This was actually sewn and photographed in February, and it a pretty simple t-shirt pattern. I could have taken my trusty Tilly and the Buttons Agnes t-shirt and hacked it to colour block myself, but it was quite nice to let someone else do the work for a change, and was a good chance to try out a new to me pattern company. The instructions from Deer and Doe looked really good and clear, thought I didn’t really use them except to check the seam allowances!
There are more photos, and some of my top tips up on the Minerva Crafts blog here. Enjoy!
I thought I would write about something a little different this week. I have had the privilege of having a close look at a handmade garment which has been passed down several generations babies in my husband’s family. I believe it was originally made for my father in law by his mother- it’s his christening gown.
As far as I can tell, the whole of the gown has been sewn by hand. It must have been a real labour of love, because the stitches involved are tiny and beautiful!
There are actually two parts to the gown, an outer of white broderie anglaise, and a pale blue lining. I guess the blue lining must have been a little prone to fraying because all the raw edges have been enclosed. The side seams are felled seams and there is a double turned hem.
The neckline and armhole edges have been enclosed in a narrow self fabric binding, which it is hard to tell, but I think is cut on the bias.
There are little metal snaps sewn into the shoulders for ease of getting it on over a babies head too.
On the outer dress, the side seams have been left raw, but most of the other seams have been enclosed in a white cotton bias binding. The two back bodice pieces have been carefully cut to use the selvedge edge to help stabilise the opening in the neckline.
The seams attaching the bodice to the gathered skirt have been carefully topstitched, I think to help the gathers and seam allowance to sit flat.
At the back there is a pair of tiny thread loops to close the back neckline. They are just so neat and dainty!
Having a close look at such a special garment has been a lot of fun. I can see the hours of careful sewing that must have gone into creating it and it is a real family heirloom as a result. It makes me consider my own sewing, and while I am improving my finishing and hand sewing all the time, I don’t think I have ever sewn something with quite the same level of care and attention as there is in this little gown. Definitely something to think about for the future. Which of my makes would I want to become family heirlooms to be handed down through the generations.
Before Christmas I made a bit of a special purchase for myself. I had always wanted to use Spoonflower to make a shirt for myself because it seemed like a great way to simplify the time consuming cutting out part of the process. With Spoonflower about to shut down the pre-printed pattern part of their business, it gave me the nudge that I needed to commit, and I went for the Alder Shirtdress by Grainline. I’ve already made their Archer Shirt about 5 times before, so I felt fairly confident that I could order the Alder in a size 4 and it would probably fit pretty well.
It did take me a long time to decide on the fabric print. In the end I went for these mountains. I really liked the muted colours, but I didn’t want anything too pale in case it was a bit see through in bright sunlight! Its printed cotton lawn, and while you can still get fabric printed with spoonflower in this pattern (called ‘call of the mountains’ by nouveau_bohemian), they don’t seem to use the cotton lawn as a substrate option anymore. It’s a nice weight for this dress though, it is crisp and pressed beautifully, but not so heavy that it doesn’t drape at all.
The season for wearing a sleeveless summer dress, even with a cardigan is pretty short in the UK, so I wanted to be able to wear this more like a tunic to extend it’s useful and wearable season. It was about perfect with a t-shirt and my Virginia leggings underneath on a slightly breezy April morning.
The completely loose silhouette is a slightly new one for me, though I actually quite liked it. It’s nice that I can change it up a bit with a belt too though if I want a bit more of a waist.
Construction wise, it went together very easily. I didn’t really need the instructions because it is much the same as the Archer. Like the Archer, I enclosed the yoke seams using the burrito method which has a video tutorial on the grainline website. I did have a bit of a battle getting the collar on without any little tucks, and its still not perfect, but after about 3 attempts I decided it was good enough!
Because the Alder is sleeveless, there is a bias facing to finish of the sleeve edge. I’m not the biggest fan of bias binding, so I opted to machine sew the first pass, and the under stitching, then hand stitched the binding to the inside. I like that it has given a really clean finish to the armhole, and my hand stitches are almost invisible which is satisfying!
The one disadvantage of using spoonflower is that the notches are already transferred and it is a bit trickier to make fitting alterations. I did pin out the darts and hold the front panels up to me, but the darts have actually ended up a little low. Next time I make an Alder I’m going to need to raise them slightly. The fit is still pretty good though, so it’s nothing that will stop me from wearing this version.
It’s almost the start of May, and I’ve decided to think through my pledge with you. I’ve taken part a few times in the past, and found it really helpful for clarifying my future plans.
I already wear handmade clothing most days, except the three days which I wear a uniform to work. For the challenge to be useful I think I need so do something a little new. In terms of sustainability and making good use of all of my wardrobe, I would like to think about the combinations in which I wear both my handmade and ready to wear clothes. I want to see where the gaps are- which things I wear all the time and are wearing out, which are great, but don’t fit as well as I would like and need adjusting, which just don’t suit my style now and never make it into regular rotation.
So my pledge for this year: To wear a unique combination of my current wardrobe each day, except where I am required to wear my uniform. I’m also going to keep track of where the gaps are, and what I might need to do to fill them, whether it is looking out for something in the charity shop, or sewing it up later in the year. If there are things that don’t get worn at all, I want to think about why, and consider modifying, remaking, or clearing out those things that don’t work for me any more.
I’m not going to worry about photographing or documenting each day, but I might share any new combinations that I discover and really love! Good luck to any of you that are also taking part, and if you want to know more about the challenge, I recommend that you visit Zoe’s blog here.
The last few months I have been off to a flying start with my make 9 plans, so I decided to keep that going by sewing up this Honeydew Hoodie for Toby. He is growing so fast at the moment and has already grown out of the Dandelion Dungarees I made him before Christmas so it seemed like a good time to make him something new.
Like the dungarees, this is designed to be a reversible pattern so I needed to choose two co-ordinating fabrics in a similar weight. It seemed like a good time to use up the remnants from my Oslo cardigan, and I chose this grey, black and red camper van print for the contrast. Both have the same grey and black colourway so I thought that they would look cute peaking out from the cuffs and hood.
I decided to go for the 12-18 month size to give some growing room. Toby often seems to have shorter arms than things are designed for, but because the cuffs are designed to be turned back to show the reverse I thought that he could just grow into them when he is ready.
In the midst of the creation of my Taylor Trench, I fancied a quick win, which is why I paused it to work on this for a few days. It was very quick and easy. Just 4 pattern pieces so both quick to cut and simple to sew.
I’m still not certain that my snap setting is perfect. They sometimes feel a bit delicate, so I think I need to reinforce the jersey a little more in future. These star snaps are pretty cool though. They just have plain circles on the reverse to go with the printed fabric side.
Doesn’t he look cute. He is growing so fast, and moving quickly too which did make our photo shoot a bit tricky!
This gets me to between a third and halfway through my make 9, so pretty good for the first 4 months of the year. See my Oslo Cardigan and Virginia Leggings for my other completed projects, and I’m part way through sewing up another at the moment.
So I have been a little more absent from this blog than I had hoped the last couple of weeks. I’ve just been very tired, and it has really hit my motivation to sew. Fortunately, it looks like change is in the air, and my sewjo is returning this week. I’ve been busy cutting out and preparing a few projects, tracing off a pattern, and yesterday I actually sat down at the machine to sew for the first time in about a month!
I’ve even been out to the park to take some pictures of something which I finished a month or so ago. Hopefully I will get to sorting and editing this week so that I can share it next weekend.
I haven’t been completely away from crafting though. I have cast on a new knitting project, this time with a few new stitches to learn, and some lace patterning. It has been quite a therapeutic way to spend some of the evening, and I do really like to have my hands busy if we are sat watching TV, so it is a good solution for that.
So hopefully, dispute my absence things are ticking along. I still have some work to do on my Trench Coat, but that might wait a few weeks until I settle back into the routine of sewing. I think I might need a couple of easy wins to ease back in first!
This may be of less interest to those of you who only follow my blog for the sewing, but I have something that I’m very proud of to share! This is by far the largest and most complex knitting project that I have undertaken. It might not look like much, but I knit pretty slowly, and had to learn quite a few new techniques in the process of making this little cardigan.
The pattern for this cardigan comes from a West Yorkshire Spinners pattern book called Bo Peep Storybook. It is a really cute book of baby and child patterns, designed to be knitted with their Bo Peep luxury baby wool. I chose the ‘under-the-sea’ colourway from my local knitting shop, which I figured was a good gender neutral colour, without sticking to the traditional white or yellow!
This jumper has taken me almost 18 months to knit to completion. I think it might have taken longer if I didn’t realise that it needed finishing now, or it would be too small by the time I did! It has taught me a whole bunch of new skills, from different ways to make stitches, picking up stitches on an edge, and has improved my sewing up of knitting no end.
Putting Toby in it today to take some photos, I did feel really proud. A project that takes so long has you really invested in the process as much as the final result. Every time I finished a piece or section of the instructions I got another new boost of motivation to work my way through the next part. It actually has made me consider knitting something else, possibly even a jumper for myself, though I know that will be an even bigger process to complete.
The button band is not quite as per the instructions. I got a little confused over the counting of stitches as I cast off the buttonholes. I now know how it should have been done, but I’ve made it work and I’m happy. The buttons weren’t chosen until right at the very end, and I wanted something bright and jolly. The great thing with buttons though is that I can change them out for something different in the future if I want something a little more neutral. Toby seems to like fiddling with them, so I’m taking that as approval.
I did quite a bit of research about the best way to get the buttons attached, and decided on using small backing buttons on the inside. I’m hoping that is will help to distribute the load of doing up and undoing, and will help to protect the knitting itself.
I think the make of a good project is one which motivates you to learn something new, and to then to use the skills you have been developing on the next project. This one definitely did that, and Toby looks so cute wearing it too!
I was hoping that by now my coat would be finished and ready to share, but I think it is good to be realistic and honest about how life and sewing don’t always neatly combine! If you looked at the blogs and Instagram accounts, you could be forgiven for thinking that everyone manages to make something new each week and for every special occasion, birthday present and new baby that they encounter. I know however, that that is not the reality, certainly not in my experience, so I think it is good to share the slower sewing, lack of progress, process orientated thinking too.
So what have I been up to in the last couple of weeks? My sewing time has taken a bit of a back seat for the last two weeks as I have been juggling going back to work with my life as a mum. It takes a lot more planning and organisation to get myself out ready for work, and Toby to nursery or to his Grans, so my evenings have consisted of a lot more packing lunches, bags of spare clothes and less sewing! By the time it is all done I don’t always have the energy for sewing.
I have managed to make some progress though, and it is still so satisfying seeing this coat come together. Each stage feels like a milestone and sitting down to sew even for a short time is so relaxing, especially when time to myself and for my hobbies has been in much shorter supply.
The outer shell of the coat is pretty much complete. It still needs buttons and buttonholes once the lining is in, but I can get a good feel for how it is going to look now. The hood also needs constructing separately, but that might be the last job I do because the hood is detachable so I can wear my coat without it until it is finished!
The lining is well underway now too. It does take quite a while sewing and preparing the quilted sections because they can’t really be pressed very well (the insulation melts), and I have been carefully clipping the insulation away from the seam allowances too to reduce bulk. I still need to sew and set in the sleeves, but once that is done, I will be ready to join the outer and the lining.
Hopefully this gives a better insight into the realities of sewing progress. It’s not always plain sailing and finished projects, but I will be all the more proud of my coat when it is complete for the time, energy and perseverance that it took.
It feels so good to have made progress with a more complex project! I have made a lot of pretty easy knit garments in the last year or so and very few woven ones. I even found the cutting out each piece on a single layer strangely satisfying, when usually cutting out is something to be avoided.
I’ve made some good progress on the construction now. My first welt pockets since making Matt a waistcoat about two years ago are looking pretty good.
Some of the standalone pieces are complete too like the belt. This still needs some extra eyelets installing to give me the holes to tighten through, but I want to check where they need to go before I commit.
I have been taking my time with this. It’s actually quite easy to press and very well behaved to sew. I’m using a new needle, but otherwise no other special preparations. I’ve ended up with a double row of top stitching on my shoulder and sleeve tabs which I’m calling a ‘design choice’ because I got the seam allowance muddled and didn’t want to unpick as this fabric does leave holes where is was stitched. I decided instead to just stitch a second row instead.
I decided to baste the darts into the lining before stitching them. My lining is pretty bulky with the thinsulate. They still haven’t stitched perfectly, but I’m hoping that it is good enough.
I’ve reached about the halfway point I think now. The outer of my coat is pretty much complete and looking good. Now its all about the lining and finishing touches. Looking forward to seeing how it turns out!
Do you have clothes that you keep, not because you intend to wear them but because they have memories attached? Last Christmas I turned some of my brother’s military t-shirts into a cushion for him so that he could enjoy them without having a stack of unworn things to drag around. This year, my sister asked for something similar for her birthday, and presented me with a while stack of her event t-shirts to create something from!
I have to admit, the scariest part of this whole project was starting the cutting out! Unlike most dressmaking projects, if I made a mistake, the fabric could not be recut or replaced with something else because each t-shirt had it’s own sentimental reason for being included. For that reason, I did spend a while procrastinating and sketching out a couple of options for laying out the blanket top. It was quite dependant on the dimensions of the various logos and I definitely measured and re-measured them several times before I made any final decisions.
Once the cutting was committed to, this actually went together fairly quickly. I enjoyed arranging the pieces to make a pleasing arrangement of colours across the spread, then set about attaching them together in rows on the overlocker.
Once all the rows were constricted and attached together, I backed them all with a fleece blanket to make it all snuggly. It definitely helps with the weight and drape of the whole thing too as the t-shirts were all different weights and some were quite light. I decided that it was easiest to attach the two wrong sides together, then turn the whole thing through a hole. I then hand stitched the hole closed and topstitched all around the edge to help it sit properly.
I didn’t want to worry about actually quilting the two layers together and I’m fairly sure that the blanket will wash and soften naturally over time anyway. It is definitely more fun to look at than the stack of t-shirts!