Green Style Laurels aka the world’s most comfy frocks

Just passing by

Just passing by

Hello!

I’ve been away from the blog a while because you know, life, but I have not stopped sewing! I’ve been doing some more making things for others (photos of which to come soon) and now I have had quite enough of that thank you. Though I love giving things to people, I don’t like sewing for others.  I get crazily perfectionist and stressed, and I don’t feel that I am skilled enough to be doing it yet, but people ask All. The. Time and I find it hard to say no. But aaaanyway, I’m having a break from sewing for others and getting back to being entirely selfish. Hooray! After finishing a woven dress for a friend to wear to a wedding I decided that what I needed to do next was definitely stretchy. I had seen the Green Style Laurel on Pandora Sews and snapped it up!

Pleased as punch

Pleased as punch

I’m so glad I did, this pattern is HAMAZING. It’s super simple and there are so many variations. I made two back to back, but I fully intend on making lots more. You can have four different sleeve lengths (short, elbow length, three quarter and long) and three different dress lengths (tunic, above knee and below knee). As you can see it looks enturely different according to what fabric you used. For the colour blocked red one I used a thick but gorgeously soft  ponte roma from Plush Addict (I’m in love: it’s like being swaddled in marshmallow: they are seriously under selling how lovely this stuff is) and an ottoman rib jersey from Minerva crafts  in a wine colour to add some texture and colour contrast. You can’t see the colour contrast so well on the sunny pictures so here is a dodgy camera phone one.

Please ignore the odd fringe

Please ignore the odd fringe

Both fabrics were quite stiff which showed the nice pleats and design lines off well and means the final product looks a bit crisp clean and futuristic. I love it!

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The second one I made in a much flimsier jersey I had originally bought to make some monochrome leopardskin leggings with (oh yeah) but it was way too stretchy and thin for that. So, not learning from previous attempts to make dresses and shirts from thin, stretchy jersey, I decided to make a Laurel. It wasn’t too bad as the Laurel is a very easy pattern with few pieces and no complicated stuff. The bodice doesn’t even need elastic to join it to the skirt, just a zig zag stitch, which I did as a triple stitch just to be sure. As I was so in love with my red ponte roma I made a contrast cowl and pockets. I also added a bit onto the length, which I later chopped off as I realised it made the skirt too heavy and it was really dragging the bodice down. I also lengthened the bodice a little so it went further over my boobs. Excellently the pattern already comes with short, regular and long bodice lengths, but as the bodice is empire line, as you can see, this basically means ‘your boobs don’t stick out much’, ‘they stick out a regular amount’, and ‘blimey, they really stick out!’As it can see, it looks quite different in a lighter fabric.

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Wahey, red pockets!

Wahey, red pockets!

It’s sooooo comfy. It’s like wearing a nightie, but it looks smart. I only want to wear these dresses from now on please.

Here is the back.

I like big butts and I cannot lie

I like big butts and I cannot lie

So there we go. I think I like this more that the Moneta!! (SHUSH don’t tell anyone) The darts are super flattering and I love the cowl having previously thought I don’t like cowl necks. There are loads of options for customisation: I think it would be great as a tunic, and without the cowl and with a different type of collar. Green Style: your name sounds a bit hippie, and I don’t like the font on your packaging, but I think you have made my favourite pattern yet!

Not a hippie pattern

Not a hippie pattern

Oh, can we also take a moment to appreciate my amazing backdrop. I was on a trail round where I live: some artist types have made a little ‘blue plaque’ trail of famous former residents and painted the shutters of closed down shops in homage to the people. Apparently Peter Davidson, formerly known as Doctor Who used to live here. Oh yeah. So bye for now: I’m off in the tardis!

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The T- Jumper

The T-Jumper

The T-Jumper

This is just a quickie post to show off a jumper type item I made a couple of weeks ago from a bargain bit of floral jersey fabric I got for £2 in Brixton and some ribbed black jersey that I had left over from making Robin’s rainbow shirt.  I am not entirely sure what this item is hence the title of the post. It’s a Lekala t-shirt pattern costing a spectacular $2.49. If you hadn’t heard of Lekala yet,. hear about them! They have a huge range of patterns which they print out entirely to your size specification, and you can even ask them to do things like narrow shoulder adjustments IN THE PATTERN for you. Brilliant! They are very much like Style Arc in that the patterns are extremely brief and I would be nervous of trying one of their harder patterns, but for simple things like this t-shirt they are awesome. They also have some really nice free patterns too.

CHEAP!

CHEAP!

I was a total fool though because I somehow managed to enter in my own wrong sizes. I don’t know why I randomly decided my waist was 5 inches smaller than it is (wishful thinking?) so I managed to iorder a pattern which fit perfectly everywhere except in the tummy so I had to add a bit extra back in. I’m also not sure that I printed the pattern out at the right scale so there weren’t boxes/lines round the edges of the pattern pieces  and they didn’t go together quite right. You may wonder why I left this gap, but on other pieces it was apparent that my printer had chopped a bit off so i had to go round and add it back in.

This is not right, is it?

This is not right, is it?

Also ( probably another printing issue) my pattern pieces were very short. It would have made a kind of crop top. So I self drafted a placket out of the same thing I used for the sleeves and neckband to add to the bottom: I like the retro way this looks.

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I can’t actually believe that this top turned out ok: the pattern was dirt cheap, ordered in the wrong size, printed out at the wrong scale and made out of cheap fabric, but I love it and wear it all the time. The floral jersey was a total steal from Simply Fabrics in Brixton: It was super wide great quality jersey left in the £2 a metre remnant bin. There was over 2 metres but there was a random hole cut out of it and so the lovely man just charged me £2 for the whole lot. I have plenty left over for some kind of vest top, or maybe a Colette Mabel.  I’m not sure why I decided that the sleeves would be this odd length: I think maybe I just couldn’t decide whether to have a t-shirt or a long-sleeved jumper. To be honest it would have made more sense with long sleeves and cuffs as a kind of lightweight jumper, and when I make it again (in some awesome quilted black and red jersey from Minerva) I will do this. The ribbed jersey is very stretchy with poor recovery so it soon bags at the elbows. But my t-jumper looks cute and is sooooo comfy and is the cheapest thing i have made yet. I like Cheap, Cute and Comfy. In fact, I think I should have the Three C’s as my mantra. Oh and Curvy.

Cheap, Cute, Comfy and Curvy 4 LYF

I’ll leave you with one more picture on my posing with my husband’s bike: I stopped him as he was about to ride off to get roti to take pictures of me in three different outfits. He is a hero. Especially as the roti shop was shut when he got there. But it does go awfully well with the top, eh?

It's good to match your spouse's bike

It’s good to match your spouse’s bike

Sewing with friends: two Monetas and a Boob Tube Thing.

I started my odyssey into sewing with a friend, and then that friend went and moved to Abderdeen. My upstairs neighbour Elona can take all the credit for helping me overcome the initial panic I felt  when I opened a dress pattern and didn’t understand a thing and wanted to throw my sewing machine out of the window. THANK GOD FOR ELONA. She taught me some simple sewing techniques like zig zagging hems and the point of interfacing and not throwing sewing machines out of the window, told me to choose a simpler pattern, and my sewing obsession was born. We did some sewing together which was great fun, and then she moved and I was bereft. We still chat sewing on WhatsApp though, and are planning on working our way through all the patterns from the amazing Tilly and the Buttons book, though will have to upgrade them, sigh. Anyhoo, I have been sewing toute seul since then, and though I really do enjoy it, and will write later about how restful and mindful and utterly absorbing it is, sometimes it is nice to be a bit less solo and to talk a bit. You know, be a bit less obsessive, a bit more social.

So I was delighted when my childhood friend Heather said she wanted to come up and sew with me for a weekend. Heather has a sewing machine and did some quite fancy sewing as a teenager, but hasn’t done any for ages and wanted to start again. I told her to bring three metres of cotton and we would go through my enormous and still expanding pattern collection and choose one she liked. She then said she would like to try her hand at a jersey dress, and so Moneta which I had recently conquered,  was agreed on. A few days before she came to stay, I found out why she was keen on jersey: she is newly pregnant, and needs expansion room! AWESOME!

So Heather arrived with the most gorgeous teal double knit jersey and we got down to sewing straight away. Heather’s sewing skills were quickly dusted off, and she was a total whizz. The Moneta came together like dream.

Here is Heather proudly modelling the bodice as a weird bolero

Here is Heather proudly modelling the bodice as a weird bolero

We graded up the dress a size at the waist for expansion room, but I think we should possibly have done two sizes. It was a hard choice between wanting to make something that looks nice straight away, and something that will be wearable for longer than a month. But it is one that will still be wearable post baby, so I think is ultimately a good thing, even if it will have to be put aside fairly soon. I also forgot that you use a twin needle from the right side, so we have a rather jazzy reverse twin-needle hemline finish, but it looks just fine.

And look, look, how very beautiful she looks in it!!

What a total dreamboat

What a total dreamboat

And then, I had planned on making my own, but thought it would be a bit rude to have a friend up from the south coast to have them sit around watching me sew in silence, so I did a few bits while Heather was not using the machine, and then we stopped to see a friend and eat roast chicken and crumble. The next morning we had planned on going swimming in the lido, but it was a bit grey and we had eaten a lot of chicken, so decided to do more sewing instead. Heather said she had seen some online tutorials for breastfeeding scarves, and they seemed too simple to be true. So we used this tutorial and after some humming and hawing, realised you do just make a giant loop. I dug out the remains of my ludicrously ostentatious but very soft and drapey giant pillowcase fabric and away we went! Heather doubled the fabric over to make it show a right side however it was draped as it had a very visible wrong side, and ta da! here we are……

  

What an awesome thing! And the scarf is pretty cool too. LOLOLOLOLOL.

After I bid Heather farewell I sat down like any self respecting totally obsessed new sewist would and finished off my own Moneta. I was making the sleeveless lined, collared version, and I DID NOT READ THE INSTRUCTIONS PROPERLY. Having only lined two dresses before at this stage and didn’t realise that sewing the lining to each outer piece was not the way forward. It did lead to nice armhole edges, but also to SO MUCH LUMPS! Look!

 

OH DEAR

OH DEAR

 

Not right

Not right

It was one time when the fabric being so flimsy and cheap was a bonus though, as it was still wearable with that bulk. Anything thicker would have been a disaster. I know I should have unpicked it and done it properly, but I was too impatient to see my nautical Moneta. So I ploughed on, and the flimsy jersey drove me round the bend……

Aargh so curly!

Aargh so curly!

But I succeeded. Here is me wearing it the night I made it……

TA DA!

TA DA!

LOOK! I made a collar!

LOOK! I made a collar!

I’m so pleased with it, and have worn it a lot. The fabric is excellent huh? It came from MyFabrics, but I warn you,is very thin, and pilled and bobbled almost straight away, which makes me a bit sad, but mainly this dress, thick seams and all, makes me extremely happy.

I even got my husband to take some proper blog style pictures at last!

Collar: I'm so proud as you can see

Collar: I’m so proud as you can see

I'm sideways!

I’m sideways!

So bloggy!

So bloggy!

The Stripey Moneta: A Success!

So, after my major failure with my first Moneta, I did not lose heart. On the contrary, I was filled with a determination to get it right. I was also equipped with a far superior fabric. Oh yes, I had a really nice thick, nautical double jersey knit from Minerva , that was actually cheaper than the orange horror at only £3.99 a metre! By then my super new Sheffield steel scissors had arrived too, and cutting out was a delight. I shortened the waist back to its normal length (which was actually slightly short: third time lucky!) and cut a size smaller. I made the version with the three quarter length sleeves and sewed with a ballpoint needle and twin needled the hems. I have never felt more professional when I threaded the double needle and it actually worked.  I felt like this was the sewing equivalent of making a 6 foot high stack of profiteroles from scratch. It felt ADVANCED. And it looked jolly nice too.  It just goes to show the difference that having good materials and the right kit can make to your sewing. It also really taught me that making a wearable or not actually really wearable muslin beforehand is to be advised, even with forgiving knits. If I hadn’t totally buggered up the orange one, I would have ruined this lovely fabric which has made such a nice dress.

Here it is: my wonkily striped but pretty successful Moneta

Here it is: my wonkily striped but pretty successful Moneta

What I didn’t quite manage was to remember that I might want the stripes to look a bit smoother or match at the waistline. I was so bothered about sewing a nice smooth seam under the elastic (I  had tried to sew over the elastic last time, ending up with a ridiculously small seam allowance which turned into holes instantly as the weight of the skirt pulled it down) that I didn’t even think about how the stripes would look sewn together. I also hadn’t thought about how the stripes would look when I was cutting it out.  As you can see, they don’t look quite right. When you are learning to sew, trying to remember all the new things you are learning is like juggling, and I’m dropping balls all the time. But still, this dress is pretty good: it’s robust, comfortable and flattering, so what do a few wonky stripes matter?  I wear it all the time and get lots of compliments. Another new Moneta is happening this weekend when a friend is coming to stay and sew with me. I’m making a lined sleeveless one with a collar, and my friend who is pregnant is making a teal one with room to expand in. Hopefully I will get the waist line right finally, and hers will look good now, and in a few months time when she is rounder! Watch this space!

The Collette Moneta Giant Orange Monstrosity

I know everyone is making the wonderful Moneta. I know it’s supposed to be foolproof. But it wasn’t quite me-proof.

The reasons it all went a bit pear-shaped (or should I say saggy orange tube shaped) were these:

1: I genuinely didn’t know how tricky jersey could be
2: So I bought really fine, thin, super stretchy cheap jersey
3: I didn’t follow the Collette sewalong and was a bit casual in my reading of the instructions. I’m really not good at reading instructions properly.
4: I didn’t have twin needles or a ballpoint needle.

The first two points led to total disaster, the second two, had I understood the first two better would not necessarily have doomed the project, but combined with the fabric and the naivety were pretty fatal.

When I made the orange tube, I also did not think about my sizing properly. As the Collette Sorbetto size 18 was a bit small, I decided the obvious size to make would be a 3xl (approx size 26). This despite the fact that I was using a much more forgiving stretch fabric. I think what had happened was I read somewhere that for dresses waist size was the crucial factor, and being an apple shape (I’m pretty generous around the middle), I was a bit nervous about the clear elastic it said it needed digging in, so I picked the biggest size. This may be the case for non stretchy dresses that you have made a full bust adjustment on, but is emphatically not the case for the Moneta. I also decided, based on the fact that the waistline of  many of my dresses tends to rise up and become a bit empire line on me due to big boobs and middle, that I definitely needed to add 6 inches to the bodice length. I didn’t measure myself or the pieces to know this, I just ‘knew’.

Me trying to make the orange tube look good in the work toilets

Me trying to make the orange tube look good in the work toilets

Turns out ‘just knowing’ isn’t what sewing needs. Sewing requires accurate measurements and cutting out. Sewing requires that you pay full attention to the instructions, even if they do appear to be written in a foreign language, in shorthand. This is is an incredibly good discipline for me, because as my husband will tell you: I’m not a details person. I regularly declare that I am going to cook a dish for dinner that sounds delicious from a recipe I saw, buy all the ingredients and then get home and discover that I need to soak something overnight, or the cooking time is six hours long, or I don’t have any of the equipment I need.  Inevitably I will have skim-read the recipe at best, not read it at all at worst, and it will end in disaster. My husband now does pretty much all of the cooking. However, sewing is changing me slowly. Because I am so new to it, because I don’t know enough to muddle through: I have to pay full attention. This is good. It is helping me to concentrate and focus much better than I normally do, and sometimes I even achieve ‘flow‘. I will write more on the meditativeness of sewing at a later date. But it is incredibly good discipline for a distractable, flighty, flibbertigibbet like me.

Anyway: back to the dress.

Just cutting it out was enough to make me want to throw either my cheap scissors or myself out of the window.  I don’t have very much room at home and had to cut my fabric on the wooden floor. Oh dear me it was awful. It slipped and stretched and WOULD NOT OBEY. I hated it. I made cut marks on the parquet floor and so very nearly gave up entirely. But, using another zygotic skill, patience, I got through. And ordered a beautiful new pair of scissors  (Sheffield steel: whoop!) for next time. And then the sewing. I used a standard needle on a small zig zag stitch for everything because I didn’t have the right kit. This meant all my hems and seams didn’t look crisp, and in the thin jersey, puckered. For some reason I used white cotton as well which just added to the amaturishness of it all. But the big issue was the waist. I was actually ok with sewing on the clear elastic to gather the skirt, and found it easier than I thought. But I hadn’t looked at the Sewalong about how to attach the skirt to the top (or more accurately, read the questions from other sewers in the sewalong as the demonstration uses a serger which I don’t have), and wasn’t sure whether join the bodice to the skirt on the clear elastic again, or under it. I wasn’t sure if the elastic was just supposed to float around in the seam. I thought that if the join was the stitching and not the elastic this would snap. So I tried sewing the bodice to the skirt on the elastic, with the effect that the seam allowance was so small, I missed bits, and had lots of gaps and holes all around.  Instead of trying again, I went for the ultimate bodge-job fix, which was to try to cover it up with another bit of fabric. This also served as a kind of suspender belt as it had the triple function of covering the holey waistline, pushing the too long bodice up so it could billow over it, and holding the skirt up which was pulling the whole thing down as the waist band was too loose, and too low to actually sit on my waist, and the fabric was too thin and to stretchy to hold itself up.  It looked ok, ish but I knew it wouldn’t survive many washes. Also, I just hated it. Everything was too big and the fabric was just too thin and too clingy to be flattering.  I wore it once, then chopped it in half with the aim of reusing the skirt fabric for something and turning the top into a t-shirt, then decided that I didn’t want anything in that crappy thin stretchy orange fabric of doom and binned it. By this time I had made a smaller, much better Moneta in a  gorgeous stripy, thick double knit, and I didn’t need this orange monstrosity.

A close up showing too big sloppy shoulders. By the way, these aren't my shades, I was trying on my friends, they look terrible, I know. But not as bad as the dress.

A close up showing too big sloppy shoulders. By the way, these aren’t my shades, I was trying on my friend’s, they look terrible, I know. But not as bad as the dress.

So what did I learn?

1: Do not buy cheap thin jersey

2: If you do regardless (because you are a sucker for cheapness): make sure you have good scissors, have read all the instructions  and reviews for your pattern, take your time and use the right needles.

3: If you have buggered it up: don’t try and patch it up, but unpick and start again. Otherwise what you have made will end up in the bin.

4: It is a very good idea to make a muslin. This was essentially a not-very-wearable muslin for my successful Moneta as the fabric was cheap and I wasn’t very attached to it. Even though it ended up in the bin, I am so glad I made it as otherwise I would have had all these issues in the fabric that I really liked, and that would have ended up in the bin instead.

5: Measure yourself: don’t guess.

6: Round sunglasses don’t suit me.