Holly dress, and a how-to

Holly dress

Ahoy-hoy! I’m in beautiful Mexico right now, but I have a little project from earlier this month to show and tell – it’s another By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit dress hack, and I’ve also guest posted the tutorial on BHL’s blog. Scroll to the bottom for a link…

Holly dress
Holly dress

I love how this version turned out! My paper pattern tweaks from first time worked out well, though looking at this pic I could probably go down a size as it’s a bit loose above the waist, which shows up more in this crisper fabric. BHl have done an amazingly comprehensive sewalong for Holly by the way, with all sorts of useful fitting tips from swaybacks to the dreaded neck gape.

Holly dress

I think the fabric really makes this dress. It’s a Ghanaian wax cotton that I bought from a lovely lady at Spitalfields Market; only 5 or 6 quid for 4 yards. Wax is so nice to work with, especially when you have to do any kind of folding/pressing since it holds a crease so well. A wash with fabric softener before and after sewing really helps it to relax into a soft and comfy cotton, and it stays surprisingly un-creasy all day. I used to feel a bit uncomfortable in garments made from stiffer woven fabrics, but I think getting the fit/ease right means they feel a lot better to wear. I don’t get changed into sweats when I get home after wearing this, a sure sign that a garment is comfy!

Holly dress

The fabric also let me do one of my favourite things: get nerdy with print placement! I ran the directional print horizontally on the bodice and vertically on the skirt, doing my best to centre and mirror the design across the fronts. The darts get pleasingly camouflaged into the geometric print rather than breaking it up too much. The blue stripes across the waistline and down the button band weren’t intentional but have become my favourite feature. I totally zoned out when it came to matching the side seams and sleeves though, ha.

Holly dress

Such nice tidy guts, mmm. I finished the neckline with bias again instead of facings. This is a bit of a slovenly confession but I only very recently started threading my overlocker with 4 threads instead of 3, literally because I couldn’t be bothered to re-thread that one extra spool when changing colours. Turns out the 4-thread looks way neater and has a much stronger finish, so consider me convinced.

Holly dress

Soooo, if you want to see my walkthrough on exactly how to draft and attach the gathered skirt to the Holly bodice, I’ve done a tutorial as a guest post on the official Holly sewalong, so pop over to the BHL blog and have a read.

Holly dress

This is the LAST button-down dress I have to show for a while, you’ll be pleased to hear. It’s so hard to pick a favourite from all the ones I’ve made recently, but this one has racked up the most wears (and compliments) so far. I wore it to the SewBrum meetup and it’s come out to Mexico with me – I’ve been doing very well on wearing handmades here, as well as a bit of fabric shopping… update soon!

The Knitting & Stitching Show

Knitting + Stitching show

I had a very nice day out today at the Knitting and Stitching show, held not too far from me in Alexandra Palace. Here are some of my highlights!

Knitting + Stitching show
Knitting + Stitching show

It was lovely to say hello to the Sew Over It gals who’d brought their range of sewing patterns. Have you heard they’re opening a new shop in Islington (a skip away from me)? Great news!

Knitting + Stitching show
Knitting + Stitching show
Knitting + Stitching show

A lot of my money went to The Eternal Maker, who have a superbly curated collection of the nicest quilting cottons around, along with lots of pettably soft flannels/knits and some dreamy Kaufman chambray and linen. Charming service too! I’ll be sure to order from their website more often.

Knitting + Stitching show
Knitting + Stitching show

It was nice to see Merchant & Mills there, who had brought a selection of cloths, notions and patterns.

Knitting + Stitching show

Shibori-dyed beautifulness from Changs, who were also selling fabric by the FQ and metre.

Knitting + Stitching show

I was rather tempted by these procion and indigo dye kits from Art Van Go – one to add to the Christmas list.

Knitting + Stitching show
Knitting + Stitching show

Liberty loveliness at Alice Caroline. My rummaging threw up a couple of scraps of the Graham Coxon print I’ve been after for ages! If you see yardage of this in the green or blue anywhere please let me know.

Knitting + Stitching show

M. Rosenberg / Stitch Fabrics (they have a shop in Wanstead, east London) have loads and loads of John Kaldor and ex-high street jersey knits – lovely stuff at £6-10 per metre, with friendly service.

Knitting + Stitching show

Here’s what came home with me: some John Kaldor knit from M. Rosenberg, The Merchant & Mills Dress Shirt pattern, Liberty scraps from Alice Caroline, FQ of shibori from Changs, Burmese trim, and some Cotton + Steel tiger print. Plus a couple more secret things for presents!

Knitting + Stitching show

It was a great day out, even though my bank balance is now wincing a bit. The Knitting & Stitching Show is on for the rest of the week until Sunday, so do pop up if you’re local.

I was given a complimentary press pass to the show.

Bossed: Darling Ranges

Darling Ranges

Sorry, back to buttony dresses after a brief diversion! This was actually the very first one I made, which kickstarted my little obsession. You have the lovely Amy of Almond Rock to blame, because we did a Sew Bossy swap and this dress is the result of my lovely swap package. We decided to do Sew Bossy together because we have pretty similar taste in fabrics and projects. And yup, safe to say I pretty much love this dress. Amy picked me the Darling Ranges pattern, some monochrome slinky viscose and some pretty pearl buttons.

Darling Ranges

As I mentioned, the fit of the Darling Ranges was pretty great on me out of the packet. I cut the size S which matched my upper measurements – hips too big like normal but the gathered skirt is forgiving – grading to XS at the shoulder. I made a couple of my normal adjustments – raising the waist, shortening the skirt – but I’m very impressed with the fit out of the packet otherwise. It’s kind of loose-fitting but doesn’t look oversized, since the shoulders and bust fit well. I left off the optional cinching waist ties since I like how it looks as it is.

Darling Ranges

I’m definitely more of a round than v-neck person but decided to sew the pattern up as written in the spirit of Sew Bossy. It’s a little bit lower than what I’d usually go for, but it doesn’t gape at all. I’ve tacked it closed just above the top button.

Darling Ranges

I’m not usually an in-seam pocket fan as I think they add hip bulk and make skirts hang funny, but went ahead and added them here. I can’t keep my phone in them without distorting the skirt, so maintain they’re useless except for awkward hands. Umm, and looking at these photos I’m going to check the sleeves are the same length because they look way off here (I just rolled and tacked them down).

Darling Ranges

I feel quite chic in this dress – it’s rather Whistles, no? And it gained my first ‘I love your dress, where did you get it?’ compliment from someone who doesn’t know I sew: definitely a Bossy Win. I can see even more Darling Ranges in my future (I like the look of the dartless tunic variation) after a bit of a break for something different. Be sure to hop over to my swap partner in crime Amy’s blog and see what she made with the kit I sent her.

Autumn planning: Coco-Sandra

Jeans

The weather has been so uncharacteristically lovely in London that it’s really hard to start thinking of autumn sewing – I haven’t even packed away the summer dresses just yet as it’s still in the low 20s (70s to you ‘mericans). Nonetheless I have started identifying wardrobe gaps and sewing up some things to cover them. I think this outfit is basically what I’ll be wearing from November til April: a Tilly Coco with Style Arc skinny jeans.

Jeans

The Coco first: I cut a size up from my previous ones for a more slouchy feel, teamed with the three-quarter sleeves and an added draped front pocket (cut with sloped sides but sewn in a straight vertical line, if that makes sense). The fabric is a stashed remnant of a fairly thick, very stretchy jersey. It’s all overlocked together and the hems are all just turned back and stitched with lightning stitch: a two hour jobby.

Jeans

The jeans are my third go at the Stye Arc Sandra – after a too tight and too loose pair, these are pretty great. I made up them in a brownish stretch denim I got in Ecuador.

Jeans

The sewing process, to be honest, was not particularly fun. The fabric didn’t want to press at all and topstitching was painful… I tried using a proper topstitch thread and needle and it wasn’t happening at all. Don’t even talk about twin needling. Hence the topstitched detailing ended up pretty, ah, minimal – I didn’t even do the leg or crotch seams, and the waistband is stitched with non-matching regular thread. Meh.

Jeans

The fit around the waist and hips is great, but there are some odd drag lines going on around the back knee. Honestly, you fix one problem and another pops up.

Jeans

I was determined to get a really nice non-sagging, non-creasing waistband this time. I interfaced both the inner and outer bands with a good quality medium/heavy interfacing from Ray Stitch which seems to have done the trick. The one bit I often seem to mess up is the very centre of the waistband ‘winging’ upwards at the top corner, creating a messy overlap when buttoned. Hence I added two buttons to keep it from flapping.

Jeans

The front fly is my tidiest yet; I incorporated the fly facings onto the front pattern pieces and used the directions from Burda 7017 which are definitely my favourite (though I’ve been meaning to try this method which looks even easier).

Jeans

I even managed to correctly sew the pocket yokes into a Spanx-style extension that goes all the way to the zip. It’s been nice to dip back into jeans-making after a spate of sewing frocks. I need to bash out a couple more pairs as I’ve chucked out all my ill-fitting RTW ones!

Holly (not-a-)jumpsuit

Holly Dress

Forgive the slight repetition – I’ve got a thing for button-down(up?) dresses at the moment. Two makes in a row, and two more to come! I think it comes down to a combo of my distaste for zips (yes, sewing fifteen buttons and buttonholes is somehow preferable) and a love of the shirtwaist look but actually disliking the whole collar part on myself. If it helps, this isn’t another Darling Ranges at least – it’s a wee hack of the new By Hand London Holly Jumpsuit.

Holly Dress

I’m by no means anti-playsuit (I love View 1 of the pattern as it is), but decided to hack the Holly onto a simple skirt for a much more everyday-wearable garment. The skirt is just a wide gathered rectangle with the button placket continued right down the front. Easiest hack ever.

Holly Dress

I had to make a couple of minor fit adjustments to the bodice itself, similar to those I made for the BHL Anna: taking a wedge out of the back neck, raising the waistline a bit and a swayback adjustment. I did these on the fly because I was sewing this dress up chez Tilly but I’ve now transferred them to my paper pattern for next time. I also sized up to a 14 because I like more ease than is built in (props to any pattern company that, like BHL, gives finished garment measurements so you can work this out ahead of time!). The four front darts and two back darts all hit the right places and give good shaping – it’s a slightly more tailored look than the casual babydoll of Darling Ranges. Good to have button-down dress options, right?

Holly Dress

I actually pinched an idea from Darling Ranges and used narrow bias binding to finish the neckline instead of the included facings – if I can avoid a facing, I will. The neckline is such a pretty shape: the perfect collarbone-showing off scoop. The sleeves have a sweet turn-back effect cuff using a separate pattern piece – a lovely detail that gets kind of lost in this print. It would be cute to do them in a complementary fabric like the envelope model.

Holly Dress

This fabric was an eBay scoop, just a cheap poly but it’s got nice drape and a pretty rad distressed triangle print with flashes of colour. I had some small coral buttons in my stash that matched one of the colours quite well so on they went. I tend to add more buttons than recommended because I’m scared of malfunctions… also I secretly quite like sewing buttonholes with my one-step foot. I also just got a button-sewing foot which makes the whole process dead speedy.

Holly Dress

This dress was a really fun sew and I’ve already worn it twice – it’s a nice one to pair with coloured tights as I’ve got lots of accent colours to pick from! Holly is such a lovely pattern and, seemingly like all BHL patterns, ripe for a bit of hacking fun. BHL are just about to kick off the official Holly sewalong – and watch this space if you want a bit more guidance on how to make this dress hack as I’ll be sharing a full tutorial (and my second take on this pattern!) next week. Anyone else take a button over a zip any day?

Patchwork quilt dress

Patchwork dress

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but this is my new favourite thing I’ve made. It feels like a well-loved quilt in dress form. I’ve worn it for two days in a row. I’ve hung it on the wall to admire. I’d sleep in it if that wasn’t a bit weird. I even went and did a nice photoshoot for you at the beautiful Victoria and Albert Museum to show it off (well, I was there anyway with my sister to check out some Design Week goings-on and got her to snap these).

Patchwork dress

This dress feels ever so London-appropriate. I like the feeling of blending into the grey pavements and buildings, or in this case the V&A’s stunning marble staircase.

Patchwork dress
Patchwork dress

Blogger cliche red phonebox klaxon! At least I ignored my sister’s art direction request to pretend to speak into the receiver. London is having one final lovely warm snap, hence the bare legs.

Patchwork dress

So the idea to patchwork a dress basically came out of necessity. On my trip to Merchant and Mills I was kind of plagued by indecision and foolishly bought all these short lengths of narrow linen and cotton, none actually enough for a garment. I kept petting them and placing them together and realised they’d probably blend nicely into a single garment. I was pretty inspired by this Rachel Comey dress and the clothing line Ace & Jig to take the plunge and go for it.

Patchwork dress

The pattern I used is the Megan Nielsen Darling Ranges with a round neckline adjustment. This isn’t my first go at the DR, but I’ll chat more about it in another post coming up soon. Spoiler: I really like it and it fitted basically perfectly right off the pattern.

Patchwork dress

I didn’t overthink the stripe/block placement too much, just tried to be a bit organic about it. I made panels roughly the same size as each bodice pattern piece, French seaming the pieces together before cutting out the pattern piece from it – easier than chopping up the pattern and adding seam allowances.

Patchwork dress

I love the neckline binding on the DR, it’s done in a really nice way to get a clean finish around the placket. I decided on a whim to use one of the decorative stitches on my machine for the topstitching around the neck, down the button plackets and for the hem. The sleeves are cuffed on the outside, slipstitched invisibly down by hand.

Patchwork dress

I think I like the back piecing better than the front – it’s a bit more random. The grey and white stripe linen is probably the nicest fabric I’ve ever worked with: it feels like silk, I want a whole dress in it. I grabbed the very last 90cm that M&M had – it you spot it somewhere else pleeeease let me know.

Patchwork dress

This dress was really, really enjoyable to make. It was a pretty slow sew in my terms: I took my time doing a little bit here and there almost like an actual quilt project. It’s all French seamed where possible and the remaining raw edges are overlocked. The fabrics feel quite delicate but I’m hoping it holds up to washing and wearing OK. Because I want to wear it all the time.

Patchwork dress

I’m so pleased with how this dress turned out; it’s all the more special because it’s unrepeatable and it actually looks hand-made – but in a good way, I think/hope! An interesting thing I’m finding lately in my sewing is that I’m becoming less interested in emulating ready to wear garments and more into making things that you can’t find in rtw – hand-dyed textiles, fabric piecing, self-drafting, luxury fabrics that would otherwise be out of budget. Perhaps that’s a natural evolution?

I’m also chucking it into this month’s Sewcialists theme, Scraptember, led by Morgan. I’d definitely have a go at piecing a garment from scraps again – such a good way to use up those sub-1m bits you can’t bear to chuck away.