Sew it up: week 2 (sew-a-long)

I may no longer be a Sew it Up participant but I'm still sewing along! Here is what would have been my week 2 entry.

The challenge: 

Make a shift dress. Emphasis is on finishing, fit and techniques used.

My entry:






The first thing I did to prepare for this challenge was to think about what exactly a shift dress is. As I understand it, a shift dress is not supposed to be that fitted around the waist and hips, yet despite its loose nature it should not be entirely shapeless either. A shift dress should have an A-line shape and it should sit above the knee. It can be sleeveless or not. It is meant to look a bit waify. And while a whole variety of different looking dresses can be grouped together under the umbrella term 'shift dress', the look most people think of is a '60s silhouette', i.e. a style of dress our collective memory has decided defines how all young women dressed in the 60s.

So, I decided to embrace the 60s cliché head on with this challenge!

I drafted a shift dress pattern by extending Tilly and the Buttons Mathilde blouse into a shift dress (I got rid of the pleats) and I drafted some new mid-length sleeves to go with it.

The fabric is a very fine black mesh with felt spots on it. The lining is (apparently) fine red Indian cotton. Both were ridiculously cheap bought on Goldhawk Road.
The underlining for the black spotty pieces is calico. The yoke is a white soft fleecy remnant I got somewhere, and the yoke lining is yellow cotton poplin.
The emphasis was on finishing and techniques so I tried to sew as neat a job as possible.

Underlining - This is the first time I've underlined anything! I did so because it would have been impossible to use the black mesh fabric otherwise! The underlining gives this very fine and loose (almost stretchy) fabric some body, making it much easier to work with. It was nice to use calico for something other than making muslins out of.

Pinning the cut-out main piece of fabric to the underlining piece.IMG_1561

Sewing them together.

Sew any darts once your two pieces are sewn together.

Lining – I love the lining! I think it looks just as nice on the inside as it does on the outside! Would have been a good dress to wear on Fashion Revolution Day!

Lining all sewn together.


Pinning the lining to the dress at the neckline, ready to sew.

I added bias binding to tidy up the messy edges before adding the sleeves. I did the same at the centre back seams.



I also understitched the lining to the seam allowance at the neckline to give it a clean finish.

Here are some photos of the inside of the finished garment.



And just in case this whole escapade wasn't 60s enough, let's add some silly accessories:


Check out what the remaining Sew it Up participants have made and vote for your favourite!


Everyone's a winner, baby, that's the truth

Ready for another sewing competition? Oh yes!

I entered the By Hand London Flora dress competition with this dress.


(Read my post about 'the making of')

If you like my dress you can vote for me on the BHL London Facebook page.

The prize is nothing short of brilliant: a Janome overlocker!

(Photo credit: By Hand London)

I'd be delighted to win such a shiny electrical good. Not that you need to win to be a winner.


Let me take you by the hand and lead you though the streets of London


Last weekend I ventured across the Channel to London as I was lucky enough to get a place on one of Chinelo Bally's very popular freehand cutting workshops. The workshop was so great and I'd highly recommend it! I tried to be cool when I met Chinelo but I was about 40 minutes early and I hugged her when I arrived, so I think I failed there.


Chinelo (who is just as lovely in real life as she is on the telly) introduces you to freehand cutting by teaching you how to make a fitted peplum top from your own measurements - but with no pattern! Yes, no pattern! As we all saw on the Great British Sewing Bee, Chinelo's method involves 'drafting' straight onto the fabric.


I found it hard to get my head around the idea before I did the workshop as the idea of not using a pattern felt odd....but it is great to push yourself out of your comfort zone. What I like about the method is that it helps you gain a better understanding of the relationship between your own measurements and the final garment.

I was really pleasantly surprised by how well my top fits me - I've rarely made something that fits so perfectly first time round.


Such a fitted peplum top is not really something I would wear very often, but the idea is to use the method and modify it to your own dressmaking needs, for example Chinelo told us how we would make modifications to drop the waist and adapt the peplum into a longer skirt.

The workshop itself is intense (in a good way) and Chinelo really makes the most of the time. She is a great teacher and you never feel like you can't ask a question.


(You can't meet someone 'off the telly' without getting a picture)

And while I was in London I also took the time to visit the famous Goldhawk Road, after reading so much about it on other people's blogs. And it didn't disappoint.



In such a small concentrated space there are just so many fabric shops! It's hard to remain calm! The great thing is that lots of the shops are connected, so if you ask for something in one shop and they don't have it they'll send you three doors down. Let's just say I went to London with a more or less empty rucksack and it came back full to the brim.

I printed out this really good guide to the different shops like a real fabric geek.

I wish we had a Goldhawk Road in Belgium!


I can live without the stuffy tube rides and the sheer overwhelming scale of the place, but you can't deny that London is pretty amazing if you are into sewing.

Is anyone else going to the By Hand London Kickstarter party on 11th July? When I saw the date I was delighted as by amazing coincidence I'd already planned to go to London that weekend as I am going to a friend's wedding the next day. Whoo!

And hopefully I can squeeze in another trip to Goldhawk Road.

Sew it up - au revoir !

Unfortunately I was voted off Sew it up! :(

Really gutted to be eliminated in the first week but that's the way it goes, someone has to 'go home'.


Thanks to everyone who voted for me anyway and a huuuge thank you to Hanne and Caroline for selecting me as a participant, that in itself made my year and gave me loads of confidence in my sewing. And for that I am very grateful.


Can't wait to see how the competition pans out and all the garments the remaining girls will make. Good luck everyone! I'm still going to sew-a-long as I've got most of my outfits planned so look out for them on my blog.


So now I don't have any sewing deadlines looming, I'll take the opportunity to catch up on the Liebster inter-blogger awards! I was nominated by Laura, Kim, and Hanne! Thanks so much! I cheated and answered a selection of questions from all their blogs rather than answering all the questions, so as to avoid duplicates (and questions I don't really have an answer to!).

In turn, I nominate the following bloggers to answer some of the questions below if they feel like it!

Sue from Sewin' Steady: http://sewinsteady.blogspot.be/
Sue from Lady Stitcher: http://ladystitcher.wordpress.com/
Fran from Fileuse Anglaise: http://fileuse-anglaise.blogspot.be/
Ellebougies from Under Alteration: http://underalteration.blogspot.com
Lynne from Ozzy Blackbeard: http://ozzyblackbeard.blogspot.com

When and why did you take up sewing?
I started around 2007 but I only really got going around 2012. I sew both for the pleasure of making original clothes and reducing unnecessary consumption, and it helps me to be patient and creative. I also love just getting totally absorbed in a project because you don’t think about anything else. It is quite meditative I think.

Do you follow trends, or do you just sew things that you like?
I'd say I just sew things I like really! But I think we all follow trends in a sense, even if we don't think we do!

What’s the thing that annoys you the most about the sewing process?
In a way the things that annoy me are also the things I like because the more I do them I feel like I'm conquering them!

What are you working on right now?
I've just finished what would have been my entry for the second round of Sew it Up! To be revealed soon! Other WIPs are a Coco dress that is cut out and waiting in the wings, and some Grainline Maritime shorts.

Out of all the things you’ve ever made, what is your favourite?

My week 1 entry for Sew it Up could be my new favourite because it felt quite adventurous. It was unchartered sewing territory!

How many pieces of fabric do you have in your stash? Is it tidy?
It ain't tidy. I've got two boxes, plus lots of farbic stuffed into the shelves under my pattern cutting table on wheels! I'm doing Lelie from A Bouquet of Buttons's Stashbusting challenge this year, and so far it's going sort of ok. I've not stuck to the challenge very strictly but I have given away fabric, binned stuff that is really past it and (sometimes) restrained myself from buying fabric that I really don't need.

When planning a new project, do you start with a pattern you want to make, or a fabric you’d like to wear?
Depends, probably a pattern or an idea of a style and then I see what fabric I have that would work with it, or I go out and hunt for some fabric that will work.

What is the best piece of advice (sewing or otherwise) you’ve been given?

Sewing: Measure twice; cut once. Otherwise: This too shall pass.

Do you have any other hobbies, apart from sewing and blogging? Cycling, reading, running, seeing friends, writing, languages, politics, economics, playing the flute, music in general, and doing new things like going to exhibitions etc.

What is your favorite type of sewing project?
Like Kim, one that teaches me something new.

Who taught you to sew? 
The internet!

What is your favourite colour / fabric to sew with?
Anything orange. Nothing too slidy.

Where are you from?

A lovely small town in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland.

What makes you happy?

Both when a day goes to plan and when a day leads somewhere unexpected.

What makes you sad?
The deep pretentious answer: the ephemeral and fleeting nature of life; injustice in the world. The short answer: cars that don't respect cyclists.

What is your dream job?
My dream job is to be a roving reporter for Agenda magazine. I have this fantasy that working for them would just be great as you would spend all day out and about visiting things in Brussels, trying out restaurants, and going to concerts (I realise this is a false idealistic vision of journalism).

What is the the dress pattern you would recommend the most?
Belladone - Deer and Doe.

What’s the worst thing you have ever made and why?
I've a long colourful history of awful makes....but I'm quite attached to them all the same.

Where and what would your ultimate holiday be?
I'm really bad at thinking of where I'd like to travel to...kind of everywhere and nowhere if I'm truly honest. I've been wanting to visit Berlin for ages. The thing with living in a country that is not your home country is that you tend to spend most of your travel time going home. So, sad as it might sound, Scotland is probably my favourite holiday destination!

Are you a morning person or not?
Yes, I love getting up early and making the most of the day! But sometimes it is nice to sleep in if your body tells you that's what it wants. It's good to remind yourself that productivity isn't the be all and end all. The best ideas happen when you just take things easy.


Sew it up: week 1

The challenge:
Customise the pattern: Make your own version of the Jackie Jacket by La Maison Victor. Use your creativity to transform this pattern into something awesome and true to your style. You’ll also have to make an additional skirt, dress or pants, but you can chose whatever pattern you want for those. This challenge is all about personal style.

My entry:


Inspiration for the challenge:

When I saw the Jackie pattern I knew I wanted to transform the Chanel-style sophisticated cut to something a bit more 'twee', without being overtly so; a bit bookish without being too 'librarian chic'. The peter pan collar and the 'spaghetti' strap style of the accompanying dress make it a bit childish, and the tweed and the dipped hem on the skirt make it more grown up, I think.
I love strong colour details (particularly orange and yellow hues) that make a fairly standard garment more exciting to wear. I didn't mean to make something that alluded to my Scottish roots but the tweed-effect wool and the Paisley pattern fabric seem to do just that.

The jacket:


I decided it would be better with a peter pan collar!
Here's the method I used to make mine:

1. Cut out two collar pattern pieces (you can draft your own using your jacket pattern pieces for the shape of the inner collar and for the shape of the outer part of the collar you can just freehand it or use the shape of an existing collar you have on another garment). You can also cut out a layer of interfacing, I didn't because it was already quite bulky. Make sure you have enough piping to go around the outside of the collar. I made the piping by sandwiching some cord into a strip of satin using my zipper foot.

2.Sew on the piping to the right side of one of the pieces as so.

3. Sandwich the piping in by sewing the other collar piece on top.

4. Clip the seams, turn it right sides out and press. Now you have a peter pan collar!

I also drafted lining pieces for the jacket and used the same yellow satin as the collar piping. The yellow satin was 2.50 euro a metre in Berger.


To attach the lining I sewed the lining pieces right sides together to the front bodice and neckline facings. Then I attached the sleeve linings seperately (I looked up the Anise sew-a-long for advice on how to do this). The method I used means you start at the cuff which gives you a clean finish and then you just have to hand stitch the sleeve lining pieces to the bodice lining at the armholes. It was a bit fiddly but it worked out!

I reshaped the corners of the centre front bodice pieces to make them rounder, to match the shape of the collar.

I made the jacket tighter at the back as it was a bit gapy on me when I made the muslin.

I also extended the front bodice to make it wider so I could add buttons and buttonholes so that it can be closed up: it does after all get windy and chilly in Brussels sometimes, as you can see in the photos!

This is the first time I've made a jacket, the first time I've worked with relatively thick 'wool', the first time I've worked with satin, and...the first time I've sewed a pattern with the instructions all in Dutch! :) I hope I didn't miss any important 'Let op!' (Attention!) instructions. But I figured that if you know the basics of how a pattern works all you really need to know is whether the seam allowances are included or not, luckily I found where the reference to this was in the booklet - now I can add 'naadwaarden' to my ever-growing Dutch vocabulary. (And they were not included, so remember to add them if you make up this pattern.)

I'm really pleased with the jacket all in all, in fact I'm quite proud of it! I'll definitely wear it a lot! Thanks to Sew it Up for pushing me to try something new. The pattern is a really great basic pattern from which you can go in lots of different directions.
Next time I'd press the seams better though, this was the trickiest part with the wool. Perhaps I could really do with getting a tailor's ham (or making one).

The fabric is actually much more of a brown colour, yet the photos make it look quite grey.

It came from the Marché des Abattoirs in Anderlecht from one of the stalls that I've seen a few times now on a Friday (on the left hand side when you enter the market from the Clemenceau metro exit). When I asked the man if he had any wool or material for jackets he said he didn't put it out because it was the wrong season but that if I wanted I could rummage around in his van and have a look. I then spent 15 minutes looking through the material in the van and he let me have four different wool blends (each several metres long) for 15 euros. It was nothing short of a bargain. So with all the wool I have in my stash now I've no excuse not to make more jackets!

The dress



I used my modified Flora dress bodice (see my previous post on my Flora dress to find out about the changes I made to the pattern) and drafted a quarter circle skirt to go with it, using this method.

oooo flat felled seams....


I added yellow piping to the seam when joining the bodice and the skirt pieces.
It is fully lined in cotton batiste.
I altered the hem to make it a dipped hem, in the same vein as variation 2 of the original Flora pattern.
The fabric is a cotton paisley print that was bought in Edinburgh last summer from the Cloth Shop.


Can't wait to see everyone's versions! Whoo Sew it up! If you like my jacket you can vote here!