Speedy underskirt sewing

Hopefully by the time you are reading this, my penny dress will be finished and have been worn, but I thought I would share with you a quick sew that I put together to wear with it.  I decided not to line the skirt of my penny dress, and it is just about opaque enough to wear as it is, but the weather has turned cooler, and for graduation I will be wearing tights so I didn’t want the cotton skirt sticking to them.  My simple solution (which should also help me to stay warm) was to add a little slip or underskirt which will both add to the opacity and reduce the cling.  This skirt came together in less than one evening.  It helped that I had a couple of little tricks in mind to speed up the process.  It is constructed almost entirely on the overlocker so the seams are sewn and finished at the same time.  In fact the only time I needed to use my sewing machine was to sew the elastic waistband into a circle.

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This skirt is a basic 1/4 circle skirt.  I sized it large enough so that the waist would pull up past my hips which meant that I wouldn’t need any form of zip or closure.  I used the classic ‘pencil on a string’ trick to draw it onto my fabric, meaning no pattern to draft or trace out, and with a bit of basic maths a skirt is born!  (If you want to skip the maths, the By Hand London circle skirt calculator is great. Just make sure that you enter you hip measurement rather than your waist if you want to do it without a closure.)

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I also tried out a new finishing trick for hemming.  My Janome 6234XL can do a 2 two thread overlock which is great for adding a lace trim and tidying up the seamline.  It was the first time I had actually used it for a project (the only other time was at an get to ‘know your overlocker’ class at the Exeter Sewing Machine Company which I would highly recommend).  I was slightly surprised that my notes were sufficient to remind me what to do and how to get set up, but it turned out to be a very speedy way to achieve a hem (and we all know how huge a circle skirt hem can be!), which has the added bonus of being very attractive and decorative.

The waistband is just wide waistband elastic sewn into a circle, and then stretched to the same dimensions as the waist while it was sewn on.  I did it straight on the overlocker again which seems far quicker than using the sewing machine.  I think the whole thing probably took around an hour from cutting out to finishing, though it was done in a few small doses around baby feeds and dinner.  Definitely one of my speediest conceived and executed projects!

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Penny in Progress

It feels like might just be the last person to try sewing a Sew Over It Penny dress, but it’s the pattern that I have picked out to make my dress to wear to graduation.  I have been planning this dress a while, and it is one of my make 9 plans so it feels good to be underway!  I chose to make it in this beautiful floral cotton lawn from Minerva Crafts.  They have a great selection, and I spent a long while narrowing it down and choosing.

It is slightly translucent, so I spent a long time deciding what to do about it.  I’m still not 100% decided on what to do with the skirt (I’m going to wait and see if it is opaque enough by itself, but I chose to underline the bodice with white cotton lawn.  I could have tried to do a proper lining, but with the construction of the Penny button placket (which is a bit unusual) I wasn’t quite sure how, and underlining doesn’t change any of the construction steps.  I just had to hand sew the lining and the outer fabrics together before beginning the pattern construction steps.  (It’s pretty similar to what I did to my wrap dress here.)

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To make sure that the dress was going to fit properly I did make a toile first from a couple of old bedsheets.  I didn’t bother with cutting and sewing the whole length of the skirt, so I just cut a shortened version.  It did help me to work out the construction process before I start sewing the real thing which was really useful as I did get a bit confused for a while with the collar and facings.  The method in the instructions does work, but did just baffle me for a while!  It also meant that I could make a few fitting tweaks for my actual dress.

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Because I’m still not back to my pre-baby shape and size, I thought it might be most flattering to have the waist seam and the elastic at my smallest point, which is still just below the bust, making my dress empire line.  to do that, I’m removing 2.5cm from the bodice length.  I’ve also decided to add in pockets to the skirt, so I cut the skirt as two pieces and added a seam allowance where it should be placed on the fold.  If you are going to make your own clothes, you might as well have everything that you want!

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That’s about as far as I have got so far.  I’ve finished stitching the underlining to the main fabric, and I’m hoping the construction will go together smoothly, having ironed out the confusion with my toile.  I have just over a week to get it put together so hopefully it will be enough!  I want to do it properly though, and pay attention to the quality of construction.  I don’t make many pretty dresses any more, so the ones I do need to be make to last.

Wonderful Watson

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I had made my own bra before, the Cloth Habit Watson Bra. I think I made this bra about 18 months ago, and have always intended to make another but not yet got around to it.  Sewing lingerie does seem to be another of those slightly intimidating projects, a bit like sewing my first trousers or jeans, bit I have to say that this was a great pattern as a first attempt.

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The Watson bra is a soft cup bra without underwires, so about as basic as it can get.  What made it so great as a first project though was the great step by step sew along.  The instructions in the pattern are good, but I really valued the photographs in the sew along to reassure me that I was doing it right.  Both the pattern instructions and the sew along also tell you exactly what stitch settings to use when sewing different parts of the bra, which I really valued as a first time lingerie maker.

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Its not always easy to find all the pieces required in lingerie patterns- most require meshes and various different elastics and it can feel a bit intimidating.  I decided to take the guesswork out of it by ordering a kit from TailorMadeShoppe on etsy.  They don’t have the same one any more, but they do have lots of kits for soft cup bras like the Watson in all sorts of different fabrics.

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The Watson pattern also includes a bikini style underwear pattern, with similarly great instructions and pictures.  My success with these pants definitely gave me the confidence to make up my big batch of Acacia Undies.

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I do have fabric and findings to make another few soft cup bras, though I think I would need to work out again what size to go with as my body has definitely changed post baby.  My little bra modification to add nursing clips would work while making my own bra though too so maybe I will have to find some time to give it another go.  I did find it very satisfying completing each small step before so it might be a good project to do in my more limited sewing time.

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Bra Modification

This is another quick and practical project. I have made my own lingerie before (such as an unblogged Watson Bra and these Acacia Undies), but I didn’t really have the time or inclination this time around! Instead I bought this bra recently, though to be useful for everyday it needs to be nursing friendly so I decided to make the modifications myself.

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You can buy kits like this one to convert your bra, but I decided to just buy the clips and elastic that I needed separately.  First job is to measure the width of the current strap elastic to buy the right clip size, and unpick the elastic from the top of the cup.

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Once it’s been taken apart, the clips can be put into position and sewn up.

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Next job is to attach elastic from the strap clip to the bottom of the cup.  This stops you from losing your strap back over your shoulder when it is unclipped.

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In all, a pretty useful little modification.  It always feels good to do some sewing that will really get lots of use.  Now I really must get on with that graduation dress!