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

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

it's not goodbye, it's au revoir...

Well folks, it was a sad day at Casa Clark this weekend, as this photographic evidence proves...

That's right, that is my sewing machine being packed away (sob!), for our house move this Friday. We're crossing the river from north London to southeast London. And we'll be actual London homeowners! Exciting and s**t-scary all at the same time.

So the packing away of my Brother and all my other craft supplies was a painful task, but fear not for our new place has a second bedroom that will become my dedicated sewing space! Hoorah!

The sad news is that I'm not sure when I'll be able to get my beauty out again and start sewing. Decorating and furniture buying must come first...


But I'll keep you all updated with the transformation of the second bedroom into Jen's super sewing space. Maybe some before and after pics? After all, we all love a good nosey round other people's sewing spaces don't we!

So in the meantime my lovelies, I'll keep ogling your lovely makes and Elena will be making more than enough for the both of us to keep this blog full of lovely makes. And I will hopefully see you before long with another of my own...

Au revoir.

Jen x

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Pinned it! Made it! or: check out my purdy plates

Oo-er. Ahem.

On Tuesday evening my friend Cat and I trundled on down to The Book Club in Shoreditch, London, to partake in a little plate-decorating frivolity. The event was run by the fabulous Pinned it! Made it! girls, who hold their events on the third Tuesday of every month. The premise is simple: you love Pinterest, you pin away to our hearts content, but how many of us actually get around to making all the beautiful crafty things we pin? Even an at-home craftaholic like me is keen to admit that an evening of crafting with like-minded lovelies and a glass of wine in hand is a fantastic idea. And the best part? They supply everything you need and at the end of the evening you walk away and leave the mess for others to clear up! How often does that happen at home?!

Last night’s craft endeavor was to re-create designer/maker Lou Rota’s beautiful decorated vintage plates, as previously sold by Anthropologie and currently available at I adore the look of these plates – vintage in style but with fun and quirky additions… that’s me all over. Plus, what with my impending house move I could see these fitting perfectly in my new flat.

Image via The Curiosity Project

Excitement personified.

Cat and I arrived and were promptly greeted by our friendly hosts and other crafters. We were ushered to the bar (who am I kidding? I made a beeline ;)), where a cocktail was on offer that had been specifically created for the evening. How’s that for attention to detail? I stuck to my usual tipple though and had a lovely glass of red wine.

Cat hard at work.

Pretty soon everyone had arrived, and about a dozen of us gathered round to hear the girls tell us all about the plan for the evening. The wonderful thing was that although we would be creating a magnificient item of beauty (not an exaggeration), it was also really quite simple to do! Plus they even had a nifty instructions handout and were on hand to offer help and advice throughout.

Such concentration.

And so the next two hours flew by in rush of crafting bliss. Cat and I created these beauties below, and I have to say that every single plate created at the event was amazing, and so individual. I can’t wait to put mine up in my new kitchen.

Tickets were £25 which I think is well worth it for an evening of fun and everything supplied for your amazing creation. If I sound incredibly enthusiastic it's because I genuinely am; I love stuff like this. SUCH FUN. With a different craft to create at each even you're bound to find one you can't resist, sooner or later.

My finished plates. Whaddya think?

Has anyone else been to one, or similar crafty events they can recommend?

Jen x

Sunday, 10 November 2013

the TARDIS skirt and an upcycled sorbetto

I absolutely love love love autumn. It brings so many good things - mulled wine and hot cider, cosy knitwear, glorious crisp sunny days, the excitement of Christmas approaching, and of course, the most important thing...

Autumn sewing!

Excuse the wrinkles!

I kicked off my Autumn sewing this year with a sort of Frankenpattern of a skirt that I'd been idly musing on for a while. It's a mash-up of the Colette Ginger and Megan Nielsen Kelly skirts, chosen because I love the button-up style of Kelly but the pleats (especially in the back) of that pattern were never flattering on my generous badonkadonk. I much prefer an A-line shape, so a mix of Ginger and Kelly seemed perfect. I dubbed this skirt 'Gingerly' to myself whilst making it, but it has now become the TARDIS skirt, for reasons that'll expand on in a second...

Nautical buttons!

Fabric-wise, I'd been on the lookout for a nice rust-coloured corduroy for a while, and was so pleased when I found this stuff on Truro Fabrics. Stupidly, though, I didn't read the description very well and was disappointed to find it quite lightweight. I umm-ed and ahh-ed for a while, debated finding an alternative, thicker fabric, but then a friend suggested the genius idea of underlining it with a stiffer cotton, effectively using that as an attractive version of a sew-in interfacing. And I had just the stuff!

This awesome galaxy-print cotton was harvested from a Tesco children's duvet, bought about six months ago for a Deer & Doe Belladone (yet to be blogged!). I had loads left over, and it was a perfect stiffness for underlining this skirt, not to mention frickin' cool. It also gave the skirt it's name, because it's bigger on the inside, y'see?! Fnar fnar.

Ahem, sorry :D

Construction-wise this went really smoothly. I cut each pattern piece (except the pocket facing) in both the cotton and corduroy, then tacked the pieces together before working with them as usual. I mainly used the Ginger pattern pieces but adjusted them for the front placket as per the Kelly front pieces, and I reduced the height of the waistband to 3cm about as I'm pretty short-waisted. I completely forgot to interface the placket, which was a stupid move, as the fabric really likes to wrinkle around the top of that area. Oh well, something to remember for next time!

The top I'm wearing here is also newly-made; it's a Colette Sorbetto. More indie pattern loving! I upcycled the lovely silk fabric from a faux-wrap skirt I found in a local charity shop, and I had only just enough for this top! To make the pattern pieces fit I had to hack about 2 inches off the length, which makes it a little short for wearing with low-rise jeans and trousers, but I think I prefer it tucked in anyway.

Like a few other people who've made this pattern I inverted the pleat and stitched it together partway, as this fabric doesn't hold creases very well. I used a bog-standard shop-bought bias binding for the neckline and armholes. Boring but straightforward!

I really love this pattern. Come next summer I can see a few cotton versions making their way into my wardrobe!

So that's my autumn/winter sewing off to a good start! Hopefully in the next few months I'll add to it with a McCalls 4769 shirtdress in a mid-blue chambray, a Dixie DIY ballet dress in dark blue floral ponte knit, a chiffon New Look 6808 top, and a bucketload of knitting.

How about you guys? I'd love to hear about your autumn/winter sewing plans!

Elena xx

Sunday, 27 October 2013

sweet jane

Happy Sunday everyone! I'd like to introduce you to my newest knitted friend, the lovely Jane.

Jamie and I briefly braved the mighty wind outside to snap these pics this morning. The photos are minimal, I'm afraid, as I'm full of cold (bleurgh) and am also feeling hyper-critical today ;)

The pattern is Jane by Jane Richmond, and it's a really lovely one - just perfect for a not-quite-beginner-but-still-nervous knitter like me. That being said, I think it would still keep an experienced knitter entertained; the eyelet ribbing is definitely interesting enough to knit without driving someone to tears of boredom.

The yarn is Debbie Bliss cashmerino aran in 'Mallard' (aww), and I used less than 100g. I learned a bunch of new skills making this - long tail cast-on, knitting with dpns, switching from circular needles to dpns... YouTube was my saviour on more than one occasion!

I feel like Jane has really helped build up my knitting confidence, so would love to attempt something bigger - maybe a cardigan or a jumper... but there's so much out there! Can anyone out there recommend a pattern? Something not too complex but still interesting would be great. I'd be ever so grateful!

Anyway, for now I just need the temperatures to drop a little so that I can wear this baby out - all I'd get at the moment is a sweaty head. Bring on winter!

Elena x

Thursday, 17 October 2013

victory for ava!

Ha, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only sewing blogger to have used that post title before!

I do love the prospect of a fun occasion to sew something special for, so when Jamie and I were invited to our lovely friend Hannah's wedding ceremony and reception, I immediately started trawling the web and sifting through my stash to find a suitable party dress pattern. Lo and behold, I came across the Ava dress and peplum top pattern by Victory Patterns. I don't own many 50s-style dresses but have always loved the nipped-in waist and full skirt silhouette, and the scope for playing with different colours and textures in the different parts of the dress really appealed to me.

I've made one pattern by Victory Patterns before - the Anouk dress (currently not yet blogged as it needs some tweaking!), so I knew I could trust Victory. Their patterns are written really nicely and they don't do anything weird with their sizing, so voila! Decision made.

Choosing fabric for a project is usually a long and drawn-out process for me, full of doubt and endless internet searches and trips to Masons. Actually, I'm curious about how other sewists plan their projects - do you locate a pattern and then find the fabric to match it? Or the other way around? For me it's a mix of both, but I usually have far more success when I find a fabric I want to use and then match a pattern to it, and actually that's the way my tutor back at uni always advised we work, so I'm making a concerted effort to work that way these days. Tricky, though, when so many gorgeous patterns keep being released!

Anyway, I digress. For this project the pattern and fabric actually popped into my head at about the same time. I'm trying to decrease my stash at the moment, so I knew I didn't want to buy anything new for the main part of the dress (the yoke would be a different matter!), and I had 2 metres of this nice drapey black and white polka dot something-or-other (probably a poly blend of some sort) sitting about. I think I'd bought it for a different project that had gotten abandoned, and this seemed like a good use for it. The polka dots weren't too busy a pattern that matching the yoke fabric would be difficult, but they did add a little interest. Plus, POLKA DOTS.

For the yoke I snapped up this pretty pinky-lilac corded lace that I found in Masons. I'd had my eye on lace for the yoke from the start, plus the colour went really well with my plum Clarks heels (comfiest high heels EVER).

Derp face

Construction was pretty quick, as this really isn't a complex pattern (helped by the fact that I didn't include the pleating around the bust and armholes). I made a muslin of the top half to check the fit, and when that was good, ploughed on with my proper fabric. The most time-consuming part was definitely binding the neckline and armholes. OH MY GOD, such unecessary anxiety. For some reason I got it into my head that the lace I was using, although pretty stable, would be a disaster to use for binding, so spent ages finding a fabric of the same colour that I could use instead. Sewed it all in, realised it looked appalling, and ripped it all out again. Finally decided to at least try the lace as binding, and found it an absolute breeze and not the disaster my mind had convinced me it would be. Perhaps that's a lesson I needed in having a little more confidence in myself ;)

I styled the dress with plum and silver earrings, a fitted black blazer, and a froofy net petticoat borrowed from a friend (thanks Crafty Minx!).

And that's it from me tonight! I'm off for some dins, then an evening of sewing my new project, Pattern Runway's Coffee Date Dress. Bye all!

Elena xx

Thursday, 10 October 2013

totally trippy tanias

yo yo yo. hey guys.

So, my thoughts on today's make are a bit meh I'm afraid. Meh. Not the pattern itself - I really like the pattern. I'm going to make it again. Definitely. For next summer, a bit longer, in a nice light drapey fabric. But this version, I'm just not sure about. Let's investigate, shall we?

The pattern is, of course, Megan Nielsen's Tania culottes. A genius idea - a lovely drapey skirt-like garment that is, in fact, culottes! Cut on the bias so lovely and drapey and swirly, fabulous for swishing around in.

The fabric I've used is a mystery knit picked up at Walthamstow market. It was super cheap of course - can't remember quite how much. It's quite thick, with just a very slight 2-way stretch. Because the stretch is minimal I thought it would still be fine for this pattern. And it is! I kept the side zipper, and treated it totally like a woven.

The obligatory "reveal" shots!

As I said, the fabric is quite thick, so I suppose it's going to be pretty good for winter with tights. I totally love the pattern and colours - it's quite trippy, a bit Missoni-esque, and really fun.

I cut a size S as I wanted it to fit really nicely on the waist. If I'm being honest, which I feel like I should be with you guys, they do feel a teeny tiny bit on the snug side. But I'm hoping that's nothing a couple more spin sessions won't fix! Oh dear, I've failed fitting 101 haven't I?

I cut the length as standard in the pattern, admittedly not even thinking about how long I actually wanted them. Doh! I think I've gotten used to automatically having to take 5cm off skirt lengths because I'm so short! So I got to the hemming stage and decided I definitely didn't want them to go any shorter. So I just didn't hem them. That's right. The fabric doesn't fray, so why the bobbins not?

What do you guys think? Be honest with me! I'm thinking they might be good for a night out? Or a winter day when I feel like having a really trippy bottom-half?!

Jen x

Sunday, 29 September 2013

fabulous fall for cotton Cami shirt dress

Hello my lovelies!

I'm super happy as I write this because not only have I finished my Fall For Cotton dress but I finished it ON TIME, and I LOVE IT and I'm also WEARING IT RIGHT NOW. Sorry for the caps there. I'm just pleased. I decided to take part in Fall For Cotton - the challenge being to make a garment using a vintage or vintage-inspired pattern out of 100% cotton fabric - partly because I haven't really taken part in any sew-alongs yet and also partly just because I fell in love with this pattern and the fabric as soon as I saw them and knew they were a perfect match.

So, this is my effort! The pattern is Pauline Alice's Cami dress pattern - it's new out, and it's her first! And oh my gosh, that's impressive! It's such a lovely pattern - a gorgeous 50s-style shirt dress with a gathered skirt and different sleeve-length cuff/no cuff options. Sooper dooper loveliness. The fabric is Meadow Vale Dark by Leah Duncan for Art Gallery fabrics. I bought it from M is for Make and it arrived so quickly! You buy it by the fat quarter (£3 each) and it's 44in wide so I bought 14 fat quarters which equated to 3.5 yards. Turned out to be more than enough for me and so I have a little bit left over which I'm sure I'll manage to use for something else very soon! Isn't it lovely?

I made a quick toile of the bodice and sleeves, cutting a size 38 all round. On the toile this seemed a tiny bit too snug at the waist but fine everywhere else so for the main make I decided to stick with a size 38 and just sew with a 3/8in seam allowance instead of the 5/8in. In the end it's actually more than roomy enough at the waist so maybe that adjustment wasn't necessary but it doesn't matter at all - I'll wear a belt with it most of the time anyway and it's always nice not to worry about too snug a bodice and buttons popping off!

Other changes I made to the pattern were to make the skirt pieces slightly wider than in the pattern, to make the skirt even fuller, and to shorten the bodice by about 1.5cm. For the skirt I just used the full width of my fabric for each piece (2 pieces) so it was 44in wide instead of the 39.4in in the pattern. I just felt like a nice full skirt, y'know? I think I've been subconsciously lusting after Dolly Clackett's full-skirted beauties! I decided to shorten the bodice about halfway through - I'd completely made the bodice up and gathered my skirt in, and basted the skirt to the bodice when I tried it on and just felt it was sitting a bit too low for me. I'm short anyway, and I like things to sit quite high on my waist, so no problem there - I just unpicked my basting stitched, repositioned it up by 1.5cm and sewed it in. And now it's perfect.

So all in all, I love this dress! It's going to be perfect for winter with tights and a cardi and then through to spring with bare legs. I'm glad I decided to do the 3/4 sleeve because it made me try a new technique in the cuffs (I'm a cuff virgin), which went pretty well, and also I'm a wuss in the winter and always like as long a sleeve as possible. And I like how you can wear the cuffs down, or rolled up.

Cuffs rolled up

Another new-to-me technique in this make was the collar. It looked a bit scary but I charged ahead anyway and with the really really excellent instructions in the pattern it was a breeze. OK, so I may have accidentally sewed it in backwards, TWICE, but I think that was an over-tired evening when I should have just gone to bed! I'm also always a bit wary of buttonholes as sometimes my machine decides to make them a ball-ache and chew and chew the fabric but with this they went so well! Maybe because it was a nice sturdy 100% cotton? Anyway, they were so straightforward and I decided to use these adorable little gold heart buttons which I think are a perfect addition.

I wore it to work on Friday and got several compliments which is always nice! I feel good to be challenging myself a fair amount with my sewing at the moment - my Elisalex was a make I took a lot of time and care over, and this one was the same. It came together pretty quickly (mostly because there was a deadline!) but I didn't rush it, and it felt nice to have several quite challenging stages in the make that I could take great care with, and then feel really chuffed when they were complete and looking good. Does that make sense? Hope so. Probably not.

Mixin' it up with some bench-posing action

So check out the Fall For Cotton Flickr pool, which has mine and all of the other makes. They're all so impressive! And huge thanks to Rochelle and Tasha for hosting such an excellent sew-along.

Bye all!

Jen xxx

Saturday, 21 September 2013

... but where did the lighter fluid come from?!?

I'm interrupting the scheduled programming this week to show you something a little different!*

(*apologies in advance to anyone who's not a fan of cross stitch and/or Arrested Development - I promise things will return to normal next week!)

On 5th September Jamie and I celebrated two years together as a couple, and this Arrested Development cross stitch was my present to him. I don't think he's got strong views one way or the other about cross stitch, but Arrested Development is one of his (and my) favourite TV programmes, and I loved the idea of us having the Bluths hanging in our flat!

The kit was from wee little stitches on Etsy - do check them out if you're at all interested in cross stitch and/or popular culture as they have some of the most awesome designs. The PDF download was only £5.77, and whilst I did then spend a fair bit extra on all the threads, you could quite easily double up on some of the colours in the pattern and save money there.

I don't have a huge amount more to say, except that I had so much fun stitching this. The design is very simple and only includes full stitches, some backstitching, and a few French knots. So that's enough from me! I'm going to let the pictures do the talking...

Here's George Sr., Lucille, Buster, and Gob. I love that Gob is wearing sandals.

And here's Michael, George Michael, Maebe, and Lindsay.

And the piece de resistance - a blue-ed and never-nude Tobias complete with little French knot nipples. Lovely stuff.

Has anyone else ever tried a Wee Little Stitches cross stitch pattern? They've gained a fan in me :)

Elena x

Friday, 13 September 2013

an elisalex for a special scottish wedding

Och aye ma wee lovelies! Lang time nae see, far hiv ye been, min?

Ah. Sorry about that. That's what happens when you consult Google for Scottish phrases. Let's just move on, shall we?

Last Friday Josh and I were guests at a very special wedding up in Glasgow, at the beautiful House for an Art Lover. Our good friends Steph and James were getting married, and it was such a wonderful day! As its name suggests, any art lover will appreciate the venue - it was designed by Scottish architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. He designed it in 1901 and it was then constructed in 1989-96 from his designs. It's adorned with beautiful Art Nouveau details and it was just the perfect place for our friends to tie the knot and have a traditional Scottish wedding - complete with a ceilidh!

I decided early on that I was going to make my dress for the wedding. I quickly settled on By Hand London's Elisalex dress. It had been on my "list" for a while, but for some reason I felt I needed an event of some kind to make it for. I'm not sure why - there are lots of lovely everyday versions of the Elisalex that people have made! But I also knew it would be a perfect special occasion dress and so I guess I was waiting for the right occasion.

Fabric-wise, I debated for a while. At first I was certain I wanted to make it in a tartan, for the Scottish factor. But when I struggled to find a good tartan fabric that was affordable but also suitable for the dress, I expanded my search. And then I found this lovely jacquard from and I knew it would be perfect! I bought 2.5m and have a little left over, and in total that was just under £22, which I reckon is pretty good!

Mmmm, fizzzzzz.

As MANY others have said before, this pattern is amazing! I haven't made a bodice like this before and I love the way the princess seams make the bodice look all structured and corset-y. I made a toile to make sure I got the fit just right. As I explained in this post, the toile revealed I needed to shorten the bodice at the back a bit and pinch in the top of the back too. After making those adjustments, I felt confident about cutting into my lovely jacquard.

How cute is this jacquard by the way? Cherubs and flowers! At one drunken point in the evening it did occur to my friends and I that there might be willies on my dress. But don't worry, there aren't. These cherubs are modest little chappies! I'm actually slightly disappointed.

No willies here! Booooooooo.

This was the first time I'd done any lining of a dress. Thankfully the instructions for lining the bodice (the skirt isn't lined which is fine as it's so tulip-y) are part of the pattern and are very well explained. Plus there's a great sewalong on the By Hand London website! I used a cream cotton lawn for the lining which is perfect against my skin. 

Me and Josh. He's not Scottish but all of our guys decided to hire kilts. Yay!

So the whole thing was just very enjoyable and comforting. I can't really explain why, but even though this has been my most "important" make so far (and therefore the most full of pressure), it's been the one that I have enjoyed the most - the instructions are funny and thorough, and I was really careful through the entire make, too. I took my time, and as a result this is definitely my best make to date. Woo!

The pattern instructs you to use a 30" standard zipper. I decided it would be nice to make a feature of the zipper so chose a chunky metal dark blue one, and made sure it runs the entire length of the back of the dress. I love the way it's such a feature at the back! So that the skirt didn't drown me (I'm a short-arse at 5'1"), I took a whole 10 inches off it.

Now that I've nailed the bodice I'm excited to make another Elisalex, probably one with sleeves next and in a slightly more casual fabric so that it's a pretty everyday dress. And I love the versions that others have made with different skirts - to name a few there are Roisin's many (my favourites are here, here, here), plus Kathryn's is so cute.

And for no reason other than they look so wonderful together and madly in love on their special day, here are Steph and James. Aren't they lovely?! Don't you just love a man in a kilt?!

The beautiful bride and groom!

So, am I the last in blogland to make an Elisalex or has is anyone else still waiting to make their first? Go on, it's brilliant!

Jen xxx

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