Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Wiksten Shift Dress: Long Length in Double Gauze

I tried to resist the Wiksten Shift Dress pattern, it was all over social media a few months ago and I wait to see if it's just a passing fancy or a style I think will suit me as well as a style I would actually make, wear and enjoy.   I recently updated my desktop computer and as I saved files and swapped data over, I could see many PDF patterns that I've bought and never sewn.  In the end,  I'd seen so many people on Instagram looking great in the midi dress version that I bought it as a PDF.  It is pricey (another reason I was resisting) but now I've made two, I can see why.  It is deceptively simple, but carefully and thoughtfully designed.  

I made a size 0.  I ummed and ahhed between sizes 0 and 2 and as soon as I cut the PDF pattern out and did some measuring, I could see that the smallest size would be the best match.  I'm 5'5" and my measurements fell between sizes 0 and 2.   There are detailed size recommendations and examples here.  On the dress, the back section under the yoke is gathered to create the extra volume- that gives the dress it's movement and ease when walking so there's no sense of restriction.  The dress front is much narrower so creates more of a column effect when viewed from the front.  I made a couple of changes- I did the forward 1/2" shoulder adjustment from the Wiksten journal (on my second, I also made a small high round back adjustment of a scant 3/8" which stopped the neckline falling back at all).  My sleeves are about 1/2" too as I accidentally lopped 1/2" off the paper pattern when sorting the shoulder adjustment out!  I corrected this for the next dress!   I also added some interfacing to the waist tie, just a small section along the centre back- it adds a little more body to the area that lies against that part of your body (see pic below)...

Top sewing tip coming up:  I added a bar (from small hook and bar fastenings) on the inside of each split, right at the top (example below is on dress two).  This adds some strength to a vulnerable area and it has worked well as I've worn both dresses a lot with no wear on the splits.

Otherwise, everything else is as the pattern stated.  I used a double gauze that I bought from Stitch at a show.  This had a standard gauze front layer and a loose weave underlayer which meant it frayed like crazy!  But it is soft, opaque and quite drapey so it suits the style well.  

Seeing the dress without the belt shows a little more of the shape- the straight front and the fuller back. I sometimes wear it unbelted if I'm working from home or it's the latter part of the day and I want to relax. 

Like Jenny's other patterns, the design is timeless and there is a top option (the back narrower) which I can see myself making too.  I have worn this version and the second (in Nani Iro Bird's Eye double gauze) so many times that buying the pattern has definitely paid off.  I took both dresses to London for a weekend away last month and they were perfect for travel.  I could roll them up in a holdall on the train and then happily wear them for a day of sightseeing or with a close-fitting cardigan for meals out in the evening.  A classic summer into sunny autumn dress!

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Liesl+Co Gelato Dress in Tula Pink Sateen

I liked the look of the Liesl+Co Gelato dress since it first came out a couple of months ago.  There are a number of simple, shift style dress patterns that have been released recently: Gelato Blouse and Dress, Wiksten Shift Dress and Top,  and Closet Case Cielo top/dress.   I was very tempted by the Wiksten but I think it's too boxy for my frame and will look shapeless unless tightly sashed.  I liked the neckline on the Gelato and the welt pocket detail, as well as the long sleeve top option and Liesl always writes impeccable instructions, plus the closer fitting shoulders tend to look better on me.  

I found a paper pattern on eBay and made a toile- a top with a long sleeve, short sleeve and frill to test fit.  I made size 2 which matched my chest measurement.  The fit was a tiny bit tight across the chest and back just next to the armscye, a pulling and restrictive feeling.  So, I consulted Fit for Real People and also found a couple of Threads videos; How to Modify Sleeves for Better Arm Mobility and Correct a Pattern for Foward Shoulder.  I didn't remake my toile although I wished I had in hindsight, but I did make some changes.   I altered the sleeve cap pattern to make it a shallower curve (as in the first Threads video).  This added extra material on either side and raised the lower curve of armseye on the dress front and back by 3/8" at the  I also reshaped the cap for a forward shoulder following the second video and adjusted the shoulder seams adding 1/4" to the back and subtracting the same at the back.

The result is nearly but not quite right as you can see on some of the pictures- there's some lines and folds around the sleeve head/arm hole that indicate the fit is a little off.  But I have worn the dress a lot and some features like the pocket and the overall shape, I love.  I just need to really nail the sleeves!  The bust days and length are without alteration so do consider that the cup size is small on this dress (I'm an A/B cup at most).  The pocket construction needs to be slow and methodical as it needs to be symmetrical and balanced.

I used a Tula Pink cotton sateen that was originally designed as a quilt backing so was super wide at 108".  I only had a short length so the grain was rotated 90 degrees to fit the pattern pieces and I had to work the best I could to balance the birds across my body.  Sateen can be a little tricky to work with- all those floating threads which snag really easily- but it is soft and silky to wear.   I had similar fit niggles after I made my Liesl+Co Cinema dress which I only realised when I was wearing it, so I'm thinking that the block Liesl uses isn't quite right for my upper body. I've got a couple of other shift style dresses (Closet Case Ceilo and Maven patterns French Dart) so I'll be interested to see how those sleeves compare. 

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Another Simple Folk Block and a Sunday Selection

September 1st, meteorological summer is over and the old workday routine is about to kick in but right now the sun is shining, I've caught up with family over the weekend and life is good so I'd thought I'd share my latest completed Simple Folk block of the month (2018) and a Sunday Selection of stitchy links.

I've also be working on the eight garland/leaf blocks and preparing more animal blocks.  The rooster is dressed in the finest Liberty lawn plus some Robert Kaufman Carolina lawn and a Suzuko Koseki buttons print.  The lawn is my go to for tiny pieces and pointy/skinny strips- it just makes life a lot easier!

There are a multitude of Sewing-themed September photohops on Instagram just kicking off  My heart lies of course with #GreatBritishQuilter although this year I'm no longer hosting with Sarah Ashford, the lovely Lucy Brennan is guest hosting with Sarah and I'm taking part along with all the other quilty participants.  You don't need to be British to take part- just a lover of British quilting- and the prompt sheet is available here.  If you want to double up or take part in a garment making photohop instead, Hannah and Rosie at The New Craft House are running #sewyourselfsustainable with a focus on sustainable sewing which you can post on daily or dip in and out of.  There's also #seweverydayseptember hosted by Sheona of, a challenge designed to encourage, inspire and motivate you to sew everyday even if just for 10 minutes.

Digital Art
I've just got a new desktop- I don't like using a laptop and my old iMac was at breaking point so I bought a new one in a sale and I've been setting up new desktop images and sorting/clearing out all my old files from the last eight years.  It was a reminder of how much has changed in the online sewing world.  I went through all my old bookmarks and so many websites are no longer running, so many bloggers have finished blogging, websites no longer exist.  Such is life, constant change.  It did make me wonder what's coming next...meanwhile, I found a beautiful monthly Desktop calendar image by Rae Ritchie

I've made lots of dresses over the summer, all in the blogging queue and one of them involved lots of armscye sleeve/armhole fiddling around.  Gina of @ginareneedesigns shares the best mini videos and photo tips on Instagram including several recent posts about shoulder and armscye fitting, they are so helpful.  She also has a website with lots of very cute looking patterns too.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

August at Plush Addict

I've put a lovely selection together from blog sponsor Plush Addict for August, even if I do say so myself!  Something for everyone- quilters and garment sewers alike, plus some free projects to download.  If you read this over the weekend, there's free postage too, finishes Monday 26th Aug.

  1. Andover, Libs Elliot Greatest Hits FQ Bundle.  All the colours of the rainbow with some quirky modern prints.  These fabrics are available as yardage as well as this mega bundle.
  2. Andover Libs Elliot Greatest Hit Quilt Pattern- Free download
  3. Art Gallery, Clever Little Fox Knit.  A lovely bold animal print,  Art Gallery jersey is always great quality, washes well and has good stretch recovery.  
  4. Makower Forest Cushion Pattern- Free download- for fabric in 5. 
  5. Makower Forest Green 10 FQ Bundle.   Forest animals and woodland scenes are always appealing, this is a lively colour palette and the same prints are also available in an orange colourway.
  6. Makower Grove 18 FQ Bundle.  Nature-themed prints in a soft colour palette.
  7. Makower Grove Messenger Bag- Free download Using the Grove fabrics and this circle panel.
  8. Ringspun Stretch Denim in Medium Blue.  Also available in grey, black and light blue.  Suitable weight at 10 oz for jeans, skirts etc, 2% lycra
  9. Cashmerette Ames Stretch Jeans Pattern, UK size 16-32/ USA 12-28.  This pattern pairs nicely with the Ringspun stretch denim.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Patchwork USA by Heidi Staples: Book Review

I've just had the chance to review a lovely book that I've spotted coming on Instagram from talented author/designer Heidi Staples @fabricmutt.  She has such a cute zakka-style aesthetic and is always very generous sharing free patterns/tutorials on her blog.  Patchwork USA: 24 Projects For Your Handmade Journey is a road-trip inspired book of makes from the quick 'daytrip' style coasters, snap shot needlebook, to 'weekend getaways' e.g. Hobby Kit,  Color book and finally longer projects- 'Summer Vacation'- like quilts and pillows. 

It is a very pretty book to look through, the photography is so nicely done- clear, cute and with a lot of vintage props!  All the makes are straightforward, there's only one pattern piece which is a corner rounding template, and the enjoyment is in fabric selection and fussy cutting.  It's also a hardback so as it stays open easily and feels extra good in my hands! Let's take a look through first, then I'll show you what I made!

The opening pages are the usual tools and techniques and this is where you refer back to when making a zipper pouch, hand sewing hexagons etc.  Heidi's thoughts on fabric combinations are excellent and especially helpful if you get stuck putting fabrics together to achieve a particular look or using certain colours or prints.  It's very well written and easy to understand with lots of tips and tricks.

The projects all feature some little extra text touches. There's a Historical Marker note telling the story behind the project.  Design tips come under Scenic Route and  Rotary Club lists the fabric and cutting requirements.  Some projects have a Tour Guide section with helpful hints and also a Detour for any project variations.   I made the Penny Pouch, more about that later!

I love these little banners on the Curio Pocket, made with tiny flying geese!

There are three quilt projects, a mini and two larger quilts.  All are easy makes using simple shapes.

At the end of the book, there are some ideas for gifting your makes, playlists and even recipes.  Again, lovely extra touches.

Here's my Penny Pouch.  I used a mix of vintage fabrics from some squares that I was given, plus a few fussy cuts.  

It is a quick make, most of my time was spent arranging my fabrics for colour and print balance.  The zip was from one of my favourite shops, Rose Garden Patchwork.  The colours were just right.

You can just about see the Heather Ross Tiger Lily butterfly print that I chose for the lining.

It's definitely for my use!  The 'K' was from one of Ayumi's Lighthearted fabrics.

 Patchwork USA is a delightful book, a good picker-upper if you need a quick sewing fix or you're lacking in inspiration and a real pleasure to read.   A big thank you to Search Press for sending me a copy to review.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Zadie Jumpsuit Wrap Dress Hack in Lyocell/Tencel

I was lucky enough to try some Lyocell chambray fabric as part of the Minerva Maker team.  Lyocell is a sustainable fabric, you may also have heard it called Tencel.  It has increible drape properties that I can attest to after making this dress!  I loved my Zadie Jumpsuit, pattern by Paper Theory and this is an easy hack of the same pattern. All the details are documented in detail in the Minerva post
check it out here.

The fabric is a little challenging to work with, similar to rayon challis.  It snags easily and is hard to unpick, but it wasn't as tricky to cut and it is a delight to wear.  

These photos were taken in early summer on a day out at a local steam railway.   I was into model railways when I was around 10 or 11 years old and  a steam train is such a fantastic sight that I don't think that childhood passion will ever leave me!  It made a suitably prairie-style backdrop for this dress too!  

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Cowslip Workshops, Christopher Wilson-Tate Antique Quilts Exhibition Part Two

Welcome to part two of personal favourites from Christopher Wilson-Tate's recent exhibition at Cowslip workshops.  Part one is here.  Many of these quilts were also displayed as part of a show and tell at the Wimbourne Fabrics booth (Moda) at this year's Festival of Quilts. 

I chose the quilts above and below for their use of colour.  The top one is silk so it really shimmered.  It dates from 1880/1900 and is from the North country.  I couldn't find any notes on the one below but I was drawn to the orangey, yellow prints. 

This quilt also featured a cheddar colour but this time a solid fabric.  The black fabric looks solid but close up you can see the small floral print. 

This Medallion quilt was one of the older quilts in the exhibition with some of the fabrics dating from the 1770s.  It was made by Mary Gibbs from Sussex, dated 1812.  Such a simple but effective design.  This quilt was the design source for Christopher's first Moda fabric collection, Regency Blues.   Like many of the quilts on display, it was more like a coverlet than a quilt as the wadding layer looked so thin from the side.

This Wedding quilt is my other joint favourite quilt (see the first post for the other one!).  The washed out paste colour palette is very appealing, as are the organic applique shapes and the medallion design.  It's a North Country Wedding quilt from Durham, completed in 1884 and apparently very rare.  It was even better close up...

I love the diagonal ridges on the white background fabric, it looks like a twill weave.  It also looks quite tough to sew through.  You can also see by these details that the applique is raw edge throughout and attached by herringbone stitch.  It combines function and decoration and you can see it's held those fabric pieces in place for over 140 years!  Herringbone stitch also uses a lot of thread, this quilt must've taken many reels considering the quilting stitches too.

This Irish quilt dates from 1780/90 which surprised me as it still seems so fresh with all the spot and sprig light fabrics contrasting against the blues, pinks, yellows and greys.  Another one of my top choices from all the quilts on view,  I do love the hourglass block.   This quilt was also the inspiration source for Christopher's next Moda collection, Regency Ballycastle.

The next quilt was the centre piece of the exhibition.  It was massive, 260cm x 300cm and was originally an exhibit at The Great Exhibition in 1851 at the V&A.  A masterpiece! I was transfixed by the little thread knots, I assume they were holding the hexagon papers in place?  You can see the scale by my blurry thumb floating in front. 

On these last two pictures, I was a little confused by the bluish line around the quilting design and stitches and wondered if any of you could throw any light on this?

It looks like water soluble marker that hasn't come out but obviously that isn't what would've been used for quilts of such age.  Is it pounced chalk maybe that has remained in the fabric?  The marks look too continuous for this.  Anyone have any ideas?  Let me know in the comments.

***Edited to add*** See below in the comments for the explanation!

Such a gorgeous exhibition, I felt very lucky to catch this one.