Sunday, 7 April 2013

Aztec Prints - Ahead of the trend and on a budget

Last summer I bought some aztec print jersey fabric off eBay, some in pink and some in blue. It cost me about £3 a metre and I loved the print!

I made myself a short shirred summer dress out of the pink, and used the blue to cheat my way to a maxi dress. It seems that I was ahead of the trend as aztec print seems to be all over the UK high street at the moment and is a massive trend as part of the ethnic/global traveller trend! Now I know a lot of people sew because they want freedom from following trends, but I think that sometimes there can be a misconception that if you make your own clothes you can't be fashionable and I want to show that that's not true! For those that like to follow fashion I've done a few comparisons to show how you can sew your own clothes and stay trendy on a budget, and even beat the fashionistas to it...

My coral pink shirred aztec dress (worn over a t-shirt in this instance):

New Look coral pink midi dress:
Now I could have easily made my dress in that shape but I didn't (and I wouldn't buy the New Look version) because the midi length isn't good for me, nor is that shape of dress, and I think this is a prime example of the versatility of sewing. With a bit of sewing on my part (and neither of these dresses were difficult due to the nature of the jersey fabric and the ease of the techniques used) I've been able to fashion myself a dress in a very similar print that suits my body shape! Another benefit was that I was able to make mine in a way that meant I could wear it as a skirt as well and get double the wear out of it:
For any doubters, I wore this dress a lot last summer, both as a dress and a skirt, and it made a great beach cover-up too. The final plus point of sewing it myself? Mine was made for a fiver!

My aztec print black bandeau maxi dress: aztec print black bandeau maxi dress:

I really like both versions of this dress, but it's just another example of how you can beat the fashion industry and make your own individual items that are original AND cheap. This dress from is currently sold out and costs £26. Mine cost about £7 to make and I could whip another up before that one came back in stock...

And another bonus to making your own? Leftover fabric!! I fancied a quick and easy project today and so quickly conjured up this cute little strapless top from the leftovers! (Excuse mess and grumpy face!!)

So have a think about it, sewing your own clothes doesn't have to mean that you can't be trendy and can mean that you can follow trends on a budget without having to fight with the rabble in Primark!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Little love heart blouse

 This blouse should have been finished weeks ago, but I got angry at it when I was so close to finishing and ended up abandoning it and losing my sewing mojo. Today I finally picked it up again and sorted out the 'issues' and got it finished!

Simplicity 1779

Why did I choose this pattern?
I have a lovely purple blouse from Tesco of all places which is a very similar style to that shown in this pattern. It's a sheer fabric with a tie that ties into a bow and little floaty sleeves and I love it, but it's falling apart. So when I saw this pattern and some lovely heart print georgette at Fabric Land, I thought I could recreate my favourite blouse. I was slightly put off when I googled the pattern number and saw that most of the people that had already made this blouse didn't like what they'd ended up with, and I thought a lot of the blouses looked a bit 'mumsy' so I was worried that I too would end up with a mumsy blouse!

What fabric did I use?
I used a dark navy/black georgette fabric with little pink and red hearts all over it. It's a see-through fabric so I'll need to wear a vest under it but I prefer the look of see-through blouses so that was always my intention.

Was it easy to make?
Reasonably, though I seemed to make a few errors along the way and things didn't always line up the way I expected despite using the pattern markings. I'm sure that I just did something silly! The placket, tie and collar are a little bit fiddly but it still went together easily. I used my overlocker for the seams which means no fraying, hooray!

Any difficulties?
When I put the front tie on it didn't line up properly above the front placket and on one side there was a big gap between the placket and where the tie was attached to the blouse. When I tied the tie you could still see the big gap, so I had to do some inventive sewing to get it to line up properly. I'm not sure what happened as I followed the pattern markings but I managed to sort it in the end!

I also originally put the short floaty sleeves on the match the blouse I already had but for some reason I felt that the blouse looked too old ladyish with the sleeves on, maybe the print and the sleeves combined had that effect? Anyway I ended up removing them and am happier with the way it looks in it's sleeveless style.

Am I happy with the finished result?
Reasonably. I'm not entirely happy with the way it fits, it's quite big around the bust and quite low around the neck which meant I didn't even need to bother using buttons and buttonholes because I can get the blouse on and off without undoing it, so I just sewed the front placket together. Let's face it, if the choice was buttoning and unbuttoning or just pulling it on, I would have gone for pulling it on anyway (clearly I'm lazy) so I didn't see the point in adding buttons I'd never use. I think I'd prefer it if it tied higher around the neck so you can't see the vest underneath but as I want to wear it casually being able to see the vest underneath sort of works!

However, despite all that, I'm wearing it at the moment and I think it looks quite cute so I can definitely see me wearing it, and it's not going to be relegated to the back of the wardrobe like I thought it would be when I'd abandoned it!


Sunday, 21 October 2012

£2.40 Simplicity 1873 practice run that wasn't a practice run...

I picked up a purple paisley print crepe remnant in Fabric Land for £2.40. It was about 1.4m so I thought I'd be able to do a practice run of Simplicity Cynthia Rowley 1873 out of it before using the more expensive crepe I got for my birthday. It turned out that actually, no, that wasn't going to happen, even for view C (as shown on the model), because due to all the pleats in the skirt the pieces are mahoooosive! So instead I ended up using the skirt pieces from Burda 7739 to make a gathered skirt. It was the bodice I really wanted to check anyway as I wanted to check the fit and practice the invisible zip.

Anyway the modified version of this went together really quickly! The instructions for the lining were really good so the lining went in easily (much better than my first ever attempt at lining at bodice with McCall's M6011, McCall's could learn a thing or two from this pattern) and I had just happened to have read Karen's post about turning darts in the lining into pleats to give the lining some extra give so I tried it out. I'm glad I did as it worked out very well!

This was my first time inserting an invisible zip. I can't believe I've got to this point without attempting one but  I always thought I had to have an invisible zip foot and that invisible zips were scary. However after some googling and a great tutorial by Kay of Sew Serendipity, I no longer fear the invisible zip! Considering for a long time I inserted zips without a zip foot, I really should have known that an invisible zip could be done with a normal zip foot!
My first invisible zip!
This is the first Simplicity pattern I've used and I have to say that I wasn't too impressed by the fit. I tried the bodice on before I sewed it up and found that the bodice was going to be too tight at the waist and gaped massively at the top of my back around the neckline. So I ended up having to make some adjustments to try and sort that out (and I succeeded) but the dress still doesn't fit as well as I'd like around the bust. I'm happy with it and I'll definitely still wear it a lot but it could have been better! I have no idea what shape person the bodice was meant to fit but it definitely wasn't Lucy shape.

So here's the finished article. I already had the pattern, zip, lining fabric and thread in my stash so this dress only cost me the £2.40 that the fabric remnant cost and for that reason I'm not so worried about the bust fitting!

This picture shows best the folding I'm getting around the bust where the fit isn't great on me!
I've spent today working on adjusting the bodice pattern and it's been a labour of love let me tell you... I've never even moved a dart before and this has involved moving darts and turning darts into princess seams (because I like the way they look) but that's a post for another day!

Friday, 12 October 2012

McCall's M6503 - My new love

Foreword: I haven't been around for a while again, you may or may not have noticed. Unfortunately I became ill at the beginning of September, was misdiagnosed several times thanks to my high pain threshold and non-typical symptoms. Anyway I ended up in hospital for a week with what eventually turned out to be a ruptured appendix which had leaked a litre of fluid into my abdomen and caused havoc. Turns out that I was in a life threatening situation, mainly because due to my misdiagnosis' I'd been walking around with the ruptured appendix for 2 weeks AND had been on holiday with it, which mystified my consultant! One emergency operation later, a whole load of antibiotics and then further complications, here I am. I've been signed off for 6 weeks and I can't drive for 6 weeks which means I've had to admit defeat and miss my final year of university because I was told I can't miss 6 weeks and still pass, and my course isn't the type I could study from home. The one positive in this is that I asked for a whole load of sewing stuff for my birthday in September and I now have plenty of time on my hands to sew now I feel more like a human being!

Onto the main post....

I bought some lovely navy blue polka dot crepe de chine fabric from FabricLand (£3.33 a metre) and McCall's M6503 a while back with the intention of sewing it just before I went back to university. Unfortunately I ended up in hospital so that didn't happen but this week I finally felt up to sewing again and so have kept myself free from boredom by working on this.

Originally I had planned to make view D with the ruffle but having googled other people's versions I decided that the ruffle was too flouncy for me and so I decided to make a sleeveless version of view C (the blue one).  The construction was relatively easy, the front facings, collar and midriff were quite fiddly but I got there in the end. I decided to use my trusty pinking shears to stop the fabric from fraying and I quite like the way it looks. I did make a couple of amendments to the pattern, the pattern advises that the side zip is inserted about an inch below the armhole, so there's meant to be an inch of stitching, then the zip. If anyone's like me then they find garments with those sort of zips really awkward to get in and out of, so I inserted the zip right at the bottom of the armhole to make it easier for me to get it on and off. For that reason I then decided not to put buttons on the front of the dress as I didn't need them and I preferred the way the dress looked without them. Instead I just slip stitched the front facings of the dress together, which also helped with the gaping caused by my small bust vs McCall's insistence on gathering on the bodice rather than darts. The size 12 in this pattern fits me like a glove and so no size adjustments were needed!

This dress has to be a favourite out of all of the dress I've made, if not the favourite. I love navy blue. I love polka dots. I love the way this fabric feels and hangs. I love the fit. I love the style. This dress just fits so easily into my wardrobe and is a style that I will wear all the time. Not only that but it will fit beautifully into both my summer and winter wardrobes as it's great for layering with tights and a cardigan, but also for wearing alone with sunglasses and flip-flops in the summer!

Styling for Autumn/Winter 2012/13

Friday, 10 August 2012

Follow the yellow brick road....

I was invited to a fancy dress party with the theme of  'Dead Celebrities'. I'd never even heard of a theme like that and was completely puzzled as to who I could go as that wasn't too obvious or too expensive to create! I thought about Marilyn Monroe (too obvious), Amy Winehouse (a good idea but another obvious choice), I even did a quiz online that told me I should be Lucy from 'I Love Lucy' (ironic since I'm also a Lucy) but it looked too difficult and meant expensive wigs and no-one knowing who I was meant to be! So eventually I settled on Judy Garland which meant I could go as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz! I also knew that this was a costume that I could make very cheaply and I already had a suitable pattern...

Remember the first ever dress I made, Burda 7739? Well, as you can see, included in that pattern were the pieces for a pinafore dress. Now it's actually technically a 'jumper' and is recommended to be made out of knit fabrics, but I just chucked the rules out of the window and made it out of gingham cotton with a few amendments. My other Burda dress is slighly too big so I cut the bodice for this one out in a size 10, which then meant that my existing skirt pieces would be too big, so instead of pleating the skirt as it advises in the pattern, I gathered it to fit the bodice. I also just sewed the straps on rather than making buttons as this is more true to the original Dorothy outfit!

Sorry, this picture was taken after I'd worn it!
I already had a cute little blouse I could wear under the dress (I wasn't going for the high necked look on a night out!) and out of some fabric leftovers I made a cute bow for my hair like Dorothy's in the above picture. And of course I needed the shoes....

Now those of you that have read some of my other recent posts will know that I've recently had a toe operation and this has meant needing to wear open-toe shoes, and they also needed to be flat to avoid putting excess pressure on my toe. After much searching on eBay I couldn't find any shoes that fit the requirements so I ended up glittering my own! I bought a pair of red polka dot open-toe flats in the sale for £4 in Asda, and two pots of red glitter from The Works at 50p a pot. My mum already had some Modge Podge glittery PVA glue so I set about getting glitterfied! I painted a section of the shoe with glue and then sprinkled some of my glitter over it. I then did the entire shoe, glittering a small section at a time, then the other shoe and left them to dry. Once they'd dried I then went over again and did another layer and I then filled in any gaps I found. Once they were dry I sprayed them with hairspray on a daily basis to encourage the glitter to stay on and not go everywhere!! Luckily for me, it stayed and my shoes returned home still glittery after the party!

 And here's the finished result! Unfortunately you can't see my shoes or my bow in this picture but you get the idea!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

The cheat's maxi dress!

I've been wanting to make a maxi dress for a while and I bought this gorgeous turquoise fabric in the hope of making one! Unfortunately I'd worked out the measurements wrong and the length I bought meant that I could only make a complete maxi dress out of it if the lines on the fabric were vertical not horizontal, which I didn't want! So I went looking for plain black jersey in the hope of making a shirred bodice and attaching it, but it was all too expensive and I wanted to make this now! So I ended up modifying a top to make this maxi dress and that was the birth of 'The cheat's maxi dress'! I've written a tutorial because this is an ideal project for beginners or someone who wants to make an easy maxi dress on the cheap! Mine only cost £7! I hope you like it, I do!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Easy and versatile dress - the perfect sewing project!

I mentioned in my last post that I had bought some gorgeous jersey fabric and had another project on the way.... well a spool of elastic thread later and here I am with a quick and easy new garment that I'm in love with! Why am I in love with it? Because not only was it an instant gratification project (and I am queen of instant gratification), it was fun to make, it looks really cute on and it's really simple yet versatile which means I'll get a lot of wear out of it. There are some garments that you make that look really nice on but they only get worn once in a blue moon because they only suit a particular occasion, or they don't go with anything else in your wardrobe, and what you really need is a garment that can be worn in several different ways. No it's not one of those multiway dresses, and you'll probably all think, 'Is that it?!' but if you know me then you know how much I live for pretty everyday dresses!

So I bring you, my shirred summer dress! This is my first time ever attempting shirring, I'd seen pre-shirred fabric before but I didn't even realise you could do it yourself until I came across a tutorial by Disney at Ruffles and Stuff (and finding the tutorial via google led me to her amazing blog/site and creations and her cute daughter Paige) which explained what to do perfectly. She covered every detail exactly and doing what she recommended worked brilliantly for me! I've seen people say they can make dresses using this technique in 20 minutes, well I must be a slow sewer because the whole thing took me about 2.5 hours but that's still good going I think.

My fabric was actually from Ebay and it was just a 1m piece, but was 1.5m in width so enough to make this short dress with fabric leftover! It's 96% cotton and 4% lycra/elastane, so soft but stretchy! I really loved the colour and the print, what do you think?

I also had to buy a spool of elastic thread (mine was white and 10m in length), as well as some thread to match my fabric. The elastic thread actually acts as the bobbin with the coloured thread on the top so it's best to sew on the right side of the fabric so you have your coloured thread on top which will blend in, rather than some garish elastic! I could have chosen to sew an elastic casing round the top of the dress to make it neater but I quite like the shirred effect and so I just sewed a hem round the top and started the shirring directly underneath.

This dress cost me £5.80 in total to make and so is a bargain as far as I'm concerned! The shirring means that it can be worn as a dress or as a skirt and it can be worn in a variety of ways. I'm really in the habit of wearing different garments together and disguising them to look like one garment when actually I'm wearing several and having people ask me where I got my dress from when actually it's a top and a skirt, or a top and a dress, and this dress is ideal for that!

Here's some pictures of the dress, please excuse the grainy pictures (they're taken on my webcam due to the broken camera issue), the fluffy hair and the cheesy grin!

On it's own...

Shirring folded over and worn as a skirt...

Worn with a t-shirt underneath for colder days...
This dress will also look perfect with a cute cardigan or my cropped denim jacket, I can't wait to give it it's first outing! Now just to wait for it to stop raining....

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Floaty flutterby skirt

It's been a while hasn't it? I've been incredibly busy at university, I know that's not really an excuse but I've had exams, two months of placement where I was in four different places each week and then swapped to four other places halfway through and couldn't think about anything other than working and keeping my head above water, but then I finally made it and finished the year! However I then had an operation on my foot which led to pain and then finally some sewing! But only very easy sewing...

Prior to my foot operation I went to Fabric Land to have a look at some pretty fabrics to make things with and I saw this cerise butterfly georgette fabric and couldn't resist, I knew I had to have it!

At only £4.44 a metre I couldn't say no, and I decided to make a quick and easy elasticated waist skirt from it. So I bought some thick black elastic to accompany it and off I went! There are loads of elastic waist tutorials out there but I based my skirt on this 20 minute skirt tutorial and a bit of my imagination. As the fabric was so sheer and see-through I knew I needed to use either a lining fabric or a double layer so I went for the double layer and made one layer shorter than the other to make the skirt a bit more interesting and original. It's the bottom layer which is shorter which works with the see-through effect of the fabric. I also used a more traditional waistband insertion (sewing right sides together) rather than using zig zag stitch to attach the right side of the skirt to the wrong side of the waistband as recommended in the tutorial because I didn't want to be able to see the stitching on the waistband. This was also my first project using pinking shears to stop fraying, though I can't say I'm convinced by them yet!

Here's the finished article, I think it's very pretty and I feel very girly in it!

I really do need to work on taking some better pictures though don't I? Unfortunately my digital camera's died on me so I'm at the mercy of my phone's camera! Thankfully you can't see me rather attractive surgical sandal in these pictures!

Hopefully there'll be more projects on the way soon, I've just bought some gorgeous jersey fabric which I'm hoping to create something with!

Friday, 30 December 2011

The end of another year....

It's been just over a year since I started blogging here and a year ago today I finished my first dress, Burda 7739. I know I've not been the most frequent blogger or sewer but despite it all I've still accomplished the following:

4 dresses from scratch
3 refashions - a dress, a dress into a top and a pair of jeans into a skirt
2 customised t-shirts
3 skirts
2 hats
4 snoods
1 Dalek

I don't think that's too bad, do you? I've had time to make much more but not really had the motivation or the need for any more clothes in my wardrobe! I started the year on a sewing rampage and that's since changed to all knitting and barely any sewing thanks to knitting being far more portable and easier to pick up and put down so I can do a little at a time when I have a spare moment. I'm really enjoying it at the moment and I have to go with what I enjoy!


Was it good for you? I had a lovely time with my family and it's all over far too quickly, as usual! Prior to Christmas I did a little bit of crafting, a while back I said I wanted to make some Christmas crackers and I accomplished that goal, they were so sparkly!!
You'll also notice some Christmas place mats, they were mum's creation! Apparently it's been her dream to make some quilted Christmas place mats so off we went to Fabric Land and bought ourselves everything we needed to make some! They were very quick to make, my mum isn't very good at 'random' stitching and it required some random patterns for the quilting so I sat down and whizzed them round on the sewing machine to make the quilted effect and she did the rest! They're reversible and though these photos don't show the quilting very well you can see the different fabrics used.

Mum was really proud of herself and pleased with them, but threatened anyone who spilled anything on them on Christmas day so we were all on our best behaviour!!

Then for Christmas day I received a few lovely crafty gifts! My aunt made me this cute little needle book, apparently the button is around 60 years old!
She also got me the SINGER Complete photo guide to sewing which will definitely come in handy!

My mum got me a knitting gift, a month or so ago we were in Hobbycraft and on the mannequin was a lovely jumper made of the softest wool and I loved it but I was intimidated by it as I've never made a jumper before! Well for Christmas my mum had bought me the pattern and the wool for me to make it, apparently it's an easy knit so if I can knit a Dalek then I can knit this jumper! It's Sirdar 9493, I've had a look over the pattern and it's not too difficult so I'll update you with my progress.

The final comment is regarding Derek the Dalek, no-one even realised I'd knitted him myself until I pointed it out which was great news and he's now proudly on display in our lounge!!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

My excuse for not blogging.... Meet Derek!

Derek is a Dr Who Dalek, just in case you don't recognise it, and he's been my most challenging knitting project to date! I didn't think I'd be able to do it because it involved a lot of techniques I've never done before such as I-cord and making bobbles but I managed it and he doesn't look too shabby!! He's my dad's Christmas present and I've been working hard on him for the past month with the . My dad is one of those people who's impossible to buy presents for so when I saw this pattern on Ravelry I knew it would be perfect! It's been slow progress, mainly because there's only so many bobbles I can do in one go before I want to kill myself, and partly because I kept stopping to play with him half way through knitting, I'm a bit sad to give him away actually, he's so cute! When I'm suitably recovered I might knit myself my own one, maybe a special pink dalek!

I'm so proud of him and of myself for managing to knit more than hats/scarves/gloves! On that note I'll leave you with one more (blurry) picture of me blowing kisses at Derek...

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Creating some Christmas sparkle!

I mentioned in my previous post that I had bought a plain lace dress to wear over the Christmas period but that I wanted to sparkle it up a bit, well it's definitely more sparkly now and a lot quicker than I thought! I managed to get an enormous pack of sequins in poundland, for (you guessed it) £1 which brings total cost of the dress to £15 which is pretty bargainous I think!

I've gone for a scattering of sequins all over with a more concentrated area of sequins around the bottom of the dress and a line of sequins around the edge of each sleeve. There are probably a good 150 - 200 sequins on there but that won't be that clear from the photos as you can only really see the sequins that the light was shining on at the time. I haven't done anything with the back yet and am undecided about whether to leave it plain or whether to add sequins to it. I'm also not sure whether I should do the same with the hem at the bottom of the dress as I've done with the sleeve cuffs. What do you think?

Anyway, here are some pictures for you!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Knitting epiphanies - When the wrong way turns out to be the best way

My reading week was spent knitting a load of snoods over the reading week for a craft fair my auntie was doing, I figured they're popular now and people are more likely to buy them (and they did), I just have one left. Here are some of them, note that they are smaller than my snood which is enormous and sit more closely round the neck which is much better!

I love the cabling on them and they were nice and quick to make!! The purple one is still left over though, one lady must have tried it on a million times but didn't buy it :-(

Anyway, I've since moved on to bigger and more challenging things, I've decided to start my most complicated knitting pattern to date, I'm knitting a Dr Who Dalek!! I'm so excited by this project and it's not at all repetitive, it requires a lot of concentration so it's more fun to knit than other things however it involves a lot of techniques I've never used before. I'm using double knit wool and 4mm needles but I think it's still going to be enormous, we'll see...

Knitting this dalek has caused me to have an epiphany, an epiphany related to knitting bobbles! My Dalek pattern has a lot of 'mb' in it, or 'make bobble' and I've never had the need to make bobbles up until this point. So I did what I always do, read up on it, watched you tube videos and followed the instructions on the pattern but my bobbles didn't really look like bobbles and they definitely didn't look like the bobbles on the pattern writer's Dalek. In fact every bobble seemed to look different! So I kept trying and today I came to it and was merrily knitting away at my bobble when I realised that I'd knitted my bobble wrong! I'd knitted where I was supposed to be purling and I changed back to the original coloured wool/yarn a little later than I was meant to. Swearing away at myself I feared the worst and went to look at what I'd done, and what had I done? I appeared to have made a perfect bobble, one which looked like the ones in the pictures! So to check it wasn't a fluke I used my new 'method' for the next bobble and that bobble looked perfect too. So I made a note on the pattern and decided to use my new technique for bobble making instead of the original instructions. Now, I am a person who tends to follow instructions religiously, when I'm cooking, when I'm crafting, when I'm putting together furniture... because I panic that if I don't it's all going to go wrong! So what was my epiphany? Sometimes, just because one way is meant to be the right way it doesn't necessarily mean it's the only way. And sometimes mistakes are a blessing because they open your eyes to a new way of doing things. And finally, just because it's the 'right' way it doesn't always mean that it's the best way. So if you stumble across something which makes your life a lot easier then don't be afraid to go with it because one size doesn't always fit all!

I'm sure I'll be back soon reporting on how my Dalek is doing! I also have another project in the pipeline, I bought a dress today from Asda for Christmas parties and I had wanted a dress with a bit of sparkle but this dress doesn't have any (however it looked good and was too much of a bargain to pass up)! Never fear, I plan to get myself some sequins and sew them onto my dress to make it a bit more sparkly and original! I'll definitely be back with pics.