I think one of the reasons that I didn’t get any further than choosing and preparing my fabric for my Taylor Trench last year, is that I was a bit scared about cutting into my fabric. Some of that fear came from worries about the actual sewing, but I think more of it came from choosing the ‘wrong’ size and not ending up happy with the finished fit.
This time though I was determined not to have any reasons for putting this coat off, so I decided that the solution was to sew a quick toile of the outer coat from some cheaper fabric. In my stash I do keep things like old bedsheets and duvet covers just for this purpose, so I had no excuse not to give it a try.
When sewing my toile I went for a size L because I want to be able to fit jumpers underneath, and my quilted lining will also take up a bit of extra room. It did mean that even with my toile I needed to use a bit of judgement about how the actual coat will fit because it is going to feel a bit snugger. I’m happy with my decision though and now there is no more procrastinating allowed!
In fact, to make sure that I didn’t let the fear get to me again, I have cut out the fabric for my actual coat now. There is a sew-along starting tomorrow and I’m hoping to use it to give me some extra confidence and purpose, even if I don’t manage to stick completely to the schedule.
Last year I found it really helpful to think about which of my makes hit the mark, and which were less successful with my hits and misses, so I thought I would have another go this year too. I think most of my sewing has been fairly successful this year, though I have just done a wardrobe clear out, and a few handmade clothes did get the axe, so its certainly not perfect yet.
So here we go:
Top 5 Hits
Amber tops and Dress
I practically lived in my Amber tops during the last part of my pregnancy when it was hot and my bump was huge. Even since then, I must wear one at least 2-3 times a week because they are one of my most practical options for feeding in too. I particularly love my Amber dress because I think it looks fairly stylish and is so easy to just throw on, and my Amber hack layering tee also gets a lot of wear under shirts at the moment. I think the reason they have been so successful is because they suit my lifestyle as it is right now, not how I might wish it was. They are also made in good quality cotton jersey, so they have survived lots of washing and grabbing straight back out of the laundry pile!
This is another item of clothing that regularly gets taken straight from the clean washing pile to be put back on. When I first made it I wasn’t sure about the style on me and this was really intended as a wearable toile. However, the oversized nature of it has definitely been growing on me, and I love how easy it is to throw on. I would love to make another (possibly multiples) as again it fits my lifestyle right now really well.
Modified Toaster Sweater
I made this Toaster sweater right at the start of the year with some very special Atelier Brunette fabric. I’m pleased that I used this very special fabric in something which is comfortable and practical. I love that it fits over my Archer shirts, and the crew neck is more practical with a collar. I’m even really pleased with my decision to go for contrasting gold topstitching.
Ultimate Wrap Dress
This dress is another make that I love because I tweaked the pattern to create what I actually wanted. I hacked the sleeve into a little flutter sleeve, modified the cross-over to be a little higher and added an empire line seam to make it fit over the bump. I have worn it a bit since the arrival of baby too, though I think it might now need re-hemming to take out some of the extra length that I added to the front. I’m looking forward to being able to wear it again next summer.
I have made a mountain of these tops for Toby and as gifts, and I’m sure there will be more. I particularly like hacking them to have poppers at the neckline while he is small, but the pattern goes up to ages 5-6, so I’m sure I will make more as he grows. It’s a free pattern too, so what’s not to love!
There were a couple of other patterns that I would have included, but I thought it might be cheating to include patterns that made it onto last year’s successes like the Mens Metro Tee and Grainline Archer because I knew before I got started that I would love them! I also thought that perhaps I couldn’t include the skirt that I am currently sewing, even though I’m pretty sure it will be a hit because I haven’t actually worn it yet! Another that came close was the Dandelion Dungarees because they have seen a lot of wear in the last few months and the popper hack definitely worked there too. I think the things that I have included demonstrate that I’m getting more confident at hacking patterns to get what I actually want from them, not just putting up with the parts that don’t work for me.
Top 5 Misses
Considering how much I love my Oslo cardigan, it seems a little strange that I’m not such a big fan of the Kinder Cardigan which is pretty similar. I think it is down to a couple of issues, one being that the pattern is possibly even a little more oversized than Oslo. The other being that the Ponte I made it in is definitely more structured so it ‘feels’ bigger. I did like some of the construction methods, and the pockets though, so I’m tempted to adopt some of these for my next Oslo cardigan attempt.
Technically this was made in 2017, but I was never really going to wear it until this year. I’m not sure if it is just because it is such a large expanse of single colour, but I didn’t really hit it off with this Blossom dress. I love the fabric, and the Anna Top that I squeezed out of the offcuts, but the dress hardly got worn. It probably doesn’t help that it looked a bit strange before I had a big enough bump, and by the time my bump was bigger the weather was warming up. This hasn’t survived a recent wardrobe clear out because it looks ridiculous again without a baby bump. Perhaps it would have been better as a top.
A more recent make was this Lucia Top. It was a great way to kickstart sewing again being really simple, but I’m not a massive fan of the fabric. It’s a bit too shiny and ‘polyester’y. It has survive the wardrobe clear out, but only to see if I will wear it during the festive season when red and shiny seems more acceptable. If it doesn’t get worn it might have to go too.
There is nothing actually ‘wrong’ with this Lily Top, it just doesn’t get worn as often as I thought it might. I did wear it while I was pregnant, and I do sometimes wear it now to feed, but I wasn’t 100% pleased with the finishing techniques and there are some areas that I don’t think are going to be all that robust. It’s not a total fail, though I don’t think I would make the pattern again.
Again, there is nothing ‘wrong’ with this skirt, but I think it suffers from not suiting my changing body and style. I have been wearing a lot less that sits actually at my waist because I don’t find it that flattering at the moment. Perhaps that will change in the future and I will feel better wearing this skirt though. With hindsight, though the pockets are really useful, they just draw more attention to an area that I feel less confident in at the moment!
I think several of these projects have suffered from the difficulties of guessing what sorts of things I was going to want to wear as my lifestyle and body have changed. Hopefully now that thigs are starting to settle down I can make more informed choices for next year and get more of them right!
How do you like to pick our next sewing project? Do you sew multiples of the same garment or dive straight in to something new? Do you like to stick to the same colours or fabrics (or same thread in you sewing machine/overlocker) or do you flit about with different colours textures and patterns to keep things exciting? I tend to do a bit of both. Sometimes I’m tempted immediately by the lure of the next new thing, or other shiny fabrics, but sometimes I’m a little more pragmatic and choose to sew several things in the same fabric to save changing threads and needles, or make repeats of a pattern so I only need to figure out the instructions once.
This is one of the times where I’ve decided to let pragmatism and planning win out. I’ve been planning this speckled cream Archer Shirt for over a year, but it fits in beautifully with an outfit I have in my head for Autumn/Winter so it finally made it to the top of the sewing queue. I’ve made several Archer’s before, so I know what to expect from the fit, and also from the complexity of shirt making, and decided that it would actually be almost as quick to sew two shirts together. (See my post on sewing with limited time).
Especially once I rediscovered this other brushed cotton in my stash which would work with the same needles and same white thread It’s actually the same fabric that I used to make my sister an Archer for Christmas last year, but I figured she won’t mind me copying a good idea!
The shirts are actually just the same as all the ones I’ve made before (here and here)- a straight size 4. I love them to bits though. The brushed cottons are just perfect for this time of year. They feel so cosy.
I remembered to sew in my ribbon tags into the back yoke of the shirts which makes me smile every time that I put them on. I French-seamed the side seams too.
The checked shirt has several details cut on the bias to save on pattern matching, and to add a bit of interest. I did (mostly) pattern match the side seams and front, though it isn’t perfect. I decided that I can definitely live with it, and didn’t have the patience for meticulous cutting out!
On the speckled shirt I decided to hem it with bias tape. It’s not a technique I use very often, so I could probably do with more practice, but I like the neat finish. It’s not always easy to press up a neat narrow hem when there is a big curve like on the side seam of the Archer. Its worth spending the extra time on garments which are going to get lots of wear!
I think I probably have enough of these shirts to keep me going for quite a while, so I probably don’t need to make any more for a bit. Next time I need a shirt though, I can be pretty sure which pattern I’m going to be going straight to.
This is my latest baby pattern attempt, the dandelion dungarees by Poppy and Jazz which is an offshoot of Sew Over It. I thought the promotional photos were all super cute, and I love dressing Toby in dungarees so this seemed like a great pattern choice.
The pattern is reversible so you get two looks in one which is lovely. I really like cuffing the ankles so that you can see the contrast fabric from the inside.
The instructions were really clear, and I think this would be quite a good first knit sewing project because the seams don’t actually need to stretch and get sewn with an ordinary straight stitch. The only tricky part is ‘bagging out’ the legs, but the instructions do explain pretty well.
I did make things rather trickier by hacking these dungarees to have poppers between the legs. It does make it much easier to change nappies, but I can see why they didn’t include it in the instructions because it did make construction considerably more awkward. I’m really pleased with them though, and even chose a few different colours of snaps to close them with.
The straps also have two sets of snaps so that I can change the length as he grows.
I’m definitely going to have to make some more of these dungarees. I’ve been eyeing up all the cute printed jerseys in my stash and working out colour combinations. Even with all the snap setting they were a pretty quick sew. Plus, they were another of my ‘wildcard’ entry make 9 patterns so I’m really onto a win there!
My sewing has definitely slowed down a bit since having a baby, but I do have some plans for the autumn. I need some more long sleeved tops, as does Matt so I’ve gone back to my favorite cotton spandex from Girl Charlee in Sage Green and Dusty Masala.
With regards to my make 9 plans its going pretty well and I’ve decided on a final couple of things to add as my wildcards. I’m going to sew the Poppy and JazzDandelion Dungarees for Toby (and if I get time a co-ordinating Honeydew Hoodie), and I could do with another wintery Archer shirt for which I have a perfect cream speckled brushed cotton from Fabworks last year. So my make 9 now looks like this:
6 made (some several times), 1 in progress, and 2 yet to start. I feel like that is not too bad. The Taylor Trench and Archer shirt are pretty involved makes, though I have made the Archer multiple times before. The dandelion dungarees should be super easy though. I have some cute Fabworks elephant fabric which might work.
If I get time, I could also do with another Oslo cardigan. The one that I made at the start of the year is in constant rotation, and I’ve been discovering that cardigans are much more convenient to breastfeed in than jumpers, and its getting too cold to be without layers.
If you saw my previous ‘in progress’ post, you will already know a bit about my planning and design process for this dress. Now I’m ready to show off the finished outfit, all ready for graduation!
I found the sewing up pretty easy having made my toile. You do have to be aware of the seam allowances though because there are a variety of different ones used in different areas. I’m glad that I added in a seam in the skirt to allow pockets in both side seams. I used the roomy pocket piece from the Helen’s Closet Winslow Culottes and they meant that I didn’t need to carry a bag.
I made the executive decision to have the button plackets the wrong way around. The colours and patterns on the facings just seemed to flow more logically across the front of the bodice than when I put them the right way around. I was also getting a little short of time when it came to putting in the buttons and buttonholes, and I didn’t really want to rush them so I went with snaps instead. These pretty pearly ones look quite like buttons anyway, and are nice and quick to undo to feed!
Even though I didn’t have loads of time to put this together, I did take some time over the finishing. I french seamed the bodice seams to keep all the layers of fabric neatly enclosed. I needed help to level the hem properly too because the waistline seems to be rising up slightly at the front. I think it could be partly because my bust is a bit bigger than in the past and could do with a bit more room. I had to remove about 2″ at the centre back skirt before it hung level all the way around.
Wearing this with my underskirt did work perfectly, and I will be able to wear the dress without it too next summer.
I’m hoping this will be a dress which will get lots of wear, both dressed up for a wedding or two, and for everyday. It’s probably getting too cold for many more outings this year though.
What circle skirt post could be complete without a bit of twirling. This skirt did feel great to wear. I would make another I think, though with my sewing time a bit limited it probably wont make it to the top of my sewing queue for a while.
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.)
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.
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!
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.
As part of my sewing plans for the year I have divided up some of the steps involved in sewing up my Taylor Trench. In the last post I included all my materials and planning. I have everything that I need ready now, and have started some of the pre-prep work for the coat. I have spread the tasks for this coat across the next few months. I don’t want to overload myself, or end up rushing it so I’m planning to have all the final touches complete in time for autumn. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t fit my planned size very well at the moment anyway!
The first steps have been relatively simple, but also a little time consuming. I have pre-washed and shrunk my lining fabric, and as I explained before I wanted to make this coat a little warmer by quilting the lining to some thinsulate, much like Lauren from Guthrie and Ghani did with her Kelly anorak. I don’t need all the pieces of lining to be insulated, so I tried to work out how much quilting I needed to do by laying out the pattern pieces that I did need on the fabric and measuring along.
Quilting the two fabrics together is a very slow process! I decided on a 1.5 inch diamond grid pattern, and used a walking foot and guide to try to keep it even. I found that the layers ‘stick together’ pretty well by themselves because the backing of the thinsulate is almost like cotton wool. I did use some extra pins and safety pins to keep them from moving about during sewing, though I didn’t need loads. It was pretty tricky manipulating such a large piece of fabric on my domestic machine and sewing table. I think next time I would be tempted to send it in to my local quilting shop and get them to do it for me.
I looked at a few different thread colour options for the quilting, but in the end I settled on simple white. Pragmatically, I already have a massive reel of white cotton, so I was ready to go, but I also didn’t want the quilting to detract from the print in the fabric.
It took absolutely ages to get the fabric all quilted and prepped. I was expecting it to be slow, but I do think it will be totally worth it in the end. The quilting is definitely not perfect, but I doubt anyone would ever notice. I did invest in a better walking foot partway through which helped enormously. I had been using a cheap unbranded one, but the actual Brother foot and guide was just so much better at drawing the fabric through evenly.
Next steps are to cut all the pieces from both my lining and my outer fabric, which will be another time consuming part because there are quite a few pieces. I’m really looking forward to actually getting to the sewing though now!
Sometimes sewing is about the flashy new patterns or beautiful fabric. Sometime thought it is just about basics that you feel comfortable and yourself in. That is what this post is- filling the gaps in my current wardrobe (which seems to stop fitting me every couple of weeks at the moment) with things that I need.
Both of these patterns have appeared on the blog before several times. I do love sewing up those tried and true patterns though, that you can cut in batches, knowing that the sizing will be right, and can sew with barely a glance at the instructions.
Both of these are made in my favorite t-shirt wright jersey too- Girl Charlee’s solid cotton spandex. It has great recovery, sews up beautifully, washes well and comes in loads of colours. I don’t think I will go back to using anything else for my plain t-shirts.
So I think this really is the perfect recipe- patterns which I know the fit and the drafting, and fabric which behaves just as you expect. Perhaps not the most exciting or revelatory discovery, but I have found lately with my self imposed fabric and pattern buying ban that I am having to return to and rediscover things which before I might have overlooked in favour of the new and sparkly. Sometimes what you really need has been sat there in front of you all along!