Doing the polka with Violet

IMG_1740Hello!

I made a BlueGingerDoll Violet to go back to work in. I thought, if I’m not exactly feeling dotty about going back to work after two weeks off, I can at least look dotty. Here she is!

All the dots

All the dots

And here am I modelling her in a stairwell…

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Pretty awesome hey? I used some super cheap super interesting double border print knit stuff that is as light as candy floss and sticks to everything with any kind of rough texture. It’s kind of like the soft bit on velcro. I found this out when I got it stuck to the scratchy bit of a piece of velcro. Boy did this stuff grip on. As you can imagine it was pretty horrible to sew with, though not as horrible as I feared. I guess I’m used to sewing with cheap floppy slippy knits now! As per the very good instructions I reinforced shoulder and some other seams with stay tape, though I used clear plastic elastic instead of he recommended unstretchy tape for the waist band seam: a girl’s got to be able to eat lunch you know. I cut size 20 at the shoulders grading to size 24 at the waist and hip which was good. The waist is actually about 5 inches too small technically, but I like a snug fit! I didn’t lengthen the bodice piece which was silly seeing as I am 5 foot ten with a long torso and big boobs that the fabric has to travel over, so I ended up adding in a three inch piece of black ribbing at the bottom of the bodice piece. I like this, it’s like a belt without a buckle and looks quite slimming. When I make this dress again, I would add about 3-4 inches into the bodice piece.

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As you can see I had a lot of fun playing around with the double border print fabric using its shrinking and growing dots to a pretty ‘jazzy’ effect! The Violet has lots of different pieces (i.e two yoke pieces, a bodice piece and a skirt piece on the front) which allow you to colour or pattern block like crazy. I used different size dots for different pieces using the smallest ones at the middle to hopefully optimistically create a sort of  slimming effect. One thing that I found very off about this fabric was that it stretched lengthways instead of horizontally, so there is very little ease/movement in it when sewed up using the dots as I did. It would look odd to have the dots getting smaller or larger horizontally wouldn’t it? It works though, and hasn’t stretched downwards yet.

Deformed shoulders pose

Deformed shoulders pose

I combined the back yoke and back bodice piece to make one piece at the back, so it wasn’t too fussy. (Ha you say, are you kidding yourself? It’s got aaalll the dots all over the place!).I did a ribbing t-shirt style collar binding to match my tummy ribbing, though you can use the main material. My neckline had stretched out rather a lot in the handling of it so I would definitely recommend stay stitching it at the beginning, especially if you are using a light weight fabric. I didn’t actually bother doing the signature ruching at the bust because I thought it would make the neckline too low for work. I will do it in the next version but I will make the neckline slightly higher and cut a slightly thicker bit of ribbing for the neckline binding.

Twin needling on this fabric was pretty horrid, especially because I didn’t want the skirt to be too short so used a tiny hem allowance. The hem is a bit wobbly in places….

Please avert your eyes

Please avert your eyes

But the fabric is busy enough to let me get away with it. I really like this pattern and will definitely make another. I have one MAJOR problem with it though. It comes with different sleeve lengths and a pencil as well as full skirt option (this is the full skirt, long sleeves option, obvs). I was surprised to see that even with full sleeves and full skirt, this pattern was said to only need 1.6 metres of 150cm wide fabric. I had this in a different ikat style jersey print, and folded this on a double fold as the pattern recommended, and there was NO WAY my pattern pieces would fit on it. The skirt piece would not fit on at all, let alone have room to spare as the layout suggested. I ended up using about 2- 2.5m (hard to tell as I cut it up weirdly due to pattern placement). Has anyone else had this problem??

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Otherwise, I think the Violet is a grand pattern. I feel very smart in the dress, and it is super comfy. If you haven’t already….Make one! And tell me about it!

Oh, can we just take a moment to appreciate my pretty new shoes….

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Thanks bye!

A cardi for Granny and a sneaky one for me

swooshing in swoon

swooshing in swoon

I’m doing a lot of sewing For Other People again. I sort of enjoy it but it’s also really stressful. I’m much more perfectionist when it comes to other people, so I can’t merrily bodge along as usual. On the other hand, my sewing improves a lot when I’m sewing for other people, precisely because I can’t bodge along as usual. I decided that my 100% awesome granny would look really nice in a Swoon scarf neck cardi and that this should be what she received for her 93rd birthday last week. Now because she is brilliant, and because I am much more perfectionist about sewing for other people and because it was a gift I wanted it to be really nice…..

So OBVIOUSLY I had to make one for myself.

Checking it works

Checking it works

IMG_1383 IMG_1375 IMG_1388This is a brilliant pattern, and it is FREE. I have had a lot of compliments on this and I wear it all the time. It makes me feel so chic and swooshy. I used a black and white ponte knit thing from, erm, somewhere. It only uses 2 metres of knit fabric but feels like you are wearing metres of it as you swoosh around. In fact, if when I make another I would make the XL instead of the XXL as it is pretty capacious, especially on my non existent shoulders. It has princess seams and a pointy hem. It goes together really easily apart from one bit at the back of the neck where you have to join a curve to a square. I still don’t understand why this is.

This is not what you join a smooth curved piece to

This is not what you join a smooth curved piece to

This doesn't make sense

This doesn’t make sense

I think maybe its to give the neck structure? It’s weird and feels all wrong though. Has anyone made this? Can you tell me why?

You can also see that this cardi has French seams. The pattern calls for it, but I think in both cases my knit fabric was a bit too thick for this. I think it would work on a very thin jersey like the pattern calls for, but not so much with the fabrics I used. Being a beginner who slavishly follows instructions, I did it anyway. It is fine.

Fine from the outside anyway

Fine from the outside anyway

For bulk reasons I decided not to hem either mine or my granny’s version (in a lovely knit from Fabric Godmother) but to finish them with bias binding which I think looks rather jaunty. There is a LOT of hem on this cardi though: be warned you need about 5 metres of bias binding!

So I managed to take the worst ever pictures of my granny wearing it: I assure you, it does fit her properly, she loved it and it looks lovely on her.

Here we are with our cardis on all wonky (like grandmother like grandaughter). Please note scones though: she still makes them herself every time we visit.

wonky

wonky

And here she is doing her ‘model’ pose, which is a little hulkzilla! And the cardi is even more wonky.

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She’s a beauty though eh? Here she is looking gorgeous in duck egg blue with my Dad and very fabulous stepmum in (fake) fur out at a vineyard to celebrate being 93. What a wonderful woman.

<3

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!