Friday, 13 September 2013

Sew It - A Self Drafted Dress

As much as I love sewing with vintage patterns and woven fabrics, I really don't think a wardrobe is complete without the odd item with a bit of stretch. I'm sure it's not just me that has days when I crave an outfit with a bit more give, an outfit which is forgiving enough to allow you to have another chunk slice of cake without the guilt-inducing judgement from that tightening waistband. So after finishing my overlocked/serged Pajamas and being on a bit of a sewing high I decided to hit the ground running and have a go at something a little more challenging, it was time to make space in my wardrobe for a home made jersey dress or two!
My cat Beau attempting to sleep on my fabric
"If I don't look directly at her, I might just get away with lounging on this fabric all afternoon"
When I bought my overlocker I had the foresight to also order a couple of meters of red ribbed Polly Jersey fabric, from Minerva Crafts and at £2.99pm figuring it would be just perfect for having a bit of a practice on, without feeling too much pressure at having to get it right first time. I also bought myself a bargain copy of Sew U home Stretch from Amazon, as I'd heard great things about this book and was eager to learn as much as I could about my new machine and those previously avoided stretchy fabrics.

My aim with the above was to create a dress that I could wear to work. For me, my workwear has become much more 'practical' than 'pretty' lately. Though my job mostly requires me to sit in front of a computer, there are days/weeks when I have to help out in other areas of the factory or warehouse, so I wanted something that could still make me look and feel smart, but that would be comfortable and not require most of my day being spent readjusting. Something stretchy enough for me to let's say, do a stock check up a ladder, oh and long enough that me modesty is preserved whilst up said ladder!

So armed with my copy of Sew U Home Stretch, I decided to design my own. I knew I wanted it to be long sleeved, with a nod to the 40s puff sleeves I love so much, below the knee in length and though the fabric has a lot of stretch, I wanted it still to be loose enough to be flattering rather than revealing my every seam in my rather ample underwear!
My Alterations to the standard Pattern Block from Sew U Home Stretch
I used the basic pattern blocks from Sew U Home Stretch with the above alterations. It really surprised me just how simple it was to change. The pattern blocks supplied were wonderfully basic, meaning they could be altered very easily, and the book itself makes everything so straight forward that you have no qualms about trusting your instincts. Also knowing that it didn't really matter if the alterations were going to work was seriously liberating.

Front and Back
You know what, I think it's come out rather well and again, really quickly! Once I set to the cutting, it took me no more than 4 hours to completely finish the dress (that's if you take out the hour I spent searching for the elastic I had in my hand one minute and was gone the next). I overlocked/serged all the seams and only used my sewing machine for the cuffs hem and neckline, which I used a stretch stitch.

I decided to forgo putting cuffs on the sleeve, instead, I hemmed them and inserted some light elastic in the seam to give it a light gather, which also means I can push the sleeves up my arm and they will stay there! I added length and width at the waist so that the bodice could 'blouse' a bit over any belt I chose to wear with it also giving me a bit more breathing room! Bring on the cake!!

I didn't have any matching ribbed fabric to make a neckband so I just hemmed the neckline by folding it over and stitching it with a stretch stitch on my sewing machine it has worked out rather well so far there has been no gaping!
I have worn it to work more than a few times now and can say it's been a success, it's definitely comfortable enough for sitting at my desk all day or occasionally running around with my bosses 4 year old granddaughter and just the right side of smart that it would work for any impromptu meetings, if needed! 
Excuse the crumpled dress and side-eye in this photo!
Though I am over the moon with my new dress and it has given me a much-needed boost to my wardrobe and my sewing confidence, I think the biggest winner here really has to be my fury pattern weight and patient sewing companion Beau!

"All mine, Purrrrrrrrrrfect!!" 
Wendy x

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Victory Garden - July and August - We Had a Summer!!!

I decided to merge July and August's Victory Garden progress into one post, this is partly to do with the fact that I have been either on holiday or ill over the last two months which equals less allotmenteering and partly due to the fact that there is a little less to do (which is quite a relief, to be honest) apart from watering and weeding of course!



"The summer looks out from her brazen tower,
Through the flashing bars of July." Francis Thompson

The beautiful weather I had while I was away was great for me but disastrous for my allotment, I don't think I could have picked a worse week to leave them to fend for themselves. The hot weather and lack of rain meant my poor little plants were not in the best of shape on my return.

Thankfully with my Mum coming up to London with me I, at last, had some help! She is my saviour in more ways than one, I must make sure I tell her. We spent two early mornings watering and weeding, which finally started to make a bit of a difference to the sun weary plants.

Sadly, though, despite our best efforts, the lack of water and persistent black fly infestation had left my poor broad beans beyond saving. I did cry, I know it's pathetic, but they were the first things I had planted and were looking so good, I was concerned it may have been a sign of things to come.

To cheer me up my Dad suggested that I buy some, Acuadulce seeds, which can be planted in September and should mean that they will be less likely to be black fly-ridden as they should be harvested before the black fly start reproducing! Oh and I also learnt that they can also be called fava beans, you learn something new every day!

Again the carrots I'd planted at the end of June didn't germinate, it's hardly surprising as they just didn't get enough water to give them the start they needed, though the weeds seem to have not been hampered at all at the dry spell.

The Brussel Sprouts and Cabbages, however, were growing slowly but well. They have been well protected from the pests by some netting I found in the shed earlier in the year at this point I couldn't quite distinguish between the two verities, I am sure it won't be long before they reveal which is which!

I mentioned earlier in the year that I have always had trouble with growing marrows, this year every seed germinated, my luck has certainly changed! Which means I have 15 plants, that's more than enough marrow for anyone! 

I planted the first of these in mid-July in my first section of the plot, as I had a bit of space due to using the wigwam method for my runner beans rather than making a row of canes.

The nicest thing in July has to be finding, one solitary gooseberry.

I had expected slim pickings on the fruit bushes, due to them being moved, but despite the small amount of blossom and my hopeful attempts at hiding them under net from the birds, I couldn't see any fruit so this lone gooseberry was a welcome surprise, not enough to make a crumble but ripe enough for a quick snack it was eaten right there and then!



This is the month of weeds
Kex, charlock, thistle . . .Spurry, pimpernel, quitch . . .
Making for trouble.'

By August everything that was going to survive the drought, had picked back up and was looking rather healthy! And as the quote above says it's certainly 'the month for weeds'

I planted up another wigwam of runner beans, at the end of the once broad bean row, which should give me a nice succession over then next few months. I've found they are the perfect thing to help make friends when they get growing they can be prolific, which means there is alway more than enough ready to be given away.

The first row of marrows were getting bigger by the day and full of blooms, one even had its first ickle baby marrow, I got insanely excited by this, I mean come on it's so cuuuuute!

I also planted two more rows, in the 3rd section (the weedy section) as I had lots of space, the ground was so dry that I ended up having to almost chisel the soil out to plant then, which left me with loads of boulders of soil, I have mad little soil boulder circles around each to help keep the water near the roots, and also makes them look like little campfires!

The Dwarf French beans were looking seriously healthy they hadn't been too hampered by the drought they were covered with beans!

I've harvested a fair few lbs of pods which have been munched or given to friends, the remaining pods of which there are loads, have become a bit too stringy to eat whole so I have decided to leave them to mature to fully formed beans so I can dry/freeze them to use in stews and the like over the autumnal months.

I transplanted my lettuces in early July, I decided to use the gaps between the first set of fruit bushes just so that I could easily cover them with some netting (my old curtains).

By early August they had matured into very tasty little plants, I munched on lovely fresh salad nearly every day in August.

I had to harvest the onions and shallots a little early due to the dry weather, they aren't the greatest in size but they are not too bad and will certainly save us a bit of money over the next few months They are currently drying in my lean-to greenhouse ready for storing, and pickling.

I finally got round to planting up my cauliflowers. I'll admit I had forgotten about them they sat in my lean-to much longer than they should have (I'd forgotten what they even were, next year I must label everything) and I completely flouted the plan by putting them in where the onions had been, as it was the only ground soft enough to dig over at the time.

They are nice and cozy under some net, for now, hopefully, they will mature enough to eat; if not well I only have myself to blame!

So that is, that for July and August. September is already shaping up to be the month of harvesting, with greengages and damsons ripening up for jams and many a marrow to be picked, all those weekends of hard work are starting to pay off!

Wendy x

Monday, 2 September 2013

Things to Make and Do - Fall For Cotton A Sewing Challenge

Have any of you joined the Fall for Cotton Challenge created by the loveliest of lovelies Tasha and Rochelle?

Fall For Cotton 2013 A Sewing Challenge

Obviously, I have and I can't wait to get cracking. For me, it could not have come at a better time as on Friday the BF boarded a flight to Australia, which means for the whole month of September it's just me, the cat and the sewing machine to keep us company. I am a bit sad I can't go too, but I am firmly focusing my energies on enjoying the next few weeks by spending it on some me time! Having no guilt at lavishing a whole day on sewing, when I probably should be doing something more responsible like cleaning or cooking, will be just lovely!

So on to what I plan to make, well I have three things in mind which I would love to be able finish in time for the deadline, fingers crossed. First up is a blouse, which the minute I saw I just fell in love with! I finally got around to watching ITV's Lightfields a few weekends ago, (one of my OTT full fashion posts will follow soon, my, my there are some lovely knitted's!) and was hit with a overwhelming desire to copy two things Eve wears the first being this blouse.

Fall For Cotton A Sewing Challenge LIghtfields Blouse pattern
I love the way the stripes change direction across the yoke (and line up) and I love the way the black collar and cuffs picks out the black in the pattern! The original looks like a chiffon/crepe, but I am sure cotton will work just as well!
Fall For Cotton A Sewing Challenge LIghtfields Blouse pattern

Isn't It cute!!! I have decided to use my tried and tested 'Dream Pattern' which will need a few tweaks to make it just right (lengthening the yokes and adding cuffs to the sleeves) but I think I am up to the job and it should look great when done!

I really wanted to find the perfect fabric for this blouse and thought it would be easy, it wasn't. I searched through every version of cotton striped fabric available online, and there were some lovely designs, but most of the best ones had only fat quarters left and at about £4 each plus postage!

Fall For Cotton A Sewing Challenge LIghtfields Blouse pattern

Eventually, I stumbled upon some gorgeous 1930s fabric from Blue Zinnia Vintage on Etsy (she has some really beautiful fabrics) which I think will be just perfect. It's the most I have ever spent on fabric (the luxury of having lived in Walthamstow all my life, I guess) I actually felt my usual queasiness, at parting with my cash, but once I realised that it would actually work out cheaper than some of the modern quilting cotton I'd been pondering, it set my mind at rest. I just hope I can do this beautiful vintage fabric justice! I still need to get some black cotton for the collars and cuffs, a trip down to Walthamstow market this weekend is in order, I think!

The second are these, high waisted bottle green velvet or corduroy trousers! 

Fall For Cotton A Sewing Challenge LIghtfields 1940's Slacks/trousers/pants pattern
Admittedly this is not the greatest view of them, but you can get the idea! I am still undecided as to whether they are made from velvet or corduroy, as you never really get a good enough look at them.
Fall For Cotton A Sewing Challenge LIghtfields 1940's Slacks/trousers/pants pattern

They are so Autumnal and make me wish I still worked as a groom, I would love to stomp about the stable yard in these! My idea is to use three patterns (fingers crossed) Gertie's Capri Pants - for the pockets, Simplicity 4044 - for the front pleat and tried and tested Simplicity 3688 - for the waist band.

Fall For Cotton A Sewing Challenge LIghtfields 1940's Slacks/trousers/pants pattern
Ambitious? Definitely. Doable? Hopefully!
I have chosen some bottle green corduroy from a seller on Bay and as soon as it arrives I will start figuring out my pattern!

The last garment has nothing to do with Lightfields but is a well overdue stash buster.

Fall For Cotton A Sewing Challenge Butterick 5880

I want to make a version of Butterick 5880 in some cotton from my stash I have this beautiful 50's brushed cotton bedspread, which I got for £2 in a charity shop last year on the Isle of wight, which I think will be perfect! This is kind of my back up pattern if the above two give me trouble, I know I will still have something to fall back on and rather helpfully this pattern comes with a video tutorial, which should mean I have no excuses for getting stuck!

So there you have my ambitious sewing plans for the coming month, along with making some chutneys and jams from my ever growing allotment bounty, plus having just started knitting a Jan Sweater I'm pretty sure I'll be kept nice and busy for the whole of September!

Wendy x