Thursday, 28 January 2010


This week at college we made pockets. It was great fun, just making them on their own, no worries about it looking right in the garment. We made a patch pocket (above) like the kind you would find on the back of a pair of trousers.

We also made a front hip pocket or jean pocket (my favourite), it turned out really nicely and I enjoyed adding the top stitching to the edge of the pocket.

And finally we made an inseam pocket, this one is harder to see so I have a picture from the front and back. But I can imagine it in the side seams of a tunic style top, you can reinforce the opening with ribbon or tape which can also add a nice detail.

My dress (that I will start making next week) has no pockets, though I like the idea of inseam pockets on the sides, I always need a pocket.

Why the mouse? I originally used my hands in the photos, but let's just say the winter has not been kind to my hands.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Pattern cutting fatigue...

I have pattern cutting fatigue. Normally the idea of a weekend where I cram every spare moment with sewing would be a heavenly prospect, but as you can see from the many screwed up pieces of paper above, this has not been the case.

Last week I posted a picture of the first draft of my dress. It was way too big and the flare of the dress took out any shaping on the top half that couldn't be pulled in by a belt in the way I had hoped. I drew up a new pattern which included a slightly lower neckline, lower armholes (as they were just a bit too high) and nipped it in at the waist going down to a much less flared skirt. It took me a long time to do this, drafting the pattern takes up space and needs concentration, both hard with 2 children around. I found my brain could only concentrate on what I was doing for an hour at a go before getting completely befuddled and I ended up drawing lines in the wrong place. When it came to making up the dress, sewing curved necklines is really hard, especially with a gather in, and it took ages.

The new dress was a much better fit, the top tighter, the belt gathered it in nicely around the waist, and the arms were more comfortable, but the top was also now too low and didn't look quite right.

So redraft number 3 and I think I am there. I think you need to be quite a perfectionist when drafting a pattern. Its too easy to have pieces not quite matching up at the arm, shoulder or hem. The result wouldn't be such a good fit, so I was extra careful this last time (and it will be the last time as I don't have the will to do another version) and measured up so that everything matched up (hopefully) perfectly.

Despite the many frustrations, in the back of my mind, I think this will be a really useful pattern, in addition to the dress, I am imagining a shorter version like a tunic, and I could add patch pockets to the front. I am hoping all my hard work will be worth it in the end, but for now it's a good feeling to pack it all away finished and take a breather...

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Pattern cutting day...

Today, armed with coffee and scissors, I made some progress on my draft dress for my pattern cutting course. Last time I wrote about this I had drafted my final block pattern and cut it out in card. Since then I have been using this block to turn it into a pattern for my dress. Here is a picture of my (intended) final design ...

Its quite a simple design, low scoop neck at the front and back, gathering at the middle of the neck at the front and a belt to shape the dress at the waist and provide some more gathering. If I make the dress out of plain fabric, I may add some layering detail at the bottom just above the hem, if it's patterned fabric, it won't look right.

The scoop neck took hours over Christmas to perfect. I made up 5 different versions of it, it was so hard to get the scoop wide or deep enough. It just wasn't possible to draw one one by eye, I had to put on my original toile and put on a top I had with a scoop neck that I liked, then draw the scoop onto the fabric and then trace this onto a paper pattern. Are you following this? no - I'm not suprised. It was a long frustrating process interspersed with Toblerone to dull the pain. I got there in the end and made up several crop top sized dress tops to see if they worked. It provided some amusement in the house when I modelled them, I like to multitask.

Other problems included how to add the extra fabric for the gathering effect at the neck line and how to join the dress onto the scoop neck. I won't bore you with the details, but I got there in the end.

Today, I cut the pattern out of toile, and started sewing it together. I have made a facing to go on the inside, here is a picture, its another crop top,

This will go inside the dress and hopefully provide a nice neat and stable finish to the neck and armholes. I made so many mistakes that I had to start writing then down in a long list for fear of making them again when I make the dress up properly. The gathering at the neckline was really hard to get right, infact sewing the neckline was altogether quite a challenge, getting it to meet the dress at the right place and sewing the curve. One neat trick my tutor told me which I think will help me with my problems using bias binding on armholes was to sew round the curve inside the seam allowance first to stop it from stretching when sewing it all together.

Is it a sack, hospital gown, ghost costume, work of genius? No silly, that's my dress I've been working on for months. Worth all the hard work I think you'll agree. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed when I turned it the right way round and took in it's sackiness. But it needs a belt, much lighter weight fabric (toile is more suited to a suit jacket than summer dress) and once I have attached the facing it will neaten up the neck and arms. It does fit really well around the top, the neckline is good, I will try and take a photo on when it is finished. But it's so hard to image what it will look like in a different fabric.

The neckline turned out ok after a few attempts, I sewed a line for the gather which was above the seam line, this smoothed out the effect of the gather (as with the wrap top that I just made) next time I will sew the gather line on the seam line.

It's quite exciting to finally see it, though I do have an underlying worry that after all this work it will end up looking rubbish. Think positive though, that's my motto, I'm sure it will make a fabulous 1950's style night gown if nothing else.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Snowy days and days...

And still it snows in Brighton. On a trip to the supermarket earlier to get the essentials, bread, milk, courgette, etc my husband said it was like an apocalypse, panic buying, huge queues, I'm glad I wasn't there. Thankfully we have our supplies now, all except the courgette, which was no where to be found in a crisis. I read on another blog about 'french toast alerts' issued ahead of snow, as the shops run out of bread, eggs and milk. It's very Brighton to also run out of courgette.

Fear not though, the post office is still open and all M is for make orders are being sent off and winging their way to you as we speak.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Anna Maria Horner wrap top from Autumn / Winter wear for women

Last night I finished this wrap top from Autumn / Winter wear for women using Anna Maria Horner Little Folks voile fabric. I'm really pleased with the way it turned out and am wearing it now (although with others layers because it is freezing today).


My hesitation about the bias binding on the arms was misplaced as it hangs just fine when its on. I ended up doing french seams all over, so the raw edges are safely encased. It certainly made it more complicated though, and I got in a complete muddle when joining the wrap top to the main part of the top. I sewed it on the wrong way round first after taking great care to match them up properly and pinning them. Then when I did get it right, I sewed too far away from the gather which ruined the affect and turned it into a number of messy pleats rather than a gentle gather. Finally I got it right and I'm glad I did enclose the raw edges as they frayed quite easily.

It has highlighted a problem with my style of sewing though. I really love sewing, but between the chaos and disorder of everyday life I only have small pockets of time in which to do it. Sometimes I'll do it while the kids are around and behaving themselves in which case I'll be distracted, often I will do it when they have gone to bed and the light it bad and I'm tired. Usually though it's in a rush, the result it that I can see mistakes I have made which affects the quality of the end result. The next thing I make I will take my time with and not be in such a desperate rush to get it finished and worn. Well, that's the idea anyway! Ahead of me I have 2 ideas, one a present for a friend, and another will be something for Spring for my daughter from this book, maybe a pretty top using more of this lovely Anna Maria Horner fabric.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Charley Harper - an Illusatrated Life

I absolutely love Charley Harper and have been dreaming about owning 'An Illustrated Life' for a couple of years now, but at around £100 it was way too expensive. Good news though for me is that they have brought out a smaller version that is only £30 so I snapped it up straight away.

It's beautiful, full of his amazing artwork for 'Ford Times' magazine;




 and many other beautiful prints;




The artwork spans the 1940's through to his most recent commission completed in 2006. They cover such a wide range of subjects, not just the birds and wildlife that are most commonly reproduced, but illustrations for Betty Crocker's cook book and photos of his mosaics. It hard not to chop the book up and frame all the pictures for my walls! but one day I will own a Charley Harper print all of my own.