Tag Archives: Sewing

Hepworth dress

Mother’s Pride dress- my second Hepworth- THE summer dress of 2014

Remember last week I said I had two special dresses to share with you?  Well this is the second one.

Hepworth dress

I’d been given some money for my birthday back in February from my parents knowing that I would get most pleasure from buying fabric with it.  How well they know me! It was about the time that Roisin had shown off her Northland Row dress and I swooned over the fabric she’d used (Alexander Henry Golden Garden) .  This has an oriental feel to it- and being a lover of orientalise decorative art sought it out.  Strangely enough I found a one off seller on Etsy, in Canada, that was cheaper than buying it from the UK.  ( I can be such a skinflint sometimes!!)
I chose red because I love red, it is one of my basics, my neutrals.  And the fabric arrived and was kept with reverence, being accorded the privilege of space in one of my fabric drawers.  ( At the moment my stash cannot fit in the drawers I have, and subsequently, recent purchases reside in piles on the floor of my loft room. )

Hepworth dress

Once I had completed my whiteboard sewing programme, I fancied I would be inspired to make something for my youngest son’s graduation.  This was not planned for, it was not on the whiteboard- I had let myself off the hook since I’ve clearly got plenty of choices to wear to a graduation should I not feel like making anything.  Luckily I know myself well enough to realise that given a swatch of time, I would be compelled to make a new frock. And serendipitously the culmination of ‘special fabric gifted by my parents’ and ‘special occasion for a proud Mum’ formed into this dress.

Hepworth dress
This fabric being super special needed a plain fronted style I was thinking.  Possibly a Sewaholic Cambie.  But I didn’t choose that, I chose the Hepworth dress by Sinbad and Sailor.  Since making my first version of this dress I have probably worn it more than any of my other dresses to work as it is the perfect work appropriate summer dress: classic shaping, formal enough neckline, comfortable roomy but flattering a line skirt plus pockets.  And I get compliments every time I wear it.  So with this success in mind, the Hepworth was the ideal pattern to showcase the awesome fabric strewn with cherry blossom and the occasional Chinese character.  And I knew it would look a just a tad more formal for a graduation, but not be too formal that I’d wear it infrequently.

Hepworth dress

I cut the pattern pieces out carefully, with the fabric’s pattern in mind, especially the centre bodice piece ( remember the style has princess seams at the front but darts at the back).  Somehow though I cut the back pieces on the fold. I mean who cuts the back pieces on the fold? It meant that any pattern matching I thought I was doing went completely awry when I cut them up in half.  Thinking about it after the event ( aren’t we all so good at that- realising what other options we had when it turns out to be too late!) yes, after it was too late, I realised I could have had an awesome back and front with uninterrupted cherry blossom twigs if I had moved the zip to the side. But I didn’t clearly.  Which is even more galling considering I even cut it in error on the fold.  Der brain strikes again.

Hepworth dress

So sewing this up was great- I do love the facings, see what I wrote about them last time. I had some alterations to make to the centre back this time- not sure whether I did this last time, or cut it too big this time, whatever was the case, I still had too much going on at the CB bodice as well as a little but too much at the upper side seams.  And let me ask you a question.   Have you ever been caught out by lack of notions at critical points in the sewing process?  I was making this dress up at breakneck speed, only to discover that I had no red dress zips in my stash. What!! No zip?? no time for a special trip to town, I had to look around for a willing victim. A cushion cover sacrificed itself for the greater good, but to be honest,the zip is only just big enough and I could barely get the dress over Barbarella’s shoulders- mine are a little more squidgy, but I shall be swapping it for a longer one when I get the chance.

Hepworth dress

So for the ceremony itself I also paired it with my recent black velvet bolero & was that a match made in heaven?  I had no idea boleros were just so useful, but it certainly suits this style of dress I think.  And the black marabou peps up the special factor even more.

Hepworth dress

And I know the question you are dying to ask me, did I blub as my youngest born, dressed in possibly the smartest suit I have ever seen, with brand new haircut & shiny shoes, did I blub as he strode across the stage to shake hands with the Chancellor & receive his degree?  Well, not at that exact moment, but beforehand a slight moistening to my eye could be detected by anyone looking close enough (but no one did ;-) )  No, for that all important moment let me warn you…do not attempt to take a photograph to mark the occasion.  I fell into the same trap for this time as for my first born – too busy trying to capture the moment (& ending up with a poorly lit blurred back shot) – when I could have just enjoyed the moment itself.  But let’s be honest, that moment is just a symbol of the end point of all of the hard work, development of independence & confidence, new friendships & lots of new skills that studying at Uni 180 miles away brings.  The best part of the celebration was what we did as a family before & after, but it’s always lovely to be part of a little pomp & ceremony, a bit of a do, isn’t it?

Hepworth dress

OK back to the dress.  The good news?  This dress is also getting worn a lot during my work week, just like its predecessor.  Its cut & styling is smart enough for summer office wear & I love it.  So glad that I made it in time for a very special day & then for the rest of the summer.  I think this Hepworth pattern is possibly my dress pattern of 2014 you know …last year it was everyone’s favorite, Simplicity 2444, this year, the Hepworth, judging by how many wears both dresses are getting.

Hepworth dressYESSSSSS!

What’s your summer dress of 2014?

PS apologies about the trashy slip ….clearly I looked a whole heap better on the day!

VNA top feature

VNA Top the third

Hello you lovelies!  Another catch up post- this time for the third VNA top I made but forgot to photograph all those weeks ago.  I won’t up much about it, as that’s already done here.

VNA top

But suffice to say, this is my fave version & I have found myself wearing it the most.

VNA top

It’s got wicking blue lycra paired with non wicking drapey “mystic girl” fabric.  I’ve used this before for leggings as well as a running skirt, & I love its quirkiness.   But both of these fabrics have about the same amount of drape, and they are similar thickness – perfect to pair together from a practical point of view.

VNA top

I cut the top out with regard for how the pattern would be placed – here I have mystic lady on my belly, whilst at the back- butterflies & baubles – I like to think they are crystal balls!

I’ve written about the clever design of the VNA top & how you can get different looks in how you use contrast fabric & even mock piping here, if you are interested in more of the VNA top’s  sewing details.

VNA top

What’s it like to wear non-wicking lycra in the heat?  Well, with a style like the VNA that is sleeveless & racer back & with light weight fabric like this that drapes, I wouldn’t know that the mystic lady fabric is prone to superheat & super sweat.  However, some of my other tops, made out of slightly thicker lycra, non wicking again, fit closer to the body & for me are a tad too hot for the hot days – I like a little bit of air flow around my poor suffering bod.  Those I reserve for less steamy days.

VNA top

You’ll see that this version’s blue matches with my Duathlons – but in a subtle way.  Once again, despite the ability to match this top with the other leggings/ running skirt – that is not how I like to wear it – I can’t be doing the whole matchy matchy run kit.  Well.  Not generally.  But I could if I wanted !!

And I also have to add, that these Duathlons have been my most worn summer shorts- perfect length, I love the pockets in the sides too – just right for iPhone to be crammed in to deliver me my happy tunes.  I reckon my Fehr Trade wardrobe’s doing me well for my running style (groan!)

Oh yes.  I have done something insanely stupid.  I have signed up for three half marathons in September, starting with the Great North Run.  Looking back on it dispassionately to understand just why I did it, It seems that my lack lustre & excuse ridden  training over the summer required me to scare my veritable running pants off myself in order to get my lycra clad a*s in gear & get out there & get running.  It’s worked – nothing like fear as a motivator!

No PB predicted mind you, but hopefully I can be in a good place for training better over the winter this time ….we shall see.

Post post addition.  In response to some queries in the comments, this is where I get wicking lycra from-  Ukfabricsonline who just happen to be my sponsor, but I have been buying wicking lycra  from them long before that venture started – they have a mixture of different types- some solids, some animal print (oh yes!) & some less stretchy stuff that is good for looser t shirts & shorts (not leggings.

The blue fabric used in this top was from the Sewing Chest – also supplies wicking lycra.  The crazy lady fabric is not wicking & I bought it from some European site at a very good price (but memory fails me on that one for links, sorry!)

Ultimate trousers

Sew Over It Ultimate Trousers x3

Boy you’re in for a bumper blog post today!  Not one, not two, but THREE new makes – from the new  Sew Over It Ultimate Trousers pattern.  I will be showing you the “test” shorts, a looser fit linen pair of Ultimates & then my favorite ditsy floral Ultimates.  So let’s begin.  I’m afraid it is a longer than normal post with even more pictures.  Can you stand it?  maybe not.  You can always tune out :-)

Ultimate trousersUltimate trousersUltimate trousersI was lucky enough to be sent a copy of the Ultimate trousers by Sew Over It.
When I saw the design I was ever curious, after my Colette Clover fitting histories how would the Ultimate Trousers measure up? I noticed that unlike the Clovers, the Ultimate trousers do not require stretch fabric.  Hmm. Interesting I thought.  And to be honest, I couldn’t wait to be let loose on them, thinking that the shorts would be a good test make and potentially offer up something for my holidays.

Ultimate trousers

Never being over cocky with trouser making I opted to make a test pair of shorts out of some striped drill that I’d used to make my Vintage vogue ( Butlins) jacket.  Shorts are ace- they do not take much fabric at all! Bargain!  I whipped these shorts up, and tried them on before adding the zip and facing.  How strange. They appeared to fit with the exception of needing to take out a mini 1″ long wedge at CB and CF.  Putting the zip in next, trying on before adding the facing, all was looking good still.  I was floating on a cloud! They really are the ultimate trousers for me. I like the way that they sit an inch below your belly button.  The crotch line is *my* crotch line. I wouldn’t assume that it will be right for everyone but it works perfectly for me.  I went ahead and got the shorts made up to hem them.  They have cute turn ups which means that there is a big hem allowance to enable this.  The only thing that didn’t work for me with the fit of these shorts was the width of the leg, at hem line, with the added bulk of the turn up.  Clearly my over muscular runner’s hamstrings ( !!!!!) made the leg width at the point at which the turn ups sit, too snug.

Ultimate trousersUltimate trousers

Once I took the turn up off, they were fine.   So even with no revisions to the leg width they would make a cool pair of almost Bermudas too?!  But not in this fabric.  I will be making them with turn ups & adding a smidgeon to the lower width of the leg as I really like the length with the turn up & they are such a good fit.

Ultimate trousers

And not as a suit. Hahahaha

So what did I make next? Why, a pair of longs! I made them out of some kind of linen mix bought with Rachel and Jane at an off the beaten track drapers near Goldhawk road.  Exceedingly cheap and dispensable should it not work out.  It’s got a nice stripe to it, and it was initially going to be a BHL Victoria blazer….

Ultimate trousers

But then spontaneity kicked in & they were destined for Ultimates!

Ultimate trousers

Due to a. My runner’s leg discoveries as shorts and b.being linen I didn’t want the trousers to be too tight and bag and sag in an unsightly fashion, so when I cut them out I added a little bit to the leg width from upper thigh all the way down.

Ultimate trousers

And made these trousers as per instructions.  Except using a lapped zip as I didn’t have an invisible zip. I think they’re great. Once again, even though the fabric has a different quality, is thinner and less robust, the crotch line works for my ‘undercarriage’ ( that is such a granny phrase, isn’t it!!)

Ultimate trousers

I realise I have made them with a looser leg, but that is by my design and I still think they look sharp- I didn’t want a tight pair of linen trousers, remember.

Ultimate trousers

And I am loving what the striped linen pairs with. This is my Liberty top which I love wearing because it always reminds me that the fabric was a gift from my boys….

Now for those Dandy trews shown at the very head of this post. My latest pair of Ultimates. And boy are they groovy – I’ve made them tighter in the leg & they are dandy with a capital “D”! Party pants!

Ultimate trousers

I made these using some ditsy floral twill I scored on Ebay yonks ago, thinking at the time that I’d make a Colette Ginger skirt or a floral jacket with it.

Ultimate trousers

And then came along the Ultimates. This fabric is light weight enough for summer to early autumn wearing, but firm enough to get a bit closer in the leg without suffering from too much strain.

Ultimate trousers

It was a case of fit as you go – sew them, try them on, pin a bit more out of the leg until happy. And I am happy. Boy am I happy with these funky pants.

Ultimate trousers

And what gets me is that they fit so nicely, are tightly fitted trousers, but have no lycra whatsoever – yet are supremely comfortable. It is a revelation I tell you.

Ultimate trousers

Now if you are a little cautious about making trousers this is a simple pattern to make up, & what’s more there is a sewalong on the Sew Over It blog guiding you through each stage. Might make it easier for you to take the plunge!

Me? I see many more of these to come- I am thinking a solid colour for work, & maybe using some bright blue denim- it has lycra in it though, so I may reserve that for trousers that need it! Plenty of time to think on it though…..

tomato shorts

(These are not rotten) tomato shorts- Vintage Pattern Pledge

I’ve already shown these to you along the way, but now comes the writing of them – the (most definitely not rotten ) tomato shorts.
Is it a silly question to ask a whole load of people who sew, if you ever have a completely spontaneous moment and find yourself making a purchase when you know restraint should be practiced? I think I know the answer!  I’m supposed to be spending less over the summer, since I had a holiday to afford and should be saving up for other things. But then I saw this fabric (It also comes in black). Just one metre won’t hurt will it? And my thought process rationalised that it would keep one metre of the rainbow fabric I showed in my previous post company in the post.  The deed was done. When the fabric arrived I could not believe how soft it was. I was expecting a kind of crisp quilting cotton, but this is much softer.
You can make a lot of things with a metre when it’s summer: tops, bags, hats, and …. definitely eligible for ….Shorts!!!

butterick 4186Remember these?  A cute pair of vintage shorts out of tomato fabric! Why yes please! I pulled out one of my vintage sportswear patterns for the 70s – made up previously here to great success, and cut them out before I changed my mind.

cutting out (Don’t you just love how vintage patterns have seam lines shown & cutting lines marked on them with scissors?!)

I love this pattern because it has a centre back zip, front & back waist darts, nice leg flare, but not too much, and has a flattering fit. It’s almost like a skirt at its top.  I wear these chambray shorts a lot, but when it’s hot don’t like the high waistband. I find myself undoing the button and folding the waistband over.

back of shortsThey are quite low slung, but great for feeling hot hot hot in.  I hate waistbands in the heat…

So when cutting out my tomato shorts, I omitted the waistband, and recut a new line an inch or so shorter so that the shorts would sit below waist. I created a facing to use instead and lo! sewed them up in a jiffy.

shortsYou know what’s else good when it’s hot, apart from low slung shorts?  A nice cold beer :-)

I’d forgotten that I’d added to the length of my chambray pair, so these shorts are quite a bit shorter, especially without the lace. But I like that. They are just what I like in a pair of summer shorts.  And I loooove wearing them.  So much in fact that I am half wondering whether to whip myself another pair up in some cool owl fabric I have got.  But that would shunt off some majorly important makes already on the sewing table & also in my head.  Now I’m back at work I guess my shorts wearing days are reduced :-(

shorts
And as a bonus they were the start of my sewing for the vintage sewing pattern pledge (even if I have blogged about them in the wrong order – after the bikinis).   These shorts are the third of my four vintage pattern makes that I have blogged about.  Just the dress to come.  Soon!

Bag and hat

Me Mades on the beach: bikini,sun hat & beach bag

Hola!  I’m holidayed & have had a lovely dose of Spanish sun, culture & gorgeous scenery.  I’m now at the Cornish coast too so have plenty of sand between my toes. As promised here are some action pics to determine the success or failure of some of the things I made for my three days in Spain on the beach.  Today I shall be revealing:

- Simplicity 9392 – the vintage 70s bikini

-McCalls 6450 – sun hat

-Rainbow beach bag using Handmade Jane’s fantastic tutorial for making a reversible shopping bag.

So the bikinis were made first & I was surprised at what a relatively quick make they were. The pattern is described as a “Time saver” – that should have given me a clue! I decided almost immediately that it would be effective to make two at the same time & actually having two bikinis on holiday is useful, isn’t it – you can alternate with always a dry one to put on.

bikiniLOL!  This is soooo disco!!

I chose fabric based on what I had in my stash & had some extra emerald lycra left over from my original retro style bikini. I also had some of that crazeee almost day-glo hologram lycra that I have used for other sports makes & worked out that there was no reason why it couldn’t also become a bikini. I did actually cut linings for each piece – even though this is not part of the pattern requirement, but it seemed “good practice”. So the only extra step this involved for sewing up was to baste the linings to each piece before sewing as per instructions. No biggee.

As a general observation, I’ve found that sewing swimwear usually involves very little overlocking/ serging – there might be some construction seams that you can piece things together using your overlocker, but there is a lot more done on your regular machine.  Interesting, huh?

bikini inside

As well as general construction for this design, I could tell from the pictures that there was some kind of ruching going on – I wasn’t clear how it would be achieved. There is ruching at each side of the bottoms & also in the middle of the bandeau top. It turns out that you need to sew these seams with a regular machine so that you can press the seam allowances each side of the seam to then gather up the ruching. Pieces of stay tape are top stitched down behind the gathering to secure.

Bikini(I debated putting photos of me in a bikini on the www.  BUT I was out there on the beach wasn’t I?)

There is a lot of swimwear elastic used – each edge – legs, waist, top & bottom edge of bandeau are finished with elastic & there are pattern pieces for each piece of elastic (rather than providing the measurements of the elastic that is needed).

Sewing it up then, in essence, was straightforward. Having made my retro style bikini earlier in the year I am confident with the process of attaching elastic to edges with zig zag – first sewing to the wrong side, then turning that over & sewing again.

emerald bikini

What about the wearing? Do I have as much fun as the girls on the pattern illustration?

Simplicity 9392

Way more! There a number of things I love about this bikini:

Security – This bikini has ample coverage in the bum department & the straps are discreet enough to wear whilst on the move, or swimming, but are easy enough to undo / tie behind to avoid extra white lines whilst collapsed on the sun bed.

Hassle-free wearing- no back strap buckle- just stretch the top over your head & position carefully. This was also a boon for construction too.

Swimability – no qualms about a gentle bob in the sea. It survived entering/ exiting via exciting breaking waves, however the bottoms are unlikely to survive diving in from the side of the pool.

back of bikini

I chose the colours of my bikinis to also match my tomato shorts but will blog about those separately.  But you might be asking why I didn’t wear my retro style bikini?  Well, whilst I love the bottoms, the top just doesn’t work for me – it has layers of fabric & feels too voluminous.  And needs straps to keep it up.  Its tie back is also bulky, so I have the best of both worlds if I use the new bikini top with the frilly bottoms now!

As you can see above, I also made myself beach essentials: a hat & a beach bag.

beach bag

The beach bag, as I said earlier was made using the excellent tutorial Jane has shared to make a reversible shopping bag. This was a quick make! All I did extra was to add some internal pockets to keep money & keys easy to access. It is the perfect size to carry a litre of water, book, beach towel, camera (& I bet there’s room for more!).

Lining bag

I made it using the rainbow fabric I have been coveting for ages, finally buckling & giving in one weekend (the same weekend I ordered the tomato fabric – you know how it works – you need to make it “worth” ordering so find something else you like!). I ordered a metre and was able to make this bag & the hat (but you’ll see I didn’t have enough to make the underneath brim). I lined the bag with some cake fabric I had in my stash that i had bought aaages ago & made a kids’ apron out of it.  So thank you Jane- great pattern & a really quick make. I shall be making one as a thank you present to a friend who lent me her suitcase. (A bit more enduring than a bottle of wine! Although maybe not quite so much fun!)

Hat

And the hat? McCalls 6450.  Well, I scraped around the leftovers of the rainbow fabric to whip it up the same morning. It is a simple make, to be fair. 6 crown pieces, interfaced and the brim. I have one crown piece with upside down rainbows (due to scrimping on the fabric) & the underneath brim should really be rainbows too, but there was no way I could eeek out enough fabric. (Although, had I cut bag & hat out together I think I probably could have).  The hat is lined (I used some macaroon fabric, matching the cake lined bag to a certain degree!). And I have to say I love it!

hat on head

My other sun hat was too bag (one I bought) & on top of a breezy headland I’d always feel at risk of losing it. This one fits me properly & is just right for keeping the sun off my head when I need it, & then scrunches up easily in the bag when I don’t want to wear it. I have designs on making this style up as a rain hat too, to match my trench coat out of microfiber fabric….

And as my recommended holiday read?  The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker.  A brilliant book.

Photo credits due to my awesome holiday buddy, Codename Cynthia. Thanks for the great time and documenting my makes in action!

Handmade Holiday wardrobe: 3 days on the beach in Spain

Hi folks!  A bit of a teaser post this one, as I am on holiday & am taking a break from blogging & email & general social media this week.  (Hence no replies to comments in my previous post yet)

I’ve set this up as I am really excited to have pulled it off! Part of my fevered sewing bender included a mass project making up practically a whole new capsule holiday wardrobe for going to Spain for three days on a beach holiday.  (Two days actually on the beach) I rarely go on hot foreign beach holidays – my beach experience tends to be Cornwall which has a less reliable climate & therefore requires different clothing options!  We are only taking cabin luggage so it’s in our interest to be efficient in packing.  So to celebrate & anticipate minimal weight but maximum wear opportunities, as I was packing I took this pic.

(Just my smalls, beach towel & toiletries not included)

Packing for the beach

I hope I have captured enough variety for travel, beach, cover up & smartening up a tad for the evenings.

I shall probably travel out in my BHL knit Victoria blazer as well as we shall arrive late at night.  Many of these things are as yet unblogged- so expect some shots on location!!

I’ve really enjoyed making some of these new things!  And look – 4 makes from vintage patterns as part of my Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge!  Can’t wait to show you !!!

Laurel top feature

Oh Lovely Liberty Lawn Laurel top

It was my shopping / inspiration trip with Jane that got me thinking about making a sleeveless Colette Patterns Laurel top out of one of my new Liberty Tana lawn pieces, bought with the lovely lady herself. I have been thinking of using a metre of Liberty lawn to make up a sleeveless button up blouse ( don’t worry, there will be one of those too), but when discussing patterns, like you do with other sewsters, a renewed vision for a Laurel visited me.

Laurel top
I wear my stripey 3/4 sleeved Laurel aplenty.  One of the reasons it works so well is that it is a classic colour and stripe for me, and I always feel it represents my style whenever I wear it.  Sewing the Laurel top is another fabulous experience- no closures, no facings and bias bound openings.  I’ve perfected my pattern so that darts are placed right for me, so to cut and sew is a simple exercise in all that is joyful about sewing.

Laurel top

Choosing  a Liberty print to make this I knew would create another classic piece for my wardrobe, and an occasion where the pattern needs to be clear, simple and classic to let the fabric do the talking.

Laurel top

I’ve made a sleeveless Laurel dress ( my elephants) and had used bias for the armholes and it worked successfully I felt, and therefore set to on an impulse one afternoon, slicing through my Liberty.  It came together as quickly as I had anticipated.  What’s more to say?

Laurel top

This little top is exactly what I had planned- the perfect classic tank top that can be worn tucked in or loosely with trousers or shorts.  I cannot wait to wear it with rolled up trousers, paddling in the sea.  Equally it has fared well being paired with a cardigan, tucked into my flora skirt, at work.  Oh and the other treasure about this ? You only need a metre of fabric.  Certainly worth an investment I’d say!

An interview with Lisa Lam & a giveaway

Well today I’ve rather a different kind of blog post from those I usually write.  I’ve an interview with the inspiring Lisa Lam (she of UHandbag & The Bag Making Bible) and a giveaway.
Now this is part of a promotional blog hop for Lisa’s new and exceedingly cute little girls’ dress patterns- the “Dance with me Dress” and the most gorgeous playsuit ever- the “Happiness Halter Playsuit”.  I covet them myself but thankfully can recognise that I have finally gone beyond making up cute girly clothes for myself to compensate for never having a daughter to sew for -  these are designed for small girls – graded for girls aged 2 to 6 years.

Playsuit

Now, I have never sewn for a little girl, apart from making fancy dress.  Whilst I was flattered to be invited to take part in this promotional tour,  before I committed to being part of it I had to ask myself how it fitted with what I usually blog about, and thought that actually hearing from Lisa herself how fun it can be to sew for little girls was my angle.  I mean potentially, girls clothes are smaller and cuter and could use some of those too-large-to-throw-away scraps of lovely fabric.  And if inspired enough, you could easily find a deserving little girl  to sew for, couldn’t you?

So I got excited to be able to ask Lisa some questions, hopefully some new to her questions as well, to share with you and give you a feeling for the person and inspiration behind her two patterns, with a chance to win yourself a copy of each at the end.

The Lisa Lam Sewing Patterns Collection is available now from the team at Stitch Craft Create.  Have a look at the schedule here to follow the blog hop!

Dance with Me Dress

SB: So you’ve been successfully designing and selling bags since 2003 with the launch of your online business in 2005 – Uhandbag, selling bag making supplies and patterns. Your  book, ‘The Bag Making Bible’ is a best seller and even known of by people who haven’t yet made a bag, why the new direction into designing clothes to sew for little girls?

LL: My little girl, Mabel, has been the prompt for my designing clothes for little girls. I almost feel that it wouldn’t be right for Mabel to grow up without wearing ‘mummy made’ clothes. My mum made loads of my clothes when I was little and those clothes bring back happy memories. As I can design patterns I wanted to take it bit further and design for my daughter, as well as sew for her.

Halter

SB: Your designs are so cute – a dress, a playsuit and a halter top. What kind of situations / occasions do you have in mind when conjuring up your designs? What/ who motivates and inspires your designs?

LL: Thanks very much! As I’m a (almost painfully) pragmatic person I like my clothes and accessories to be uber versatile. As such I don’t own party dresses, rather for occasions, I like to wear classic shapes made in wondrous fabrics and/or accessorise to max. I like taking this approach in children’s dressing – keeping it simple and keeping it versatile. So I honestly think all of the my clothes would look just as great a wedding as they would at a play date. Just change up the fabric to suit the occasion and of course you can accessorise with party shoes or dress down with sneakers. Would I personally wear a playsuit to a wedding? Yeah totally! J Though I am aware of trends I don’t really follow them, my designs are very much led by my desire to be practical and my desire ‘to look most agreeable’. Haha!

SB: Haha!  I love the idea of wearing a playsuit to a wedding too!! Do you make clothes for yourself? What kind?

LL: At university I used make myself flowy tank and camisole tops and strappy dresses. I also baggy silk pyjama bottoms. I’d wear these items with chunky workman’s style boots and a felt cloche hat. At the time I thought I looked the business!

SB:  What a stylish & comfortable student wardrobe!  What’s the difference between designing for children and for adults do you think?

LL: Well, I haven’t really designed for adults (simply because it’s trickier Getting a fantastic fit for adults involves working with curves and angles (that children don’t have!).

SB: Many of my readers are probably in a similar situation to me – a bit more free time with kids that are older. But we might have little girls we could sew for if we were feeling unselfish & fancied a frill flurry. So sewing for little girls – I am sure it takes a lot less time – but how long, really, would it take someone who is able to make their own clothes whip up one of your designs? what’s the advantage in sewing for little girls as opposed to ourselves?!

LL: Ohh that’s easy! As little girls are more petite, it’s faster also little girls don’t have the curves that we do (well sadly I’m not curvy, (I’m a ruler!) but you know what I mean). This means that don’t have concentrate so much on getting a precise form-fit for little girls.

Smock

SB:  I get it!  Yes. Clearly one of the reasons your designs stand out is because of your bold fabric choices, or is it that they provide the perfect canvas for showing off fabulous fabric. Traditionally I know the temptation would be to choose a ditsy small scale print for a little girl’s dress. What tips can you give to become more courageous with larger scale prints?

LL: Hmm, nice question! I think the best tip is to trust your taste! If you (and you little girl) like big scale prints, and/or wacky colours then great! Sew with them and have fun. The whole point of sewing for yourself is that you have to freedom to break free from what is: safe, predictable and (let’s face it) easy to shift in the shops. As sewists, we don’t have to conform, if we don’t want to and we should embrace that!

SB: And I love a bit of piping and ric rac – what scope is there for embellishment?

LL: Jumbo ric rac in rainbow colours? Yes please! Pop it on: necklines, sleeve holes, hems, on the a purse strap, bodice line and edging on pocket openings.

SB:  A ric rac user after my own heart!   I had boys, and although I sewed a few things for them when they were toddlers (eg I particularly remember a blankety rainbow duffle coat, a large scale polka dot shirt, gingham dunga-shorts – poor boys!!) and am now making them man-shirts (yay!) I think there is a gap in the market for cute boys’ clothes which could also take advantage of the fab fabric designs that are now available. I know you are inspired to make for your own, and maybe if you had a boy it would be different, but have you had any thoughts about designing cute things for little boys?

LL: Haha! Your boys were lucky! Actually, Mabel’s bestest buddy in the whole wide world ever, ever, is a (same age) boy and his mum and I are good pals. So I will be sure to make him some cool clothes, as the years go by.

SB: I would love to see what you had up your boy-design sleeve!  Now, finally,  I am always fascinated by how people got into sewing. Do you have a sewing guru? Who sparked your interest in sewing? How did you develop your sewing skills?

LL: My sewing guru is my mum. My mum had 4 children and had to work in the family business so unsurprisingly she didn’t have much time to spare (I don’t think I’d have coped as well as she did!). As a child one of the best ways of spending time with mum was to sit with her as she stitched up clothes or soft furnishings for us. Crafting with mum was great for me because I enjoyed learning these cool new skills and it was great for mum because she could keep an eye on me!

SB: And I bet Lisa’s going to be passing her love of sewing onto Mabel too as the years go by.  Thank you so much Lisa for your lively Q&A!  It’s been a real pleasure hearing about your side of pattern designing & sewing for children, yourself & your sewing roots.

Now I said that there is a chance to win a copy of these two patterns.  Leave a comment before 1 August and you’ll be entered into a prize draw to win a free copy of the Dance with Me Dress and Happiness Halter Playsuit pattern booklets!

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Vintage pattern pledge update!

Oh folks I have had a mega busy fortnight here and have lots of blog posts in the pipeline, but neither the time nor the energy to write them all up, but for a quick fix, I’ve had a burst of vintage pattern sewing!! I’ve made two up already ( just about) and have two more ear- marked for my Spanish holiday!! Want to see?

They all will surely qualify towards my non committal vague intention to join the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge

Ok, I made these up last weekend I think. I’m waiting for actual hot holiday sun to bathe these shorts in for photos on this blog, but catch a glimpse of them now. The fabric is awesome (Robert Kaufman Metro market) in a brighter chartreuse than this photo suggests. Butterick 4186, just love the sporty ensemble!!

Butterick tennis pattern

Then there’s this dress I made up spontaneously out of some sari fabric in my stash. I will really enjoy telling you the story about it, but for now check out Mccalls 4007 in hot pink! This pattern is vintage, isn’t it? It’s from the 90s ( which blimey is best part of 20 years old) therefore in my mind that qualifies. But how scarey is that, referring to the 1990s as vintage now. Hmm. I’m sure purists will disagree with me!

McCalls 4007

Now I need a new bikini for my hol, and haven’t the time to make a wonderful vintage style ruffled lovely but this one looks simple enough?  Simplicity 9392 & surely it won’t take up tooo much fabric.  The cozzie’s quite simply lovely too.

Simplicity 70s swimsuit

Then if I’ve time I’m feeling more shorts coming on stream…..if I’ve time mind you. I’ve some mid blue light weight linen in my stash….ahoy!  Sailor shorts !  This is a gorgeous 60s Simplicity 7024 & came into my possession when my hips were a leeetle bit larger than the pattern, but I reckon I can get a good squeeze into them now.

Simplicity 60s sailor trousers

So there I was feeling a little bit rubbish for so far not making any vintage patterns up, and suddenly, like buses, I’ve had a run! Must be summer holiday madness!!  What do you think?  Are you more inspired to sew summer vintage patterns?  I hadn’t really thought about it before, I’d be interested to know  if you have found the same thing?

I’ll be back this weekend with some more detailed makes.  *So excited to show you *!!

And I’m on holiday now for a fortnight- how fab is that!  Time to recoup that lost energy :-)

cheerleader

Sporty Summer Sewathon: Give me an “oooh”!

When Karen announced the “Sporty Summer Sewathon” I had already an outfit in mind – the concept was perfect, the timing was perfect.  Don’t you love it when a plan comes together? (I think that’s someone else’s catch phrase)

Yes, I may have mentioned that I was planning to sew me up a cheerleader outfit for my friend’s 4th July American themed birthday party.  I had made some early investigations & had captured some inspiration on my Cheerleader chic Pinterest board.  

My colours were to be red & white.

cheerleader

What I hadn’t revealed was that my cheerleader outfit was not going to be purely for fancy dress: I wanted to make it out of running-appropriate fabrics so that I could re-use it.  I have made quite a few things out of sporty wicking fabric from UKFabricsonline, (and yes, I am thrilled that they are one of my sponsors now, but I have been a long standing customer of theirs and would say this regardless).  My plan was to use wicking fabric to make a vest top and a running skirt with shorts a la cheerleader.  Now in the past I have used the mock eyelet to make plenty of tops with (eg here and here)  – this is not suitable for leggings, as it doesn’t have enough stretch.

cheerleader

So when UKFabricsonline started to stock this high quality stretchy lycra I snapped some up.  It is really the most gorgeous quality- slinky & reasonably light weight – but suitable for leggings as well as tops too.   I bought red, white & aqua….just a metre of each – wish I could afford more at the time as it is the kind of fabric you just want to have available for any spontaneous running makes!  This is the fabric that I used for the skort.  And after spotting that a few of these fabrics are out of stock I had a small correspondence with UKFabrics Online & it seems that they are trying to source another supplier, so snap them up while they have them is my advice.  BUT folks – check out the animal print.  You know you want to.  A small digression….

cheerleader

Anyways. Gosh I feel I can really rabbit on sometimes, can’t I?  So the design for my outfit.  Inspired by my Pinterest Board I started with the top.  The easier option.  I used Maria Denmark’s “Just a Tank” pattern, comparing it to a well fitting running vest I already have just for best fit  & added a contrast yoke to it & changed the hemline slightly to match with my running top (it’s a bit shorter & has a slightly longer curved back hem).  The yoke was intended to be more of a “V” shape, but I didn’t draft the “V” sharp enough so with sewing it appears more as a gentle curve.  If I hadn’t mentioned that, you wouldn’t have even noticed would you?

cheerleader top

I used red & white mock eyelet for this.  I also cut some strips of the white & with the long raw edges folded in created binding to embellish the yoke shape with a couple of stripes.  I attached them using my regular machine using a zig zag stitch, attaching them before then sewing the top as per instructions.

cheerleader skirt

Then onto the skirt.  I wanted to make it with integral shorts so used the inner shorts from Jalie skort pattern (2796) & cut them out of the quality stretch lycra in white.  The skirt in my mind just had to be made up with four box pleats of contrasting white amongst a sea of red gorgeousness.  I had started to design my own skirt pattern with box pleats, but due to the negative ease at the top of the skirt & what it did to the fall & lay of the box pleats I would have had to really play around with the drafting in the particular skirt shape I had started with.   So I remembered Peneloping’s Lady Skater pattern hack for her Lady Peggy dress.  I took the skirt pattern from the Lady Skater dress & shortened it considerably.  I then roughly followed Peneloping’s measurements for additional box pleats- I think my white insertions were about 6″.  Oh yes, the fabric I used was the super lovely quality lycra mentioned above, not the mock eyelet – I don’t know if that would have enough stretch at the waistband.  And then I sewed it as a skort, adding a waistband too.

cheerleader 5

Now the intention is to wear this skort running but it is rather bright, isn’t it?  It might evolve into a race day skort I am thinking, with my next run being the Great North Run in September.  And the vest?  That can be paired with other things in my me made running wardrobe, even though I am not usually a fan of go faster stripes.

cheerleader 4

But what about the experience of being a cheerleader for a night?  Well.  My friends it was the best!  I made me some pom poms, rehearsed a few crap moves, worked out that I could get away with chanting, “Hey Beccy, you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Beccy”.  The travel to the party was a bit warm to say the least, feeling the need to hide my glory under mac & hat as I walked into town….I may appear to be a bit of an exhibitionist, but only in the right circles and amongst friends!

Disguise

But when I was at the party it was just right!  Wicking fabric must have helped when I came all of a glow under the disco ball.  And I cannot recommend dancing with pom poms enough.  They are the ultimate disco essential & bring out such great moves on the dancefloor (well I thought so anyway!).  They are fun to share too- check out how other people adapt their dancing to pom poms.  Oh yeah.  And dancing with pumps on?  The best.  Why do we dance with heels & hard shoes?!!!

Cheerleader collage

Now whilst I felt my outfit was pretty cool, having made it all myself there were others who had put in a tremendous effort.  From the spaceman (female) complete with papier mache helmet & jet pack to the couple who came as the Boston Tea Party – one as a human tea bag (I kid you not) with the other as a human tea cup.  I could not imagine the car journey – but I am pretty sure they would not have walked into town & certainly could not have hid under a mac & hat!!  There were some amazing outfits & quite a few red, white & blue concoctions which looked brilliant together.  Fancy dress parties are brilliant for group dances – Marilyn, Minnie Mouse, Obama, “Fat” Barbie  & Danny Zuko  as we formed lines to dance the macarena (improved with the addition of pom poms).    It’s certainly party season & I’m loving it!

So to conclude.  This outfit has already been trialled as a dance outfit & was a complete success.  Next stop seeing how it performs (as separates) for running.

Anyone else joining in the Sporty Summer Sewathon?  How’s it going?