Ad Astra per Aster

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I seem to be incapable of sewing up a pattern as written these days. I often find myself removing design elements, merging pieces, using the same techniques and finishes over again. It’s a win-win really because these less complex garments are quicker to sew, and simple silhouettes are inevitably the ones I reach for to wear the most regularly as well. 

That’s my way of explaining that this is a sort-of-not really take on Colette Patterns’ Aster blouse. I was a bit surprised that this pattern didn’t really take off in blogland that much – I’ve only seen Marilla and Jaime‘s out there. Personally I love it and I’m glad that Colette seems to be moving away from a slightly cutesy/fussy vintage aesthetic into more basic wearable pieces.

Aster

As patterned this blouse has cuffed sleeves and a yoked back with gathers. I merged the back and yoke pieces into one, removing the gathers, and added cut-on cap sleeves in a similar fashion to my Alder hack here. Finally, I ditched the little straight edge at the top of the button placket because I couldn’t get it looking sharp and not like a mistake. Basically took the pattern from having 5 or 6 separate pieces to just two, ha ha.

Aster

This is only the second Colette pattern I’ve made – the Peony was one of my very early projects and was a full-on disaster, so I did approach this with trepidation. But happily my fit issues with Aster were all minor. I just had to raise the bust dart apex about an inch and pinch a small dart out of the neckline – that’s all. Despite my design changes I think some of the Aster’s detailing is retained like the pretty curved hem, shaped side seams and elegant neckline. I do need to do a little more work around the neckline, I think – perhaps a forward shoulder adjustment and to make the v-neck’s edges slightly more concave as they appear to bow outwards.

Aster

The fabric for this make was kindly supplied by Alice Caroline. I’m sure they’re on your radar already if you’re a Liberty lover like me. As well as selling a large range of Liberty prints by the yard, they specialise in pairing designs and colours together to form special bundles and kits to use for patchwork and quilting. Check out their site or Etsy store to browse the range. This top is made from Kevin tana lawn which I’ve mad my eye on for ages – I love the dusty colours, and like my super happy manga Holly, it’s one of those prints where you only see the lovely constellation details from up close. Thanks, Alice Caroline, for enabling a lovely staple summer top. Anyone else got plans to sew an Aster?

Triple culottes

Vintage culottes

Apparently I only make things in threes now, ha ha. This weekend I busted out three pairs of culottes – all the same pattern but plenty of variation in fabric and detail.

Vintage culottes

This is a vintage pattern that I bought a while ago, I think on Etsy or eBay. It’s from 1984, the year before I was born! Obviously I was mainly drawn to the kicky button-down options, and I finally dug it out after getting culotte envy both from the sewing community and the high street. Some in-print culotte options: Itch to Stitch, Style ArcBurda.

Vintage culottes Vintage culottes

I made this wearable toile first, from a mysterious peachskin/suedette from Myfabrics. I bought it with a voucher and it wasn’t quite what I was expecting – less drapey and quite thick and er, quite bright orange! This is view A of the pattern, which has buttons down the centre front of one of the legs, and halfway between the short and long length options included with each view. I was really happy with the fit with no adjusting – I must have a vintage-style figure because I rarely need to alter old patterns much at all – and they came together really quickly. But to be honest I don’t know if I’d ever be brave enough to wear them – orange suedette mega-shorts make quite a statement. Maybe if I switched out the buttons for some tonal ones? And handed out sunglasses?

Vintage culottes Vintage culottes

Second go, in a really lovely lightweight linen cotton from Minerva Crafts. This is a mash up of views B and C from the pattern – view B’s front pleats and C’s fly front (but I used my own method to do the fly). These are delicious – SO comfortable and way more instantly wearable for me.

Vintage culottesVintage culottes This third pair is my favourite – view B again, with added slash side pockets and a centre back invisible zip instead of the fly. This is an ex-Whistles viscose which you might recognise from a previous make. I liked it so much I bought more during a recent sewcialist trip to Walthamstow (I think Fiona and Portia nabbed some too so look out for it cropping up, heh). It’s amazing to wear but a bit shifty when cutting – it was an effort to get those rows of scribbly dots nicely lined up all around.

Vintage culottes Vintage culottes

Each view was super fast to sew up – like 90 minutes, tops. I typically don’t make many projects with fixed waistband and zips because in my head it seems really time-consuming, but it clearly isn’t really. I’d really like to find some nice drapey solid fabrics (crepe? Sandwashed silk? Any other ideas?) to make more of these because I think I’ll want to wear them all the time.  Cool, comfortable and cycle-friendly – what’s not to love?

1395 the third in Nani Iro

Nani Iro V1395

Here’s that third take on Vogue 1395 that I mentioned last time, fresh off the hand-sewing needle! As you can probably tell if you’re a fabric dork like me, this one is made in a super gorgeous Nani Iro double gauze.

Nani Iro V1395

I bought the fabric from Purl Soho in NYC. This pattern is called Spectacle; a sort of very abstracted painterly print of fields, bushes and clouds. It’s utterly beautiful – some of the white is thickly laid on to give it texture and there’s even some metallic mixed up in there. Cutting it out was a bit nerve-wracking, mostly because I only got 2yds and it’s quite narrow, so I really had to squish the pieces on a bit.

Nani Iro V1395

Nani Iro V1395

The print placement is quite lovely on the front but I had to make a seam up the back and it’s not quite so pleasing.

Nani Iro V1395

As I mentioned before, during the cutting stage I merged together the bodice and skirt at the waist seam and cut both the front and back as single pieces. I found on both my previous versions of this dress that the wraparound overlay doesn’t necessarily want to sit exactly over where I placed the waistline seam, so removing it completely means the tie can naturally find the right place to sit on my waist. You then can’t catch the centre bottom edge of the overlay into the waist seam at the back, so it’s hanging completely loose and only joined at the shoulders. I definitely didn’t do any photo outtakes where I flew around like Superman with a cape. Nope.

Nani Iro V1395

I treated the lovely fabric to a bit of rare hand-stitching: catch-stitching to secure the neck bias facing in place and to roll-hem the armholes and skirt hem. My patience didn’t extend to hand-rolling the entire overlay edge – that’s serged, folded back twice and topstitched as I did before. (Not purely laziness by the way, I also figured machine stitching is more secure for the area of the dress that gets stretched and knotted.) Making single fold bias binding is a bit of a nightmare with double gauze, by the way – I had a wobbly, distorted mess with the layers trying to separate themselves and frayed edges all over. But I did enjoy the catch-stitching because you can only pick up the inside layer of the gauze so it’s totally invisible from the outside. Mmm, satisfying.

Nani Iro V1395

I still don’t feel like I’ve got this dress out of my system – there’s 3 or 4 more fabrics in my stash I think it’d be amazing in. By the way, it is Minerva Crafts’ pattern of the week which means it’s 50% off right now… I’ve had a lot of people tell me they’re tempted to make their own now, and I can only encourage you.

A pretty pear

V1395

I recently picked this pattern to remake a bit at random, because it’s just so fun to sew and fills a wardrobe gap for slightly fancy summery frocks. It’s my second take on Vogue 1395 (here’s the first). I wanted to put into practice a couple of minor fitting and design tweaks from last time, as well as trying it in a drapier fabric which it’s better suited to. That makes a pair of 1395s, and this one has pears on, ho ho.

V1395

Besides the fit alterations I made first time, this time I cut front bodice on the fold and did a U-shape neckline instead of the V, added in 1/2″ bodice length (after I removed too much on my first go) and slimmed down the overlay ties a little bit – I did not have enough fabric spare to make them any longer as I wanted to.

V1395

Gah, I adore that wraparound side view. I left the sleeves full and fluttery this time as it seemed to suit the fabric. Personally I find this pattern very flattering on my pear (ho ho, part two) shape because the wide shoulders and slim skirt do a good balancing act.

V1395

I omitted the elastic from the waist casing because I actually think it looks nicer if you let the ties do the gathering on their own. (I’m making a third take on V1395 right now and omitted the waist seam completely, cutting the bodice and skirt as one… will share that when it’s done.)

V1395
V1395

I made self-bias tape to finish the neckline and armholes, and did cheatin’ roll hem for the overlay/tie edges and hem: serged the edge then used that as a guide to turn back twice and stitch into place close to the fold. A bit dirty, but turned out looking quite neat.

v1395

The pear print polyester is from eBay – it’s a very nice poly, with a heavy silky drape and completely opaque so no need to worry about lining. It was definitely harder to work with than the Japanese cotton I made my first 1395 with – lots of slipping and fraying to contend with. One of those fabrics when you heave a sigh of relief as each raw edge gets finished or enclosed, you know what I mean?! Spray starch was my saviour.

V1395

I’m pleased this dress turned out how I imagined, and it got its first wear last night on the lovely Sally‘s Spoolettes hen night. I can see it being regularly pulled out for weddings and family events too. As I mentioned, another one of these is in the works right now using a more daytime-appropriate double gauze. I do love a TNT, especially one so fun to both make and wear!

Darling dancers

Darling Dancer dress

You might have noticed (us Brits do tend to stay pretty quiet and non-hysterical about such things) but it’s been PRETTY HOT in London this week. Like, the hottest it’s been for a decade, hotter than Barbados, trains melting off their tracks, etc. Turns out my wardrobe was quite unprepared for this. When I did my Konmari clear-out I threw out a lot of strictly summery clothing since it’s barely ever hot enough here and I don’t go on enough tropical holidays to justify them. But then a heatwave happens where wearing anything remotely heavy or close-fitting isn’t an option, and after wearing both my Alders I was a bit stuck. So I made this dress over two evenings and wore it the next day: sewing fast fashion, ha.

Darling Dancer dress

I wasn’t going to blog it since it’s yet another Darling Ranges hack, but then I snapped some photos this morning anyway. I don’t know – is it boring to see basically the same pattern over and over, or interesting to see how little variations can create a new look?

Darling Dancer dress

So for this Darling Ranges I used the round-neck alteration, scooping it out a bit more both in depth and width to give skinnier shoulder straps. I simply left off the sleeves, though next time I will nip off half an inch around the armsyces as they’re a bit snug. The edges are all finished with self-bias. Truth be told I only make self bias when I don’t have any suitable ready-made stuff to hand, but it’s really worth it.

Darling Dancer dress

I scooped out the back neckline, too, for maximum breeziness. The skirt’s a gathered rectangle at my current knee-grazing length preference.

Darling Dancer dress

The fabric is Liberty tana lawn in Tiny Dancer print, which I got from Plush Addict during a 20% off sale so it was a bargainous £11.60 a metre. Tana lawn is perfect for a heatwave, so light and breathable. It was the first day I felt comfortable all week! The buttons were in my stash and pick out the chalky blue in the print nicely. All in all a nice easy to wear, easy to sew frock that should get plenty more wear before summer’s out.

My sewing space

Sewing room

Good morning! I spent the weekend doing a bit of sewing, but also doing a few final jobs in my sewing room, to the point where I think I can call it ‘finished’. I thought I’d share a little room tour, since I always love seeing where other people sew.

Sewing room

This room has been a long time coming… it’s always been a multi-purpose sewing room, study, and occasional guest room, but a few months ago we knocked down a wall that separated it from the corridor leading to the back door. The extra 12 or so sq ft made a world of difference, and while having the back door lead right into a room isn’t ideal it did have the benefit of adding another natural light source to the space.

Sewing room

My keyword for this room was basically STORAGE. To that end, I did a lot of shopping in Ikea and Muji, and had a custom desk and shelving unit made by a local carpenter. It’s so nice to finally have a desk big enough to have both my machines out together – before I would be lifting one of the way to work with the other.

Sewing room

I’m asked fairly often, by the way, what machines I use – a Janome DC 3050, and a very old Toyota overlocker. My sewing machine sits on a silicon baking mat – great to prevent slips and skids and cut down on noise! I made the mat under my overlocker, which is even more cushioned and great for sticking pins in.

Sewing room

The shelves above the desk use up some awkward alcove space and hold my main fabric stash, which these days I’m trying to keep quite small (I’m basically at full capacity now).

Sewing room

All the fabric is wrapped onto mini ‘bolts’ – actually comic book backing boards. I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to keep this up long-term but seeing my fabric so tidy and unwrinkled when I want to use it is a big motivator to keep things ship-shape.

Sewing room

I picked up the vintage spools from Brooklyn, they are perfect for wrapping trims around. Lint rollers an essential for threads and cat fur.

Sewing room

I try to keep the desk surface as clear as possible: I find that stuff has a habit of flying off the sides as you’re moving fabric around and losing your unpicker all the time is really not fun. So I pushed everything onto wall shelving – this unit, the pegboard and my trusty sewer’s friend, the Ikea Raskog trolley.

Sewing room

Thread rack from Amazon and yet more Muji cups and storage.

Sewing room

I save old spools and use them to keep loose bits of bias binding organised.

Sewing room

Over on the other wall is the guest bed (an IKEA Brimnes), which as well as trundling out to a double size also has very handy large drawers underneath. They’re obviously stuffed full already – bulky stuff like quilt wadding and those boring alterations projects I keep putting off, mostly.

Sewing room
Sewing room

This Argos box shelf at the foot of the bed unit holds my sewing books, PDF patterns and fabric overflow – bulky and off-season stuff mostly. Behind that are my cutting mats hanging on a hook (all my cutting happens on the floor in here). Yes, that’s an unfinished quilt with pins still in on the end of the bed…

Sewing room

This is my pride and joy – Muji vertical files to hold frequently used PDF patterns, sorted by garment type. It works so well!

Sewing room

Muji PP drawers under the desk hold printed patterns, and the binder on top is PDF overflow.

Sewing room

The iron and board live behind the door. I make my own covers and change them whenever they get tatty (ie this one soon) – current fabric is from Miss Matatabi.

Sewing room

Phew, that turned out quite long for such a small room. Here are some quick tips I’ve amassed that help me with staying organised in my sewing space.

> Use vertical space effectively: tiered trolleys, wall shelves, hooks and pegboards hold a ton and keep floor space free.

> Give everything a dedicated home, ideally away from your main sewing surface. Keep regularly used stuff closer and organise lesser used stuff accordingly.

> Tidy up between sessions. Yup, even though I’m lucky to have a dedicated space and can leave things out, I do tidy everything away when I’m done sewing for the day – putting tools away, cleaning the carpet of threads, stashing leftover scraps. It’s much easier to find everything easily when I pick up next time and means you avoid that off-putting bomb-site effect when things get out of hand.

> Clear out regularly. Perhaps as a result of doing the Konmari method, I get a bit stressed when I have too much stuff hanging around. I’ve got much better at keeping my stash in check, both at the buying point and getting rid if I feel I’m unlikely to ever use something. That applies equally to fabric yardage, scraps, patterns, tools and notions: use it (or have a plan to use it) or lose it.

Sources for my room:
Bed, trolley, picture ledges – Ikea
Pegboard – Block Design from Monoqi
Shelving and desk – custom made locally
Metal shelves – Tomado via Monoqi
PU drawers, files, canvas boxes – Muji
Ironing board hanger – Argos
Bedding – Primark
Blinds – made by my mum from Nani Iro fabric; roller blind on door from Tuiss