Monday, 29 April 2013

Frocks away

Two little frocks

Well, I was late to the party signing up to  Kids' Clothes Week 2013, but I did manage to finish the puppet show tunic and to whip up a little sundress for my little sunbeam today. Though I haven't made the little gathered cuff shorts yet, I'm thrilled to bits with the tunic, a perfect opportunity to use those blue polka dot buttons I'd been holding on to for a while, and to put that blue floral print and seersucker gingham to use at long last.

Oliver + S puppet show tunic

I love the finish on this pattern - a curved yoke with topstitched darts, pouffy little sleeves with a button cuff, and the button back closure. The only place where I deviated from the pattern is in making the button plackets and hem - I omitted the hem facing altogether, preferring to finish the hem with some handmade bias in the seersucker gingham used for the yoke.

Button sleeve cuff and yoke detail

Bias-bound hem and run and fell seam

Oliver + S puppet show tunic back

My mini miss is almost three, but being as I was pretending to be a pro stitcher, I actually measured her before cutting out the pattern, and realised she runs pretty true to a 2T, which is the size I made.

Oliver + S puppet show tunic

She's looking sideways in all the shots I took, not as a gazing-into-the-middle-distance catalogue pose, but because my mum is holding a packet of chocolate buttons just out of shot as a bribe. There was also another little distraction in the form of a little cousin who kept on appearing in the frame with a cheeky grin! 

Mischievous nterloper

After a great many chocolate buttons my model was also persuaded to brave the chill and put on her new sundress. This is a really simple shirred dress, with narrow rouleau ties (though not as impossibly delicate as those Lauren made on the Great British Sewing Bee!). There are plenty of tutorials out there, but this one (found via The Thrifty Stitcher Blog, sewing consultant to the GBSB) is a good one, with guidelines for typical children's sizing included.


The fabric is a very cheap cotton print bought in a fabric shop in Reading, of which I have enough remaining to make a matching dress for my 9-year old. Nothing beats matchy-matchy sisters!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Pressing on

I wonder how many of us have fired up our sewing machines with renewed enthusiasm for dressmaking after watching the Great British Sewing Bee. I'm still waiting on the blouse pattern I ordered for my floral cotton print (it doesn't resemble either of the ones I linked to below - I am nothing if not fickle!). Unable to get sewing for myself, I stumbled on the very timely Kids' Clothes Week sewalong, kitted myself out with the Oliver + S puppet show tunic pattern (thanks, Kate, for the heads up about this being available as a digital download now that it's out of print), and hacked into some pretty blue and white floral print and a seersucker gingham.

The puppet show tunic pattern is super-cute, with pretty little details such as a peter pan collar, puffy sleeves with a button cuff, and a contrast hem facing. I really like the finishing touches on the Oliver + S patterns, like the button placket and hem facing on the birthday party dress I made a good while ago for my eldest. This time the littlest is my victim (apparently puppet show tunics just won't cut it in the 9-year old style stakes!).

puppet show tunic 011
pressing the peter pan collar
If there's one thing I've taken away from the Great British Sewing Bee, it's that just as discretion is the better part of valour, so too is pressing the better part of sewing. Did you notice how Ann and Sandra, the two most experienced seamstresses, were constantly seen to be pressing seams, or sending a jet of steam at more delicate fabrics? If there's one thing I love about working with fabric, it's the notion of ease, the difference you can make by gently rolling a seam so that the facing sits on the inside, or working a bit of magic with a steam iron. The peter pan collar on the puppet show tunic is a case in point; a judicious bit of pressing, topstitching, then pressing again, and the collar sits perfectly. I shall be stitching peter pan collars on everything from now on.

puppet show tunic 026
topstitched darts
puppet show tunic 020
tacking the run and fell seam
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run and fell seam

It's been a slow affair, but I'm really enjoying the process, little things like topstitching the darts, and sewing run and fell seams (not called for in the pattern but I'm trying to be a pro like Ann and Sandra!).  I've pressed on with the tunic, and just have a tiny bit of handfinishing to do tomorrow, then I shall try to persuade my model to actually put it on!

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puppet show tunic in progress

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Feeling stitchy

Image for Episode 1
So who tuned into the Great British Sewing Bee last night? And what did you think? Curiously, it was my husband who had earmarked this for my viewing pleasure as I had no idea it was on. I'm interested to see how the series goes and will definitely be continuing to view, even though I'm reserving judgement on whether the slow-burn of dressmaking quite lends itself to the Great British Bake Off format. I'm also not quite sure who the programme is aimed at yet. The laundry bag 'tutorial' which was spliced in midway through the programme was a case-in-point. Although a drawstring bag is a great beginner's stitching project the speed with which the instructions were rattled off, with only partial views of assembly could have left even an experienced stitcher reeling! I did enjoy watching the contestants getting to grips with the two challenges though, and found myself itching to get out the scissors and snip into a nice swishy piece of tissue paper pattern. And I also found myself window-shopping the fabrics, patterns and haberdashery which were being put to use. The Sewing Directory have posted a great crib-sheet of where to buy the fabrics, tools and notions used on the Great British Sewing Bee programme, as well as a list of contestants' blogs and websites, plenty of good linkage to while away a few hours.

Meanwhile, I'm suddenly possessed by the urge to make an item of clothing again. I have a pretty navy blue floral print in my stash picked up in John Lewis which I want to use to make a top. Can anyone recommend some lovely top or blouse patterns for woven fabrics? I'd love to be able to find a failsafe pattern that I could knock up in a few different fabrics, with scope for neckline and sleeve variations. But I'm steering well clear of anything fitted until I've completed a few more pilates classes and become a more proficient dressmaker. Let's just say I need a little margin for error on both counts!

I like the shape of these two tops, from my dressmaking inspiration board over on pinterest, the pleats and also the little capped sleeve on the second top, for a simple over-the-head shape with no darts or zips.

I'm also adding a few more books to my most-wanted over on my 'sewing books' page, and would love an opinion from anyone who has used any of them:
How to Use, Adapt and Design Sewing Patterns: From Shop-bought Patterns to Drafting Your Own: A Complete Guide to Fashion Sewing with Confidence by Lee Hollahan
Design-It-Yourself Clothes by Cal Patch
Sew U: The Built by Wendy Guide to Making Your Own Wardrobe by Wendy Mullin
The BurdaStyle Sewing Handbook by Nora Abousteit and Alison Kelly

I shall be blaming the BBC if I fail to make a wearable top at the end of all this!

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