Betty Draper goes on vacation – Mad Men Challenge 3 …. ish

I’m new to Mad Men.

After seeing all the posts for last years Mad Men Challenge and following Amy from the Little Tailoress’s beautiful creations, I knew I had to witness the show for myself. Many months later the first disc eventually turned up from a well-known DVD & instant viewing subscription service.

I love it!! The same can’t be said for my husband. OK, so the story is quite pedestrian. Despite my husband making me sit through some seriously dull films, he doesn’t seem to have the staying power for the world of ad men and 1950′s America. He claims that he doesn’t see the point!!

When I saw Julia announce this years Mad Men challenge I started scouting around for inspiration. (At this point, I need to mention that I have somewhat loosely interpreted the challenge – largely due to my own inability to read the small print – in that it was to make a dress!! I …. ahem haven’t)

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The 1950′s housewife that is Betty Draper seems to spend a fair amount of time in flouncy tea dresses. Whilst this may have worked in a bygone age, I don’t find it a particularly practical style for my way of life, gorgeous though they are.

Instead I took my ideas from Betty’s ‘vacation’ outfit, of a fitted, bateau neck top and Bermuda shorts. This is from Season 1, Episode 10 where Betty’s father Gene and his new lady friend Gloria arrive so the whole family (except Don) can go vacation on the Jersey Shore. I love the simplicity of the outfit and thought that it would really work in my wardrobe.

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Season 1, Episode 10 – Image credit TomandLorenzo.com

It took me a while to find the right patterns. I scoured the vintage pattern stores by couldn’t find quite the right thing and then stumbled across Colette Patterns and the Sencha top. It had the key elements I was looking for: a woven top, back button fastening and fitted at the waist.

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I decided that Bermuda shorts weren’t going to quite work in my wardrobe (or with my legs!) so instead I looked for some cropped trousers. As luck, I already had a Burda magazine with a 1950′s inspired vintage section which had some pleat fronted cropped trousers.

Next was where the fun really started!

I made muslins for both. I took 2 1/2 inches out of the Sencha top without really thinking much about it and realised once I had it sewn together that clearly my flat pattern alteration method had needed a little more thought.

Ooppps!

If you only want to take inches out at the bust and leave the waist and hips the same, then clearly taking a whopping inch out of both centre and front and back isn’t going to work as you’ve just taken the same amount off your waist AND hips!

Note to self: think it through first.

I managed to get a workable muslin and altered my flat pattern, flaring out to the waist and hips. I also altered the neckline to give it more of a bateau shape.

After a fair amount of deliberation, I decided to use a purple crossweave cotton that I had in my stash.

You’ll notice that Betty’s top has some kind of design across the front. Despite enlarging and a good deal of squinting I was very undecided as to whether they were seahorses or dragons!! Any guesses anyone?

Ultimately I went for a Spring oriental theme and chose a cherry blossom design from Aimee Ray’s Doodle Stitching opting for a ‘corsage’ approach rather than a repeating pattern across the front – it was a tough call though!! From previous experience, I knew that with this kind of hand embellishment you only get one change at placement so I pinned the sized design onto the top to decide exactly where I wanted it. I then used dressmakers carbon paper to transfer the design before stitching.

 

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Aimee Ray’s Doodle Stitching Cherry Blossom design – hand embroidery

 

The alterations still need a few tweeks. The neck refuses to sit flat and I feel that the back needs a touch more room. Overall though I’m more than happy with it!

I altered the trousers too. Again I made a muslin with the pleat front – hated them so switched them to darts and thought I had taken out the extra fullness and had the front and backs pretty much sorted. I knew I should have done another muslin!!

My changes were way out. I ended up with a very baggy crotch. Fetching, I know!! I owe a huge thank you to Melissa from Fehr Trade for her picture from her fitting book and I managed to eek out enough in the seam allowance to get a passable front. In the end, I did what I should have done to start with; took a whole range of measurements, added in a small amount of ease and then adjusted my finished trousers to match. Again, next time around, I think I’ll have a pretty rocking pair of pants!!

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I have learnt a vast amount about fitting from these two garments and it is abundently clear that a good book would  help a lot. I have Vogue Sewing but something more specialised would help to fill the gaps. What are your favourite fitting resources?

Right – Betty Draper, vacation time it is!!!

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PB Jam capris – a complete runners outfit (Part 1)

My grey supplex leggings are super comfy and go with EVERYTHING but I really fancied something a little more exciting and well when you’re running more than a couple of times a week through mud (blame the weather and my obsession with trail running!) then having more than two pairs of running tights is quite frankly a bonus.

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If you’re into sewing ‘activewear’ then I’m sure you’ll already have seen Melissa from Fehrtrade‘s new line of activewear patterns. When they first came out, I was really taken by them but hesitated as the smallest size was a few inches outside own measurements but then Melissa really listened to what her readers were saying and added a new XXS size. It was close enough for me to put my hand in my pocket and buy the digital PB Jam leggings pattern.

I have to say that it’s a great pattern. Like many Indie designers there is a lot of attention to detail and the instructions are clear and well thought out. Melissa does label this as an intermediate pattern and I’d agree. I’m not vastly experienced at sewing with knit fabrics (2 tees and 3 pairs of leggings is my total experience!) and me and my overlocker have a bit of a love/hate relationship going on but nevertheless, I got there in the end.

Now first off I made a few flat pattern alterations. I’m short (5′ 1′ to be precise) so as there is a back knee ‘patch’ I needed to try and get it hitting in the right place. Helpfully Melissa’s pattern marks the hip and knee line. Essentially, I taped all the leg and swoosh pieces together, overlapping the seam allowances, then took out my tape measure and decided how long the legs needed to be. I then divided the amount to be taken out into two and took a portion out above the knee (to get it into the right place) and a portion out below the knee. Melissa had already told me that there was no shaping in the swooshes, which was handy as I had to slightly re-draw the front swoosh as my slash line went partially through it.

In the end, I decided that I wouldn’t use the back knee patch and fortunately because of my short legs still managed to cut my pieces out of one piece of main fabric.

NOTE: if you need the full leg length and decide go without the back knee patch you will need more fabric.

I was a little unsure of the fit as the hip measurement was slightly larger than my own and the waist measurement a little smaller. But I decided to sew up and fit as I went along. Knits are pretty forgiving in the fit department.

Now, here’s where we come to the bit where my overlocker and I don’t get along! Sewing in a straight line is fine but curves are another matter and I have no seam allowance gauge so it’s all a bit of guesswork!! Thanks to Winnie at Scruffy Badger Time and her timely blog post I found a much more efficient way to rip out overlocked seams that didn’t require the entire lounge to be vacuumed each time. It was also super quick. I confess it took me a few attempts until I was happy with my swooshes.

I then used the basting stitch on my sewing machine to sew the in and out leg seams before trying on to check the fit.

I took a bit out of the side seams and the centre seams – probably about an inch overall – and I slightly altered the crotch curve. I also found for some reason that I needed to take a chunk out at the centre back, my bum is clearly not that large!!

Once I was happy with my basted fit, I marked the seam line with a trusty felt tip pen (washable of course :) ), unpicked my stitching and sewed my seams with the overlocker. Before sewing however, I had to realign my front and back swooshes. I could get them spot on with pins but as soon as they went through the sewing machine or overlocker they moved.

I doubt this was helped by the navy and red fabrics being different thicknesses. The red was much lighter and stretchier and moved around a lot. Despite basting my swooshes together, I struggled to get the overlocked seams to match up perfectly and they were stretching about under the presser foot (maybe I should have adjusted the pressure of the foot?). I unpicked a number of times and well one of them is pretty much spot on, the other side less so – oh well!

I was really impressed with the fit once I had them all together.

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The waistband went on fine and then I just had to hem them. It was such a gloriously sunny day when I was making them that I couldn’t help but turn them into capris. I actually think given my height it helps to balance out the swooshes for my shape. I just marked how long I wanted them, added on 3cm hem allowance and stitched them using a twin needle on my sewing machine.

I always overlock the edges first and make sure that I remember to stretch as I go – otherwise you tend to find that you go to put your foot through and it’s a bit of squeeze and you end up with broken stitches.

Since sewing the hem and waistband with a twin needle on my sewing machine, I’ve since found some alternative settings on my sewing machine that work better and give me more even stitching and no skipped stitches. The only other change I would make, would be to give myself a little more room in the waist ;)

My capris had a long test run out the other Sunday and have since been through the wash and in the dryer. They’re brilliant and I’m amazed each time I put them on that *I* made them.

Of course I had to make a top to go with them – this is Maria Denmark’s Birgitte Basic T. I’ll save the details for next time.

For this time of year, I find this outfit a great compromise. I don’t find it quite warm enough for a short sleeved tee and yet I get a bit warm in leggings and  long sleeves.

If you fancy sewing capris without pattern alterations then you won’t have to wait long! Melissa will be launching her third pattern next week – the Dualthon!

I think I’m ready for the ‘Booty Shorts’. How about you? I think they’re going to be just perfect for racing in and for taking on the Spring Race Challenge. Now just to find a race?!

It’s all about running – Kwik Sew 3455 leggings

I’m new to running.

I started running over the summer when I found that I needed a sanity break whilst I wasn’t walking my 20 -30 miles on the school run.

Once school started again, I kept going.

To start with I just ran in what I had in my drawer but as the months went by I realised that I probably needed a few more clothes, if only to cut down on the times the washing machine was on!

First off I hit the shops. It was depressing. Nothing fitted particularly well. Too big, too long……

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So naturally I turned to my sewing machine. I found Kwik Sew 3455 – looked simple enough and ordered some grey (yawn ….. boring) supplex from Tissu.

I sewed up a size small  straight off the pattern based on my measurements. It’s a one piece pattern (aside from the gusset – yep, you heard me right, they are gussetted leggings) and a doddle to sew.

But they were HUGE and very baggy. Not a good look! I must have lopped some 6 inches out of the thighs and a couple out of the hips and waist. They could probably do with a bit more out at the hip/ waist area if I’m honest.

They have been out loads of times, through the mud, raced in them and been in and out of the washer and dryer. They’re fabulous, super soft, bobble free and haven’t shrunk a bit.

I also ran up a belt using this tutorial. It’s great for popping my phone and keys in and there’s even enough space to cram my gloves in. It was quick and straightforward to sew and the foldover elastic (purchased from here) went on a treat – much easier than I’d thought. It works so well,  I often forget I have it on!!

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There’s a lot in there!! Gloves, phone and keys

Next up I’m going for something a little more exciting - Fehrtrade’s PB Jam Leggings. They’ve been on a test run (one 11 miler and a hill training session) and now all I’m waiting for is a photographer to be around when it’s still daylight – roll on British Summer Time!!

My friend ‘Chuck’

Chuck by Andi Satterlund

It’s knitting time again!!

I’m sure the seasoned knitters amongst you won’t need me to tell you it’s Andi Satterlund’s Chuck.

It’s a super simple pattern (don’t let the cables deceive you) that in aran weight yarn knits up quickly. I love the way the sleeve heads are knit using short rows – they fit perfectly with no seams whatsoever.

I used Colinette’s Skye yarn in Morello Mash which I bought from my local yarn store. I have a thing for Colinette yarns, they’re pretty local being only over the border in Wales and the colours and yarns are just gorgeous. They are a touch on the pricey side – but you get what you pay for in this instance.

My tension was a smidge on the tight side (I knitted on 4.5 mm needles and could have done with using 5mm instead) so this did come out a little on the ‘smaller than intended’ size. I wasn’t taken by the cropped length on me, so I added a couple of inches to the bottom band of ribbing and cast off using the super-stretchy method (which adds wraps to the usual process of casting off) to allow for a bit more space at the top of my hips. And then the sizing was nothing a bit a blocking and a spell on ‘Dolly the dressmaker dummy’ didn’t fix.

I have had to be creative to get my Chuck to fit into my daily wardrobe as most of my bottom halfs don’t come up as far as my waist, but it’s  nothing I’ve found a longer top underneath doesn’t fix.

Close up of cables

I am loving Andi’s patterns. I knitted a Miette for a friend last year and I have already bought Agatha but I really fancy a ‘Hetty‘ for summer. But for the moment I am working on Iceland from Rowan 42.

Crafting never stops…

Catching up on makes

Phew!! It’s been a while. And I have to say that the sewing, knitting and general crafting doesn’t halt but the blogging about it often gets sidelined.

Christmas was a busy time. I must have churned out some 11 handmade items, some of which are featured above. And not one for me :( So it’s time to play catch up!

1. Not really a Christmas make, but one that has never been shared. You may remember I made the Oliver & S School Days coat for Honey and that I had a Burda pattern (View C of  9676) in the making for Poppet. Well it proved so popular that I couldn’t get it off her long enough to take any decent pictures. That and it being in the wash rather often – permanent black marker (I nearly cried, until I discovered hairspray – yes, folks it gets black marker out of clothes) and a good share of mud. She loves it and even with us now being in winter still wants to wear it. I have a feeling it might not be big enough this summer.

2. A little fishes key ring (free gift kit from Mollie Makes issue 29) – one of those little gifts that takes far longer than you want it to! I found as it was so dainty and fiddly that the sewing machine really didn’t work and had to sew it by hand (as per the instructions). I didn’t used the supplied fabric but instead scraps left over from the fabulous bundle from M is for Make.

3. A dachshund pencil case. This kind of thing is great for practicing inserting zips without you being too worried about the finish and is somewhere super cute to keep your pens and pencils!

4. Elephant pyjama bottoms in a super cosy cotton flannel (now out of stock) for Honey. The pattern (#40) is from Ottobre which Jo from Three Stories High has lent me. It’s a plus-size pattern so I had to alter it somewhat to get it to a sensible size. I also made a t-shirt style pyjama top (#38) from the same magazine in the same knit fabric as the tie. They have been a big hit!

5. The eagle eyed amongst you will already have spotted that this is a Cooper from Colette’s Walden collection. It’s a fabulous pattern which comes together beautifully. I used waxed cotton and some waterproof fabric left over from Honey’s coat for the lining. My husband was very impressed with it and despite knowing and seeing my makes was really blown away by the fact that I’d made it. Luckily, I used a bag that had seen better days to reclaim the hardware. I WILL be making one of these for me – maybe with slightly adjusted proportions – probably in some Cath Kidston inspired oilcloth.

6. Meet Little Red Riding Hood and Mr. Wolf! Cute aren’t they? They’re crocheted amigurumi from issue 10 of Simply Crochet. Now I don’t normally crochet but when I saw the magazine I couldn’t resist especially as a certain little person has a real thing for Little Red. I’m very touched that she often asks for her at bedtime. This is a real honour as neither of my children have ever shown any interest in taking soft toys or anything else to bed.

7. Two makes in one. The scarf really was a Labour of Love, knitted in Debbie Bliss Angel (so close to Rowan Kidsilk Haze you wouldn’t notice the difference) this is the Olivia Mohair scarf with bobbles. For saying it was just a scarf it probably took some 7 days of pretty consistent knitting to finish it – I was in panic mode. It has a beautiful pattern and I love how it turned out but I shan’t be knitting it again!

And the dress is Figgy’s Sunki in purple Ponte di Roma. Not a suggested fabric as the dress is intended for wovens but nevertheless a pretty successful make. One thing I need to remember in future is that I need to take a chunk out at centre back and front to get a better fit. It’s a shame that you can’t see the design lines in this fabric clearly. The dress I think has a real sixties vibe to it and I think would work well as a colour blocked design.

There you have it – a small collection of my recent makes. Stay tuned to see what pops up next ….. I may just have sewn jeans.

All cosied up – Beth from Kim Hargreaves

Beth from Kim HargreavesThere seems to be a lot of knitting going on round here. I blame the weather. I’m afraid that when I look outside and it’s dark, damp and dismal all I can think of are cosy cardigans and sumptuous sweaters.

I have been eyeing up ‘Beth’ from Kim Hargreaves Amber – A winter gathering book for quite some time. I always thought it would take ages to knit (double moss stitch, need I say more?) and the 8 balls of Rowan Big Wool are probably enough to put all but the über affluent off.

But then my lovely friend Sharon asked me if I might be able to alter a cardigan for her. It’s one that she had in her maternity days and is clearly now too big.  I took one look at it, and said “err, not really. Your best bet would be to unpick it and start again” and then I found myself with a job!

Double moss stitchThe unpicking was probably the hardest bit – trying to find the ends and then actually undo the seams was laborious and tedious to say the least. I weighed up all the yarn and figured I had a good 800 grams of yarn. My tension square was perfect – so I can say with reasonable confidence that the yarn is Rowan Big Wool as I know that most of the similar yarns knit to ever so slightly different tensions.

I used a tip that I’d picked up and knitted the back and one sleeve first. This takes you to roughly the half way point of the project so if you’re half way through your yarn you should have enough to finish. I didn’t want a repeat of the whole Edie saga!

I was really surprised by how quick it all knitted up. I was expecting it to take ages – yep the big needles, the double moss stitch all make for slow knitting BUT the simple pattern and bulky wool means that it grows almost as quickly as Jack’s beanstalk!

I made the 34in chest version and it fits beautifully on ‘Dolly’ – it’s too big for me, so if I were to knit if for myself I would probably knit the 32in and definitely make it shorter. Now just to finance it…..

The most challenging bit about this make was finding the buttons! It needed 3 large and 2 medium buttons. In the end I managed to find some on Ebay.

And there we have it – a speedy make to keep you nice and cosy over the coming wintery months.

The buttons

Ghostly goings on – sew your own Halloween ghost costume

I’m normally a bit ‘bah humbug’ about the whole Halloween thing and have been known to put up one of those ‘No trick or treaters’ posters!

But then I had children who went to school and along came the Halloween disco…

Halloween ghost

Now, every year I let Honey decide what she’d like to dress up as and get my creative head on and design a costume. Previous years have seen me refashion a tunic top as a witches costume and get creative with a long drapey skirt and a coat hanger to make bat wings.

This year the request was for a ghost.

OK, so I could have gone for a sheet, plonked it over her head cut a couple of holes for the eyes and said “off you go!” but that would have been too easy.

This was a pretty straightforward make and everything except the face paints and tights I already had.

Want to make your own? Here are some brief instructions to create the look.

Fabric choices – something light weight as it will give a better drape. I used white polycotton sheeting for the main fabric. I also added an underskirt as I knew otherwise I’d not hear the end of the tight sticking issues – I used some standard (ish – it has a bit of a crinkle effect going on) white lining fabric

Ghostly going's on

1. I cut a large rectangle, folded at the head end that was long enough to reach the ground and went a bit further than each outstretched arm. To do this, I just got Honey to lie down on top of the fabric. You could be more accurate and take measurements.

2. Cut a head opening in the middle. Fold your doubled rectangle in half and cut out a curved shape at the corner – try using a plate/saucer. Don’t worry if it ends up too big – you can always sew it up a bit.

3. Make a vertical cut at the centre front from the head opening down – approx 20 cms long so that your child can get their head in!

4. Mark the ‘dress’ shape on your fabric after having folded it in half along the centre front and in half across the neck edge. If your fabric has a right and a wrong side, do this right sides together.

kimono shape

5. Cut along the lines and then stitch using your chosen seam allowance

6. Finish the edges (you will need to clip under the arms making sure you don’t clip your stitching). I just used the pinking shears everywhere.

8. Finish the edges of the centre front opening (that you created at 3) using bias binding folded in half.

7. Using your tape measure on its edge measure your desired neck opening. You are going to need this measurement to construct a hood.

8. Add seam allowances – one for creating a hem on the hood and another for joining the two halves together

9. Draw a hood shape. The bottom edge will be half your total measurement calculated at 8.

10. Cut out two hood shapes. Join down the curved edge. Finish the front edge of the hood.

11. Attach the hood to the neck edge. You may need to ease (I added a small pleat at the back!) or clip some of the curved edges to get it to fit.

12. Fold two approx 20 cms lengths of bias binding in half and stitch along the edge. These will make your ties. Attach ties to the top of the centre front opening on either side just below the hood.

Hurrah! You have now finished the main ghost costume.

Next up, add you finishing touches. I used my pinking shears and cut leaf shapes all the way round the bottom edge and around the end of the sleeves. As I knew the costume would be worn with tights I also made an underskirt. I used Tasia’s wonderful tutorial reducing the ease slightly as this is for a 7 year old. I added the same leaf shapes using my pinking shears to the underskirt too.

Little Miss Ghostie

Finally, I used Snazaroo face paints to add the ghostly make up and found some white eyeball covered tights!

Honey was unrecognisable!!