Tuesday, 19 June 2018

The Avid Seamstress Gathered Dress in Linen: Review

June and July are crazily busy months for me, a mix of work, deadlines, family events which is taking up all my time.  I made this dress at least 6 weeks ago and usually in a British summer, it would've had lots of wear, but this year we jumped from a late spring into a warm summer which shows no signs of stopping and long sleeves are too hot, but I loved the pattern, I've just cut out two more summery versions so I thought I'd share this one before I stitch up the others!


I haven't experienced an Avid Seamstress pattern before.  As with the majority of indie printed patterns, it is beautifully produced with a colour booklet and step-by-step instructions.  The Gathered Dress is based on their already successful child's Gathered Dress pattern.  The adult version has a raglan sleeve and side seam pockets.  The main feature is the gathered back waist detail. It's a simple, well-cut dress shape, with minimal details and a relatively quick sew.  There's a zip closure but after sewing a quick test version, I could see I didn't need it so I cut the back as one piece and omitted the zip. No interfacing is needed (hooray!) and the uninterrupted front section is perfect for a feature fabric.  It's a variation on a shift dress and the back detail is what swung it for me, a basic shift often doesn't do much for my shape; this dress had the extra element whilst retaining a gentle fit. I had two metres of a wide Italian linen twill weave bought from Stitch Fabrics at a local fabric fair. 


I made a size 1 (UK size 8) and the fit was almost perfect for me.  The only thing I changed was to lengthen the bust darts by 3/8" to the  0/UK 6  size lines which is quite a common bust alteration for me.  I also flared the bottom of the hem by around 1/2" on each side to add a little extra flare to the side seams I walk quickly with quite a generous stride and so I wanted just a little extra room. I particularly like the fit of the neck and shoulders and I can see this pattern becoming the basis of other tops and dresses.  I am very small busted so anyone larger than a B cup may need to make a full bust adjustment.




I followed the instructions all the way through which start suggesting that after sewing the bust darts, most seam edges are finished before sewing.  I never usually do this but on a simple style like this it really sped up the sewing process and as the fabric frayed very easily it was extra helpful.  They suggest using an elastic method to gather the back skirt but I didn't find this worked for me; I used my usual three rows of long machine stitches instead.  The instructions are generally good with one or two little niggles where the pictures don't quite match the process- e.g. the sleeve shoulder dart came together following the instructions but it didn't quite match the picture, and occasionally some extra pressing details would've been good but these are minor elements in what was a really enjoyable make.  I added some homemade Liberty Lawn binding to the neck facing and over the back waist seam; it just makes the edges a little softer against the skin.


 I've just cut out a short sleeved version in Nani Iro doubgauze whichich I'm currently sewing up and traced off a short font and back bodice to add to a gathered maxi skirt so it looks like it will be a versatile pattern for me.  
You can find the Gathered Dress at Village Haberdashery and Backstitch or buy direct from Avid Seamstress as a printed or PDF pattern. 
There seems to be a blogger glitch with comments at the moment- they don't come through to my email so I'll reply below instead!

Friday, 8 June 2018

Simple Folk BOM - Month 4

Month four of Sarah Fielke's Simple Folk BOM completed and I'm just about managing to keep up as the next month's email and resources arrive.  The flower block was a delight to sew.  I used a bias tape maker, Clover 1/4" and that worked really well for me.  I also used Perfect Circles as I have been doing all the way through.  I thought the handles would be a nightmare but I really enjoyed them!  I'm now finding where my preferences lie with applique, I love curves- zig zags, chevrons and internal point of a heart shape, not so much


The second block, 'birds' (with a hint of marine creature) were hard going, maybe the hardest so far.  Symmetrical blocks are always tricky and I found I was glueing and repositioning many, many times as I kept finding parts which weren't covering other sections sufficiently.  The tail was made in three pieces which worked well for fabric pattern placement but it would've been easier as one piece with the centre piece on top.  The neck accents were very fiddly, the top is narrow and there's a lot of seam allowance to cram into the point.  I'm tenacious when I'm faced with challenges so I'll keep working at it until I get the finish that I'm hoping for.  It's all a learning experience and I am learning a lot. 


 Here's the reverse and now that there's been more guidance, I'm feeling more confident cutting away  the back fabric.


This is how all the blocks are looking so far spread out on white boards.  I still have a lot of the spacer blocks to make. Time is short this month, there's a lot on with work and family and I have other demands that are taking up all my spare sewing moments. I'll carve out a day somewhere, I like keeping up, it drives me onwards!

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Favourite Four - Top picks and bargains from Eternal Maker and Plush Addict

It's a long holiday weekend in the UK and there are some offers on for the next couple of days so it's very timely for my sponsor choices for this month.  Here's my favourite four from Eternal Maker and Plush Addict.

Eternal Maker is offering 10% discount online with BANKHOLIDAY10 code at checkout.
  1. Cloud 9 Tinted Denims 155cm/62" wide. Pastel ice cream denim twill, organic cotton and a perfect match for Two Stitches Children's  Frankie Dungarees pattern or the Frida Dress
  2. Flower Garden by Pikku Saari for Kokka.  Double gauze and the prettiest, bright, floral print. works well for simple garment shapes and quilts.
  3. Rustica Chambray in Black, Robert Kaufman 150cm/56",  59% cotton 41% linen.  I have some of this in black.  It looks like denim as it has a twill weave but it's much softer, lighter weight and more drapey. Good for dresses, trousers and shirts.
  4. Meersburg  Birds, Lady McElroy Cotton Lawn 140cm/54" wide, silky cotton lawn with a rainbow selection of birds printed on it. Lovely for dresses, shirts of tops.
Plush Addict has a series of accumulator style discounts - the more you spend, the more you save- see here for details, e.g. when you spend £20, save £2- 10% off.  Automatically applied at checkout.

  1. Dashwood Studio Eden Pop FQ bundle. Jilly P has designed this lovely collection inspired by a visit to The Eden Project.  Vibrant and colourful pop-style nature prints.
  2. Cotton Lawn, floral on Pale lemon.  142cm/56" wide. Pretty vintage style print on cotton lawn.
  3. Alison Glass Remix.  Greatest hits style print selection mixed with Sunprints. Available as a bundle or in yardage.  Saturated colours and lots of geometric patterns.
  4. Dashwood Studio Life's Journey FQ Bundle.  Designed by Joanne Cocker, I really like the subtle colour palette and the simple graphic print style.
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Friday, 11 May 2018

McCalls M7547Dungarees: Floral Edition! Pattern Review

It is such a treat to be able to use amazing photos taken by a professional photographer for a pattern review!  These dungarees were made as a Reader Review for Love Sewing magazine and I thought I'd share here how I got on sewing the pattern. Photos are by Renata Stonyte.


It's a jeans and overalls pattern with lots of potential for customised elements, two leg silhouettes are included and length variations.  The fabric recommendations are for stretch wovens and I went with a stretch sateen as I wanted to wear these in Spring and I didn't want anything too bulky for the pockets and seams.  Big florals are everywhere and although it's a bold print, the dark background felt a bit safer!  Mine came from Josie at Fabric Godmother,  this is a similar fabric, still available. I did make up a tester to check fit out of some weird stretch cotton from my stash. It was worth doing. Unlike many big four patterns, this one doesn't have much ease, I ended up making a size 12 which matched my body measurement on the sizing info.


There are a lot of marks to transfer so it's worth a double check before you unpin the tissue pieces from the fabric!   I read some reviews before I started sewing - lots of sewing bloggers have made this pattern- and many people mentioned the short straps so I cut them a few inches longer.  I also added 2 1/2" to the waistband length as the original style is fitted at the waist like a pair of close-fitting trousers- I wanted something more relaxed!  I also straightened the legs from around the knee downwards, again for a relaxed feel.


It's a systematic make: I batch stitched elements like the pockets- prepping them all together and then sewing the topstitching one after the other.  I find it easier to get consistency with my settings this way.  The pockets are all patch style and I basted each one to get accuracy and placement symmetry. The instructions are quite detailed but there's no guidance on when to finish your seams so I'd advise reading ahead and planning accordingly. 


Quilting tools often come in handy for dressmaking.  I used a Hera Marker to crease all the pocket edges that needed turning before I pressed them.  I also used Clover water pencils to transfer marks and a seam gauge to check placements, topstitching, hems- everything really!


I added Liberty cotton lawn interlining to the front and back bibs to keep the fabric stable- no stretch is needed on these sections.  I did find it a little fiddly getting my straps to meet perfectly on the back bib and had to narrow the top of the back bib to get the inner triangle facing and staps to fit neatly.


Happily, I didn't need much in the way of fitting adjustments.  The front low crotch was a bit saggy- no one wants that!  So I reduced the top inner thigh seams a little and the sagginess was banished.  The biggest change I made was to omit the ease stitching at the waist for a looser fit. I made sure all my pieces were centralised front and back when adding the waistband and it all worked out well. The waistband sits just above my high hip rather than the original high waist fit. 


Amy's version looks lovely in the dark denim.  She sewed up the same size so you can see how the ankle taper in more on hers. Read her review here!.  It's a satisfying pattern to sew and could be a good base for other stretch trouser shapes, can't wait to get some more wear out of these!

Love Sewing Magazine: Issue 53, Bumper Edition!

Every now and again a series of sewing related features and projects come together and this month's issue of Love Sewing Magazine (issue 53) is one of those moments for me. As well as my usual Swatch Selector column, I am the reader reviewer for one of the two free cover patterns and I wrote a two-page feature on Patrick Grant (of Sewing Bee fame) and his Community Clothing social enterprise initiative. 


Here I am with Amy, aka Love Sewing editor at the photo shoot.  It was a really fun day at the  Practical Publications photo studio in Stockport.  I had my hair and makeup styled by Nina which was a first for me and I picked up some great tips- namely, a foundation brush has an amazing effect and that eyelash curlers are an essential item!   Everyone was very friendly and welcoming. We had some sewing chat, plus lots of silliness and general fun.  I reviewed McCalls M7547  and made the floral stretch dungarees that I'm wearing in the pics.  It's a great pattern as it also includes trousers and different leg styles- shorts, flared, tapered, and Amy has written an easy-to-follow dungaree/dress hack tutorial inside the magazine. You can read her blog review of M7547 here!


Here's my Reader Review page- I'll write up the review for sewing the dungarees for you here too...that's the post after this one!


By some strange twist of fate, I got a chance to go to Patrick Grant's business workshop at Exeter University which was a preview, and more of his TedxExeter talk on Sustainability in the clothing industry.  All credit to Patrick, he is really making a difference with Community Clothing and his goals of restoring pride, creating jobs and making great clothing. I bought the Breton top in the pic below from their e-commerce site, it's incredible quality and made in the UK.


And as always, there's my Swatch Selector column, this month with a fruity theme.  I've chosen a delicious selection of fabrics with a pretty mix of fruits, florals and picnic inspiration!


It's a very special issue for me, I'm so proud to be a part of it!  In the UK, you can find it at Asda, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Tescos and WHSmiths. In the US, it's available at Barnes and Noble but 40 days after the UK.  Anyone can buy it and have it delivered at moremags.com. There's also a digital edition. 

Saturday, 5 May 2018

All About My Sewing Box: New Sponsor and Giveaway/Discount Code

I'm happy to feature a new sponsor here, My Sewing Box which is run by mother-and-daughter duo, Angela and Amy, from a small office in Dorset.  I was in touch with them last year for a magazine feature and they kindly sent me one of their themed boxes- I made a quilt for Lottie! They are now expanding their business and have some very interesting plans, plus they still do their lovely boxes, so I'm going to share some of their story and show you around their online shop. 

My Sewing Box was set up in 2014 as an online selling fabric for quilting and dressmaking, haberdashery, wadding, patterns, sewing notions and more. Angela and Amy like to source great quality, well designed fabrics and present them in boxes, fat quarter bundles and yardage. This year, Amy has left her usual full-time job to spend more time on the business.  Together they cover everything from packing to putting together new boxes, hunting for new fabrics and products and sharing on social media. 


Subscription boxes are still their best selling product with sales overseas as well as the UK. There are one-off boxes too (perfect for gifts) and project boxes as well as lots of fat quarter selections. Anglea and Amy spend a long time planning future boxes and ensuring that all the contents offer enough variety for long-term subscribers.
Here are a few of my favourites...

One-Off Ultra Liberty Blue/Red Box
I love the contrasts in this box ( if you prefer a more pastel based mix, this is a good alternative)




I really like the variety of scale in the different motifs and it's a classic red/white/blue palette.


Love the fabric bottom right!


Dog Box- all the materials you need to make a (beautifully modelled) double-sided bandana.




Other highlights for me include a rather lovely jersey selection these are all by Domotex and are especially suitable for childrenswear.   


There are also pontes and drapey jerseys for adult clothing - this is a viscose jersey in teal. 


Amy and Angela are full of plans and as My Sewing Box has expanded they are now ready to leave their office space for new premises and this summer they will open a bricks-and-mortar store in Bournemouth. The aim is for a fabric boutique and creative hub where customers can spend time, get inspired and find wonderful supplies for sewing that something special. Their online shop and the boxes will continue and there are some new products on the way... 
Amy and Anglea are offering a discount for blog readers: 
10% off your order with code VERYKERRY
(excludes monthly subscription boxes, one use per customer. Expires end of May 2018)
Plus, if you follow me and My sewing Box on Instagram, check my feed out over the weekend for details of a brilliant giveaway- a 3-month luxury box subscription!  
UK only for the giveaway- discount code is for everyone!

Twitter: @MySewingBoxUK
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Thursday, 26 April 2018

Simple Folk BOM - Month 3

Three months into Sarah Fielke's Simple Folk block of the month and I'm keeping up. Each month seems to have a different challenge- be it a different aspect of appliqué or working out the spacer blocks that go in between, there's always something new to learn or a skill to improve.  The instructions are generally very detailed and the videos are a supportive visual security blanket, but  I do have moments of uncertainty.  With this block, I got a bit doubtful about how much to cut away on the reverse.  There is a porthole style element in the centre of the star shape so that was all explained and worked well but general cutting away for applique, that's not been covered so far. 


For the rest of the block, I followed my instincts and trimmed the larger layers back to a 1/4" seam allowance to reduce bulk.  I'm going to take a look at my finished blocks and do the same, they do feel rather thick untrimmed!


As always, fabric choice takes time on these blocks. I'm aware that there's lots of yellow from the corner triangles and in the spacer blocks (see below).  I'm also allowing for the scrappy pink fabrics in the mini 9-patch squares so it's a balancing act.  I haven't bought the acrylic template sets that Sarah sells for this BOM- they would make the process a lot easier, especially cutting, but the cost with overseas postage is against me at the moment, so I used template plastic and made sure I cut accurately and transferred all the seam points so I can pencil them on the fabric pieces- essential for aligning those tricky shapes and with patient construction the block came together well. I made a test block out of scraps before committing to the good stuff and that was definitely worth doing! 


 The other element in my fabric choice considerations is the tiny circles that punctuate many of the appliqué blocks.  I did end up auditioning a lot of colours and motifs in my search for the Goldilocks effect!  These are my rejects, saved for potential future use.


Here's a little layout of what will be the top left corner of this quilt. The cobalt blue will be bordering these blocks, framing the grey backgrounds and as a canvas for lots of animal-themed appliqué around the edges. I am enjoying seeing the variety of blocks from BOM participants all over the world. Observing the choices and dilemmas of so many other quilters, all working on the same pattern in such a variety of fabrics is fascinating!