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Friday, 15 September 2017

Campsite chic - harem pants and raglan tees

After a hectic Summer, I'm finally getting round to blogging all the stuff I frantically made in preparation for our holiday.  We decided to spend our main holiday in the UK this year - a bit risky but it worked out well - nowhere near as much rain as expected, lots of beach days and only a two-hour drive home at the end of it.  We had a two-site holiday in Wales, spending the first week glamping on the Mawddach Estuary near Dolgellau and Fairbourne and the second in Rhosneigr in Anglesey.  Both equally beautiful in different ways, but they real challenge for me was week one - a whole week without a washing machine with two small children...  The only option was to get sewing so we definitely had enough practical and comfy outfits to make it until we got to our luxury apartment with washing machine in week two!

I have been following Made by Jack's Mum on Facebook for a while after seeing so many harem pants, sweatshirts, t-shirts and other kids clothes made by people on other groups.  I love the simple style and the fact that they are all made using knits, which is pretty much essential for kids clothes (who wants to add even more to their ironing pile!?!).  I was finally tempted to buy the famous harem pants pattern when they ran a flash 50% off sale on all patterns, and I bought the raglan t-shirt pattern at the same time too.  

The first versions I made of both were for Polly.  I bought some fabric from the bargain section at Abakhan in Manchester (where they sell fabric by weight - it takes a bit of getting used to, but you can pick up some great quality fabric at rock bottom prices).  She is obsessed with watermelon, and I couldn't resist an organ get jersey with a bold watermelon print with co-ordinating plain organge jersey.  I used the print for the legs and the plain for the ankle cuffs and waistband.  As soon as I made the harem pants, I understood why they were so popular - they literally take minutes, and the fit and style are both perfect for active kids.  I made a matching raglan, using the watermelon print for the sleeves and neckband and the plain for the body.  The raglan is a little tricker to make as it involves topstitching, but it's still a pretty quick sew, and it goes perfectly with the harem pants to make a co-ordinating outfit.

I moved on to a grey and blue striped raglan with plain grey harems for Thomas, all made with scraps from my stash.  Then I went mad!  Three more pairs of harems for Polly, two more and another raglan for Thomas, all using fabric from my stash.  I also made three pairs of harems as presents for other children, all in various sizes.  After 10 pairs of harem pants, I'm still not sick of this pattern and have got the fabric lined up for the next pair.  In addition to being such a quick sew, the kids love wearing them - in fact, the biggest challenge I had was wrestling them away so I could wash them when we finally got back to civilisation!

A few pics:

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Ruffle sleeves and flamingos

It seems you can't move for ruffle sleeves in the shops at the moment. I had been planning a pattern hack to add them on to a woven top pattern, then the latest Love Sewing arrived (issue 42) and it included a pattern for a dress with ruffle sleeves. I decided to use the pattern to make a top ready to wear on a weekend away. 

I had some amazing flamingo print cotton bought from Abakhan a few months ago which I knew would be perfect for this project. As luck would have it, I also had a matching invisible zip. Although I used the pattern to cut out the top. I ended up ignoring most of the instructions and sewing it together using methods I am familiar with. Some of the instructions were counter-intuitive, so I decided to freestyle it. 

I'm pleased with the top, but it is a bit tight on the body, so only really looks right tucked into a skirt, such as my Ultimate Pencil Skirt. The sleeve ruffles were really easy, and it's nice to have something that is on-trend.  I'm tempted to make another version, but maybe grade up a size so I can wear it with jeans. 

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Board shorts for the (almost) birthday boy

Thomas's birthday is in August, right in the middle of the school holidays. Not only does this make him one of the youngest in the year, most of his friends are on holiday on his birthday. For that reason, we have had his party in July for the last couple of years, meaning he ends up getting two celebrations (lucky boy). His party this year was in a party tent we hired in the garden. I decided to make him some shorts to wear. 

I made the kid's board shorts for Thomas from the third Great British Sewing Bee book a couple of years ago, before I started blogging. They are a great way of using up small bits of fabric. The last pair were in grey jersey with a Star Wars panel. They were a big hit due to being so comfy and they still fit now!  I decided to make him another pair in a larger size, which will hopefully last for another couple of years due to the generous fit. 

I used a blue jersey with a fine rib from my stash for the main part of the legs, and some amazing Alexander Henry graffiti fabric for the waistband and side panels. Unusually, this pattern uses stretch and woven fabrics, but they came together well. I added quite a few more rows of shearing than stated in the pattern as I was nervous that they would be too big round the waist. As it turns out, they are a pretty loose fit on the legs but the waist fits fine. A big thumbs up from Thomas who has worn them loads. Unfortunately, it was too cold and rainy for shorts at his party, but he wore them the next day instead!

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Smart Summer style - Sew Over It Ultimate Pencil Skirt

I've decided to formalise what I have mostly taught myself about sewing and pattern cutting by applying for an evening course at college.  I was really excited to be invited to an interview last week. In addition to putting together a portfolio, I decided to put a piece of African wax fabric that Mum bought me to use as a pencil skirt. I had been saving this fabric for ages. It is so beautiful but I only had a metre and wanted to put it to best use. 

I have made this pattern before using a kit from Sew Over It and have been planning to make again ever since, as the fit is really good for me. As this is such a summery fabric, I decided not to line the skirt - I'll never be wearing it with tights. It was a real challenge to squeeze the pattern pieces out of one metre, but after a lot of rearranging and re-folding, I managed it!

This is a very straightforward make with a couple of darts and no separate waistband (it has a facing instead). As with all Sew Over It patterns, it is a good fit for me with very minimal adjustments. I'm so pleased that I chose to make this pattern with this fabric. The fabric has enough structure for this skirt and the bold design makes it a real statement piece. 

I made a simple cotton t-shirt using New Look 6217 in bargain white fabric I bought as part of my super haul at the Handmade Fair. This is a lovely quick sew and it  is simple enough not to detract from the skirt. 

So all in all, a great outfit to showcase my skills and fabric choices at the interview. Only spanner in the works is that we were informed on arrival at the interview that the course is heavily over-subscribed so there are no spaces left. Although I'm hugely disappointed, I'm on the waiting list and can always reapply for the following academic year if I am unable to study this year!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Super comfy but the jury's out - the Cocoon Dress

The latest issue of Sew Now magazine caught my eye when picking up some reading material for a long train journey, mainly due to the free gift - the Cocoon Dress by Simple Sew. It was quite an unusual style and I thought it would make a super-comfy and wearable day dress for Summer. 

I've had some lightweight spotty denim in my stash for ages, which I had planned to make a shirt dress with. However, I picked up some old curtains from a charity shop which I am planning to use for that project instead.  I've seen a lot of unstructured denim dresses about this Summer, so decided to use this fabric for the Cocoon Dress. 

I chose the short sleeve version, which has grown on cap sleeves bound with bias binding. My favourite design feature is the deep in-seam pockets (got to love a dress with pockets).  I actually cut two broad strips of the fabric to use instead of binding as suggested, which give the impression of turned-up sleeves. It all came together really easily, and I am pleased with the v-neck, something I have found tricky in the past. All in all, it was a couple of hours sewing. 

As predicted, the dress is super comfy and ideal for my un-air-conditioned office in the Summer. However, I'm not sure if I like the style and I'm not convinced it is very flattering. I'll keep wearing it and decide whether I love it or not....

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Happy Father's Day - a dad-style retro Hawaiian shirt

With Father's Day coming up, I struggled to think of something to make for Dad. My inspiration came from Gareth when I was sorting through my fabric stash and he saw some of the fabric I bought on my trip to Manila back in January. He commented that it was really retro and would make an awesome shirt. I remembered this and decided to use it to make a Hawaiian style Negroni shirt for him. Dad spends a lot of time on holiday and already has a few Hawaiian shirts that he takes with him, so this seemed like an excellent idea. 

I only just managed to cut the shirt out because the fabric has a border print and I didn't have much. I had to make the inside back yoke in a contrasting fabric. I also cut it out a size larger than I would normally do, as I think that style of shirt should be worn bigger. When I made a Negroni for Gareth earlier in the year, it took ages and I was worried about finishing this on time. However, the short-sleeved version is so much quicker - I hadn't taken into account just how fiddly it is doing the cuffs and openings on the long-sleeved one. This went pretty much without a hitch, or so I thought. When Dad tried it on, he struggled to do up the buttons because I had sewn them on the wrong side  out of habit!  It still looks pretty awesome though - Happy Father's Day Dad, hope you had a great day xxx 


Saturday, 17 June 2017

You shall go to the ball... Burda 6518

I keep thinking back to just over a month ago when I went to the amazing Dressmakers Ball run by Crafty Sew&so in Leicester. I've been meaning to blog about it ever since, but life kept getting in the way!  

As soon as I saw another blogger mention buying tickets to this event, I knew I had to go!  Mum and Liz were both up for it as well so we made plans. Being super organised, Mum made her dress months before the ball - a fabulous 50s style tea dress in Frida Kahlo fabric by Alexander Henry. Liz and I are a bit more last-minute, so both ended up sewing right up to the wire!

I knew I wanted a 70s style maxi dress and searched everywhere for the right pattern, dismissing loads along the way because I was unhappy with the neckline or sleeves. I eventually settled on Burda 6518, which was more contemporary than I had planned. I decided to make the long sleeveless version, and bought metres and metres of fabric from myfabrics to make it - I've never made a dress with so much fabric!  I chose a navy floral georgette for the main fabric with a navy lining.  

The bodice took ages, mainly down to having 3 layers of fabric. I was really pleased with the look of it and my fabric choice. The skirt was straightforward to sew but again it was time-consuming due to the sheer volume of fabric involved. I had a few disasters along the way, including accidentally throwing away my first zip, then taking four attempts to get the second one in only to snip the end off it rendering it unusable. I was millimetres away from throwing the whole thing away at that point! Thankfully, it was third time lucky for zips. 

I only had to make a few adjustments to the shoulder seams before attaching the lining, in order for it to hang right. Following the instructions to the letter, I attached the lining at the neckline but not the armholes, despite this going against my instincts. The pattern calls for arm facings and cuffs, yet the instructions on attaching these left me bamboozled. I tried every possible way I could think of and eventually got them in. However, the seam allowances meant that the armholes cut away far too much and I felt uncomfortable with the look of the bodice. I decided on a last minute change to add in the cap sleeves from the short version. This solved the problem and also gave the dress a bit more of the vintage look I was after. 

With two days to spare I finished. Liz finished hers the night before - a ruby dress in beautiful navy fabric from Guthrie and Ghani. We all had a fabulous time at the ball, with the best part being able to talk non-stop about sewing all night without anyone getting bored!  Can't wait for next year's ball - I'm thinking about what I will make already. 

Here is my finished dress:

And here is a pic of the three of us: