Tag Archives: dressmaking

Love What You Wear Update: Thank Goodness for Oxfam

In November I signed up for the Love What You Wear Project, the aim of which is to avoid buying new clothes for a year. So, just over three months later, how am I doing?

sad about polka dot top

The good news is, I finished sewing a garment. Properly, with seam finishing and a hem and everything. The bad news is, I don’t like it. The only time I can imagine wearing it would be if I was pregnant. Mum – if you’re reading this – don’t start knitting booties, I have no intention of getting pregnant ;-). It is not flattering at all. And I have come to the conclusion that threading elastic through casing is the most tedious sewing task in the world, and this little beauty has four lots (two sleeves, a waist and a neckline). So I think it’s fair to chalk up McCalls M5050 as a fail. Ho hum.

On the plus side, I have managed to grab myself a couple of charity shop bargains in the last couple of weeks. A beautiful lightweight cotton Monsoon blouse, and a super-comfy-but-with-nice-finishing-touches green top by Boden.

thank goodness for oxfam monsoon
thank goodness for oxfam boden

And I am *NOT* going to give up on dressmaking (though I may take a little break to get on with some other sewing stuff, which I’ll post about soon). This week I have aquired two more sewing patterns. The Vogue one I won from Jenny over at Pattern Pandemonium. I must admit I was drawn to the polka dots 🙂 and the McCalls skirt I bagged for 99p from Oxfam. So I have to decide whether to do one of these next, or to make a start on the Deer & Doe. Decisions, decisions.

two patterns

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Is this cheating? (Vogue 1224)

You may remember I am signed up to the Love What You Wear Project, meaning no new clothes for a year (from November 2012 – November 2013). I signed up for the project partly in response to my unease with the ethics of the fashion industry and partly to spur me on to making my own clothes.

Shortly before Christmas I purchased Vogue Pattern V1224. This pattern was marked as “Very Easy” so I thought it might be within my sewing abilities. I bought some stretchy fabric, traced off the pattern pieces (adding a couple of inches to the skirt piece – yikes, that was short!), and figured I’d make a start. But then I started reading up on how to sew knit fabrics…and scared myself off! I happened to show the pattern & the fabric to my mum, saying I thought I would put off making the dress until I was a bit more confident of my sewing abilities. At that point she said “would you like me to make it for you?” How could I refuse?!

So, here’s the dress:

vogue dress

It’s not made by me but by my rather lovely and talented mother. She volunteered to make it. No coercion was involved. And she enjoyed it so much she has copied the pattern to make one for herself. So, my question is, “Is this cheating?”

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Colour, Corduroy and Sensible Shoes: My Style

Following on from my “Help me dress myself” post, I’ve been giving a bit more thought to defining what is my style. I’m not sure how I ended up there, but I found Retrochick’s series of posts quite useful. There was the usual advice about putting together pictures of looks you like and so forth but I found her advice to think about what you liked to wear as a teenager “when you weren’t dressing for anyone else” especially helpful. I think my teenage style was best described as anti-fashion. I refused to wear what other people wore, but instead went for my own eccentric mixture of things. I liked wearing pretty dresses but coupled with army surplus stuff and DM boots. I liked stripes and crazy colours. But most of all I would never, under any circumstance, have even considered the possibility of wearing high heeled shoes. Not to a wedding, not to a nightclub, not to an interview. High heels? No thanks. I understand that some women find wearing heels makes them feel sexy. Wearing high heels just makes me feel awkward. Awkward is not sexy. Comfortable in your own skin (and shoes) is much more sexy I reckon.

Anyway, after thinking about the teenage clothes thing, I started to think about the clothes I have or have had that I like to wear and make me feel good, and this helped me to put together a doodle of what I think is “my style” and what I think is “not my style”. Please excuse the terrible drawing (especially of the shoes ;-))

My Style:

my style

The necklines are all ones I have found flattering to my somewhat skinny upper body.
I like things that are floaty and drapey, but they need to have some shaping under the bust, or they just drown me.
Colours are good.
So are spots & stripes.
Corduroy is my favourite fabric. But I also like linen & velvet & chiffon.
Sensible shoes are the way to go.

Not My Style:

not my style

As I have mentioned before, I am an introvert. My hobbies include such wild and crazy activities as sewing, drawing and reading. I am more likely to go to the library than a party. And I am a stay at home mum. As such I don’t have a lot of call for satin dresses or smart, tailored clothes. And there is no way I want anything in my wardrobe that needs dry cleaning *shudder*.
I don’t have the bosom for halter necks or deep V-necks.
I’m too old for very short skirts.
I’m too short for very long skirts.
And I like to be able to move in my clothes – ride my bike, run for the bus, reach books off the top shelf.

I think these lists are going to help me understand what it is I want to sew for myself. My McCalls M5050 pattern fits my criteria (it was just the fabric that made it a bit “milkmaid“) so I am going to remake it in some lightweight green polka dot fabric. After that, I am going to have a shot at Deer & Doe’s Robe Sureau. It has shaping round the bust, isn’t too short or too long, would look good in corduroy, and doesn’t seem to require high heel wearing to look good. Check out the Flickr pool here.

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Help Me Dress Myself!

I have never been interested in clothes or fashion (aside from a brief obsession with a Lady Di paper doll dressing kit – but that was when she was still Lady Di and still frumpy :-)). For me clothes shopping is a pleasure equal to – oh, I dunno – a visit to the dentist, say. So, having signed up to the Love What You Wear Project, and committed to learning to make my own clothes, I am struggling on more than one level. Firstly, there is the technical stuff – how to cut, sew & fit the damned things. But also, with being able to choose exactly what to make in terms of patterns, fabric & style, comes the question

“What on Earth do I want to wear?!”

It’s shameful that I have reached the age of 37 (see pitiful note below) without really having any idea of what I like to wear or what suits me. Which is where you come in, dear reader. I give you, as evidence, my latest dressmaking attempt. Please bear in mind that this is a toile – ie I have no intention of wearing this dress-made-from-a-sheet in public (especially since standing in front of the window reveals that it is somewhat see-through) but have made it to see if the pattern fits. As you can see, it’s not hemmed and I haven’t sewn in the zip, but I think you can get the idea.


Made in a nicer fabric, does this have the potential to be a pretty summer dress? Or is this shape just not right for my uncurvy figure? Do my clothes need to have more shaping in order to give me more shape? I just don’t know.

I did experiment with the cord from my husband’s dressing gown (classy, huh?) to ascertain whether something with a bit more of a defined waist might be better. Waddya reckon?

how about a belt

What I want really is a summer dress that is comfortable to wear & suits me & isn’t tooooo difficult to sew.   Pattern suggestions on a postcard please.

And now to the pitiful note: having eschewed Facebook (see this post) I discovered one big disadvantage when I celebrated my birthday this week. No warm and fuzzy feelings resulting from a flurry of happy birthday messages in my inbox :-(. Feel free to replicate the warm and fuzzy feelings by leaving me some belated birthday messages below 🙂

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Charity Shop Treasure Hunt

This morning I had a couple of hours in town to myself. I took the opportunity to trawl the charity shops for books for my treasure hunt reading challenge. I was pretty pleased to find a few:

treasure hunt books

So, I’ve got
The Girl with the Pearl Earring (clue: a precious stone)
Love in the Time of Cholera (clue: an illness)
The Fifth Mountain (clue: a geological formation)

Nice 🙂

For the most part, the fiction I read is from the library. However, because I like to read in the bath, it’s good to have a few owned paperbacks on hand too! Looking forward to reading these.

I also picked up a pretty flowery sheet, which I am going to use to make the muslin for my next garment:

flowery sheet

The pattern I am planning to use is New Look 6095, a simple shift dress.

New Look 6095

I am also planning to have another go at McCalls M5050. Hopefully this spotty green fabric will be perfect, and nothing like a milkmaid 🙂

dotty green fabric

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Looking for a Milk Maid? (McCalls M5050)

My latest sewing project has been McCalls M5050, a peasant-style top. I’ve nearly finished sewing it (just the hem to do) using some eyelet fabric that was my Nan’s. I am guessing the fabric is some sort of polyester blend, cos it was a bit of a slippery customer, and frays a lot, and the sewing machine wanted to suck it into the needle plate every time it hit a hole. So if nothing else, I have learned some patience!!

I was planning to use this as a wearable muslin. When I say wearable, I don’t necessarily mean wearable outside my own house ;-). I think the fit is fine, and I quite like the style. Unfortunately the fabric it is made up in makes me look (thanks to my husband for pointing this out!) somewhat like a milk maid. I think my raised eyebrows convey my mixed feelings:


I do think I will make another version of this, in some slinkier fabric, so definitely not time wasted. But don’t expect to see me wearing this particular version anytime soon – unless I am attending a fancy dress party dressed as a milkmaid perhaps 🙂

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The Perfect Fit (for a Lego Damsel…?)

So, following the wonderful advice from lovely readers and sewing forumites, I have deconstructed the skirt and basted back together to try and get a better fit. Basically I have pulled it up and taken in the side seams (more at the hips than the waist). I have only basted, so excuse any tatty stitching, dangling threads and what-have-you 😉

Here’s the front:

front of skirt

The side:

side of skirt

The back:

back of skirt

It definitely is a better fit. It may, in fact, be as good a fit as I am going to get for this particular skirt pattern.

However, I’m still not convinced about the A-line skirt on my lacking-in-any-womanly curves figure! It just makes me think of a skirt made out of Lego bricks, like this lovely damsel Gman kindly photographed:

lego damsel

My mum thinks it would work better in a more draping fabric. She’s probably right, but not sure whether to try that or go for something completely different!!

In any case, my next sewing project is going to be a top. A nice, floaty top which will hopefully fit first time 🙂 It will be made from some broderie anglaise from my late grandmother’s (extensive) stash, so again is low risk. What do you think?:

M5050 with fabric

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How can I improve this skirt?

So after my last post where I told you I made a skirt but it didn’t fit, The Perfect Nose (sorry, I don’t know your “real” name ;-)) commented that it would be useful if I showed a photograph of myself wearing the skirt so people could advise me on how to improve it for a better fit. I roped Gman into photographing me (which may explain the strange angle that makes me seem very broad shouldered ;-)) and here I am, from the front, the side & the back:

skirt from the front
skirt from the side
skirt from the back

I think my problem with is it is that it is not only A shaped from side to side, but also from front to back (does that make any sense?!) I don’t like the way the material sort of sticks out in the middle at the front. Maybe it’s just my pot belly, or the fact that my bum is so flat?!

But if any of you experienced garment-sewing folks can see a way to remedy it to make it look right, your advice would be very much appreciated 🙂

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I Made a Skirt!!

I finally got round to completing my first skirt for the Love What You Wear Project! An A-line skirt, made following Butterick pattern B4461. Yes, it could do with a good press 😉

Here’s the front:

skirt front

and the back:

skirt back

and look – it even has a zip!

it has a zip

Making this has made me really appreciate how much work goes into making even a simple garment, which has made me even more determined to avoid buying cheap, fast fashion. I have also learned new skills like:

  • transferring pattern markings using tailor’s tacks
  • sewing darts
  • inserting a zipper
  • constructing a faced waist

That’s the good news!

The bad news is that, frankly, the skirt doesn’t suit me at all.  The A-line shape is probably flattering on someone taller and curvier, but does not suit my figure.  And I don’t like the way the fabric drapes either.  I am still pleased I made it though, because of all the things I have learned.  But I think, before I make any more clothes, I am going to have to have a long, hard think about what sort of clothes I really like and what suits me.  This dressmaking lark really is the opposite of fast fashion!  But I think that I will end up with fewer clothes, but more flattering clothes, so that’s got to be worthwhile, right?


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Binding & Bargains

Quilts: I like thinking about them; I like looking at them; I like designing them; I like piecing them; I like quilting and embellishing them. I do NOT like binding them! Luckily, my rather awesome and talented mum DOES like binding quilts so it would be rude not to give them to her to bind 😉

Here’s the “What a World” panel which I have quilted and embroidered, and my mum has beautifully bound:

what a world

I had thought this would make a wall hanging, but it drapes so beautifully and is snuggly, that I think we will use it as an extra quilt for keeping knees warm when we are sitting on the sofa. And maybe our geography skills will improve at the same time!

I wrote a week or two ago about signing up for the Love What You Wear Project – a commitment to not buying any new clothes for a year – and in the meantime, I have been looking at lots of dressmaking books and patterns, trying to summon up the courage to start work on a garment for myself. Today, when perusing the charity shops, I found this fabric for sale for £4. It’s 60″ wide, and there’s almost 3 metres of it – bargain! I think it will be just the thing for making an A-line skirt for the summer:

bargain fabric

I also picked up this amazing Anatomy Coloring Book for 50p:

anatomy coloring book

A valuable addition to our homeschool library!

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