sewing · Simplicity New Look

One year, one pattern, seven dresses.

You’ve got to love a free pattern, especially one that you manage to make seven different dresses from! The Simplicity New Look 6262 came with my first ever sewing magazine purchase (thank you Sew Magazine) and taught me how sew darts, gather, insert sleeves and invisible zips and apply facings (it was the second garment I ever made). I loved the style and fit of it so much that it’s become my go to dress pattern.

I made this first version last year using Rose and Hubble cotton poplin.

Number 1

I followed the instructions to the letter (except I used a standard zipper foot to insert the invisible zip). It was the second garment I’d ever made and is still one of my favourite items in my wardrobe.

Two

Second was a sleeveless version in an Indian cotton. I got all girly and added a pink ribbon to the waistline for this one. For some reason the zip pulls away from the body at the top and the back neckline is a bit high (any suggestions?) but otherwise I love it!

Three

Third up was the standard view B with added embellishment on the neckline. I lined this one as I made it in the winter and needed some extra warmth. This fabric was an eBay purchase that looked much darker on the computer screen. It’s a great print but the colour doesn’t really suit me so it’s only been worn a handful of times.

Four

This next one shows that I was starting to feel more confident in my sewing. I changed the neckline, narrowed the sleeves and used a pleated skirt (Simple Sew Grace skirt) instead of the pattern’s gathered skirt. This was also fully lined and I added some lace trim too.

Five

I then decided to try out the v-neck version and made two more dresses in quick succession. In hindsight, I would have changed the back neckline to a v-shape too but these still work well as they are.

Six

 

For my most recent make (exactly a year after my first), I revisited the design of the purple ditsy print dress (4th version) but made it without sleeves. I loved the progression in my skills that this one demonstrated- it was so much neater and better fitting than earlier efforts. I changed the back too to make it lower and slightly narrower at the top.

Seven

My love of the NL6262 continues and I’m sure they’ll be more in my sewing future. In the meantime, my sister has requested a NL6262 as a birthday gift (September) so hopefully I can share the love of this great, reliable and versatile pattern.

sewing · Skirts · Uncategorized

Ode to the skirt

 

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged (sorry about that) but I’ve been lacking in inspiration recently (plus I have been super busy at work). However, a few days ago it dawned on me- I should blog about the underdog of my me-made wardrobe, the forgotten garment, the overlooked item-the skirt.
I have made a total of 8 skirts in this, my first year of dressmaking but because I have yet to venture far into the unknown world of making tops, I rarely make a big deal about them as they themselves aren’t a full me-made outfit. However, they are a vital part of my wardrobe, especially considering that before this year I lived solely in dresses as I could never find skirts that suited me in fabric/print/length combinations that I liked.
I love the speed sewing satisfaction (try saying that fast!) I get from making skirts and the variety of new outfits that can be created from them. Pockets are a must wherever possible and a skirt with a good ‘swish’ to it is always a winner.

So here is a run down of my skirt sewing and the knowledge/ skirt opinions that I have developed along the way:
1. Wrap skirt (McCall’s m7129)


This was my first skirt (back in the days when I was afraid of zips and buttonholes). It was a really satisfying sew and I’m proud of the finish but it sadly remains unworn. The cotton I used for the lining was too thick and hindered the drape of the skirt, causing it to be a little stiff in the folds and rather unflattering across one’s backside! The tie waist also relies on clever overlapping instead of being fed through the waistband. I still can’t bring myself to part with it as the print is so pretty. I may consider an eBay listing to generate some much needed holiday funds though 🤔.

2. Gathered skirts


These seem to suit me best and are straightforward to make. I’ve used the skirt section of the NL6262 dress and also the NL6437 as my go to patterns. Pockets are a must and I prefer a wider waistband.

 

My favourite gathered skirt so far has been my maxi version of the NL6437 made from dreamy lightweight viscose (@sewsewsewuk). The movement on this is amazing and it’s sooooo comfortable to wear in the heat.

3. Circle skirts.


I’ve used the NL6899 pattern for a full circle skirt and a 1/2 circle skirt section to a Cleo pinafore hack. I love the swish factor of circle skirts, especially when running down the stairs in the morning. I have even been known to injure myself whilst demonstrating how to twirl in a circle skirt!

4. Box pleated skirts.


I love how full these feel and they hang over my Mummy tum in a flattering/flattening way. The Simple Sew Grace skirt pattern has been my base for these. I like to line my season-neutral skirts so they can still keep me warm in winter (and for added ‘swish’).

I feel satisfied that my skirts have now been given the attention they deserve and will hopefully grow in number as I use up remnants and discover new patterns over the summer holidays. I am currently sewing a skirt for my Mum as a present for her birthday (eek!-my first garment gift). Follow me on instagram @lolssewandsews to see how that one goes. Happy skirt sewing!

sewing

Neat freak

If I was a character from ‘Friends’ I would be Monica.  I like things to be neat and tidy and everything has a place (with the exception of my very own Monica cupboard).Well, the same seems to apply to my sewing. I have learnt a lot of new techniques during my dressmaking journey but one thing that is rarely made clear on the patterns I have used is how to finish the seams when you don’t have an overlocker/ serger (don’t worry, it’s already on my Christmas list). This has often resulted in a beautiful garment being let down by it’s insides.
Recently, I decided that I wanted to make another Cleo dress (Tilly and the Buttons).


I have made 1 1/2 before (I used the pinafore element with a quarter circle skirt) but, despite loving the pattern and the instructions being the easiest to follow that I have encountered so far, I was disappointed with the finish I achieved. The inside edges of the facing looked messy and the edges of the hem were an embarrassment.

 

I decided my latest Cleo would be denim, have a bit more ease and length (the other one rucked up too much when I sat down) and most importantly BE NEAT.

I’m really pleased with how it turned out (only minimal mistakes), especially as this was my first effort working with denim.


I chose an 8oz denim, white topstitching thread and some gorgeous buttons from Totally Buttons. I edged the facing with hot pink bias binding and hemmed it with the same.

I had had some trouble with the top stitching thread pulling through to the right side on my pocket before (I used Tilly’s suggestion of normal thread in the bobbin and the thicker top stitching thread on the reel). It seemed to slip out of the knots I’d made. This time I ironed on some lightweight interfacing, over the knots at the back, to see if it would secure it better. 🤞

My neat freakiness has been satisfied and I’ll wear my Cleo with pride (even Monica would be impressed).

Uncategorized

To plan or not to plan? That is the question.

 I’ve always been a fan of a plan (teacher habits). I like to know what I’m aiming for and how I’m going to get there. However, all good plans need to be flexible so that adaptions can be made (‘in the best interests of the learners’). I’m just not very good at that in my sewing.

As with most sewers, I find that fabric seems to draw me in and beg to be bought. It ignites creative sparks and gives me future visions of how it can be brought to life as a finished garment. So, from these little sparks and ever increasing purchases of fabric, I make plans about what I will be sewing.

This little haul developed into a plan of :

~McCalls dress (without the tie front) in the swallow (or is it a swift?) print

~New Look 6437 skirt in the purple butterfly print

~New Look 6262 v neck in the purple floral

~A circle skirt in the purple spot

However, I agonised FOREVER over the McCalls dress. I researched other makes of it on Pinterest and thought that a fabric with more drape would look better. Would it make me look pregnant? (I am most definitely NOT by the way). Would I get the sizing right as even more experienced dressmakers than me had struggled (see here)? Ultimately, when I sat down to start it, my heart wasn’t in it. Especially not when it dawned on me that, as an unused pattern, I needed to cut all the pattern pieces out (can’t be faffed with tracing them). So my plans changed ‘in the interest of the learner’ because I honestly couldn’t be bothered to try it when there was a high chance it wouldn’t suit/fit me. Instead I returned to an old favourite-the Simplicity 1801 (see my other versions it in my earlier blog post), but with the view of making it really neat and more ‘every day’ wearable.

I added a couple of inches to the length (not a fan of having my legs exposed) and brought the neckline up 2.5 inches (same exposure rules apply to the boobage). I then decided to make more ‘summery’ sleeves and turn the existing ones into puff sleeves by cutting 4 inches off the bottom, gathering the edge and finishing it with some bias cut strips (using the New Look 1452 child’s dress as my inspiration!)


The fact that I had not stuck to my plan really bothered me. Was it indicative of my laziness as a sewer or my reluctance to try something new? Then it dawned on me- it didn’t actually matter. I was sewing for myself, for my own enjoyment, so who gives a fig if I change my mind because I feel like it?

With this new freedom from my planning restrictions I have also decided that the purple spots will make a lovely Sew Over It vintage shirt dress with my new vintage button purchase (even if it’s a bit early for Wimbledon colours 😉)


and my next make will be dependant on my mood (!) and the weather- maybe a denim Cleo, maybe the New Look 6262 v-neck in the lilac floral-who knows? Even I don’t yet and that new feeling of creative freedom and lack of accountability/ responsibility is one I am hanging on to (in my sewing, at least). There is also a new African wax cotton that I picked up that’s begging to be a maxi skirt

….watch this space.
Happy stitching freedom! Make the most of your right to change your mind whenever you bloomin’ want to. 😃

Uncategorized

 My ‘Making Mindset’

Sewing has saved me. It’s a bit of a dramatic statement I know but bare with me and I will explain why sewing is so important to me and why I started to teach myself to make my own clothes, roughly this time last year.

An email went out from a member of Senior Management to all the staff at the primary school where I teach (part time since I became a Mum), requesting feedback on what we considered ourselves ‘experts’ in. This was done with the view to find out how we could inspire the children we teach with our own skills/ talents. I found it incredibly difficult to answer. I had done very well academically with top grades for exams and a first class degree but that was years ago. Did speedy nappy changing or a smooth, tantrum-free exit from soft play count? Outside of my job and my role as wife and mother, what skills did I actually have? I could make a reasonable birthday cake :

img_5088
Pokeball cake
Giraffey birthday/christening cake
However, it would have to be sponge and round, because I knew I could do that well. I could decorate a room :

Before
img_5090
After

But it would always be within the same tried and tested style. My crafting skills were ok but again I stuck with what I knew I could do well. Being limited and safe does not qualify someone as an expert, in my opinion.

On returning to work 7 months after the birth of my second son, I had really struggled with my identity. Like many part time working Mums, I felt I was floundering in both of my roles and my self esteem hit rock bottom. Then this email popped into my inbox and challenged me. I wanted to be an expert in something other than the safe, well rehearsed things I already knew. I wanted to feel that, despite my sleep deprivation and fuzzy baby brain, I could still learn something new that I could be proud of.  This thought flitted around in my cluttered mind for quite some time. The thought of trying something new scared me- what if I couldn’t learn something else? That would just reaffirm my already self critical thinking and how would that help anyone?

Then last April, within the space of two weeks, I had a car accident that left me with chronic neck pain and my Nan (a big part of our family) was tragically killed whilst crossing the road. The anxiety and grief that came with these events floored me. My once cluttered, critical mind was now so crowded with emotion and pain that the only thought that seemed clear was that idea of a new challenge- a glimmer of hope, something positive to cling to. I would sew. I would sew my own dress to wear to my friends’ wedding and whilst sewing I would clear my mind of all its noise and nonsense and fill it with purpose and learning.

I watched A LOT of sewing tutorials on YouTube and had to look up every symbol on the pattern (I had never even seen a pattern before, other than on The Great British Sewing Bee) but over the space of just over a month I had made my first garment and I had created some breathing space in that very difficult period of my life.

Butterick walk away dress

Sewing has continued to be a mindfulness activity for me but I now realise that it has also had a lot to do with changing the way I think.  This week at work, we had staff training on ‘Growth Mindset’ (see more about it here). It made me realise that prior to sewing I had developed a definite fixed mindset about myself.

(source: BigChange.org)

However, being forced to try something new (for my own sanity) and the acceptance that it was ok to not be great at it because it was a learning PROCESS, has changed the way I think. The effort and reward of achieving something new and producing something beautiful that I am proud of (despite all the mistakes and un-pickings along the way) has nurtured within me a ‘growth mindset’ that is now allowing me to explore new opportunities and to embrace challenges rather than sticking with what is safe, tried and tested. I have to keep pushing myself to attempt new patterns, fabric types and techniques but the love of learning and this ‘making mindset’ is such an important part of my life.

Before, I had thought that hobbies were time consuming and frivolous (teaching is, in itself, an all consuming job then coupling that with motherhood….) but now I see the importance of making time to develop creativity and to continue to learn new things as it can clearly impact positively on all other aspects of my life.  Next week is mental health awareness week and, with this in mind, I challenge you to try to learn something new (obviously sewing/ crafting is the best choice 😉) to see how it can change your mindset too. Let me know how you get on ❤️

sewing

Dealing with Mrs Maverick

I’m a self confessed control freak (what teacher doesn’t like tidiness and organisation). However, I have discovered I also harbour an alter ego- Mrs Maverick-when it comes to my creative endeavours.

Mrs Maverick struggles to let instructions dictate actions. She ignores recipes, laughs in the face of DIY diagrams and questions sewing patterns. Suffice to say, Mrs Maverick has not been my friend over the last few weeks whilst sewing the Simplicity 1801!


This pattern was the first v neck and side zip pattern I had sewn (I’ve only been dressmaking for 10 months) so it required a bit more concentration than the other dress patterns I was familiar with. I decided to make a ‘wearable muslin’, using a cheap purple starred cotton, to check the fit. I am used to bust darts instead of yokes and gathers, which, as a larger busted lady, made me nervous when starting the pattern. At this point Mrs Maverick decided that it would be a good idea to lengthen the bodice section ‘just in case’ to avoid ending up with a waistband that balanced on the boobage rather than nipping in at the waist. This uninformed, unmeasured decision resulted in the back section being too low and the front bodice section bagging around the shoulder area. I put Mrs Maverick back in her box.
The first attempt was still wearable for a night out (even though I didn’t have enough time to do the pockets).

The Goodbye Sonia dress

A couple of weeks later I got out my ‘Pride of London’ fabric from oh sew crafty on eBay and decided to give 1801 a proper go with pockets and everything.

img_5025-e1492895134221.jpg
Then I somehow allowed Mrs Maverick to pipe up again and still added a little length to the front bodice section but (because I can only sew in my non-work day evenings, after the children are in bed and before I collapse into an exhausted heap begging for sleep) I forgot I had done this and failed to alter the back section too. I soon remembered once I was well in to the pattern and the side seams didn’t match! Lesson learnt- do all your cutting in one go!
Before long, Mrs Maverick had persuaded me to fiddle with the seam allowances – which messed up my measurements – and then questioned the instructions for inserting the pocket on the zip side.


This time I had realised the damage Mrs Maverick could do and gave her a good talking to so that I could just follow the instructions step by step, without questioning, without altering. I still don’t understand why I had to sew an inch either side of the dots on the side seam but I managed to let it go. And the overall results have been good (excuse the top underneath but I’m not one for sporting revealing clothes on the internet!)

The ‘pride of London’ dress

I tried really hard to keep the inside neat (I would genuinely like to know why most patterns don’t give details about finishing seams without an overlocker) and am really pleased with the finish I achieved.


I did congratulate Mrs Maverick on her idea to elongate the gathered section of the back skirt as it did make it more flattering over my bootilicious bot.

first effort- centre only gathers

Wider gathered section to reduce bulk at the bot

Overall I really liked the pattern and am pleased with the results but I have learnt that Mrs Maverick is only useful with well practised creative pursuits. I have cooked enough to be able to mess with recipes and still get good results. I have done enough DIY to problem solve effectively as I go, but I currently only have 10 months of dressmaking knowledge and experience crammed into my busy little mind. This inexperience is the reason why Mrs Maverick needs to be kept at bay, just for a while. Or maybe I could set her free on a bit of refashioning….

(check out Sarah Tyau for some inspirationhttps://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rCX_emkXV7o)