Peter Pan in a dress

The original Peter Pan collar as worn by Maude Adams looking doubtful

The original Peter Pan collar as worn by Maude Adams looking doubtful

When I first started sewing, I just cut pattern pieces and fabric out without even really looking at them. I would look at the size chart on the back of the pattern (not the finished garment measurements, as I know now to do) find one that covered my size range in an approximate way, cut up the pattern and then cut out my fabric. I did not know about tracing patterns, or any kind of adjustment or fitting, or pattern ease. The result of this is that back in February or March sometime I cut out a Burda 7137 in a size 28 (!), sewed the bust darts (badly), then panicked that I didn’t understand the instructions, folded up the fabric, put it in a box, and didn’t look at it again for a good six months. In that six months I learnt quite a lot, and decided I was ready to take on my UFO again. I took it out of the box, sewed it together really quite easily, tried it on, and screamed. God god the fit was terrible. It was a good three or four sizes two big on the shoulders, two sizes two big everywhere else. The bust darts were really pointy and in the wrong place. The armholes were enormous. I wasn’t entirely sure how to fix this, so basically just added some long tucks to remove some excess fabric in the back, took in the vertical darts at the front and sewed the armholes again with a ginormous seam allowance.

My 'alteration'

My ‘alteration’

This is what is looks like now.

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It's quite a thing.

It’s quite a thing.

The boob darts are still pointy and I have the most incredible shoulder puff.

Quite the 'design' feature

Quite the ‘design’ feature

I could fix this a bit more properly I think now (I made these ‘alterations’ a few months ago), but I’m too excited by sewing all the new things to waste time on this. There are things I really like about this dress: it’s a fundamentally stylish and  flattering shape (fit issues and poor fabric choices aside) and I am very pleased with how it looks with the contrast Peter Pan collar and cuffs. I also learnt how to do back vents and did a pretty reasonable invisible zip.

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I don’t think there is much point in going back to spend time fiddling around with a dress made in £2.99 a metre polycotton, though if I am going to wear it out the house I am going to have to sort out those bust darts. I love the style though so I will however definitely TRACE a smaller size with bust and shoulder adjustments and make another one in a better quality fabric ( I also didn’t read the fabric recommendations: it said use wool, linen or heavy crepe, not the cheapest polycotton you can find plus a random fat quarter of fancy V&A cotton) and I will line it.

I will have the chance to do this very soon (but not for me, alack) as I am making this very dress for a crafty friend who is going to wear it to a Christmas wedding that she has done all the decorations for. The fabric she has chosen is both gorgeous and much better quality.

So pretty

So pretty

My friend is roughly the same size as me except shorter, and thankfully my cutting of the pattern pieces does not mean that I can’t trace a smaller size to make the alterations. I’m cutting the lining to use for a fitting this weekend: I can’t wait to see how this dress turns out with my newfound knowledge of how to avoid creating Madonna tits.

Sewing for other people 2: tall ones

All the colours

All the colours

I am married to a toy boy who just turned 30. I can barely remember my 30th ( it was 5 years ago: deep in the mists of time), so it seemed a bit strange that he wasn’t in his 30s yet. As he likes to rib me for being ‘very old’ as I am in my thirties, it was a moment of pure delight when he finally joined me in this glorious decade. I decided to celebrate by making him a VERY grown up rainbow top as an homage to our super colourful wedding.

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My desire to sew started when I asked my wonderful father in law to make my wedding dress. He had been making clothes for his wife for years and is also a very skilled knitter, but he was still a bit frightened when I asked him this: proffering an appalling line drawing of my ideal dress. But he rose to the challenge and made me simply the most beautiful dress ever: an ivory duchesse satin princess-seamed fifties style dress with a square neckline and the most stunning handmade rainbow sash. He is a genius, and I am so lucky to have him as my father in law.

The beautiful sash

The beautiful sash

The wedding was so colourful because my husband Robin and I both like to dress like children’s TV presenters at a rave at all possible opportunities and we asked our guests to dress in their most colourful clothes. The 8 bridesmaids were all the colours of the rainbow (plus turquoise) and the flower girl was a mini rainbow in a gorgeous dress made by my aunt.

Ta da! All the colours!

Ta da! All the colours!

So my first foray into men’s clothes making allowed me to use an amazing fabric that probably most men would shy away from: a rainbow striped fine super soft knitted jersey from Croft Mill. Apparently this was made for Zara, is suitable for maxi dresses and is also described as a children’s fabric. Perfect!

I used a pattern, Burda 7916 even though I knew I could just probably copy one of his existing t-shirts because I had never made a t-shirt before and wanted to do it properly. I made the simplest version, with now pockets or hoods because 1: it’s not the noughties any more and 2: the fabric doesn’t need any embellishment. It was a simple pattern and quite clear, and I learnt how to do my first t-shirt neckline which is a skill I will use a lot.

The long sleeved t-shirt of many colours

The long sleeved t-shirt of many colours

The pattern would have been a breeze to put together had I not chosen the world’s softest, most drapey fabric ever. It was like sewing with butter. Beautiful to touch, less beatiful for holding it’s shape and behaving. But luckily I now know just about enough to deal with it. I went very slowly, and reinforced all the shoulder seams with clear elastic.

I felt quite clever doing this

I felt quite clever doing this

It took me a long time and a lot of concentration, but I still broke a needle. This was the first time I have done that, and oddly, I felt very pleased, like this made me a proper sewing person. I even photographed it!

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SNAP!

SNAP!

And I had a final disaster at midnight when I was trimming my extremely curly and flappy hem allowance and I sliced through the bottom of the t-shirt. I was rushing and tired as I needed to get it finished while he was away for the night, and despite me being careful, I rotary cut a little slice out. You can see it on the bottom left of the picture above, I nearly screamed. but just sewed it up quite roughly and it seems ok. You can’t see it when he is wearing it.

He was very pleased with it (apart from the fact the sleeves were super long because I had randomly decided he had very long arms and had lengthened them to knee length. I took them back in straight away!). We were going with a big group of friends to Ramsgate for the weekend and he decided that maybe Ramsgate wasn’t ready for such a shirt, so wore it on our trip to Amsterdam the weekend after. He is the world’s most reluctant model so my pictures are terrible, but here

he is looking smart in an Ethiopian restaurant. Note the cardigan which he already owned: what a glorious combo!

So sad at being photographed

So sad at being photographed

I got one decent picture. The lighting is ‘atmospheric’ so you can’t see how bright the shirt is, but you get the gist.

Ta da!

Ta da!

I enjoyed sewing for Robin as there were no curves or darts, and will definitely make him more stuff, in a slightly more robust fabric. He wants me to make him some shorts now which will be a challenge: but I already have some smart yellow and grey floral upholstery fabric for him!

But there is such a crap selection of patterns for men. Why is this? Can anyone recommend any good men’s shorts patterns?