Colour blocked Coco’s

Coco was my first foray into sewing with knit fabrics, and I would say that it was a perfect introduction for a new sewist.  Tilly’s instructions are fantastically clear, and the pattern is sewn with a Ponte Roma or stable jersey, and so is much more friendly and easy to work with than some of the alternatives.

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These two colour blocked coco’s are not my first attempts at this pattern, though that version is still in use, but these are the first ones where I started to modify patterns to suit my own preferences.  For these versions I slimmed down the sleeve piece from below the armscye to the wrist, and also added my own cutting lines for the colour blocking.

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Another advantage for novice sewists is that this one pattern covers a range of options.  There is a dress or a top, a variety of sleeve lengths and a funnel or boatneck neckline. This makes it even easier to get both value for money from a pattern, and to end up with the garment you were dreaming of!  For both of my versions I went for the straightforward boat neckline, which is just turned under and stitched.  My top tip for getting it to stay in place is 1cm fusible hemming tape.  It will stay right were you have pressed it, and also gives the neckline a little bit of structure.

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For the dress version I added patch pockets and decided to finish the hem with a zigzag stitch in contrasting white thread.  I actually preferred the appearance of the stitch from the bobbin side so I stitched it from the wrong side.

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Both this top and dress have been going strong for about 3 years now and they are still comfy and cosy with just a bit of bobbling now.  I think I will still be wearing them for a while yet.IMG_0965

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My first dress- meet Megan

My first ever handmade dress was this Megan dress, and I have always considered it a lucky dress because the first time I wore it at a wedding it proved a very successful topic of conversation with my neighbour at the table.  Well, it recently had another wedding outing, and I thought that it was high tile that it got its own photos and write up on the blog.

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This Megan dress pattern comes from the Tilly and the Buttons book, Love at first Stitch which was my introduction to sewing for myself.  I worked through the patterns in the book in sequence (see here for my Delphine Skirt and Clemence Skirt), learning the required techniques as I went along.  I still sometimes come back to this book to look something up when I need a reminder.  Each technique is explained and photographed in detail which was a lifeline when I was starting out.

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This dress for me does represent the proud moment of sewing up a bodice and sleeves and it being a wearable dress.  Yes the invisible zip is definitely not invisible and I’m sure there are lots of places where the finishing could be improved, but that hasn’t stopped me from wearing it.

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The fabric is just a very affordable polycotton and I have no idea anymore where it came from!  Looking back on it today, I’m glad that my new to sewing self didn’t try to over fit this dress.  There is definitely a good bit of ease, and that is what has made it comfortable to wear all day to a wedding.  The bodice is possibly a little too long looking back at these pictures and I think that is what is causing the creasing, but nothing major would need to be done to a remake of this pattern.

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Being such a long time ago, the construction details are a little hazy.  I think I made a straight size 3 (Tilly has her own numeric sizing system), though if I went back to the pattern I could probably work it out for certain because I definitely traced the pattern pieces off the large pattern sheets which come with the book.  It is such a simple shape that I think I may have to revisit this dress again.  The style actually lends itself pretty well to both summer dresses and to layering in winter.  I will be wearing this one for the next few months with long sleeved t-shirts and tights.

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Winslow Culottes

I have been desiring culottes for a while, especially as I have been cycling a bit more, and they are just much more practical than a skirt on a bike!  The best ones look pretty and feminine like a skirt, just a lot less likely to accidentally show off your underwear! Having looked at a few options, I settled on the Winslow Culottes by Helens Closet who is another new to me pattern designer.

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I wanted these culottes to sit a little below my natural waist and to be loose and comfortable for summer so I sized up a little and used the size 8 pieces. I figured that if it was a little larger than I planned, with those big pleats it would be easy to just shorten the waistband and take a little more fabric into the pleat.

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The fabric is a little special.  The only souvenir that I brought home from Italy was this 1.3m remnant of fabric.  The shop that we visited was very close to Milan city centre and was understandably mostly out of my price range.  There were some stunning silks and velvets, but I could only really justify looking though their remnants.

This smallish piece of cotton was my prize though.  It is just lovely to touch. Soft and drapey, and made in Italy, so a very appropriate holiday souvenir.  The yardage was pretty much perfect for these shorter culottes (view B).

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These have been a very quick and efficient sew.  I prewashed the fabric in the morning, then ironed and cut before lunch and spent the afternoon sewing them up.  I would say that this was a pretty beginner friendly pattern.  The trickiest part is probably inserting the invisible zip, but the instructions and illustrations are excellent.

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In terms of fit, I am fairly happy.  The waistband fits a little strangely, because it sits at a slightly strange in-between height. I can live with that though, but next time I will need to contour the waistband slightly so that it sits against my body a little better.  It is just a narrow straight band, so there isn’t any shaping included in the pattern.

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When I hemmed these culottes, I did take quite a bit of length off.  They are designed with a narrow 1/2″ hem, but I ended up with a deep 3 1/2″ hem instead to bring the length up above my knee a little.  That might be partially because the waistband is sitting a little lower than my natural waist.

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The fabric makes these so special for me.  There are a couple of hidden features, like including the selvedge into the pockets as a special holiday reminder.  It was beautiful to work with, and is a great weight, draping really nicely in the finished skirt.  The deep pleats are very flattering, so I think I will be making this pattern up agin next summer.

These pictures do remind me that sadly summer is drawing to a close.  The culottes did perform really well on our ride, along with my Rowan bodysuit, but we did get soaked in a rain shower on the way home!

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Sew over it Silk Cami

By the time you are reading this I will be on a flight out to Italy with a suitcase full of last minute completed sewing!  I’m going to have quite a backlog of things to write up once I get back.  This is also a slightly belated post.  Even the pictures were taken a couple of months ago on a short trip to Swansea.

When Sew Over It was having one of their sales, I decided to get a printed copy of their Silk Cami as part of a fabric/pattern kit.  They make up small numbers of these kits with a suitable fabric for a few of their PDF only patterns, and if you hate the printing and sticking that a PDF pattern entails, this is one way to access a couple more of their designs!

IMG_2466.JPGI decided not to use the fabric which came with the kit for my first attempt, because I wanted to check out the fit.  Instead I used the very last pieces of this cotton lawn (seen before in my Beausoleil Top and the English Tea Dress). You may also have spotted that I am wearing my handmade espadrilles in these pictures.  They still look so cool!

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This is a very simple top.  There is no shaping or darts to deal with.  Just a front and back, and facings to finish the neckline and armholes.  Given it’s simple shape, I actually really like the fit of this and definitely have plans for more.

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About the only place that I’m not 100% happy is the back neckline which seems to be gaping a little.  I think I might take out a dart in this version, and then correct it in the pattern for future attempts.

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The only other little gripe if that my front facing doesn’t lie totally flat.  I’m not sure if that is a drafting error, or a tracing off the pattern error. (Probably more likely the latter.)  It means that for my next cami I will need to double check the pattern pieces too!

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I do have a slightly exiting plan to hack this at some point too with the Grainline Archer Popover variation to give a little cami with a popover button placket at the front.  I think that will look really cute when I get around to it!

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I do have plans for a few more of these once I have sorted out the slight neckline issues.  This one was always planned as a wearable toile before cutting into a couple of other lovely fabrics which have been earmarked of this pattern.

Head to Head- dipped hem t-shirts

Introducing the Patterns:

Molly Top & Dress by Sew Over Ita staple  kimono sleeved top with an option to add full length sleeves.  It has just 4 pattern pieces (3 if you choose not to add the longer sleeves) and is billed as “The perfect pattern to try sewing jersey for the first time, a hit with anyone who likes a quick, satisfying sew.” It also has an option for a jersey dress.

Briar Sweater and T-shirt by Megan Nielsona simple and stylish t-shirt or sweater.  Comes with a scooped front hem and dipped back to create a hi-lo profile.  Both cropped and full lengths, and a range of pocket, sleeve and neckline options.

Sizing and Fit:

Both are loose fitting drapey tops and I cut the smallest size in each.

 

 

Ease of Construction and Instructions:

Both patterns have clear instructions and illustrations.  I think the Molly top is probably slightly simpler to construct and understand, but that is partially due to having fewer pattern pieces and options.  I did learn how to do a neckline binding in the Briar instructions, but I did also have to check the Megan Nielson tutorial for some extra photographs just to be sure what was going on.

 

Value for Money:

This is a little tricky to compare because the Molly Top only comes as part of the Sew Over It eBook- My Capsule Wardrobe.  The Briar top is £13.49 on the Megan Nielson website, but has two lengths and a variety of styling options.  I think if you would be interested in some of the other items in the eBook such as the Alex shirtdress or Mia jeans then at £20 it is pretty good value for 5 patterns, most of which also have pattern variations included.

 

Features:

Hem:

Both have dipped hems at the back.  Molly has a dipped hem at the front, while Briar has a slightly cropped front for full hi-lo effect.  My personal preference is that I prefer the Molly front hem for tucking into skirts and I think the length at the back is also more flattering.  The Briar does look great though with jeans or a pair of shorts.

Neckline:

Briar does give options for a regular neckline band and for a clean finished neckline binding.  Molly just includes a simple jersey neckband.  Both necklines are scooped, with Briar being a little deeper.  Both seem to lie flat and even.

Sleeves:

I chose to keep both sleeves short, so the cut on sleeves of the Molly top to save a step.  That said, the Briar tee sleeve did ease in neatly without an gathering or puckering, so as sleeves go, this was easy to insert.

Overall Impressions:

I think my overall preference is for the Molly top.  The length of the dipped hem seems particularly flattering, and not having to insert sleeves for the short sleeved t-shirt does make this a very quick summer make.  If I make the Briar again, I will be shortening the dipped back hem a little.

However, I will add that it is very simple to alter the hemline of a jersey t-shirt, so if you already have one of these (or something similar) this is a very easy way to change up a pattern.  Katie from the Creative Counselor has just been doing a series on modifying a basic t-shirt pattern, so check it out if you want some ideas or techniques.

Simple skirt in the sunshine! Meet Clemence.

I love wearing skirts in the summer, so this simple gathered cotton skirt seemed perfect for visiting the bluebells for an evening picnic.  The skirt is another from Tilly and the Buttons’ first book, Love at first Stitch and is a very beginner friendly gathered rectangle skirt called Clemence.  The book guides you though drafting this basic pattern for yourself, which is a good place to start with pattern drafting and alterations, because Tilly’s instructions are as always excellent.

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This is actually the second of these skirts that I made, and is actually another early make.  For this second skirt I got a little more ambitious and drafted an un-gathered lining, made from an old sheet because the main fabric is a little transparent!

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As always, I also needed pockets.  The book talks you through making changes to the all the patterns, like including pockets in the or restyling the patterns to get a couple of different looks.

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I also decided to experiment with some of the decorative stitches on my machine to create an attractive pattern at the hem.

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It even has an concealed zip.  I keep returning to Tilly’s instructions for reassurance when I need to insert one still!  This one is actually pretty invisible and well matched.

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While this skirt has been in my wardrobe for over two years now, and my skills have undoubtedly improved, I still enjoy wearing these earlier makes.  I enjoy seeing how much I have learned and developed, but also it is satisfying to know that I am contributing to a clothing ethic that doesn’t view an item of clothing as something to wear once and discard.  For every year that I keep wearing these simple early makes I can sit happy knowing that I am reducing my impact on the planet and the disposable fast fashion culture.

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As a little bonus, I did also manage to find a picture of my first Clemence skirt from Me Made May Last year!  It is made in a mint green chambray from Calico Laine I think.  This one did have a couple of issues including being a bit big at the waist.  Fortunately/unfortunately the zip broke pretty quickly, so when I replaced it, I also sorted out the waist sizing, so this one is also in spring/summer wardrobe rotation.

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Wise up Wednesdays- Pinning and clipping

I keep two types of pins in my sewing kit.  Firstly, ordinary sharp pins, but I prefer mine to have glass heads so that I can’t melt them if I touch them with an iron.

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Secondly, I have some fine ballpoint pins which I keep to use on particularly delicate fabrics and on jersey.  They do have a habit of slipping out so I definitely have to handle things carefully once they are pinned with these.

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Finally, I have some quilting clips.  These are great for anytime that pins are not your friend.  Fabrics which might ladder or mark, waterproof fabrics or leather, net and fabrics that pins just fall back out of.  Even anything which is a bit thick and bulky for pins can be clipped easily.

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I keep my pins in little clippy boxes.  They need to be big enough to get your hands in and out easily.  Especially as I don’t like to stop sewing to remove my pins, I need to be able to find the pot while still watching the needle!

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My clips stay safe in a little drawstring bag.  These are so simple to make, and I always have plenty around to be used to wrap small presents or store odds and ends.  I use a tutorial by Pam at Threading my Way which is super simple to follow, and creates a neat finished pouch.  They are great for using up scraps or co-ordinating fat quarters!

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Kelly Skirt

This skirt has been a staple in my wardrobe, year round, whatever the weather!  It is amazing to find patterns that are really versatile and practical and this is one of them.  It is the Kelly Skirt pattern my Megan Nielson, but I received it free with Love Sewing magazine in 2015 when dressmaking was new to me and it is still going strong.

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I wanted a skirt that could be worn with anything and so chose a classic denim to keep it fairly neutral.  It didn’t want it to be totally plain though, so I decided on contrast topstitching.  It did take a while to choose a colour that I was happy with.  I chose this red because it does add a bit of character, but without making it difficult to wear with lots of other colours.  To make it stand out a little more, I did double rows of topstitching, using the edge of my presser foot as a guide to keep the spacing even.

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This skirt is super simple to construct as was for me a great introduction to pleats.  There are 4 box pleats, 2 front and two at the back to give the nipped in waist and then flaring to make space for the hips.

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Like the topstitching, choosing buttons was another dilemma.  I wanted something neutral but not boring!  These hexagonal shell buttons are just lovely.  They have a subtle shine and pick up the colours around them.

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And obviously, I couldn’t make a pattern without showing you the pockets!  These pockets are in a star print cotton and are the scraps from another project.  I think exciting pockets are my favourite use of scraps of fabric.

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I have since made another in aubergine needlecord and it is also a popular wardrobe pick of mine, though is getting less wear in the spring as it is a little dark.  It does have good pockets though too!

Agnes Top

I wear so many long-sleeved or 3/4 sleeved tops under jumpers and dresses in the winter, so this Agnes Top by  Tilly and the Buttons has become a staple for me.  I have 2 different versions, using all the pattern variations, which include elastic and gathering options for the sleeve and neckline.

I love that this pattern is well fitted to my shape.  I have cut a size 3 in two different fabrics, but both have worked well.  One is in the same teal stripe from Girl Charlee as my Molly Top from a couple of weeks ago, another is in a cheap polyester jersey from Trago.  The trago fabric was lovely and simple to work with because there was no need for stripe matching, but I did find that if overstretched the white backing shows through which is a shame.

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With basics there is not really a huge amount to say.  This pattern has fantastically simple instructions and illustrations.  Tilly really does have a way with creating beginner friendly patterns.  If working with jersey fabrics is intimidating to you, she offers an online workshop for this pattern too. I haven’t used it myself, but if it is like her written explanations, I’m sure that it is a great way of learning to use these sometimes scary fabrics!

As I said the fit is great, and if you have already seen my guest post for Minerva Crafts you will know that I used this pattern to modify the fit of the Colette Moneta dress too.  I’m sure I will be using this and other Tilly and the Buttons patterns again in the future.

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Making basics with the Molly Top

In the last year I have been working hard to make the things I wear every day, and that means basics.  perhaps not the most exciting sewing, but these Sew Over It Molly Tops  from the My Capsule Wardrobe E-book get so much wear.

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This magenta and grey is my first attempt and it did go together very smoothly.  I decided to use the neckband on the cross-grain, but this was a mistake because there wasn’t enough stretch in that direction.  It ended up hanging away from the body quite a bit at the neckline so I have fudged a fix by turning the neckband down again and stitching it in place.

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This pattern is one of 5 PDF patterns in the e-book. It is a loose-fitting, kimono sleeved top with a dipped hem. The sizing is spot on. It is loose and flowing without ending up oversized.

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I now have two short-sleeved versions, and a long-sleeved top (all striped which did create some extra work matching).  It does help that you don’t need to stripe match at the sleeve seam, because the stripe direction changes.

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All three of my tops are made with jersey from Girl Charlee who really should be your go-to place for jersey.  These are all quite lightweight, so don’t have loads of stretch and do need to be handled a little carefully to stop them from stretching out.  The two short-sleeved tops are 1/2 inch stripe, cotton jersey blends available here in teal and magenta.  There are lots of other colour options too.  The long-sleeve is similar, but unfortunately now out of stock.

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On my long-sleeved version I have found the sleeves a little short and they got stretched out hemming so I have since added a cuff.  Not really sure that it helped, so I may remove the sleeves and keep it as another short-sleeved version.

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I would definitely make more of these.  If you didn’t have stripe matching to deal with they would be such a fast make. The short-sleeved version only has 3 pieces- front, back and neckband.  Not so sure about the sleeved version, perhaps I should try again in a more stable jersey, but at the moment I think I prefer the Tilly and the Buttons Agnes Top which I will be reviewing here shortly!