Saturday 29 August 2020

The Inevitable Lola Top

I loves me a top with ruffles, so obviously I fell in love the Lola top pattern by Fibre Mood as soon as I saw it. However, I've already made plenty of tops that feature ruffles, plus I'm trying to curb my sewing-related spending, so I decided not to buy it. Then I saw Kate from Time to Sew's (@timetosew) lovely versions, and my decision was overruled. And the fact that it has the same name as my daughter seemed to be further confirmation that I should make it.


Fibre Mood pattern magazine is sold by The Foldline, but they were out of stock when I looked for it. I then saw that the individual PDF pattern was on sale for €5 via the Fibre Mood website. (I later discovered that Fibre Mood is stocked in my local WHSmith, grrr!!!) So it would appear that with Fibre Mood, you receive a link to download the pattern files via email after purchase (as you'd expect), however, the instructions then have to be downloaded via the website (as you would not expect, perhaps). After a million attempts I just couldn't seem to log on to access the instructions though, and feeling like I was going crazy. Finally, I found out that the account you set up to make a purchase is different to the account you make to access the website and community (roll-y eye emoji). 

Anyways, this pattern intrigued me as it had a few features that were unlike other ruffle tops I've made. The back half is comprised of various panels which help create a sweet open-back section. The top is fastened with a tie at the back neck so the garment is loose enough to get on and off over your head, whilst still looking fairly fitted.

As per usual, I made a couple of changes to the pattern. Firstly, I blended between sizes, sizing up at the waist and hips. My ability to do this is the reason I could never go back to buying clothing in shops! I also pinched out 2cm from the length of the torso to account for my short-waistedness. After holding the front paper pattern piece up to my body, I chose to lower the bust dart. But after trying on the finished garment, I think this was unnecessary. 


I've been on a massive stash-busting kick lately, and digging deep to unearth some pieces that have been in there for many years. This fabric is some light-to-medium weight cotton sateen, and its slight reflective quality is what's making it look a bit weird in these photos I think. The fabric is a gorgeous tomato-red colour, and if I recall, it was given to me by my friend Claire at least eight years ago.


Making this top was really fun, and took a bit more time and concentration than most of the projects I've undertaken recently. I found that the lower edge of the cut-out section was a bit gape-y and my bra strap was clearly visible. To combat this, I unpicked it a bit and tightened the elastic. This has helped a lot, but my strap is still visible at times (so I hear). For a future version, I would raise the height of that lower centre back panel. 

'Thanks' to semi-lockdown, I haven't found an opportunity to wear this top since I completed it. I feel that the sateen makes it a too fancy for day wear, but maybe that's just my perception and I could change it. It really feels like Autumn has kicked in now, so unless I find myself going out in the evening some time soon (unlikely!), this top may not see much wear util 2021. 

Friday 14 August 2020

Hawaiian Helios Dress

I'll be honest with you, I don't remember too much about the construction of this sewing project. These photos were taken a year ago, shortly after I made this dress, and my memory of the blow-by-blows is hazy. The reason I waited a year to blog about it is because this week was the first time I got to wear it. The dress was made to showcase a new fabric design (more on this in a sec), and was on display at a couple of fabric and sewing shows. Seeing as large-scale shows (both trade and public) are not happening for the foreseeable future, the dress resurfaced and I got to give it a whirl during this week's heatwave. 


I was given the opportunity to sew with some of the first batch of fabric produced by Fabric Godmother. All their prints have been developed using vintage pattern designs derived from textiles, wallpaper and even floor tiles. They were all lovely, but this amazing Hawaiian design called 'Hula' sung out to me the loudest.

The base cloth is a viscose crepe, which is a fabric type that I have little experience using. As you'd expect with a viscose, it can be quite slippy, so I really had to take my time cutting out the pattern pieces. Stitching it wasn't too challenging, but pressing flattens the texture somewhat, hence the slight fluted appearance of the sleeve hems in these pictures. They'll lay flatter once the dress has been washed, I have no doubt. 

One of the things I love about this fabric is the scale of the print. The designer has clearly thought about it carefully, and with garment sewing firmly in mind. It's large enough for the images to be recognisable from afar, but not so large that it limits the types of garments you can make from it. 

The colours are great too. As a lover of Hawaiiana and Hawaiian-inspired fabric, I'd be the first to admit that the colours are usually very bold. But the colour palette in this feels more wearable, and makes me think of vintage postcards sent from holidays long passed. 


Fabric Godmother also allowed me to choose a pattern to use to try out their fabric. Historically, I don't gravitate towards flow-y fabric to sew with, so I had to give my pattern selection a lot of thought. I have, however, experienced many hot days, both on abroad and in the UK, when I wished my warm-weather clothing selection was a bit bigger. A floaty dress that skimmed my body would have been very welcome. 

Eventually I opted for the Atelier Scammit Helios dress pattern, because it had the breezy style that would suit a viscose, plus it had a cinched-waist silhouette that I feel my body needs. As with most Atelier Scammit pattern designs, the Helios dress pattern offers multiple style possibilities (see below). There are two sleeve variations and three lengths. I went for the less dramatic sleeves, and picked the tier-free skirt shape but lengthened it to hit just below my knee. 

(image source: Atelier Scammit)

Elastic is inserted into the back half of the waist, and the front is pulled in with a drawstring, meaning that although it defines the waist, it's still really comfy and can be adjusted easily. Of course, I had to position the waist channel higher than the pattern recommended to account for my short-waistedness. 

As you can see, the neckline is a deep V-shape. I normally dislike V-shaped necklines on me (unless it's at the back!), but I think the width and depth of this one looks nice.


As you can tell, this project and garment took me out of my comfort zone. Sewing with an unfamiliar fabric pushed me, and since this project I have taken on a number of viscose and slinky fabric projects. The style still isn't something I'm immediately drawn to, but when I wore it during this week's heatwave, it felt fantastic. This also raises the dress-tally of my wardrobe to two (discounting two shorter ones that I now wear as tunics over jeggings)!

Wednesday 12 August 2020

Lola's Remade Sundress

About a third of my stash consists of clothes destined to be remade in some way. The original version of this dress (pictured below) was made using some vintage Laura Ashley printed cotton and a vintage Simplicity sewing pattern. I made it 9 years ago, but truth be told, the fit wasn't very good. Why I didn't just toile up the front and back bodice pieces, I don't know.  

Because of the poor fit, it only got a couple of wears, so the fabric was still in excellent condition and prime for remaking. This summer, Lola was short on warm-weather clothes. She loves wearing dresses that have a fitted bodice and a full skirt, which I felt I could easily create from this similar-styled garment. I carefully unpicked the original dress, retaining the side seams and binding of the skirt section. 

To make a pattern for Lola's version I started off with the bodice pieces from a children's pattern from a recent edition of Burdastyle magazine. Lola likes the waistline of her clothes pretty low so I lengthened the pieces. I want it to last two summers, and therefore needs to survive at least one grow spurt. I did what I should have done for the original dress and made a toile of the bodice to assess the fit. This told me I needed to reduce it across the width, but otherwise it looked alright. 

Because the adult version's skirt was obviously going to be too long, I had a bit of fabric from the top of the skirt section to play with which became the straps. Unlike the original dress, I decided to line the bodice of this incarnation. I lined it using some red poly/cotton from my stash (that had been table clothes at Pat and my wedding!), inserting the straps into the seam at the neckline at the front. 

Next I attached the skirt. The original skirt was never very full, so I used the full width of what was available. The original dress had the zip inserted into the side seam but I wanted to position the it in the centre back this time round, which meant that the other, former, side seam ended up at the centre front. Thankfully my original pattern matching wasn't bad, and it's largely hidden amongst the gathers anyhow. 

With the skirt attached and zip inserted, it was time to sort out the other end of the straps. My first thoughts were to have the straps simply going over the shoulders. I got her to put the dress on, and after some playing around, I discovered that a cross back style was possible. I planned to stitch on some buttons at the back as a decorative feature, however, when I realised that it was going to be too tricky for her to get the dress on and off with the straps stitched in place, I added buttonholes and made the buttons functional. It adds some additional future-proofing too, as I can restitch the buttons a little further down on the straps in the future.


What often surprises me about adult's-to-kid's clothes refashions is how little fabric there is left over! I guess this is especially so now that my six-year-old is almost in eight year old-sized clothing! I'm thrilled that the lovely fabric got to have another life, and she definitely enjoys wearing it. If I say so myself, I think I nailed the fit of the bodice: it's fitted (as per her liking), but not too tight (as per my liking!). Remaking garments always throws up challenges that a regular sewing project that started with an adequate length of fabric wouldn't have. But working out how to roll with those, and coming out with a wearable garment that the recipient enjoys wearing is super satisfying. It also feels like a 'free' project!  

Monday 10 August 2020

Ankara Roberts Collection Jumpsuit

I've been getting a lot of satisfaction recently from using some of the older pieces from my fabric stash. This African wax print (AKA Ankara) fabric has been in there for at least 8 years, and became many different project in my mind before I actually made it into this jumpsuit. 


To finally get this fabric out of my stash and into my wardrobe, I added it to my #2020makenine plans (which you can see in this post). As Ankara/African wax print fabric goes, this one is pretty stiff, so finding the right project for it had taken me some time. I'd pre-washed it twice to see if it would soften up, but I think that's only going to come with lots of wear and the sporadic washes it will receive over (hopefully) years. 

As you can see, this fabric as a bold, large-scale print. I had quite a bit of it, but full-length jumpsuit patterns are hungry for fabric, so I didn't have the luxury of trying to match sections of the print at any point. I think the random-ness and resultant placement looks fine though. 


I've been in love with the Roberts Collection pattern by Marilla Walker for yonks. You get a lot of bang for your buck with this one, as the pattern includes a jumpsuit, dungarees, pinafore and top patterns. I finally decided to buy it in paper form from Fabric Godmother just before lockdown. 

(image source: Marilla Walker)

I traced the pieces for the jumpsuit off as I wanted to retain the original. I knew I'd been making some adjustments, plus you never know if you'll need a different size somewhere further down the line. Firstly, I altered the shape of the back pieces, to change the inverted V-shaped seam (see the line drawings below) into a regular, straight waist seam. I always have to remove length from the torso of tops, dresses and jumpsuits, and even though I then folded out 2cm from the front and back pieces to account for this, I wanted the option to add some length back or remove more length, should a mid-way fitting deem it necessary. 

(image source: Marilla Walker)


I was hoping that the unfussy, casual style of the pattern would prove a suitable canvas for this intense print, and overall I think it just about works. There's a slight vibe of sleeping onesie/pyjamas about it, but that doesn't bother me at all. I could have positioned the lowest button slightly higher, which I would alter next time. Plus there's something slightly off with the fit around my bum (it often needs readjusting after leaning forwards) but it's not a major issue, and I reckon I could sort that out for future versions by comparing the rise of this pattern with the rise of the Heyday dungarees pattern. Ultimately though, I'm very happy with this make and wearing it is a lot of fun. I've got more older-stash items busting to share with you soon. 

Friday 7 August 2020

Free Pattern Friday: DIY Floor Pouf

Welcome to my monthly 'Free Pattern Friday' feature, where I road test a free sewing pattern or tutorial: sometimes a children's one, sometimes an adult's one. And today, one for the home! I publish these posts every first Friday of the month, timed to provide inspiration for those who plan to get their sew on over the weekend. I firmly believe that, if you pick your projects carefully, sewing doesn't have to be a crazy-expensive way to clothe yourself and your family. Thanks to all the amazing pattern designers who have offered up their hard work for us to enjoy for free.

The free pattern that I'm reviewing this month has been round for a couple of years, but it's one that you kind of need to save up for. I'm not talking about money, of course, I'm talking about saving up fabric scraps. The DIY Pouf pattern by Closet Core Patterns (formerly Closet Case Patterns) packs a double scrap-busting punch: you can use up stable, mid-to-heavy-weight woven leftovers for the outer, and stuff it with just about anything at all. To access the pattern files you will need to sign up to their newsletter. Big thanks must go to the Closet Core team for helping the entire sewing community work out what to do will all their fabric scraps!

(image source: Closet Core Patterns)

Pattern type:

According to the supporting Closet Core blog post, this is a Moroccan inspired floor pouf which can be can be embellished by applying piping into the seams. The pouf has a zipped opening so the contents can be removed so the outer can be washed when necessary. The pattern consists of three pieces, and the instructions are in the form of an aforementioned blog post. 

Sizing info:

When fully stuffed, the pouf should be about 51cm/20" across and 28cm/11" high when fully stuffed, however I found that mine squashes down and spreads out so it is usually wider and lower than this. You could alter the scale on the printer settings to make it wider/narrower or taller/shorter. 

Fabric info:

For the outer pieces, Closet Core recommend 'sturdy, medium to heavyweight fabric; you can use lighter weight fabric if you interface them first'. You will also need a long zip, buttons, velcro or press studs to fasten the opening. As you can see, I took the opportunity to use up a bunch of the denim scraps that I still had leftover after making my patchwork denim coat. Inside are all sorts of tiny fabric scraps, hole-y socks, and unwanted/un-donate-able clothing. A friend of mine managed to pack hers with an entire double duvet set and still had room for more! 


Making this was a whole load of fun. We used it as an opportunity for my daughter to have a go at using my machine to stitch a couple of seams on a 'real' project. The pattern pieces included all necessary information and fit together perfectly, and the tutorial in blog-post form meant that I could follow along on my phone without having to get my laptop out. Obviously, I left off the piping on my version. I'm not a massive fan of piping on soft furnishings, and excluding it made this an even speedier make. 

What I have found is that mine does NOT stay a perfect pouf shape. After being sat on (or receiving a battering from the kids), it gets easily squashed, and flattens and spreads out. I had to kick and whack it back into shape to take these pictures! My husband hates it as he thinks its a waste of space in our already cramped lounge. I have heard from others that the contents kind of settle, so I definitely need to stuff it some more, but I doubt it'll ever retain the desired shape permanently, unless we leave it untouched! 

Customisation ideas:
  • Alter the size or make it taller/shorter to suit your room and preferences.
  • If you have an old, unwanted bean bag, you could fill it with bean-bag-beans instead of fabric scraps. 
  • Tape together two of the wedge-shaped pattern pieces so you could make the top section from six wedges instead of twelve. 
  • Add top stitching along the seam lines for extra detail, which might be particularly welcome if you've used entirely solid-coloured fabrics, or even the same fabric, to cut all the pieces (I very nearly added gold, jeans-style top stitching to mine).
  • Instead of filling it with fabric scraps, you could use it as storage for soft toys.
  • Patchwork together smaller pieces to cut the pattern pieces from.

Would I make it again?

As much as I LOVE the idea of having the new-found ability to make pieces of furniture, I'm not sure how many of these realistically we need. Maybe I'll make another further down the line to go in one of the kid's bedrooms (in my fantasy-future home where my kids each have their own room!). I would like to encourage any one interested to make one of these though, as having a semi-useful depository for tiny, unusable fabric scraps has got to be better than chucking them all in landfill.

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