Princess Elsa ‘ Frozen ‘ – McCalls M7000

Pretty much the only things that kept me going with this make were how much my little Poppet wanted to dress-up as Elsa and that its my first White Tree Fabrics blog team make.

I’m hoping the results speak from themselves!

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This dress, I have to say, is not for a beginner.

Firstly, the choice of fabrics means that you can be dealing with things slipping and sliding all over the place. I’m not sure I made life particularly easy for myself as the contrast sequined fabric had a slight stretch to it. Pair that with some slidey chiffon and slinky satin, both in wovens and well, it takes a lot of precision in both cutting and sewing to get everything to line up.

The fabrics from White Tree were beautiful and I particularly enjoyed working with the satin. I deliberately chose fabrics that would make a cost effective dress.

Light blue satin / White chiffon / Light blue sequin knit

There are a lot of pattern pieces – 12 in total. That’s a lot of tracing, pining and cutting.

The instructions are a bit on the sparse side.

Now this is generally something that I have come to expect from the Big Four patterns, so I can’t say I was surprised. I largely ignored them and did my own thing. For example, would it not be sensible to suggest that seams are sewn with a french seam on sheer fabrics? The pattern suggested using a ‘double seam’.

Errrrrr…

Yep, I had to look it up too. It suggests, sewing one seam and then another close to it to create two seams, you then trim close to the second seam. I didn’t bother!! Had I engaged my brain before starting, I’d have worked my construction to that I could use french seams, but I didn’t, so in the end I used my overlocker and I’m largely happy with the results. This is after all a dressing up costume, not a couture piece of evening wear!

I was also somewhat puzzled by the lack of instruction to sew a rolled hem on both the chiffon and satin. Instead it suggested sewing a ‘narrow hem’. I checked their definition and nope, they didn’t mean rolled hem. So I ignored that and out came the rolled hem foot!!

I also mostly ignored the construction order, as well it wasn’t particularly time efficient.

I did however manage to impress myself by setting the sleeves in without a single gather or pucker (this was especially impressive as my seam allowances were all over the place – I’d messed up on the bodice and a touch of unpicking was needed).

And I feel I surpassed myself with my sewn button loop!

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One thing I did discover when setting in the sleeves was that there were a lot of layers to match up – the sequin bodice, the bodice lining and the chiffon overlay. So I basted everything together and then pinned and basted the sleeve head in place.

Any helpful guidance from the instructions on this point? Not a sausage!

I used the fabrics suggested by the pattern and if I’m honest, whilst it makes a fabulous replica Elsa dress, it isn’t overly practical for an exuberant 4 year old. I mean, who in their right mind puts a zip in a dressing up costume?

I had intended replacing the zip with some velcro to make it a bit more child friendly and had amended the pattern slightly but realised once I’d cut it all out that my fabric just didn’t have enough strength or structure to cope with the velcro. If I were going to venture down this route again, it would need a separate placket and plenty of interfacing.

Alternatively, whilst this pattern is neither written for nor suggests using knits, I’d use knit fabric and just size down!

My little girl loves her dress. So all the time taken to make it is forgotten.

I’ll leave you with some of the finer details.

 

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Petite Anna from By Hand of London

Anna-at-Greenway I’m sitting here with my leg on a chair and a bag of frozen peas draped around my ankle. 17 days after spraining my ankle whilst out running it’s still swollen and sometimes painful. My physio tells me that it’s heading in the right direction pretty much as she’d expect it to but chances are it’ll still be another 3 – 4 weeks before I can run.

Oh well….. there’s always sewing 🙂 And there has been plenty going on recently, but first I need to get my summer makes out of the way!

I’d forgotten how hectic the summer months get. I had thought that I’d get some sewing done over the school holidays but this year, for some reason, my girls decided that they were going to fall out, scream ‘I hate you’ (generally at each other, occasionally at me!) and go into complete meltdown on a regular basis.

I did however manage to make a dress for ME!!! That was before I realised that the start of term was looming and I needed to get myself together so that the girls both had things to wear – more on that soon.

Last year, I had wanted to make Colette’s Hawthorn but ummm’ed and ahhh’ed over it, mostly because I knew that I was going to have to do an SBA (small bust adjustment) and well, couldn’t quite bring myself to it, plus the fabric that I’d chosen to make it in is a striped seersucker and, well, I couldn’t face the pattern matching either!! Does anyone else get like this?

Anyway, fast forward to this year and I was still procrastinating. For some reason (probably a bit too much reading of Lynne’s blog Ozzy Blackbeard!!), I changed tack completely and downloaded By Hand of London’s Anna dress. Now I know you don’t need to read many sewing blogs to see them cropping up with regularity but the style really appealed to me.

I started off sewing it as is – no alterations. I was pretty confident it wouldn’t fit but I was willing to give it a go! It was obvious I needed a SBA and a few other changes too. Four muslins later, I’d done a 1″ SBA, a small back adjustment and a similar change to the front as well as raising the neckline. I only did a muslin of the bodice, mostly because by this stage I’d had enough!! Despite being 5′ 1″, I didn’t find that I need to shorten the bodice or the length ( I used the PDF  pattern) but I guess that most of the other changes I made are in line with changing something to fit a petite frame.

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SBA’s, I find aren’t discussed with as much regularity as their larger sister the full bust adjustment (FBA). When looking for instructions on how to do an SBA, I’ve often found that you’ll simply see ‘just do the opposite of a FBA’. For those who have been puzzling over the exact same statement, I’ll explain. In a FBA adjustment you draw your adjustment lines on the pattern, cut and move the pattern pieces apart. If you’re doing a SBA, you draw the exact same adjustment lines, cut and this time move the pattern pieces together so that they overlap. How much you overlap them by will depend on  how much you need to reduce the cup size by. A muslin can help determine this by pinching out the excess fabric and measuring it. I did see a reference chart on Pinterest recently but I’m not sure it’s incorporates the full picture.

Fit wise, I’d still like to see a few changes – the shoulders are too wide for me and the neckline doesn’t always sit very well most probably because the shoulders are too wide. Because I hadn’t muslined the skirt and my alterations had meant that the pleats on my bodice had moved, the paneled skirt didn’t line up with the pleats as I imagine it is meant to. I’m sure most people wouldn’t spot that, but the perfectionist in me wants to line them all up.

I had chosen the v neckline on purpose, as normally I’d have gone for the slash neck but I was sewing it to go with a Myrna cardigan as part of Lauren and Andi’s OAL (Outfit Along)

The least said about that the better …. but maybe I’ll share with you one day as there are always lessons to be learned.

The fabric is a cotton lawn from Stone Fabrics and I lined it with an off-white lightweight cotton poplin on their recommendation. And they were spot on, if I had lined it with a darker colour it would have shown through on the lighter coloured flowers.

I really love this dress – despite its minor imperfections – and it has been a bit of a wardrobe staple throughout the summer. I had completely forgotten how easy dresses are to wear and the lack of wardrobe dilemmas involved!

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Well that could be summer all wrapped up. I’m looking forwards to getting some autumn and winter sewing underway, finishing off my first White Tree Fabrics make and getting on with some winter knitting.

How about you? Are you mourning the passing of summer or looking forwards to those cosy knits and snuggly coats?

From maxi-skirt to cape – sewing to order

As I was reading my friend Jo’s blog (Three Stories High) the other day, I realised that a lot of the clothes, accessories etc that I make are very much to order. When I’m sewing for the girls, it just makes sense to sew what they want and get them involved in pattern and fabric choices. As Honey is 8, she’s pretty clear about what she’d like although often has difficulty visualising what things will look like (I’m sure this isn’t only with 8 year olds!!).

Today Honey has taken part in her class assembly where they put on a performance of Julia Donaldson’s ‘The Highway Rat’. It was a fabulous take on a children’s classic and she really looked the part as a ‘highway rat/robber’.

Last week, I was told they needed a ‘costume’ (my heart always sinks a little at this point, as I know I’ll no doubt have to cram some swift refashioning into an already busy schedule). I’m sure there are some amongst you who think ‘why not head to the shops?’ but (a) that’s not very practical for me as it means dragging a 4 year old on the bus and around quite a few shops with no guarantee of success; and (b) why buy new, when really, you can probably ‘make do’?

The brief was a white shirt (preferably frilly), dark trousers & cape. Now I decided that I really didn’t have the energy to go adding frills to a school shirt but we did need to find something that would work as a cape. A root through the lower confines of my wardrobe unearthed a navy sarong which showed promise but after a bit of fiddling I realised that Honey was going to spend all her time making sure that it didn’t slide off her shoulders. I didn’t think her teacher would thank me for that.

Then I discovered a discarded maxi-skirt. I plonked it over Honey’s head…. and hey presto… the beginnings of a cape were born.

It was a very straightforward transformation.

All I did was to cut it up the middle and finish both sides with my overlocker (in fact I didn’t even cut it first, I just went straight in with the overlocker). If you don’t have an overlocker, you could use pinking shears as a no sew option, finish the edges with a zig-zag stitch or for a fully finished approach sew a narrow hem along the edges.

The skirt had some belt loops, so I removed these and used one as a button loop. Other options would be a piece of elastic or piece of bias binding folded and stitched.

To add the button loop, I folder the waistband in half to the inside (so its inside out) and tucked the button loop ends into the seam allowance on the inside (so when you fold it the right side out, it’s on the outside). I then simply overlocked the seam. I created the same seam on the other end of the waist band and turned it the right way out.

I realised that the ribbing of the waistband was going to curl a lot and not stay put. So to put that right, I simply folded it in half, pressed and used a narrow zigzag stitch along the loose edge to keep in place as a double waistband.

Finally, I dug deep into the button tin and found a perfect match!

Et VOILA – from maxi-skirt to highway robber’s cape in less than 40 minutes!!

Now that’s what I call success.

Next on order, I’m afraid it’s a round of school uniform.

How about you? Do you sew to order?

Flowers (or is that weeds?) in the garden – Oliver & S Roller Skate Dress

I am a huge fan of the Oliver & S patterns. They are classic shapes and styles that you can make time after time regardless of how old your child gets; the instructions are beautifully clear and well I’ve yet to have even the slightest hint of a head scratching moment and their pdf patterns tape together perfectly with no hassle whatsoever – which in my mind if a huge bonus!!

As with all my makes, there comes a bit of a story. Each year I make Honey a summer dress for school. The past 3 years, I have been revising and redrafting a self-drafted pattern. This year I felt like doing something different (read, I really didn’t have the energy to re-draft again, oh and fix last years mistakes!).

Last years self-drafted red gingham dress on a perfectly happy & year old!

Last years self-drafted red gingham dress on a perfectly happy & 7 year old!

I had thought that the Roller Skate dress would be a really easy pull-on style dress that would take some of the hassle out of getting changed for PE and maybe speed up the getting ready in the morning process (I can but dream?!). But Honey wasn’t convinced and suggested that maybe I could make her a dress in this fabric that she’d seen in my cupboard and had had her eye on for some time?

Yes – well every mother is a sucker for that routine aren’t they? So here it is, the ‘flowers in the garden’ version of the Roller Skate dress.

It is a seriously quick and rapid make and is fully lined! I took a few measurements first and decided to cut size age 5 for the width and size age 8 for the length and I couldn’t have asked for a better fit.

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And the acid test, does my daughter like it? She loves it. Every time it reappears in her wardrobe fresh from the never-ending laundry cycle, it’s back on her again.

I’m sure you’ll all now want to see the school version that I’ve made, won’t you? …. well, ahem … I haven’t quite got that far and last years dress still fits!!!!

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and yes, Mummy, there are LOTS of dandelions in the garden!

 

 

Bigger Booty shorts ?? My Dualthon’s & the Spring Race Challenge

At the start of April, I was due to run my first half marathon. I’d sorted out an injury, put in the training and whilst feeling rather apprehensive was ready to go. Enter taper week (for races, you tend to have a period of ‘rest’ that lets your body recover and feel refreshed and injury free ready for the big day). I came down with some bug that just left me wiped. I was exhausted and had a horrible rash. A trip to the GP had me leaving with a prescription and some pretty strong words that running was not advisable.

It was a tough decision to make (and I have to say a few tears were shed). I tried a short run the day before the race but it was clear that I was really going to struggle with the distance even at a conservative plod. Suffice to say, I went out and supported my fellow group members who did make it.

Once I recovered, I needed something new to look forwards to. The weather was hotting up and and I thought ‘I need shorts!!’.

I’ve always loved the idea of Melissa from Fehr Trade’s booty shorts.

Look at that concentration?! Market Drayton 10k

Look at that concentration?! I’m no. 426 – Market Drayton 10k

This time, I knew what alterations to make before I started. I used the smallest size and added a smidge to the waist and took an inch or so out of the hips. I didn’t take anything out of the length as I really didn’t think this would be necessary.

They were super speedy to cut out and sew. Even with my inadvertent basting of the pockets the wrong way up (apparently they’re good for tennis ball storage!!), I had them done in very little time.

The fit was great from the first try on (although with hindsight they could probably have done with being slightly snugger through the legs) and I was really pleased with them.

Next step – the test run. I was a bit worried as I often have problems on my crotch seams, with them coming unravelled, so I had sewn my shorts in both directions for extra security. But last thing I wanted was for any incidents on route, so I found the biggest pair of pants I could and off I went!!

I’m pleased to say there were no incidents. I tried them again, in company, later the same week. My friend very kindly pointed out they they were riding up a bit when I was running and revealing , well,  a little cheek!

After a bit of analysis, I decided that they needed to be a bit longer and some griper elastic might not be a bad idea. I used the narrow version from Kleins (think holds up or strapless bras and you’ll picture the silicone beading along the elastic). I sewed it to the right side of each leg (having measured it around my leg first – I think it needs to be a little shorter than your actual leg circumference, I just used the overlap to sew it together). I then stretched and sewed on both the top and bottom edges with a very short, narrow zigzag and then hemmed again (this time much narrower). When I’m not wearing them, I do now have wavy legs from the elastic, but once they’re on, they’re just fine and I don’t notice it’s there.

Do they work, I hear you ask? Yes and no. I think my shorts need to be longer still because they only just provide sufficient coverage. Despite narrow hips I clearly have a big bum!! The elastic works reasonably well, but I think the wider elastic would work better for me.

But you know what, despite their imperfections, I still wear them – they are really comfy to run in and as for the pockets…. they are FABULOUS. So many of the runners in my group are jealous of them.

I do plan to make more pairs of these (another bonus is that I’m sure I can get at least 3 pairs from one metre of fabric – now that’s what I call value!!) but I’m going to make them a little longer and and narrower on the leg and try without the gripper elastic.

Well on my way to fixing those 'funky arms'! - 10k Chase Challenge

Well on my way to fixing those ‘funky arms’! – 10k Chase Challenge

My shorts have now served me well in not one, but two races. My inhaler sits perfectly in the pockets and I don’t even notice it’s there. Although given the length of my t-shirt you can hardly see my shorts!

So here it is: my first entry to Fehr Trade’s Spring Race Challenge! Want to enter? You still have the whole of June to get sewing and sweating.

 

 

 

Spring Race Challenge anyone?

I’m taking part in…

Spring Race Challenge

Well it would be hard not to wouldn’t it? And there is still almost a month left to get sewing and racing!

No races you can think of entering? Why not try Parkrun? These are free 5km events that are held every week around the country and most probably in your local park. If you have kids you can take them with you. Some have shorter runs for children, but otherwise, so long as they’re over 4 years old they can run with you, they get their own time and after 10 runs will get a t-shirt! Check out their website for details as to how to register and “Don’t forget your barcode!”

My first entry will be coming soon. And I may manage to fit another one in before the deadline on 7th July!!

We sweat and we sew!!

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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