Simple Sew – The Skater Dress

I love making 1950’s style dresses – basically anything with a flared A line skirt will do!  I have tried various patterns over the years to see what fits best and which is the better style that I am looking for.  I normally stick to my Butterick B4443 easy sew pattern, which has seen me make countless dresses from.  This is all well and good for summer dresses,  however I have never really made a winter dress before so thought I would give it a go.

imageI do like the skater style dresses so had a look on the web at what was available.  I noticed the Simple Sew patterns had a lovely dress which looked good and importantly, looked easy to make.  I couldn’t really find many reviews of this dress. Having curves, I always check out the Curvy Sewing Collective, who do excellent reviews and advice.  However this dress didn’t feature there so I thought I would give it a go anyway. I also liked the idea that Simple Sew was a British company, instead of the usual USA sewing pattern providers.

When the pattern arrived, it was on one huge piece of tracing paper, not like the couple of sheets you usually get.  The paper was a crisp white which made it easy to trace/cut around.

I have had my fingers burnt often, with not doing a “mock up”.  I have cut the pattern out according to my measurements and have cut my lovely fabric only to find once I’ve made it, that the thing just doesn’t fit.  No more!  I always make a mock up now.  I trace over the sewing pattern and use some cheap material to test it out.  By doing this, I can alter fitting and hems etc to fit my measurements.  It is a long winded way of doing it but it’s so much better than spoiling your original lovely fabric.

Anyway, onto my mock up – my original material was a grey background of white outlined cats which I though would be more appropriate in the winter.  I am a regular size 8 in most clothes but went for a size 10 in this pattern to try to accommodate bigger boobs!

After tracing and cutting out I then went onto the instructions.  These I have to say are pretty vague, they miss lots of steps off and are very minimal.  I have never quite seen instructions so like this.  After finding no reviews online, I went onto the Simple Sew website where they do have pattern tutuorials.  This was better and the tutorial did admit that the instructions did miss out some steps.image

However once I had pieced what I was supposed to do together, it was all very straightforward.

There are not too many pieces in this design, front and back bodice, front and back skirt, sleeves x 2 and collar interfacing. I only needed to buy a 16inch zip and obviously matching thread.

I started by transferring  darts on the front and back bodice as per the pattern and sewing these, once this is complete, you sew the shoulders only of the back and front bodice together.  This seems strange to me, as on all other patterns you sew the sides too.  Next is the interfacing – I  always get this mixed up when ironing on interfacing – I can never remember if its the shiny side you iron or the other one and invariably I get it wrong!  Once you have successfully cut out and ironed the interfacing to the collar, you sew the 3 sections together and then sew onto the neckline.image

Next the sleeves.  I always found these hard, which explains why I’ve so many sleeveless dresses in my wardrobe!  Actually these are quite each.  Run a basting stich across the top of the sleeve to fit into the armhole and gather from both ends.  Don’t garther too much, jut a few gathers as the sleee has to fit in the sleevehole.  Once it’s pinned in and adjusted, then sew.

Now for the skirt.  Attach the front skirt to the front bodice and vice versa to the back skirt and bodice.  Simple.  Next the zip.  I dislike putting in zips intensely, however my experience of zips has been changed by watching the Professor Pincushion video tuturoals on YouTube.  Your will never look back, believe me! Once you have insterted your zip, sew from the end of the zip to the bottom of the centre hem. Once you have sewin in your zip you need to sew from the edge of the sleeve right down the side of the body all the way to the bottom hem.  The instructions usefully didn’t mention any of this.

imageFInally to finish, sew a neat hem at the edges of the sleeves and a hem for the bottom of the skirt.

Voila.  A skater dress. Thanks to Simple Sew.

I have to say this is one of the best fitting dresses I have made, I loved the mock up so much I’ve kept that for next summer!  It fits in all the right places, especially if you are not a stick insect and really looks good.  I can’t wait to wear it!

 

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A Retro Christmas – Nostalgia required!

I started my Etsy shop in September 2015 and I didn’t really properly prepare for Christmas, I was just learning the ropes, trying new things out and researching what sold and what seemed to be the most popular trends.

This year, I started Christmas earlier than I meant to!  It came about on a trip to my local Hobbycraft, in Shirley, Solihull.  I was looking for some cottons and happened to spot their Christmas fabric displays and homed in on some lovely retro looking material.  It was a fat quarter of 6 different Christmas themed fabrics.  My favourite was the pink fabric featuring a reindeer.  Very kitsch!  (The reindeer design also comes in a blue fabric).image1

I started making some hanging decorations with these fabrics and decided I was going to make a heart decoration.  This is a completely non-traditional shape and colour so a bit risky, however I thought it would appeal to all those retro fans out there who are looking for that something a little bit different and eye-catching.untitled

Making the hearts was relatively straight forward – I previously wrote a blog post on how to make a seamless heart which you can reference.

Fingers crossed, all those retro fans out there will like these lovely decorations.  A touch of nostalgia is all that is required!

See the shop link at the top of my website for links to my Etsy shop. Also, see Hobbycraft for lovely retro fat quarters.


Patchwork and Birmingham!

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I have been interested in patchwork for a while now, after a friend bought me a present of the Cath Kidston book, originally titled “Patch”!  I’ve made a few things from the book, most notably the patchwork hexagonal pincushion.  I really enjoyed making the pincushion as I could sit down and take my patchwork with me anywhere as it was all handsewn.  It even went on holiday with me! It’s just so relaxing, sitting down in front of the tv, just me and my patchwork (and hubbie of course)!  I like the idea you can mix and match fabric for patchwork, using up scraps of fabric or incorporating different themes.

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Indeed, I have made several patchwork pincushion, including a sewing notions pincushion, which you can see on my Etsy shop: Lizzyshomemade

I’m currently in the process of making a small patchwork cushion with a  vintage style maps material.  It’s been lovely this month to take my patchwork outside on a sunny afternoon and to sit sewing.

Anyway, as I knew next to nothing about patchwork, I thought I would look into this lovely craft.

According to the V&A museum in London, their definition of patchwork is ” 2 layers of fabric sandwiching a thickish padding, all held together by lines of stitching.  It is associated with quilting and involves sewing together pieces of fabric into a larger design”.

Apparently, from google research, the earliest examples of patchwork were found in the Egyptian tombs and there have also been finds from the Middle Ages, however patchwork seemed to become popular during the 11th to 13th centuries in Europe.

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Many people associate patchwork and quilting with the USA.  Indeed, the art of quilting became widespread during the Great Depression from 1929.  It became popular as a means to recycling clothing into quilts as money was scarce.

Indeed, I can remember the film “How to make an American Quilt” from 1995 with Winona Ryder, where a family sat around making a beautiful quilt for a wedding gift from fabric that had meant something to them. Indeed, I love the idea of incorporating your fabric strips from garments that you no longer wear but mean something to you.  For example children’s clothing and wedding outfits etc. These quilts then become heirlooms down the generations and can take years to make.  Its a lovely tradition of families and friends coming together to sew a quilt for someone they love with their memories incorporated into it.

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One of my recently read books from my favourite author, Tracey Chevalier was about  quilt making in the 1850’s.  Quaker Honor Bright comes to 1850’s America from England and has to overcome tragedy and misfortune, however she takes refuge in her quiltmaking.  “The Last Runaway” written in 2015 is a must for those patchwork and quilting fans out there.  I loved it!

From searching for patchwork and quilting museums or exhibitions, I recalled that there was a quilt museum in York, I remember my mother in law, who is an avid quilter visiting it.  Unfortunately, it closed in 2015 which is a bit of a shame.  Apart from the obvious V&A in London, I did find the American Museum in Bath which looks to have an extensive collection.

With regards to patchworking and quilting in Birmingham, I am very lucky to have a patchwork and fabric shop about 10 minutes drive from where I live in South Birmingham, called The Cotton Patch. They specialise in patchworking and quilting plus have a good array of fabrics for dressmaking.

When I last visited I picked up a leaflet about an exhibition of Welsh quilts in Lampeter, which looked interesting.  (I think Welsh quiltmaking and blanket making will have to wait for a new post!).  It turns out that there is a Welsh Quilts centre which houses the exhibition.  As I am Welsh, hopefully my husband and son won’t mind a weekend away soon.  The exhibition runs until 5 Novemer 2016.

On a slightly more local basis than Wales, there is a Festival of Quilts held yearly in Birmingham at the NEC which has exhibitors from all around Europe and sells itself as the largest patchworking and quiliting exhibion in Europe.  I missed it this year due to school holidays, but would love to go next year.

My other local haberdashery shop, Guthrie and Ghani in Moseley runs patchwork and quilting courses, so I am signing up for one of these.  I would love to make a proper quilt, even if it would take me years!  I need to learn how to do it though, as quilt making is obviously on a much bigger scale than patchwork pincushions and cushion covers!

I really enjoyed researching this blog and hoped you liked reading it and it has prompted you to try patchwork for yourself!

For more information on quilting, the Quilters Guild is a very interesting read.  Hobbycraft also specialises in fat quarters for quilting and has a lovely range of fabrics.


 

Lobster Dress

I have finally got around to completing work on my lobster dress!

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I purchased this lovely navy retro looking material, with white lobsters a few months ago from Fabric Rehab,  www.fabricrehab.co.uk with a view to making a skater style dress.  However, after making a tote bag from this material for my Etsy shop first, I received a large custom order from Newfoundland to make several lobster bags and progress on the dress stopped!

I went back to one of my favourite original patterns that I made my first dress from a couple of years ago; Vogue V8723, Very Easy Vogue Patterns.  This simple dress pattern consists of a lined bodice, a lined skater style skirt and a 20 inch zip at the back.

imageI had cut out the pattern pieces a few weeks ago and followed the bodice measurements for a D cup as I am quite busty.  Assembling the dress was fairly simple as the bodice consisted of a couple of darts in the front and only one in the back.  The lining was fashioned in exactly the same way.  However on trying the dress on, there was far too much material gaping at the front bodice so I had to take some more in from the darts, which seems to have fixed the problem. I will have to remember to use the B cup bodice pattern next time!

 

 

Although the pattern states that the skirt should be lined, I didn’t bother lining the skirt as the material is medium thickness and navy so hardly see through.  The skirt was fairly easy to assemble as it just had to be gathered and the gathers adjusted to fit the bodice seams.

I used to find the hardest part of dress making was zip insertion until I learnt how to insert a zip easily and properly through the YouTube channel of Professor Pincushion.  Here, they take you step by step on how to insert a zip.  This method works every time and makes dress making much easier. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huQh2aE2Sao

With some hand sewing to finish off the dress (mainly a hook and eye above the zip and attaching the lining to the zip too), the dress is completed.  Hurray!  I finally have my finished lobster dress in time for late Summer!

Next on the list is a fabulous Licorice Allsorts fabric in a black background, remembering to use the B cup front bodice pattern next time!image

My retro 1950’s shirt dress

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As readers of my blog will be aware, I am addicted to 1950’s style dresses.  I love the femininity of them, the swirl, that “princess” feeling.  Luckily for me I have an hourglass figure which really suits the 1950’s A-line style.

When my son started school a few years ago, I enrolled on a weekly dressmaking course and over the years, I have made a few tops and some simple sundresses for myself.  I particulary like the Vintage Vogue V8789.  However, this time I decided to tackle a 1950’s style shirt dress pattern; the McCall’s M6696.

Interestingly, this all came about as a result of receiving the new Boden Spring 2016 catalogue.  They have a lovely Sophia shirtdress in pale lemon but unfortunately had run out of my size with little hope of a restock.  I looked at the dress and thought how hard can it be?  So I googled simple shirtdress pattern and came up with the McCall’s M6696. This stated that it was an “Easy”pattern to tackle.  All the better!

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I looked to see if there were any general reviews of the pattern, then I looked at one of my newly discovered sites, The Curvy Sewing Collective. For the unitiated, this is a website designed to give advice on sewing patterns for the curvy person.  Although I am a size 8, I generally have a large chest which doesn’t always equate to size 8 clothes!  This website looks at sewing patterns and reviews and comments on them, giving helpful hints on how you can alter the pattern etc.  Anyways, they had the McCall’s dress in it and gave it a good review.

Next, I went to my favourite fabric store – Barrys, in Birmingham – to have a look for some fabric.  My husband and son are regular visitors here and the staff love my son and he loves hiding in amongt the fabric!  My husband has a good eye for material so he picked out a fabulous retro bicycle print in a pale green which would look amazing in a dress.  Great, I’ve now got my pattern and my fabric.

As I mentioned I went to dressmaking lessons but my tutor was always on hand for the more trickier stuff.  When I looked through the McCall’s pattern, although it stated easy, there was some stuff I had never tackled before, such as yokes, button down bands and collars.  Yikes!  The instructions would have been clear if I knew what I was doing in the first place!

Thank heavens for YouTube!  I googled “how to attach a yoke” and found a brilliant channel called Professor Pincushion.  This American lady has hundreds of different clips on all elements of dressmaking which are so clear, precise and easy to follow.  I have looked online for sewing stuff before but with mixed results.  However Professor Pincushion is now my new find!

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With her help, I made a yoke, learnt abou how to attach a collar and made a shirt button band.  I cannot recommend her enough if you are puzzled about instructons on a sewing pattern.  I completed the dress fairly quickly and really enjoyed doing it.  After previous bad experiences of cutting into patterns and fabric and finding the fit is not right, I now trace the pattern and do a mock up with some cheap fabric rather than spoiling the original! I was glad I did because the size 8 was a little too tight on the waistband (too many cakes?) so I altered it to a size 10 when cutting out my fabric properly.

I finally finished the shirt dress a few days later  I have to say I am really pleased with the results.  The fit is good and the dress hangs well.    The good thing is that I can now go ahead and make a 100 of these if I wish as I have the perfect pattern for my body.IMG_0454

So, if you fancy having a go at a new summer dress then take a look at McCall’s M669 and let me know how you get on!


My favourite fabric shop in Birmingham

I had a lovely Saturday before Christmas visiting my local fabric store; Barry’s in Birmingham.  Those of you who live in Birmingham and are addicted to fabric, will I am sure know this store very well!

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There is no pattern of fabric that they do not sell!  Anything you could wish for in terms of stripes, spots, teacups, gingham and special occasion fabrics, Barry’s sells.

You can gain so much inspiration from just going in for a quick look.  Shall I make a skirt from this? A dress from that? That would look nice in!!! etc, etc.

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I originally went in with a list of the fabric that I wanted.  I really don’t know why I bothered!  I did purchase all I needed plus quite a bit more! Well, its a treat, isn’t it?  (Did I mention how affordable the fabrics are?). Notwithstanding the special offer fabric rolls they have!).

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Readers of my blog will know that I am obsessed by the 1950’s and I have been making some vintage style retro half aprons as my latest project.  I had in mind a kitchen inspired fabric for the front of the apron.  Well, I was spoilt for choice!  There were dozens I could choose from.  In the end I plumped for a selection of named cakes (macaroons, eclairs etc) all in a pretty vintage stlye on a cream background.  I also bought some retro jar fabric with a green background.  Both will do nicely for my vintage style aprons.

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My son wanted me to make a new PE bag for school for him – his London transport made bag has served him well for 2 years, but is showing a fair sign of wear and teat!  He’s obsessed by cats at the moment, so he chose a lovely cat fabric, which I made into a bag for him with his name on.  Very chic!  He loved it. On the way to the measuring desk, I spotted some monkey and bananas fabric which I thought would look great for making into a PE bag or toy bag.  That’s my next project.

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My final purchase was some cotton plain pink fabric to make “mock ups” of dresses and skirts that I enjoy making for myself.

While I was paying, my lovely husband after playing hide and seek with the rolls of fabric with my son! took these photos for me.  He’s quite used to my fabric obsession and is fairly handy at suggesting fabric that I might like.


Sewing on Television/Films

The-Dressmaker-1-web-version-660x1024A couple of weeks ago, me and hubby (bullied into!) went to see the new Kate Winslet film, The Dressmaker.  The film is set in the 1950’s and is based on the book by Rosalie Ham.  Its about a dressmaker returning to her native Australia to right the wrongs done to her in the past. Although I quite liked the film, there wasn’t an awful lot of sewing in it!  However the vintage Singer sewing machine did put in quite an appearance!  Nevertheless, my favourite era for clothes and fashion is the 1950’s and there were indeed some lovely gowns and evening attire to feast upon.

This got me thinking, that I can’t actually remember hardly any films that involved that much sewing!  From memory, there are dress making scenes in Walt Disney’s Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, but from then on I struggle!

imagesREENIZPVCurrently there is one programme on television (ok, so I am cheating, its not film!), that I am a huge fan of – The Great British Sewing Bee.  For the unitiated, this is a sewing competition for amateurs that started in 2013.  Every week the sewers are set challenges and one contestant gets eliminated each episode.  I must admit, I do look forward to the Great British Sewing Bee, every year I get encouraged to make the different garments that are showcased on that weeks programme.  As soon as an episode has ended, I get the urge to look at my fabric stash and through all my ribbons, trims and bits and bobs, that I collect from all the haberdashery shops throughout the country and abroad.

But, where does the term “Sewing Bee” originate from?  The Collins English Dictionary definition is “a small informal social gathering (usually of women) based around the activity of making or mending clothes or other things with a needle and thread.” In todays society, they are more generally referred to as sewing circles or sewing groups.

104db236-835a-4977-88de-1cca413c5fbbAlthough with their origins in America, Sewing bees became popular in the UK at around the time of World War II, with the Queen Mother supporting the “make and mend” movement amongst women to support the troops.  Indeed twice a week at Buckingham Palace, the Queen Mother held a sewing bee in the ballroom of the palace with the rest of the palace staff.  See http://www.britishpathe.com/video/her-majestys-sewing-bee for a short clip!

If anyone can recommend a “sewing film” then please leave a comment.

1950’s dresses – A brief history

imagesP86OHRPGI think sometimes that I was born in the wrong era. I feel much happier in a dress with a fitted waist and a full skirt. Not necessarily over the top with a petticoat underneath (I do the school run!) but something that makes me feel feminine at least. Jeans are comfortable and practical but they don’t make me feel good about myself.

I adore the 1950’s. Everything I like and am drawn to is mainly from this era. I love the clothes, the kitsch and the home styling!

My favourite 1950s icons include Audrey Hepburn (she will be covered in a future blog), Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly. Hollywood glamour became popular in Europe with these icons.  To me they look feminine, dress fashionably and smartly and actually have a womanly figure rather than looking like a stick insect!imagesTR07WJ6G

The 1950’s were all about the waistline with an emphasis on a thin waist, defined hips and a larger more defined bust. In short a more feminine silhouette than had been seen for many years. Dior’s “New Look” defined women’s wardrobes and women’s figures were given the illusion of an hourglass shape with a nipped in waist and a full skirt, adding definition to the body.

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With the end of World War II, came a feeling of freedom, especially in terms of fashion for women. No more fabric rationing and a new choice of material and patterns from which to have fun making clothes with. There was now an availability of different fabrics, especially in the USA. Excess fabric was used to create full skirts, pleats and petticoats etc. Cottons, linens and silks were still used but were expensive and difficult to find, hence the rise of the synthetic materials market, most notably nylon, polyester and acrylic. These new fabrics revolutionised fabric care, with even a quick wash and possibly no ironing required!

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I like the 1950s because even today it appears timeless. The return of full skirts, capri pants and flat ballet shoes all feature heavily in my wardrobe. Okay, I do admit that I tend to stand out in the school playground, amidst the jeans and parkers but then again I get compliments on how I look and so many people comment on my dresses and how they wish they could wear them! Well, why not? It’s the easiest thing in the world in the rush of a morning when you can’t decide what to wear to put on a dress in the summer and a dress with leggings and boots in the winter. I always remember one of Gok Wan’s fashion programmes in which he said that he never understood why so little women wore dresses as they were so easy and versatile to wear. So try wearing the 1950’s style dresses for yourself  and see if you are convinced!

Sewing for curvy people? Not always successful!

Bettine_sewing_pattern_cover_mediumI started dress making when my son went to school and I was at a loose end.  I had always been creative, making curtains, cushions etc. but I decided I wanted to have a go at making my own clothes.  I enrolled on a sewing class and have never looked back.

Not everything has been successful, there has been quite a lot of learning on the job.  I now know that its best to make a “mock up” of something you fancy trying, rather than wasting precious fabric.  However, I haven’t made any clothes for a few months now (summer hols etc) and I completely forgot my “mock up” rule!

I purchased the Bettine dress pattern from Tilly and the Buttons.  I’ve made a couple of Tilly’s things before which have always turned out well.  However, not so this pattern.  I am a size 10 but curvy which fitted in with size 2 of the pattern.  I was going ahead really well and the dress was mostly made, when I suddenly thought, I’d better try this on to see if it fits.  I couldn’t even get the dress over my head!  I had picked a cotton gingham material and there was no give in it at all.  I altered the seams, but still nothing.  So frustrating.  I measured the dress compared to the final measurements as given in the pattern and they were correct, but not for my size!  I simply can’t do anything with it at all and my lovely gingham dress is looking at me, all forlorn!

I googled reviews of the pattern and quite a few did say that it was only made for those women who weren’t curvy or busty.  Wish I had read this before and saved my time and my fabric!

One of the reviews pointed me to a website tailored especially for those women like me, the Curvy Sewing Collective.: http://curvysewingcollective.com/

They are a group of women with ideas and advice on sewing and patterns for curvy women.  Their review page is quite good and gives pictures of how they have altered patterns to suit different figures.  Following on from this, I’m now going to give the Dahlia dress pattern from a Colette a go!  Remembering to do a “mock up” first!


Hexagonal Pincushion

IMG_0653Here are a few of my hexagonal pincushions.

This is a spotty pink one with a cherry fabric in the middle, which I think helps it stand out more.

This is a retro 1950s one.

IMG_0642I love this fabric so much that i’ve made a 1950’s A-line skirt out of it too!

 

 

 

A Cath Kidston designed fabric.IMG_0603 The outer hexagons are made from the pink Cath fabric, designed for Ikea and the inner is a remnant left over from a skirt I made last year.

If you like these, more hexagonal pincushions are available on Folksy.