My Super Summer Sewing Plans (Or ‘How I Will Finally Tackle My Monster Fabric Stash’)

Thank you to everyone for your lovely words and well wishes on last week’s post. As someone who has struggled with mental illness for most of my life and continues to advocate for the incredible benefits of creativity to health and wellbeing, it’s not easy to openly confront/admit to continued challenges. However, it’s also clear to me that nothing in life works with the mythical convenience of a panacea. Creative outlets – much like my experiences with medication and therapy – are vitally important components of my efforts to overcome mental illness. But (at least, in my experience) they work most effectively when used in conjunction with one another. My life with anxiety, depression, self-harm – and the various other manifestations that my struggles take – is one of peaks and troughs. I’ve never wanted to give the impression that I’m ‘recovered’ and now live a life totally untouched by these issues. In fact, too much of the discussion around mental illness is told from the perspective of ‘survivors’ or those who are now considered free-and-clear. It’s an appealing picture but one that doesn’t fully capture the months of peaceful, productive existence followed by months of crippling panic and sadness that represent the experiences of so many. All of this to say that I’m truly grateful for the kindness of everyone who has reached out with understanding and positive wishes for my health, particularly as I’m reintegrating some serious sewing back into my routine!

Enough with the serious stuff! I’m here to talk summer sewing plans and my continued efforts to diminish my fabric stash. Now that I’m back to sewing, it’s inevitable that I will once again start to accrue fabric at a baffling rate. I honestly hadn’t been too concerned with the size of my personal haberdashery until we moved into our new place and I was faced with the incredible challenge of finding adequate storage for everything. The sewing room in our old apartment had the benefit of an incredibly large wardrobe/cupboard (so big that there were steps to climb into it – so something of a Mary Poppins carpet bag set-up). Faced with normal-sized cupboards, I realised quite how dramatic my fabric collection has become. So, in an effort to get my stash down to more manageable proportions, I figured that I should put together some plans for the summer months and start to work through those fabrics that have found themselves languishing in my sewing spaces for too long.

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

1. Sew Over It Jessie Coatigan 

Also known as Laura’s own, personal version of ‘A NeverEnding Story’. This is the project that I had left half-completed when I stopped sewing last year. It’s still resting, in its sad, frayed state, on my mannequin and I’m determined to finally get it finished. Let’s ignore the fact that I’m going to be sewing a hefty coat/cardigan whilst suffering through the 37C weather – this project has got to be finished before I can let myself get on with anything new. And there are some truly tempting pattern/fabric combinations that I have lined up for myself. So here’s hoping that this serves as adequate inducement to finally tackle my sad, neglected Sew Over It Coatigan. At least I’ll be well prepared once autumn comes around!

2. Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress

I’ve already had a tremendously successful encounter with this pattern, resulting in one of my very favourite makes. When I picked up some of Rifle Paper Co’s incredible Alice in Wonderland fabric, I was immediately determined to use it in another version of Sew Over It’s amazing shirt dress pattern. Anyone who has found themselves feeling creatively uninspired will probably know the draw that some beautiful fabric can hold. During my time away from the sewing machine, this is the fabric that kept whispering sweet inducements to get me back at the pedal. I’m so excited to see how this one comes out – particularly since it’s a dress that can be easily styled for both summer and autumn!

3. Untitled Thoughts Matilda Wrap Dress

I’ve had the most beautiful stretch fabric waiting its turn in my fabric stash for well-over a year – the victim of some continuous changes to my sewing plans (as well, obviously, as my lack of sewing for all of 2019). One of the motivating thoughts that I’ve had at the back of my mind as I attempt to get back into a sewing routine is my brother’s wedding in October. I haven’t felt particularly pressured to create something, although it would be really nice to be able to wear something that I’ve made specifically for that day. I also desperately want to avoid the hours of shop trawling that would be the inevitable consequence of my decision to not make something myself. My current thought is that this fabric – combined with the Matilda Wrap Dress pattern from Untitled Thoughts – would work as a contender. Even if I decide not to go with it, I think that it will make for a beautiful dress!

My fabric is actually so close to that from Untitled Thoughts’ own version!

So those are my immediate sewing plans – probably sufficient to see me through the summer and definitely enough to have me really excited to be back at the sewing machine. I’m hoping that my summery makes will be done in adequate time to actually enjoy them before the leaves start falling! What are your summer sewing plans? Let me know down in the comments!

 

 

My Spring 2018 Favourites!

Happy 4th July, everyone! To those of your reading from the US, I hope that you’re having a fabulous holiday and are looking forward to seeing some wonderful fireworks this evening. I’m excited to spend a few days off with my husband – it’s our first wedding anniversary on Saturday so we’re celebrating with a mini staycation! We don’t have many plans, other than some trips to the book shop and a couple of museum visits. But this will be the longest amount of time we’ve had together since I moved to the US so I’m just hugely excited for that!

In other news, my eye has finally healed itself meaning that I’ll actually be able to get some pictures of my Lucia Top this week. Look out for that post on Friday. In the meantime – and now that summer has officially started – I wanted to do a roundup of my various ‘favourites’ from the past few months. Originally I had intended to do a very general ‘my favourites’ post but I’m one of those people who reliably claim that whatever I’m currently focussed on is my “favourite thing of all time.” So I thought it wise that I restrict this post to just the past few months. With that, here we go…

Favourite Pattern: Vintage Shirt Dress (Sew Over It)

I’ve been pretty productive with my sewing through Spring. In fact, there are no patterns I’ve sewn that I don’t absolutely love! But my favourite pattern to work with has to be Sew Over It’s Vintage Shirt Dress. The construction process was just so simple and the finished product looked incredible. Not to mention the fact that the fit was total perfection.

Obviously my obsession with this dress is largely assisted by the fabric because the Le Map cotton from Dear Stella is beyond a dream. But purely from an ease of construction, clarity of instructions, and just all around fun-level standpoint, the Vintage Shirt Dress is definitely my favourite pattern from the Spring!

IMG_6692

Favourite Fabric: Le Map (Dear Stella)

What a surprise! I really wanted to be able to mix it up a little so that all of my sewing favourites aren’t focussed on one make. But, let’s be honest, was there any way that this super sweet Parisian fabric wasn’t going to be my favourite from the past few months?! Not only is the pattern so adorable, the cotton has such a great weight to it – it made the fabric perfectly suited to the Vintage Shirt Dress, giving the garment a really crisp and tailored look.

Obviously my other Dear Stella fabric – Fox Tales – would be a contender here. However, since I’m not quite finished sewing with it, I decided that it counts as a Summer make! I feel that this is probably a spoiler for a Summer Favourites post!

IMG_6970

Favourite Listen: Studio Ghibli Cafe Music

I’m super obsessed with listening to music while I sew. I tend to stick to lyric-free music, mostly because I like to create a very relaxed environment whenever I’m in my sewing room. My favourite listen from the past few months has to be the Studio Ghibli Jazz playlist. I actually found out about it from one of the few YouTubers I watch and it has changed my world. The soundtrack consists of snippets from various Ghibli films but played in a jazz style. I love Ghibli so I’m all about anything that integrates my favourite films into my everyday life. This soundtrack/playlist is just amazing and, if you’re a fan of Ghibli films, I definitely recommend giving it a listen. An added bonus is that it’s available via YouTube and on a 3hr30 loop – so you can leave it be for a good long time and just get on with what you’re doing!

Favourite Watch: Agatha Christie’s Poirot

Every so often, I’m really in the mood to pop something I love on my laptop and watch while I work on sewing projects. As with the things that I listen to, I tend to go through extended periods of focussing on just one thing. Spring has been a very Agatha Christie heavy time for me – and I’m totally on board with it. I adore the various televisations of her books but I’m most in love with David Suchet’s Poirot. The series is amazing and I watch the episodes on repeat without any enjoyment diminished at all. Plus I met him and he stayed in character as Poirot the whole time, so this series will always have a special place in my heart.

Favourite Read: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

This one isn’t sewing related at all since, although I’m an epic multi-tasker, even I can’t read and sew at the same time. But I’ve done so much reading this spring (I think about 16 books, which is pretty good going!) that I felt compelled to include my favourite. Most recently, I’ve been working my way through the Pulitzer Prize winners going back from the most recent (I figured that they will always be pretty reliably amazing books) – so obviously this meant that I finally got around to reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. I can’t quite put into words how much I loved this book. At around 750 pages, it’s definitely a lengthy read. However, I ended up racing through it because I was so enthralled. Although the book is emotionally heavy, it is truly Dickensian in its scope. Definitely my favourite read from the past few months!

IMG_6965

Favourite Purchase: Spirited Away Mug

My favourite purchase from Spring happens to be very much unrelated to sewing – unless you count the fact that I drink tea from it habitually whilst sewing. As I mentioned above, I love Studio Ghibli films. I’ve always had a love for animation (of course, I remain totally Disney obsessed) and Studio Ghibli takes the art to a completely different level of beauty. Plus the stories are just amazing. I was so excited to find that Barnes and Noble have a pretty good collection of Studio Ghibli items – although they’re all quite pricey – and I’ve had my eye on the Spirited Away mug for ages. My husband bought it for me as a present last month and I’ve been glued to it ever since!

IMG_6968

So those are all of my favourites from Spring 2018! It’s been an incredibly varied and successful few months – something that I hope carries over into Summer! Do you have any favourites from this Spring? Share in the comments – I’m always excited to read your thoughts!

Vintage Shirt Dress (Sew Over It)

PortraitHeader051518

My second make of Me Made May is here! And while I’m very aware of the fact that I call every new make my favourite, I think the Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress might legitimately be one of my favourite patterns of all time. I’ve had it in my stash for ages – I bought it not long after I started sewing in 2015. But, I just never got around to making it. There were really two reasons for my avoidance: (1) I just couldn’t seem to find a fabric that stuck out as being super perfect for a shirt dress; and, (2) I was legitimately concerned about making that many buttonholes look neat and lined up. So I let the pattern gather dust on two separate continents, until I came across what is *definitely* my favourite fabric of all time – the Le Map design by Dear Stella.

All it took was a little Parisian flavour to make this amazing pattern happen. And, now, here’s the finished product….

IMG_6689

How many ways can I express my love for this pattern? I think one of my sewing mantras is fast becoming ‘when in doubt, make a Sew Over It pattern.’ Because they are SO easy to work with. I very rarely have issues with sizing, following instructions, or the fit. The process is just clean from start to finish.

As with my previous encounters with Sew Over It patterns, I used the size guide to determine the sizes I would cut – although I can’t remember which sizes these were. And I made zero alterations to the fit. The resulting fit is perfection. Just the right amount of ease whilst still looking tailored to my body. Just another success story for Sew Over It pattern sizing!

The construction itself posed few issues. I’d decided from the beginning that I wanted to make the version of the Vintage Shirt Dress with sleeves (there is a sleeveless version). I just really love the cuffs and am generally a sleeve gal. If you read my previous mid-construction post, you’ll know I had a problem figuring out the sleeves – the only construction issue that I ended up encountering. I would retype the whole saga here but it’s probably easier if you just follow the link to an explanation of my issues with sorting out the cuffs. Although I definitely think the pattern instructions could’ve been clearer on this point, it wasn’t a tough issue to resolve and I ended up with some super cute cuffs once I figured out the problem!

IMG_6615

Another feature of this pattern that I love is the skirt. I think the little pleats on the front are just adorable. They give the skirt a bit of extra shape and just make the whole dress look even cuter. I’m fortunate that the cotton I used was relatively weighty, which definitely helped to give the skirt a bit of extra structure and encouraged the pleats stand out.

I also needn’t have worried about the buttons. Going in, I was concerned about sewing the buttonholes without having them look wonky or misplaced. I’ve only had one experience sewing multiple buttonholes and that was with my Beignet Skirt a couple of months into my sewing journey. Needless to say, the buttonholes weren’t very well aligned! So I took extra time to make sure that my measurements were correct for each of the buttonholes on the Vintage Shirt Dress. It’s a good idea to experiment with button placement before sewing, just to make sure that you don’t end up with any gaping over the bust. Personally, I just ended up following the button placement as on the pattern and the dress is perfectly closed the whole way down the dress – no gaping at all!

IMG_6692

Another super sweet feature of this pattern is the neckline. I love the collar and lapels! They definitely give the dress its ‘shirty’ feel! In order to achieve a really crisp shape, I ended up using a medium-weight interfacing. This gets attached to the fabric facing and then sewn down the back and front of the dress. The combination of fabric and interfacing has worked incredibly well in this case – once pressed down, there’s been no movement from the lapels or collar. So they’re pretty reliably in place, meaning that I’m not having to constantly reposition them or press them back (which I find is often the case with lapels). So, if you’re thinking about making this pattern, the weight of the interfacing is definitely an important consideration!

Construction-wise, the collar and lapels were actually super simple. I did have a problem with size disparity between the facing and the dress shell. After attaching the iron-on interfacing, I found that it had shrunk the size of the facing slightly. So, when pinning the facing to the dress – specifically the collar – I did find that I had to stretch the facing out a bit in order to get it to fit. This didn’t end up posing much of a problem and the size discrepancy wasn’t especially big, but it’s definitely worth being aware!

I also just want to give a shout out to Sew Over It for the fact that their instructions include mentions of when it’s appropriate to finish your raw edges or seams. I think Sew Over It is the only pattern company I’ve used that does this, and it helps so much! I love that the pattern tells me where/when to serge so I don’t have to debate when it’s most appropriate. It also stops me waiting until the whole garment is together and having to spend hours just serging seams and feeling that life has lost all meaning.

IMG_6681

So, in summary, make this dress! I’m actually debating whether I’ll end up using my new fox fabric to make another version, because I’m so in love with this pattern. I think the whole thing probably came together in about 8ish hours (not including pattern/fabric cutting time) so it’s not too big a time investment either!

I think there are so many amazing things you could do with this pattern: add piping to the front; put ruffles on the ends of the sleeves instead of cuffs; add pockets! Or just make it as it is and you’ll still end up with a super chic dress! I’m really excited to experiment with some more versions of the Vintage Shirt Dress. Definitely the perfect make for a beautiful summer!

 

Spring = Shirt Dresses + Sleeve Failures

I’ve been a super busy bee over the past couple of weeks! I’ve managed to acquire even more fabric since my last fabric haul post, so I’m practically swimming in cottons. But oh my goodness, my newest fabrics are some of the sweetest I’ve ever seen! With all this fabric overflowing my sewing spaces, I’ve been attempting to make a dent in my growing stash. And where better to start than with my favourite fabric of all time (I know I say this about pretty much every new fabric I buy):

IMG_6335

But seriously, is this not the sweetest? Bien sûr! I got this gem after seeing it on The Foldline’s Facebook page and ended up ordering it from a US-based stockist (saving on the postage!). Fortunately, this particular fabric seems to be available from a few different places so I had no problem getting hold of it. If you’re interested, the fabric is called ‘Le Map’ and is designed by Dear Stella. I got mine from New Arrivals Inc. who mostly seem to cater to babies, but needs must. They have a 20% off voucher for joining their mailing list and I had the fabric within about a week of ordering. So definitely recommended!

As soon as I got this fabric, I wanted to set to work! Fortunately, I had the perfect project in mind. I’ve been messing around with plans for a Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress for ages now. I think I’ve had the pattern for about two years. But no fabric ever really jumped out at me as being entirely appropriate. I have a lot of difficulty pairing fabrics and patterns. It’s beyond the level of just thinking that a fabric would work for a pattern. I have to really feel like they go together – it’s the fabric/pattern equivalent of pairing soul mates. I’m like a matchmaker, except that there’s so much more at stake with what I do (I joke, of course. People are just as important as fabric). This is why shopping for fabric with a pattern already in mind is always a nightmare for me. It takes forever. I swear, my skeleton will eventually be found in an aisle at Joann’s.

As soon as I had the Paris fabric in my hands, I just knew it was time to dust the cobwebs from my Vintage Shirt Dress pattern and finally put it to work.

IMG_6389

I’ve been working on the dress this week and it’s coming together a treat! As expected from Sew Over It, the pattern has proved very easy to follow so far. I decided to make the version with sleeves because I always love a sleeve. I’m not sure why but I really never wear anything sleeveless. That may need to change now that I live somewhere that gets 100F summers, but we’ll see.

Of course, this project hasn’t been without its problems. I spent most of the day yesterday trying to figure out issues that I was having with the sleeve cuffs. This is the first time I’ve found any instruction from Sew Over It to be vague enough that I end up spending ages trying to decipher them. The problem was in hemming the sleeves. The instructions tell you to turn the sleeve under to the wrong side and match with a notch on the inside seam. My mistake was in matching the raw edge of the hem with the notch (then spending ages pressing and sewing it) when I was supposed to match the sleeve’s actual edge with it. Essentially this meant that I had two sleeves with short hems and, when it came to turning the sleeve back to the right side in order to get a proper cuff, I had barely any fabric. Enter much unpicking…

IMG_6386

The line of stitches is about 1cm from the edge of the hem (which is where the notch is). So, as you can see, there is definitely not enough fabric to turn back to the right side in order to make a cuff.

IMG_6388

The seam gauge makes this photo look like a police evidence photo and I only just realised it.

This is my current status. I’ve unpicked and have now turned the hems under properly. Finishing and attaching the sleeves is on today’s agenda. I’m hoping that I might actually get around to doing the buttons/buttonholes, in which case I’ll only have the hemming left to do!

Despite my sleeve issues, I’m seriously loving this pattern. It’s come together really quickly and easily. I just love Sew Over It patterns. They’re always so clear (with the exception of the sleeve hemming) and well illustrated. Plus, the Vintage Shirt Dress has lapels! What could be more exciting?!

IMG_6387

So that’s where we are! My plan is to get this dress finished by the end of the week and hopefully have photos up on Sew for Victory soon after. I’m off to see An American in Paris in a couple of weeks (one of my favourite Gene Kelly films!) and I can’t think of a more appropriate outfit. I’ll be a Brit in America in Paris fabric, watching An American in Paris. Perfection!