Archive | December, 2014

I hope that in this year to come, I make mistakes.

31 Dec

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

– Neil Gaimon

I think that is a good sentiment to live by :) I can’t believe it’s the end of the year already – I actually can’t – for I think the first time ever I’ve worked the entire run up to New Year (including today, booo!) and it’s made it feel distinctly un-New Year like! We’re having people over tonight for a wine and cheese New Year’s Eve so I’m looking forward to that!

I have a couple of finished item posts almost ready to go, but this is just a quick one to say I hope you all had a great Christmas and have a fantastic start to 2015. We hosted Christmas at our place for the first time this year, and it went really well. I think my mum appreciated not having to cook Christmas dinner for once as well!

I’d like to say thank you all for all your support on the blog this year, both from those of you who sew and my other friends who don’t, but still enjoy reading. Every one of your lovely comments means a lot to me.

I’ve had such a great sewing year (and a great year in general!) – I’ll do a round up of it in the new year, but it has been epic! I’ve made so many things, met so many awesome people, been to sewing meet ups in London, Birmingham and Paris, made some great friends and finally got a sewing room!

I’ve been thinking about things I want to sew and new challenges to set myself in 2015 – including buying less fabric! And so I do hope I make mistakes, because that will mean that I am making new things, and pushing myself, and learning as I do. I’m also going to make an effort to try and blog a bit more regularly – not because I feel I have to, but because I enjoy it and, according to my little notebook, I already have 17 different posts to get written/finished and posted, and that’s before I even sew anything else – I’d better get on it!

Have a wonderful new year whatever you are doing, and see you all on the other side!

(And just because a blog post needs pictures, here’s some photos of us attempting to get my sister’s puppy and our family dog wearing Christmas hats – at the same time! Not an easy task!)Foto 1 Foto 2 Foto 3


Finished: A Francoise in a day

18 Dec

I have had a crazy time sewing the last week or so – 3 garments sewn to deadlines within 8 days, but I’m now done and I can recover a bit, and think about other things, like actually getting ready for Christmas!

Having said that, the deadlines were all self imposed, and I actually work very well to deadlines in general, so it did at least make me productive! The first of the three garments was pattern testing the men’s version of Fehr Trade’s new Surf to Summit top. I’ve hadn’t yet sewn anything for Marcus, as he doesn’t wear shirts a lot, which would be the most obvious thing to sew for him. When I saw that Melissa was looking for pattern testers for a men’s sports top, I realised that would be the ideal thing to sew for him. I’ll share my version at a later date but for now, if you want to purchase the pattern, you can use the code 10OVER20 to get 10% off any order over $20.

The surf to summit top was sewn up last Saturday afternoon, I then moved on and made up my Bonnie on Sunday afternoon, in time for the sewalong deadline on Tuesday. Thank you to all of you who voted for me in the contest – I found out today that I came first, so thanks! After that it was onto Francoise, which I’d been planning to sew up since Tilly released the pattern, but just hadn’t had time to start. I figured that if I was going to make it anyway, I might as well make it in time to enter the sewalong competition, so the pressure was on with that! I made up a toile on Saturday and made the actual dress on Sunday. My dress didn’t get shortlisted to win the contest, but you should definitely go and check out all the amazing dresses that did.

Really wish I'd taken that red hair tie off my wrist! I am loving my shiny new patent leather shoes though :)

Really wish I’d taken that red hair tie off my wrist! I am loving my shiny new patent leather shoes though :)

I wanted to do something a bit special with Francoise – the sewalong competition was a chance to really challenge myself and try something different. The great thing with the pattern is that it is so lovely and simple that it makes a perfect canvas for playing around with interesting fabrics and new techniques. I warn you now, this is a bit of a lengthy post, but I figure some of you might be interested in how I put the dress together. I won’t be offended if you skip through just looking at the pictures though :)


I originally had plans to use guipure lace for my Francoise, removing the lace from the darts so that the folds couldn’t be seen, and stitching it back together where the darts were. But despite shopping trips in London and Paris and a bit of searching online, I didn’t come across any lace that seemed quite right.


I still wanted to do something with lace, and was browsing the White Tree Fabrics website when I came across this lovely blue lace, and decided to try and do something with that. It looked so nice on the black they had it photographed on the site, that I decided to use black as my base colour. I wanted the skirt to hold its lovely shape, so wanted something with a bit of body, and I also wanted long sleeves, so needed something with a bit of stretch. After a bit of searching, I came across this black stretch brocade from Minerva (I actually bought it from their ebay store as the postage was cheaper).

It’s a bit hard to see from the photos, but the fabric has a texture a bit like bark on a tree. It’s also quite a bit stretchier than I anticipated, and, unusually, the stretch runs along the grain, rather than being across the cross-grain. I wanted the stretch going across the garment rather than down it, so I cut the front and back of the dress on the cross-grain. Luckily the dress is short enough that that wasn’t an issue. I cut the sleeves on grain, as I figured having the stretch going down the length of the sleeve would be more beneficial for movement. The lace didn’t have any stretch in it, so I cut the lace sleeve on the bias so that it wouldn’t be quite so restrictive.



I decided to roughly model this dress on this RTW dress that I own, having the lace as a partial overlay. My dilemma was how to attach the lace to the dress in a fashion that wasn’t going to look a complete mess. Because the RTW one has a different fabric under the lace panel, the lace is just encased in the seam between the two different fabrics.


I had a few rough ideas in my head of ways I might be able to do it, could find absolutely no information on the interwebs as guidance, and so basically just made it up as I went along and hoped for the best!


My plan was essentially to cut out all the pattern pieces in the lace, put in the darts as necessary, then probably baste them to the base fabric pattern pieces, maybe baste the dress together, decide where I wanted the overlay to end, probably zigzag that on, and then trim away the excess lace. That was kind of what I did, but after discussions with my friend Clare, I decided to change things around a little. I am so pleased with how the lace bits worked out :)



For those of you who are interested, these are basically the steps I took

  • Make toile (I didn’t want to go to all that work and then find out it didn’t fit!)
  • Cut pattern pieces from main fabric (and forget to mark darts before I’d taken the pattern pieces off, so had to go back and do that later – I suggest you skip that bit)
  • Cut all pieces (in full) that would be required for lace overlay – front, back, and one sleeve.
  • Mark darts in lace – it hadn’t occurred to me before this point that I couldn’t just draw them on with chalk/dressmakers’ carbon like I normally do, so I did a bit of google and decided to thread trace them. This then left me with the problem of how to detach the pattern piece from the lace (I wanted to have a running stitch marking my darts rather than tailor’s tacks). But due to the tracing of the darts with my tracing wheel, they had kind of become a bit perforated (even though it was a blunt wheel!), so I just popped them out in the end! Definitely glad I traced the pattern! I also only traced half the darts in the lace – because the overlay was going to be asymmetrical, I knew I wouldn’t need the darts on both sides, so I didn’t bother tracing them all out.
  • Sew darts in main fabric as normal
  • Sew darts in lace fabric along my stitching, and then remove the thread I used for tracing. Sewing the darts in the lace actually worked out better/less fiddly than I thought it was going to.
    Foto 1
  • Remove the bulk of the darts from the lace – I didn’t want the dart showing behind the lace, and wasn’t sure if there was a ‘proper’ way to do it. I just ended up trimming them off really close to the stitching line, using my thread snips which were the best tool I could find for the job. Hopefully the stitching will hold up, time will tell I guess!
  • Baste lace pieces to backing fabric pieces. I debated basting by hand, but at this point I was really running short of time, so I did it by machine (it worked fine). I basically basted every edge where they were going to be together in the final dress – i.e. for the left hand back piece, I basted all the edges (except the bottom), but for the right hand one, I just basted along all the neckline/raglan seam lines, and partway down the centre back seam. I left the side seam unattached. Similarly for the right hand side of the front. Because I hadn’t put in the darts in the lace that I wasn’t going to use, it wouldn’t have been easy to line it up well enough to baste those other edges (and would have involved removing it later, which I really didn’t have time for! I was pleasantly surprised as how well all the darts etc lined up in the two fabrics.
    Foto 2
  • On the wrong of the fabric, drew a line where lace overlay to end. I did this on the back piece first, as it was a simpler piece. I made sure that the overlay wouldn’t cover any of the back dart on that side, because I hadn’t sewn the dart into the lace. I only did this on one of the two back pieces at this point, for reasons that will become clear in a minute…
  • Make sure the two layers of fabric are lined up. Because I hadn’t basted all the edges, I put a number of pins just inside where I was going to sew, to make sure the lace stayed flat to the black fabric.
  • Sew a line of basting stitches along the line I drew so the two layers of fabric were now attached along where I wanted the lace overlay to end. The lace that’s staying on the dress should now be basted to the backing all around.
  • Cut away the excess lace along the line of basting stitches. Again, I used my thread snips and cut as close as I could to the stitching line.
  • Use a short zigzag stitch to essentially applique the lace onto the backing. I use the line of basting stitches as a guide, aiming to get that in the middle of the zigzag. I used a zigzag width of 4 (out of 5), and a length of about 0.5. This was the bit that I was really hoping wouldn’t go wrong, as I didn’t want to have to unpick any of the dense zigzagging!
  • Breathe a sigh of relief when I finish the section and it actually looks really cool!
  • I then put my two back pieces side by side, and drew the line onto my other back piece – I wanted it to basically be one continuous line across the dress, hence waiting to do the second one until after I’d sewn the first. I could have done it just based on the line I drew, but I figured it would be more accurate once I’d sewn.
  • Realise that you have drawn a perfectly continuous line but haven’t taken into account seam allowances, so go back and re-draw. As it was, my pieces have ended up perfectly lined up (no idea how!), but it doesn’t matter, but only because of the way they worked out – the one on the right finishes higher than the one on the left, so it kind of looks continuous down the zip, if that makes sense. It wouldn’t look so good if the right hand one ended lower than the left hand one started.
  • I then repeated the above steps for the other back piece. I did accidentally get the lace folded up and caught in the basting stitches, so I just unpicked a small section and re-did – another reason to baste it first, so that that doesn’t happen on the zigzagging.
  • I then did the same on the front piece. I basically held it up against me (inside out), pinned it to my t-shirt at the top and tried to draw the line on where I wanted it to go. Again, I made sure to avoid the lace overlay covering either of the darts.


Once I’d done all of this, I could finally start actually sewing the dress together! That was at 8pm… I was so happy when I could finally sew the sleeves onto the front and back of the dress. Short break for a roast dinner that Marcus had very kindly cooked while I was sewing, and I was back at the sewing machine at 9pm, with only side seams, hem and photos to do…oh, and the neck facing…and the zip…and all those other little fiddly bits I’d forgotten about.


Ooh, bird!

I was going to finish the seams I’d already done at this point, and rethreaded my overlocker with black thread, but it would not play ball. The looper threads were really, well, loopy. I had a quick attempt at fixing it, but still no joy (thinking about it now, I think it’s probably that the thread wasn’t sitting between the tension discs properly), so I aborted (due to time constraints!) and my seams are as yet unfinished…


I sewed the side seams with the standard 1.5cm seam allowance, but when I tried it on, the dress was a little loose. I could have just taken it in at the centre back seam, but I didn’t want to lose lace detail there (or mess up my carefully lined up continuous lace pattern), so I took an extra 1cm off each side seam. I think the loose fit came from the amount of stretch in my black fabric. I made a size 3, and didn’t need to make any other adjustments. I could possibly lose a little more from the side seams around the waist, but it’s also fine as it is.


The black fabric I used is also quite ‘bouncy’, so the seams didn’t lie very flat, but I trimmed them down and gave them all a good steam, and they started behaving much better.

The facing went without too much drama, although I did also topstitch it to stop it peeking out (bouncy fabric). This seems to have given the neckline a slightly odd shape though – above the topstitching it doesn’t lay flat, but stands up a bit. Almost like a teeny tiny funnel neck. I’m not sure there’s much I can do to remedy this now, I think it’s due to my fabric being quit thick. I’m going to call it a design feature. Luckily the zip when in with no issues which I was VERY relieved about given what happened last time I tried to put in a zip when working to a deadline. When hemming, I did a line of basting stitches all the way round, to hold the lace and the base fabric together. I also used that line as a fold line to turn the hem up.


And with that…I was done! That was 23:20. Quick application of make up (I did not look my best after spending almost all day at my sewing machine), clear enough space in my sewing room so that I had a bit of wall space to take photos in front of…take photos at 23:30…not very good ones to be honest – it was (obviously) dark by this point, and the light in my sewing room is shocking. Annoyingly, if I want to use the remote control with my camera, it only works on auto mode so there’s nothing I can play around with! I was going to ask Marcus to take some photos, but he’d given up on me and gone to bed half an hour earlier! Finally got photos done, but my laptop then went on strike and took about 20 minutes to download them! Anyway, I finally got my pics off to Tilly at exactly midnight. Talk about cutting it fine! I took some more photos before work on Monday, but I’m a little underwhelmed by them as well to be honest – it looks much better in real life!


I felt that this was a party dress and so I ought to have a glass of wine in my hand. Except it’s water in the glass. I’d already drunk the wine.

But I’m really pleased that I actually managed to pull this off and get it done in time – it was no small task, and I did at more than one point, wonder whether I was totally crazy, and think there was no way I was ever going to get it done. I’m also really pleased I decided to challenge myself with this dress. When people find out that I sew, they often say ‘oh you’re so creative’, and I’m really not. I’m good at following instructions, which is basically what a sewing pattern is. I am not good at thinking creatively and making up my own stuff. Pretty much the hardest part of this dress was deciding what shape to make the wiggly line for the lace overlay. I’m pretty happy with it, although I wish I’d made the back one slightly more wavy! I’m just glad I decided to think outside the box a bit, rather than just sewing it up exactly as per the instructions like I usually do. I also really enjoyed the process of working out how I ought to put it all together (I probably wouldn’t be saying that if it hadn’t worked out so well!).


Phew, right, that was a long one! Well done if you made it this far, have a cookie (or a mince pie)! After all that deadline sewing, I’m looking forward to having nothing pressing that I need to do tonight and having a bit more of a relaxed week to prepare for Christmas!

Finished: Blue Ginger Doll Bonnie

9 Dec

Over the last year or so, I’ve ended up buying quite a few jumpers, as it seems I had a bit of a hole in my wardrobe. While I haven’t bought many RTW clothes since I started sewing, I don’t mind these ones too much – they are all cashmere ones that I got from a couple of awesome stalls at the market in Oxford for ridiculously cheap prices – 5 cashmere jumpers for £20 anyone? They are all lovely, and so warm and cosy! But I did want to make an effort to add some jumpers to my handmade wardrobe as well. I have started knitting a jumper, but that is hardly a quick way to make additions to my wardrobe!


When I saw Marie’s version of Blue Ginger Doll’s Bonnie pattern, I knew this would fill a hole in my wardrobe. When Abby announced the sewalong, (you can see the sewalong entries and cast your vote here) that was the push I needed to actually get on and sew one up!


The fabric is a…I want to say sweater knit, but I have to say, I’m not particularly up on my knit fabric types, and often have difficulties deciding what kind of knit they actually are! Regardless of what it it, it’s a gorgeous fabric – it’s a nice weight – just thick enough for something like Bonnie, without being too bulky, and it feels quite stable. It came from the Fancy Silk Store in Birmingham when I was up there for the SewBrum meet up. I just checked back on my post about that meet up, and I helpfully didn’t mention how much it cost, and of course now I can’t remember! I think it was about £6/m, maybe £5. If it was any less than that, I’d have bought more than 2m, and I don’t think it was any more. It was originally destined to become a Renfrew, but when Bonnie appeared on the scene, I thought it would be perfect for that.


I went for pretty much the same options on my Bonnie as Marie’s original one that had inspired me – the cropped length with a waistband, and boat neck. I considered going for the 3/4 length sleeves to match the cropped length of the jumper, but decided in the end to go for long sleeves, as I thought I’g get more use out of it, what with it being cold and all! I’m glad I did, as I really like the way the long sleeves look with the cropped body.


My jumper is actually a bit more cropped than the original pattern – I made it up as per the pattern, but it was just a bit too long – it ended up sitting a bit below my natural waist, but wasn’t wide enough to sit comfortably over my hips, so it bunched up a bit. I shortened it just by running my overlocker around the waistline seam again…and then again. I think I took about 4cm off the seam in total, so about 8cm off the overall length, and I’m much happier with how it sits now. I could probably do with taking a smidgen more off, but I didn’t want to make the waistband too narrow by taking more off the seam.


The other change I made to the pattern was to add cuffs onto the sleeves. This was partly because I thought they would look nice and complement the waistband nicely, and partly because I managed to break the only twin needle I had when I was setting it up to do the neckline. And then managed to drop the broken piece inside my sewing machine and had to dismantle a bit (and turn upside down and shake) to get it out again! I used a zigzag stitch do to the neckline, but I didn’t really want to do that on the sleeves, so the cuffs provided a good alternative. I basically just guesstimated the size of the pattern pieces for the cuffs, and I’m really pleased with how they’ve turned out – I like the look!


I love how flat the neckline is sitting – I’m always worried with knits that it might stretch out when I’m sewing it, but this one held its shape beautifully. Next time I’m going to sew a little piece of ribbon into the back neckline when I sew it though, as I can’t really tell the front from the back of this sweater when I look at it! Luckily (it turns out), when I started sewing the neckline, I inadvertently had a pin stuck under my presser foot, which stopped the fabric from going through, and so there’s a patch of very condensed zigzag stitches on the back neckline, which is the only way I can tell which side is the back!


I think what I like most about this jumper is the mix of a vintage-style pattern – the cropped length and gathered sleeve heads definitely lend a vintage feel to it – alongside the more contemporary print of the fabric. I get the cute vintage features without the risk of it being too ‘twee’. Although that’s not to say that a floral version won’t be in my future ;)


After I’d made this, I suddenly have a moment of wondering what I was going to wear it with. It will look great with dresses that have a fitted bodice and full skirt, but it turns out those are the things that I always want to sew but often get pushed down the list in favour of more practical everyday things! But now I have the excuse I need to sew more pretty dresses ;)


I thought I’d try it on with this denim pencil skirt I have, and I absolutely love this outfit! Again, I think it’s the fairly smart pencil skirt with the contrast of the slightly casual star print sweater – I just really like how they work together. I love wearing this skirt, but I don’t wear it much at the moment – I work in an office where there is no dress code, which is great if I’m feeling lazy and just want to pull on jeans and a jumper, but I actually like dressing up a bit smarter for work, and I feel a bit out of place if I’m too smart after being in jeans the day before! This sweater allows me to dress the skirt down a bit which is great. Especially as I seemingly have a continual desire to make pencil skirts, but worry how much use they’ll get.


This is actually the first Blue Ginger Doll pattern I’ve made. I bought Stella ages ago, and had an attempt at fitting it (it was just after I’d done my fitting course), but struggled a bit and it got put aside. I really need to go back to that though as I love that top. I really like this pattern, and the instructions were easy to follow – I had it all sewn up from putting pattern together to finishing the top in an afternoon, although I found the PDF a little tricky to line up in places.


I’m loving the quick wins in my sewing lately – I got one top sewn up on Saturday afternoon and this one on Sunday, and it makes for a very satisfying weekend! Given that I had a nasty cold all weekend, I’m pleased I had some simple sewing that I could manage! I can definitely see more Bonnies in my future, I want to try out some of the other variations!


I’ve actually been really productive with my sewing recently, and have a whole host of makes to show you. The thing that’s holding them up is being able to get photos when it’s dark so much of the time! I took these before work this morning and man was it cold out there! 0°C according to our sensor – chilly! The things I put myself through for my blog ;)

If you’re interested in making your own Bonnie, Abby currently has 30% off all her patterns (until 19th December!).




chinelo bally

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