Tuesday, 18 March 2014

j'adore le Coco!

Whaaaa?? Two posts in two days?! That's not like us!

We've both been busy little (sewing) bees lately. I have a finished very-first Anna dress ready to show you, and I've almost finished a Dixie DIY Ballet Dress. But first... Mon Dieu! J'adore le Coco!

I'm sure you all know about Tilly's latest pattern, Coco, by now. I decided to make the plain-neckline dress version with pockets, and I had the perfect fabric already in my stash to do it. I picked up this floral ponte knit about a year ago - it was randomly sitting by itself on a furniture stall in East Dulwich market. There was only 104 by 175cm of it though, so I knew its usage would be slightly limited. Then Coco came along and I knew it would be perfect. I just about managed to squeeze it out of the fabric that I had.

I bought the PDF version of the pattern as, although Tilly's new packaging looks gorgeous, I find there's something quite therapeutic about sitting in front of a movie and taping and cutting PDF pattern pieces. Anyone else find that or is it just me? That was a lovely and straightforward process as I was making the plan neckline dress, without sleeve cuffs; it only involved 4 pattern pieces.

I cut a size 4 all over. I wanted a fairly fitted feel to the dress and I thought this would do it - and it did just about, but I ended up taking it in just a little bit more at the waist after I'd sewn together the side seams and tried it on.

I made a few other alterations to the pattern too. 1) I cut the sleeves a little narrower than they are in the pattern, as I'm not too keen on a slightly baggy sleeve. That was easy enough to do - I just took one of my 3/4 length-sleeved ponte dresses that I already own and traced round that. 2) I also shortened the dress by 7cm. I like a short swingy style in a knit dress, plus I'm only 5'1"!

The dress came together really quickly (mostly - see below!). I used my new overlocker for the very first time constructing knit seams (I've used it to finish seams but it's a revelation to sew a seam with it! So much quicker!) Tilly's instructions are great, and I also sewed along with the VERY helpful sew-along on her blog. I added stay tape to the shoulder seams, as suggested by Tilly, and love that technique now. And I also used my twin needle for the very first time too, on the hem. A project of firsts!

I also added the two pockets to the front of the skirt because I think they're a nice detail. They did cause me a few problems though. I had decided I didn't want to do them in the same fabric as the dress, so was rifling through my scraps when I found some old leather pieces I'd been given by a family friend. Tough, leather pockets against this feminine floral knit? That would look amazing. But typically my machine was having none of it. It was quite thick leather and my machine just pulled it around and ate it up. I managed to sew one in but it looked awful, so I had to unpick it. Have you ever tried to unpick stitches from leather and ponte knit? It's not easy. They sink in until you can hardly see them. But I managed it in the end and got them off, threw them in the bin and, after a minor tantrum, found some scraps of this black suedette left over from my Hollyburn skirt and decided to use that instead. They went in fabulously and I love how they look, but honestly, the whole pocket process took longer than the rest of the dress construction put together. Can you tell I'm still smarting a bit from that? Haha, melodramatic I know.

While we were taking these photos, look who photobombed me! This guy was so cute - only 9 months old and so full of energy, I just had to stop and give him a cuddle.

Note to self: really must dye my roots...

Ummmmm, don't think there's anything else I need to tell you about this one. Just that it's the perfect pattern for beginners and more experienced alike, will take you hardly any time at all, and, I reckon, really really versatile. And it's so nice not to have had any fitting issues at all. I love my Coco!

Jen x

Sunday, 16 March 2014

By Hand London Charlotte skirt

Hey guys! I hope everyone's having a lovely Sunday. It's another gorgeously sunny one here in Oxfordshire, although I'm spending it indoors doing boring life admin. So dull! Still, it's a treat just to have the windows open, and I might be able to spare the time for a nice little walk along the river later. In the meantime I've got a new sewing project to share with you.

A few weeks ago Jen and I were invited to join the Calico Laine Blogger Network - so exciting! Every month or so we'll choose the supplies needed to complete a project of our choice from their website, and in return for a discount we then blog about the project. Cool, huh? For our first project I snapped up this fantastic stretch cotton and made myself a By Hand London Charlotte skirt.

The photos in this post really don't do the fabric or the skirt any justice, so I must apologise straight off! I had to take them myself with a self-timer in our flat as the weather outside was a million miles from what's it's like today, and they're pretty poor as a result. I took a couple of dressform pics this afternoon which hopefully help make up for the others. 

The colours in the fabric are just gorgeous - dusky pink, steel grey, a lovely corally-orange... and the black background means I can pair it easily with black tights (if needed) and a black top. The feel of the fabric is also nicely sturdy but with a little bit of stretch (that'll be the 3% spandex), so it's very forgiving. I reckon this would be perfect for a BHL Georgia dress!

Construction-wise this pattern is a cinch, wonderfully aided by a sewalong on the BHL site. I chose do the most basic version, because, as much as I love the look of them on other women, I just can't pull off a peplum or a ruffle! I initially added a little extra ease around my hips but took it out again after I'd sewn the side seams and zip, as it just wasn't needed. I didn't line the skirt, which in hindsight might have been an error. It'll be fine with bare legs, but tights do make it stick a little. I'll correct that in my next version.

The skirt has an invisible zip in the centre back, and for this I followed Lladybird's invisible zip tutorial. In the past invisible zips have always left me a bit dissatisfied - either they wouldn't be fully invisible, or I'd get that hideous lump at the bottom of the zip, or I'd sew the fabric too close to the teeth of the zip so they couldn't even be closed. Not this time! Lladybird's tutorial is excellent - full of little tips and tricks that even make the process enjoyable. Yay!

That's it from me today - I'm off to enjoy the last hour or so of sunshine! See you all soon!

Elena x

Sunday, 23 February 2014

a little look at my new sewing room...

Hello lovelies, and a happy Sunday to you all! What have you all been up to? I've had a pretty lovely one. A mild hangover has been just the excuse I've needed take it easy today with a few episodes of Californication and lots of sewing. I've cut out my Tilly and the Buttons Coco dress fabric ready to get started on that, and have done a lot more to my Anna dress too.

So, no new makes to show off today, but I am going to show you my new sewing room! We completed on the purchase of our flat at the end of November last year and moved in straight away. You may remember me bemoaning the packing away of my sewing machine and the fact that I wasn't going to be able to sew for a while. Well I'm pleased to say that we're all sorted in the flat now, my sewing room is set up and I've been sewing again for a few weeks now. Yay!

Here is the room shortly after we moved in, full of crap. For quite a while at first it was our dumping ground. As you can see it's small-ish, but has got excellent built-in storage cupboards along the top of the left wall and next to the door.

And here it is today! Better, huh?!

We didn't need to redecorate at all, as the white walls were already fine. We bought a roller blind, cut it to size (hacksaw and all!) and put that up. The chest of the drawers on the left wall is from Ikea and is perfect for storing all my bits and bobs and is a lovely large surface for tracing patterns.

I found the 50s green formica table at a market in East Dulwich. The stripy basket stores all of my scraps. I do my cutting on the floor on my wonderfully large cutting mat (Xmas present and I LOVE IT).

The round table/chest in the corner houses my new overlocker on top, and a load more sewing bits and bobs in the drawers. The top also lifts up! It used to belong to Josh's nan and when it came to us I opened the drawers and found all these lovely sewing goodies inside! I love to think how some of these goodies are probably about 50 years old, and now I'm lucky enough to have them.

And my modest stash and pattern collection are kept on shelves on our landing.

And that's it for my sewing area! Has anyone else blogged about their sewing space? Leave a link in the comments if you have, I'd love to see it!

Thanks for stopping by!

Jen x

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

j'adore Paris, and a little christmas crafting

Phew, what a busy few weeks it's been!

Jen and I celebrated our 30th birthday last week with a fantastic trip to Paris with our respective fellas, and what a treat it was. We stayed in a lovely apartment in Montmartre that Jen found via Airbnb, and spent 3 days and nights eating, drinking, fabric and vintage shopping, and soaking up all things Parisian. Magnifique!

Thanks to Roisin's awesomely useful posts about her recent trip to Paris, we knew just the places to go for good fabric shopping - most of which were just down the road from our apartment! I think we tried them all, but our favourite was definitely Les Coupons de St Pierre on Place St Pierre, which, as the name suggests, sold 'coupons' - precut lengths of fabric. Between us we came away with seven lots of 3m lengths of various viscoses and polyesters, each for 10 euros. Amazing bargains! I'm so excited to start sewing with them, so they'll almost certainly start appearing here soon...

Before that, though, a little Christmas housekeeping before January is over (is it just me or is it flying by?!). I kept my Christmas present crafting to a minimum this year, making just two gifts. And I'm so glad I did, as it really helped me keep a hold of my sanity!

The first gift was these very cute wine cork coasters made for my brother's lovely fiance using my tutorial here. I love these coasters - they're so thrifty to make and I think they look adorable. They're also pretty quick - I made this set of two whilst cosying up on the sofa with a movie one December evening.

My other bit of Christmas crafting was this bag for my wonderful mum. I used U-Handbag's brilliant 'For Pleat's Sake' tote bag pattern - which is free!

The fabric is 'Small blossoms in sunset', from the collection 'Blythe' by Rebecca Bischoff for Robert Kaufman fabrics, and it's lined in a plain quilting cotton which is almost a perfect colour match for the mid-blue in the pattern. The handles are simple leather handles from bag-clasps.co.uk, though the U-Handbag site also sells a great selection of these.

The pattern is so easy (not to mention really enjoyable!) to follow. I made a couple of adjustments so as to make the bag a little more usable and secure, namely adding a phone pocket on the inside, and including a magnetic snap fastener. I think these touches add a nice professional look :)

So, that's it - no further mentions of Christmas, I promise! It's pretty much all selfish sewing in the near future for me, and I'm so excited. The problem is going to be deciding on what to make first - will it be a Grainline Archer, a By Hand London Charlotte skirt, or a Colette Rooibos? Help!

Elena x

Monday, 6 January 2014

jen's 2013 sewing round-up - better late then never

Rather belatedly, I decided to do a little round-up and evaluation of my sewing in 2013. Mostly for my own benefit really, but hopefully one or two of you will also find it interesting. ;)

2013 was the year I properly started sewing my own clothes. I say properly because the very first garment I sewed in my adult life was actually a dress I made in December 2012. However, I don't own it anymore and the less said about it the better! It is on this blog but I won't point you to it. Go and find it if you must!

So, my sewing stats for 2013 are...

Items sewn: 14 (including 1 refashion and 1 unblogged - still to come!)
These break down into: 4 tops, 7 dresses, 1 pair culottes, 2 skirts.

I know 14 doesn't sound like a lot compared to some sewists, but it's a good result for me. As a beginner I'm still fairly slow, and I also find some weeks go by with very little time to sew in, due to work commitments and other hobbies. I also think it's pretty good considering that in the past few months, due to a rather time-consuming but now completed house move, I haven't been able to sew a thing! I have missed it sew. Ahahaha. Derp.

The breakdown sounds about on par for what I typically wear day to day, week on week. I love dresses, and I produced a good mix of everyday and occasion dresses. I do also like tops and skirts combos but as I sew a lot of prints I often find it hard to match up the two! Resolution for 2014: sew some plain items.

Any misses?

I'm pleased to say that none of my 2013 sewing has been misses. I definitely wear some items more than others, but I do still wear and enjoy everything I've made. Granted, the fit could be better with some of the pieces, but that's all room for improvement, right? This year we'll see if any of last year's items get relegated to the charity shop bag as I (hopefully) keep improving my sewing.

What about hits then?

I've got to give a special shout out to some of my items I'm really happy with, for one reason or another. In chronological order, 'cos I'm a little OCD like that...

Sewaholic Hollyburn skirt - March 2013

I love this skirt. The shape is lovely as it sits perfectly on the waist, and it goes with a heck of a lot of stuff. But my favourite thing about it has to be the yellow cord piping. Yay.

Tribal Megan Nielsen Darling Ranges dress - April 2013

A good fabric choice for this dress if you ask me. The construction of this dress was a challenge as I had some major fitting issues. I rescued it though, and came out with a dress that I love. The fabric frays to buggery though (excuse my language) so we'll see how much longer my pinked seams last for!

Jacquard By Hand London Elisalex dress - September 2013

In September I finally got round to making my first ever By Hand London pattern. And it was mighty fine. I'm chuffed to bits with this dress, and was proud to wear it next to an adorably handsome kilted-up Josh at the wedding of some good friends in Glasgow. Taking the time to do a muslin really paid off, and I can't wait to make more Elisalexes.

Pauline Alice Cami shirt dress - September 2013

September was clearly a good month for me as I also made what may well be my favourite item of the year. I made this dress as part of the Fall for Cotton challenge, using some beautifully-printed cotton. I wear it a LOT and get compliments every time I do. Makes you feel great when that happens, doesn't it? ;)

And that concludes my round-up of my 2013 sewing and my favourite bits. I have some vague goals for 2013 - sew some plain-coloured pieces, sew some fabulously-patterned pieces, and generally have a lot of fun doing it. Oh, and I also plan to get out of the house more and finally meet up with some of you lovely fellow sewists.

So I'll hopefully see some of you in 2014! I'll be the one in the dress above. ;)

Jen x

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

2013 round-up! (and an ode to the ballet dress)

Happy New Year everyone!

Well, 2013 was certainly an eventful year for both me and Jen, although unfortunately not always in a good way. For every high point (Jen honeymooning and buying a flat, our brother and his girlfriend getting engaged over Christmas, to name but a few), there were also low times such as family deaths and health woes. Still, whatever doesn't kill you only makes you stronger, right? Personally I'm very much looking forward to 2014 - it's a whole new year full of wonderful possibilities, and who knows what might happen!

Jen, having moved into her new flat a few weeks before Christmas, is still working on setting up her sewing room and therefore hasn't found much crafting time recently. So with things quiet from her I thought I'd take this opportunity to show you a couple of my most recent makes and also do a little round-up of 2013.

So, to kick off, I'd like to share with you a couple of Dixie DIY ballet dresses that I completed in the few weeks running up to Christmas. Let me tell you, my love for this pattern has now been well and truly cemented!

My first ballet dress was a semi-success. I loved the making process, and the pattern is wonderfully drafted, but I was never very keen on the neckline; it always felt a little too high. I also didn't like my fabric choice - the jersey was pretty thin and I was always paranoid it was highlighting my lumps and bumps! So when it came to having another go at the pattern I decided to use the neckline from the Sewaholic Renfrew top instead, and I'm so pleased with how it looks. I also used thicker fabrics - this one above (my favourite of the two) is a double knit I snapped up for £2.50 a metre at the rag market in Birmingham, and my other (below) is a ponte from my local fabric shop Masons. So comfy and that little bit more forgiving!

I like this version a little less than the other; the fit is slightly looser, and the fabric a bit more dull and dreary. It still gets worn weekly though!

 There's probably not much more to be said about this pattern that I didn't say last time, except that I frikkin' love it and I'm sure I will make more in the future. These dresses are perfect weekend-wear, especially on rainy days like today when all I want to do is curl up on the sofa with my knitting, a  hot water bottle, and a good boxset.

These photos were taken by Jen during a family visit to Hinton Ampner gardens in Hampshire on Boxing Day. We couldn't help but take quite a few photos as it was such a lovely backdrop, despite the weather that day not being ideal. Very bright sunshine, although perfect for walking in, is a bit of a bugger for photography. Still, the place is beautiful and very much reminds me of my childhood (I think I've been there something like a dozen times since the age of 5), so here are a few more pics.

The obligatory 'silly one' :D

Right, let's now take a brief look at the year gone by!

In 2013, I made 30 items. Of these, 27 were sewn, 2 were knitted (my knitted baby cardi and Jane hat), and 1 was a cross-stitch.

The 27 sewn items consist of:

12 dresses
7 skirts/culottes
5 tops
1 coat
2 bags

Thinking about what I tend to wear day-to-day, this sounds about right. I reach for dresses most mornings, but do also like to have a nice selection of separates. In 2014 I'd like to make a few more nice tops, as that's definitely a gap in my wardrobe at the moment. I'd also like to attempt a couple of pairs of trousers (eek) and really up my knitting. I'm currently midway through an Andi Satterlund Chuck sweater, and am really enjoying being out of my comfort zone!

I have a huge list of patterns on my 'to make' spreadsheet, but first up this year will be a Vogue 1344 for my 30th birthday celebrations, then a Grainline Archer shirt, a By Hand London Charlotte skirt, and a New Look 6808 top. I can't wait to get started on all of these!

Happy 2014 everyone! I hope the year brings you delights and joy aplenty:)

Elena xx

Thursday, 5 December 2013

a nice bit of chambray: McCalls 4769

Howdy folks!

Well, whilst Jen has been doing exciting life things such as BUYING A HOUSE, I've been crafting up a storm. As well as making a few Christmas presents for some of the lovely peeps in my life (can't share those yet, obvs!), I've been sewing my heart out, and now have a bit of a backlog of projects to share. Because of the seemingly-endless darkness that is wintertime, it's going to take me a while to get these photographed, but thankfully I have one ready and raring to go now...

My first ever shirtdress! And I bloody love it.

The pattern is McCalls 4769, which seems to be widely acknowledged by the sewing community as one of the best shirtdress patterns around, and I must add my voice in agreement. The instructions are generally really easy easy to follow, only dipping in quality a bit around the collar insertion (don't they always?), but thankfully I had this excellent tutorial by Handmade Jane to see me through. Yay for other sewing bloggers!

The fabric is a 100% cotton chambray from Calico Laine. I actually used the wrong side of the fabric, as when it arrived the right side looked far darker (and more shiny! Ugh) than it had appeared online. The wrong side, however, had a really nice casual light denim look. It's slightly darker than it looks in these pictures, which were taken on a really bright and sunny morning (as you can probably tell from my squinty face!) The colour shows better in the images below. It worked out really well, though during construction I did have a 'special' moment when I accidentally sewed the 'right' sides (my wrong sides - still with me?) together! More than once, too. Anyway...

To add to the casual look of the dress I used some very cute little tan buttons, and topstitched eeeeeverywhere with tan topstitching thread.

Size-wise, I made a cut a size 12 at the bust and shoulders, grading to a 14 at the waist and hips, with no other alternations, and the fit is almost perfect. If I were to make it again (and I probably will!), I'd add a little more width at the hips, as I had to remove the pockets because they were pulling weirdly and added extra bulk there. I think more width would prevent that.

I'm going to leave you with these pics of me with a lovely pooch who belongs to some friends of mine (one of whom very kindly took these photos for me). Isn't he a cutie? I've always been envious of the various bloggers who posed in their creations accompanied by their furry friends, and now I have one of my own! Woo.

Elena x

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