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If you’re in the UK and you sew, you may have been just as excited as I was at 8pm last night when the second series of ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’ started. Hurrah! Non-UK readers, can you get the Sewing Bee where you are?

Last night’s challenges were to sew a sleeveless cotton top, to customise a wool skirt and to fit and sew a silk night dress to a model.

The sleeveless top was simple, but this left no hiding place for those without basic techniques – no under stitching a neckline facing or clipping a curved seam? For shame! The silk nightie sewn by a policeman from Scotland Yard was lovely (am I alone in thinking he must get a lot of stick from his colleagues?).

However, watching the Sewing Bee does make me think about how much I’ve got to learn about sewing. I’ve got the basics (hopefully) but there are so many fabrics and techniques I need to master before I can call myself a ‘good’ dressmaker. Ah well, at least I’m having fun :-)

Hurrah, I have sewn my first garment for 2014. It’s a Miette skirt, by Tilly and the Buttons. I was in the mood for a simple project and this was perfect. ‘Miette’ is a flared wraparound skirt with waist ties and optional pockets on the front panels.

I wish the pattern had been around when I was first learning to sew. It would have been a much gentler introduction to garment sewing than The Skirt. ‘Miette’ is great for beginners – no hateful zip to worry about and it’s easy to pick a size. The waist ties mean the skirt is adjustable anyway.

miette_1

I made the largest size, added 3″ to the length and omitted the pockets. I wanted a casual skirt, so I used 3 metres of soft washed denim from Fabric Godmother. The skirt was a pleasure to sew up, although turning the belt the right way out is rather tedious. I fortified myself with a cup of tea and coaxed it with a bamboo knitting needle.

I wore my ‘Miette’ out for a walk into town last Sunday. As you can see from my wayward scarf in the photo, it was quite breezy! It was very comfortable, the waist ties stayed in place and, despite high winds, the skirt panels preserved my modesty. I’d like to make another casual version in a darker denim, and then perhaps a linen version for warmer weather (I can dream).

All in all, a big thumbs up for ‘Miette’ :-) But why do I always look like such a goon in photos?

Hello friends. The past month has been very busy and stressful, hence the lack of posts.

I’ve finished my Kitty Foyle dress, but I’m not very happy with the result. In the end I didn’t bother taking a photo of the finished dress to submit to the Fall for Cotton pool. I will explain more in another post…

I’ve been so busy at work, doing hours and hours of teaching. Most evenings I came home from work and collapsed on the sofa, too tired to do anything else.

Also, Mr GiW and I have been in the final stages of buying a house! I’m pleased to say the purchase has completed and the house is ours. We’re spending all our free time packing up my flat so we can move into the house as soon as possible.

One VERY exciting thing is that I will have a sewing room in the new house! It’s a small bedroom that faces onto the garden.

The decor needs some work, but look! There is built in storage! I plan to make curtains to draw across the storage area.

Can you see I’ve moved my sewing machine already? It was the first thing I moved into the house (well, you’ve got to get your priorities right). My overlocker will be following shortly. The folding table and chair are what I have been using when I sew up until now. I hope to buy a decent sized desk soon. Any suggestions for sturdy desks (possibly from IKEA)?

Anyway, lots more packing to do…

My Kitty Foyle dress is progressing nicely. I’ve added the contrast collar and cuffs, sewn up the bodice side seams and set in the sleeves.

I attached the collar in the usual way. As I mentioned in my last post, I drafted cuffs for the sleeves. Basically, I measured the sleeve side seam, subtracted the seam allowance (1/2″) and then divided the remaining area into thirds. I have done one third cuff (4.3cm) to two thirds sleeve (8.6cm).

I made a tissue pattern piece for the cuff, which was 4.3cm x 2 (the cuff is doubled over) plus 1/2″ seam allowance all around. I interfaced the cuff pieces with lightweight iron on interfacing for stability and also to hide the navy fabric at the seam. Weird how I use both imperial and metric measurements! Does anyone else do that?

For each sleeve, I pressed a long edge of the cuff under 1/2″ then sewed the cuff to the sleeve at the other long edge. I was really careful to match up the white sections exactly when sewing the sleeve side seams. Finally I folded the cuff in half, wrong side to wrong side, bringing the pressed under edge to the seam on the long edge of the sleeve. I sewed the cuff down at 1/8″.

Just got to sew the bodice to the skirt, hem the skirt, sew the button holes and attach the buttons, then the dress will be finished! I’ve had my doubts whilst making it, mainly around the suitability of the fabric, but I hope the end result will look good. The above photo makes one sleeve look higher than the other at the shoulder, but it’s just the way the bodice is sitting on my dress form. They match in real life, honest!

Well, my week off work went ridiculously fast. However, I managed to get my Kitty Foyle dress cut out and prepared for sewing, as planned.

Cutting out fabric pieces for garments really, really wears me out these days. I don’t have a table big enough, so I have to kneel on the floor with the fabric laid over a child’s playmat (like this one, but mine has a snakes and ladders design with some very jaunty looking snakes).

I cut out all the fabric pieces on the crosswise fold. The fabric wasn’t wide enough to cut out the front skirt panels (which are pleated) when folded selvedge to selvedge. I’d read that you have to be careful to cut out darker fabrics in the same direction, otherwise the fabric pieces may look different when the garment is assembled. So I was extra cautious with my lay planning and cutting. I cut the collar and cuff pieces (which I drafted) from the white poplin. More on those in another post.

I serged all the raw edges of the pieces using a 3 thread overlocker stitch. Like an idiot, I forgot to interface the facing on the front skirt panels first, so I had to unpick the overlocking, apply the interfacing and overlock again. Thanks to Sewing With Sergers, I learned how to unpick overlocking properly – unpick the needle thread(s) first. Once you’ve pulled those out, the looper threads unravel easily.

I started sewing up the dress on Sunday (the first day of the sewalong) and I’m so glad I did. I’m back at work now and the roasting temperature in my office means that I feel shattered when I get home, which is not an ideal state of mind for sewing. I managed to baste the skirt pleats, sew up the skirt pieces, construct the front and back bodice pieces and then sew them together at the shoulders. Hopefully I can make more progress on the dress this coming weekend.

You can see the mess I work in when I’m sewing from the photo above. All my sewing stuff is jammed into a corner of my living room. On the left of my dress form are my pressing tools, on the right a pile of fabric, muslins and unfinished garments. The shadow on the left is from my sewing machine which is perched on a card table barely bigger than the machine itself. Ah for a sewing room!

I’ve gathered my supplies for the Fall for Cotton sewalong. I chose poplin, which is a 100% cotton fabric suitable for making dresses and other garments. I bought my fabric from here and I got 4 metres of navy and 2 metres of white.

I ordered more white fabric than I need for the Kitty Foyle dress. The poplin is quite wide (45″), so I hope to get a short-sleeved blouse from it as well. In addition to the fabric, I bought 10 half inch white buttons, navy sewing thread and navy overlocker thread.

I’ve pre-washed my fabrics separately in preparation. I’ve traced the pattern and made a muslin for a previous project, so I don’t need to do any work there.

The start date for the sewalong is 1st September, but I’m going to cheat slightly by cutting out my fabric pieces and serging the edges next week. I’m on leave from work for the week, so I’ll have plenty of time. The first week of September to mid-October is my busiest time at work, and I know from experience that I will be too tired in the evenings to kneel on the floor cutting out fabric. Also, the evenings are getting darker, so it will be more difficult to work with navy fabric.

I bought one more item for my supplies and that’s a DVD of ‘Kitty Foyle’. I’ve never seen the film before, and I thought it might inspire me to work on my sewalong dress.

Hello everyone, have you seen that Rochelle from Lucky Lucille and Tasha from by gum, by golly! are hosting a sewalong, Fall for Cotton? It’s for those who love vintage styles and who enjoy sewing with cotton fabrics. Count me in!

The sewalong starts on 1 September, so I’ve got a couple of weeks to plan my project and to gather my supplies. I’m going to use Hollywood 1387 to make a ‘Kitty Foyle’ dress. It’s a project I’ve been thinking about anyway, so the sewalong seems like the perfect opportunity to give it a try.

The dress gets its name from a film of the same name from 1940 starring Ginger Rogers. As Vintage Dancer explains, “Rogers played a working girl earning a living in an office. The dress she sported in the movie – dark with a contrasting white collar – gave rise to this popular dress style and the name ‘white-collar girl,’ referring to women office workers” (source here).  Here’s the dress in action, in a still from the film.

Image credit: IMDb

You can see a Kitty Foyle dress being worn by a worker from the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co, Ohio, in this photo from the Library of Congress archives. The dress, below, is going to be my inspiration for the sewalong.

Image credit: LoC archives

Before I can start sewing, I have some decisions to make. What type of cotton fabric am I going to use? What kind of interfacing should I choose? I need to prevent the darker fabric from showing through the white fabric at the collar and cuff seams. Finally, how do I add cuffs to the sleeves of the Hollywood 1387 dress? I can’t wait to get started!

I set myself the challenge of making my first garment from an original vintage pattern back in May. I made a muslin which fitted well with minimal adjustment a few weeks later. I’ve been on leave from work for two weeks and during that time, I made a ‘real’ version of the dress.

I followed the same making process as the muslin, the only difference being that I added buttonholes and buttons to the ‘real’ version. I used four metres of lightweight cotton, which has a small floral pattern on a navy background, plus ten 1/2″ plain navy buttons.

Outfit details: dress – me made; shoes – Marks & Spencer; bag – Radley; hair flower – Accessorize; pearl necklace – vintage; belt – TK Maxx.

I took my time with this dress and I think it shows in the finished product. All too often I rush my dressmaking and then I make stupid mistakes. I finished the seams inside with my overlocker/serger, which is totally not authentic to the period of the original pattern (!) but it is quick and gives the edges a secure finish.

I’m the least photogenic person ever, by the way. To get even one photo that looks decent, Mr GiW has to take multiple shots. Usually, I have my eyes closed or a stupid expression on my face, like this one.

I like this pattern a lot and I plan to make more versions of this dress. In fact I’m wearing it now and it’s very comfortable. I wondered if it looked too old fashioned, but I guess that’s the whole point.

It’s been a busy time recently. If you follow me on Twitter (@agirlinwinter) or Instagram (agirlinwinter), you may have seen updates I’ve posted about moving. In fact, I’m not moving but Mr GiW is. He has (hopefully) sold his flat and is moving in with me while we consider what to do next.

Despite my advanced age, I’ve never lived with anyone (apart from my parents and then lodging with a family as an undergraduate) so it’s going to be a challenge for us both. However, we’ve been together for years and we know each other really well, so it should be fine. I have set out only one ground rule – do not touch my dressmaking scissors. Everything else, I can take in my stride.

We spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday packing up all of Mr GiW’s worldly possessions. It was exhausting, but we got it all done ready for the arrival of the movers this morning. We learned some valuable lessons along the way… You can never have too much bubble wrap. Good quality packing tape is a sound investment. If you have half-eaten tubs of icecream in the freezer to finish off, make sure you leave out a spoon for each person. We had one spoon for two people, so I took the experimental approach of eating icecream with a fork.

I made the stupid mistake of trying to do some knitting on Saturday evening whilst exhausted and having drunk a large glass of wine. I unravelled the result today. I haven’t done any sewing for a while, but this is because Royal Mail has lost every parcel I’ve ordered for the past two months. One of those parcels contained the white overlocker/serger thread I need to continue with the dress I’m making. I have made a formal complaint to Royal Mail today. Hopefully normal (sewing) service will resume shortly.

I made a muslin of the Hollywood Patterns 1387 shirt dress. Hurrah! I wasn’t at all confident about making this, but I got there with some trial and error (mostly error). In the main I ignored the pattern instructions and instead used my (limited) sewing knowledge to make up the dress.

When making dresses, I start with the skirt pieces so I can let the skirt hang while I am making the bodice. The skirt on this dress is made from 5 panels (one back piece cut on the fold, two side pieces and two front pieces). Each front piece has two large pleats, which are top stitched in the original pattern. I hand basted the pleats, but because of my enormous hips, the skirt was too tight so I released the pleats for a looser fit.

The bodice has no darts, but is shaped using gathering at the yoke and the waist. I was puzzled by the front yoke sections. Have you ever sat with two pieces of fabric in your hands thinking, “I know these are supposed to fit together but I have no idea how”? There was a lot of that. I top stitched the yokes at 1/8″ using my new ditch quilting foot.

The rest of the pattern was pretty much standard sewing – attaching the collar, setting in sleeves and sewing up seams. I pressed and basted the hem at 2″ as directed in the pattern. In a ‘real’ version of this dress, the hem will need to be gathering and the fullness eased in.

In the end, I made minimal changes to the original pattern. I left off the pockets and interfaced the front facings on the bodice and skirt but I made no fitting adjustments apart from releasing the pleats, as described above. Apologies for the crumpled dress and poor photo, but I think the dress fits pretty well (it’s a better fit on my shoulders than on the dummy’s shoulders)?

I’m delighted that I’ve been able to sew up a garment from an original vintage pattern, albeit a rough and ready version. BTW I’ve finished knitting It Cannot Fail to Please, just need to get some photos taken now to show you how it turned out.

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