? I love reading these and finding out funny random facts about people – especially fellow sewists.

I’m not taking part in it myself because I prefer to keep my Instagram just for photos but I do love reading them.  It got me thinking about the Seamstress Tag, a similar idea to the Instagram one, which was popular on sewing blogs a year or two ago.

I know the Seamstress Tag is kind of old now but I wasn’t blogging when it was doing its thing and I love stuff like this, so I am doing it anyway. I’m not going to tag anyone else but if you have never done this before and you want to give it a go then I would love to read your responses.

OK, here goes.

THE SEAMSTRESS TAG QUESTIONS:

1) Who are you?

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Hi, I am Wendy and I am a 40 year old sewing teacher and an avid home seamstress. I’m originally a northerner, from Lancashire, but I’ve been living in London for 15 years so the accent has pretty much gone. This fact irks me.  I share my home with my partner, Mike, and our two cats.

2) When & why did you start sewing?

I don’t actually remember a time when I didn’t sew. I come from a long line of ladies who sew. My mum was a seamstress and as a child I just wanted to be like her. I must have been around three years old when I first used a sewing machine and I can clearly remember making clothes for my dolls when I was very small. As a teenager I used to watch the Clothes Show on television and try to recreate what I saw. Sewing has always been my main hobby and ten years ago I decided to make sewing my career. Possibly the best decision I have ever made.

3) What is your favourite or proudest make?

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I have made a lot of dresses that I am proud of  but I would have to say my Colette Anise Jacket. So much work went into that one. I still can’t believe I made a jacket!

4) What is your most disastrous make?

There have been so many! I never used to pay much attention to the fit of a garment. I would just sew my size on the envelope (or sometimes the size I wanted to be) and cross my fingers. The result was a lot of badly fitting clothes that were never worn. I am ashamed to say I have wasted a lot of fabric in this way over the years.

5) Where is your favourite place to go fabric shopping?

My absolute favourite place to go fabric shopping is Mood Fabrics, NYC.

London has its share of good fabric shops too but to be honest I usually buy my fabric online. My go to places are Ditto Fabrics, Sew Over It, Fabric Godmother, Guthrie and Ghani and Minerva Crafts.

I am lucky enough to live 10 minutes walk away from Ray-Stitch so I go there quite a lot. Other favourites are the bargain stores of Walthamstow and good old John Lewis.

6) What is your most used pattern?

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I have made Jennifer Lauren’s Bronte Top three times, so probably that one. I love her patterns. Always such a great fit.

7) Your most dreaded sewing task is…

I have to really be in the mood for hand sewing, otherwise I just find it such a chore. A hand sewn hem can bore me to tears.

8) And your favourite sewing task?

It sounds weird but I love fiddly sewing. If it is something that I have to concentrate on then I love it even more. In that moment I am in the zone and it is like nothing else exists except me and my sewing machine. Top stitching and free motion embroidery come to mind when I think of my favourites. I’ve been practising bra making recently and really enjoying how fiddly that is too.

9) What is your favourite ‘sewing entertainment’?

Depending on my mood I will either put on a record or the radio or I will have complete silence. There are times when I really love silence. I don’t usually need to be entertained while sewing.

10) Printed or PDF?

Both

11) What sewing machine do you use?

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I have a Brother Innov-is 350 Special Edition. It is an absolute joy of a machine. I also have a Janome overlocker which I would not be without.

12) Do you have any other hobbies?

Aside from sewing and knitting, my main hobby is music. I go to a lot of gigs and music festivals all over the UK and Europe. Mostly free jazz, experimental, indie and alternative music but I’m no music snob and can appreciate most genres. I like going to art galleries and exhibitions and going to the theatre and cinema. I like eating. I really like eating. I run regularly but I would not say it was a hobby, it is just a thing I do to counter effect all of the eating. I also love yoga and practice regularly, despite not being very good at it.

Posted in Sewing

Me Made May

So Me Made May 2017 is coming up and this year I have decided that I am definitely taking part.

I’m sure you know already, but if not, Me Made May is an annual sewing challenge run by Zoe.

Throughout the month of May, you are encouraged to make a personal sewing pledge to get more out of your handmade wardrobe.

For many, the pledge is to wear handmade clothing for the whole of the month and to document it each day. This is what I have always understood it to be. Turns out I was kind of on the right tracks but a bit misinformed.

The challenge is actually for you to make a pledge that is entirely appropriate to you. So it might be that you pledge to wear handmade garments every day or it could also be that you pledge to finish off your unfinished projects; you take on a pattern you have always been a bit nervous about; or you pledge to wear something me made once or twice a week. Whatever you want it to be.

It is a challenge for you, and if you want to share it with the sewing world via your blog or Instagram then great (I love looking at the photos so much) but you don’t have to.

So, what is my pledge this year?

I would love to reach a stage one day when I have an entirely me made wardrobe and I can mix and match things to create perfect outfits every day. I’m a long way from there at the moment though.

Instead I plan to use Me Made May as an opportunity to assess my handmade wardrobe, to find new ways of wearing what is already there (mixing me made with ready to wear) and to see where the gaps are and where I need to focus my sewing.

I’m hopefully going to document it with daily outfit photos on Instagram and a round up on here but if I miss some days, I’m not going to beat myself up over it.

My pledge then:

I, Wendy, of  www.wendystitch.com (@wendy_stitch) pledge to wear at least one handmade garment per day throughout May. 

Not too scary but it will still be quite a challenge for me.

How about you? Are you taking part in Me Made May 2017? If you are tempted to give it a go, sign up and add your pledge at Zoe’s blog.

 

Posted in Sewing

Completed: By Hand London Kim Dress V2

I love this dress.

I love this dress so much.

In case it still isn’t clear… this dress, me, we have a love affair going on.

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So this is the Kim dress, a pattern that I have owned pretty much since it was released a few years ago. I must have liked it at the time, or I would never have bought it, but I have kind of overlooked the Kim dress all this time because I really don’t like version 1. That faux wrap skirt is doing nothing for me.

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Little did I realise that I was also overlooking the absolute awesomeness that is version 2.

Let’s take a closer look at this pattern. It literally has all the requirements of my perfect dress:

  • princess seams
  • sweet heart neck
  • fitted waist
  • full skirt
  • pin tucks (oh my god, pin tucks!)

Just perfect.

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I decided to make this dress with some lovely green gingham cotton, that I got from the Knitting and Stitching Show a couple of months ago, to hopefully try to achieve a vintage sundress kind of vibe.

According to my measurements, I am a UK size 14 in this pattern. I made a quick toile of the bodice first though as I anticipated a few fitting problems. I know from experience that By Hand London patterns seem to be made for much smaller chested ladies than me.

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The size 14 toile gave me a good fit in the waist and bust but I had a lot of gaping  in the ‘high bust’ area, which I dealt with by taking out two triangular shaped wedges from the pattern. I also decided to raise the neck line by 2cm as it was revealing a bit too much cleavage for me. I’m not opposed to showing a bit of flesh but I’m a school teacher and I would like to be able to wear this dress for work. Low cut is just not appropriate, sadly. Finally I lengthened the bodice by 3cm so that it was finishing at my natural waist. FYI I have never had to do this before. I am 5ft 5ins tall and if anything I am short in the body, so this was a surprising adjustment to make.

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The pattern was a joy to make. Straight forward princess-seamed lined bodice, attached to a gathered skirt with an invisible centre back zip. The bottom of the skirt is finished with three lovely pin tucks. It’s this little detail that really gives that nod to vintage – it reminds me so much of some of the vintage sewing patterns from the 1950s and ’60s that my mum used to have.

This dress is just so lovely and the fit is perfect.  I will go as far as say it may well be the most perfect summer dress I have ever made.

I love this dress. You might have noticed.

Posted in Lifestyle, Plans, Sewing

Wendy takes Manhattan

Hello,

It seems like forever since I last wrote a blog post. Not quite forever, but 20 days really is a long time in the blogosphere.

I would love to tell you that I have sewn up a whole new wardrobe in that time but I have not made much at all since I was last here. I have a few projects that are cut out and ready to be sewn up  (a bra, skirt, two cardigans, two tee shirts) and a few projects on my knitting needles (scarf, jumper, baby cardigan) but hardly anything finished to completion. Except for a top (for me) and dress (for my mum). The top is a lovely striped French Terry number, that started off as a Sew Over It Ultimate Shift Dress and later became a top when I realised I’d probably get more wear out of it that way. One of my best ever decisions.

This was taken before I changed the length to turn it into a top. You get the idea.

The dress for my mum is a simple summer dress, made from old lady fabric, that just needs hemming. I’ll do a proper post all about this one later. While it is a simple enough summer dress, sewing for someone who is elderly, disabled and has limited mobility, presented me with a load of new challenges that I had never really considered before.

I actually thought I would get a load of sewing done during the last few weeks. The boyfriend has been working in NYC for the past month and, strong independent woman that Beyonce told me to be I am,  I really embraced this as a time to get stuff done and learn some new skills. In reality, I ended up missing him terribly and feeling too weary to sew or do much other than eat my feelings. Also the baby cats were pining for him and became very demanding – they barely left my knee while he was away.

I eventually flew out to join him in NYC this week and, as always when I visit this city, I had an amazing time. I met some lovely people; attempted to drink all the local beers and visited the greatest sites of NYC – Purl Soho yarn shop and Mood fabric store.

Wearing my Tilly & the Buttons Cleo Dress in Brooklyn, NYC

While it was wonderful to be there and to touch all the pretties, I didn’t actually buy anything in Purl Soho. To be honest I didn’t really see anything that I can’t get in my local yarn store. Also, because of the state the pound is in at the moment, it was all super expensive. I’m still really glad that I got to visit though.

Purl Soho – I came for the selfie

As for Mood Fabrics… this is hands down the greatest fabric store I have ever visited. Friendly staff, who really know their stuff and were a delight to talk to, and oh my god the fabric. There is so much fabric in Mood that I got completely overwhelmed and had to sit down for bit and compose myself (seriously). I could have bought so much more but I managed to show a bit of restraint and bought three lengths (2.5 yards each) of printed silks. All polka dots. This wasn’t an intentional plan, I  just have a thing for polka dots (and stripes and gingham, but that’s another blog post).

Mood Fabrics – I have this thing for polka dots

I haven’t really decided yet what I am going to make with the silk but I suspect lovely light weight summer dresses. I welcome any ideas you might have for it.

I think maybe a Sew Over It 1940s Tea Dress for the pale peach and pink dots.

Sew Over It 1940s Tea Dress
Sew Over It, 1940s Tea Dress

Possibly a Tilly & the Buttons Bettine for the pink with white dots. I don’t know though. Is a Bettine special enough for this lovely fabric? I think I will need to do a toile first and see if I like the fit of this dress on me.

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Tilly & the Buttons, Bettine Dress

And I am really not sure about the navy and white polka dot. Maybe another BHL Anna Dress. A short version this time, with a V-neck.

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By Hand London, Anna Dress

This could all change, and there are a gazillion other things in the queue to be made ahead of these, but it is good to have plans!