Mara Blouse Pattern Test for Compagnie M

A few weeks ago I was really excited to find out that I had been selected by Marte at Compagnie M to carry out a pattern test for her new Mara Blouse, a soon to be released pattern which will be available for download on her website.

Marte is a sewer, blogger and pattern drafter based in Belgium who has been releasing free patterns for funky children’s clothes for a while now. Recently she’s decided to branch out and plans to offer some for paid download too. One of the first of these to be available will be the charming Mara Blouse.

I was excited to be a pattern tester, but nervous too – what if it all went wrong? What if the pattern was too advanced for me? Could I get it all done in the time? But I desperately wanted to do it so as soon as the link to the downloadable pdf was sent over I printed out the pattern and stuck it all together.

The cutting lines are well spaced and colour coded which makes it really simple to cut out.

One thing I love about kids clothes is that you can often use up remnants in your fabric stash. I used some linen left over from my Mathilde blouse and some Amy Butler scraps left over from some placemats I made my mum about 5 years ago. I love the look of using the fabric for the yoke as the back bodice fabric too.

3 fabrics turnaround

I wasn’t sure about using the three different fabrics at first but I think it looks really fun and bright.

full hanging with raspberry

We did our little photoshoot at a local pick-your-own farm.

This is the first time I’ve used piping on a garment and it was a little fiddly – but I was in at the deep end trying to put it around a curved yoke. It was worth the effort though, it really sets off the contrasting fabrics well.

hanging cu

I found the yoke tricky to fit (because I followed the instruction wrongly!) but got there in the end.

I didn’t have enough fabric to match the pattern on the little butterfly sleeves but they still look cute! I also realised I had sewn the pink linen wrong side up so my pintucks turned out like pleats, but I think it looks nice like this anyway and after the struggle to fit the yoke I was NOT unpicking it!

smiley

Smiley shot – complete with strawberry juice on shorts!

It’s a great fit and I made no adjustments, S is small for her age and I used age 3 size.

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Pattern drafting – girl’s apron dress!

I did it! I made my own pattern – okay so it’s very simple and there’s plenty of room for improvement but I’m really pleased with it.

I started off by taking my daughter’s measurements and also measuring some of the clothes she is wearing at the moment. Then I made some sketches and started drafting the pattern pieces. I thought it best to keep things simple to start off with.pattern

draftingcutting

I wanted to make a pinafore with a cross over back like one of her dollies has. I thought it would be great to have big deep pockets to put all her bits and bobs in.

sewing

In the first draft I made I used her exact measurements…I quartered her chest measurement, added seam allowance and used it to draft a front and back piece to be cut on the fold. I forgot to add ‘wiggle room’ and the thing fitted like a sausage skin and she couldn’t sit down!! So I had to let the seams out a lot which has made the inside a bit dodgy in places.

I love the toadstool button on the front pocket and the vintage buttons I used on the straps.

split pic of serensplit pic 2

I should have stay stitched the shaping on the back yoke and skirt because the fabric on the back skirt piece stretched when I was putting it together – I ended up putting in a little pleat  in the back – I actually really like this feature and will put a proper pleat in if I do it again. I also think I could have gone with more of an a-line on the skirt, it looks a little boxy in the pictures and a little too long.

It was really satisfying to design and make something from scratch…the downside is Seren really doesn’t want to wear it and much bribery was involved in the taking of these pictures! Maybe next time I’ll try and draft something for myself – if anyone has recommendations for some pattern drafting books, let me know…

 

Denim Ginger Skirt

I was looking for a smartish denim skirt that I could wear to work, but also dress down at the weekends and decided to go for the Colette Ginger skirt. It is SOOO simple to make and has three different waistbands to choose from  and the shaped ones add a nice bit of detail to an otherwise plain skirt.

full length no head

(I even got my legs out…apologies!)

I chose the curved waistband for my denim version. I’m trying to choose patterns that I can learn some new techniques in at the moment and this was my first invisible zip! Well, actually it was my second because I had to rip the first attempt out and start all over again as I had ended up a blatantly obvious zip rather than an invisible one (didn’t take a photo of that – I should have done)!

zip

(a bit creased from the car journey but pretty near invisible)

To install the zip I followed the tutorial on the Colette website which were really clear. The issue the first time around for me was that I hadn’t pressed it down enough with the iron before I started, so I couldn’t get as close to the zip as I needed to when I was sewing. The other problem was that I didn’t have an invisible zip foot for my machine – I just used the normal zip foot, which was tricky but worked okay in the end. It’s not completely invisible but I think it looks pretty good for a first/second attempt.

I did the facing with some ticking I had spare and edged the seams with homemade bias binding in the same fabric. In some parts I managed to make a complete bodge of this very simple task, I think I got a bit over excited and rushed at the end so had to redo some bits there too.

lining shot

I had some help from a friend to do the hem who had an amazing free-standing hem measuring device with little fold out legs – it worked a treat, this is the best hem I’ve ever done. I can only seem to find them on ebay. I decided to hand stitch an invisible hem as although it’s denim I didn’t use top stitching anywhere else so I thought it might look a bit odd.

hem measurer

(hem gadget! – I want one – have ever used one?)

I’m really pleased with this skirt, I’ve already worn it loads – one weird thing is that subconsciously my brain wants it to have pockets and I keep going to put things in them then finding they’re not there. Maybe it’s just the denim tricking me into thinking I’m wearing jeans. It’s a bit creepy – have you ever had phantom pocket problems?

silly pose

Cheesy pose alert!

Summer’s finally arrived so took some picks at a flower meadow near our house. Lovely.

A little bit of imagination – creating a pattern hack!

Nowadays with indie pattern companies like Colette, Megan Nielsen and Doe and Deer creating their own designs there are some really modern patterns just waiting to be printed out and made up. It is a modern dressmaking revolution but the more traditional companies making patterns like, Simplicity, Vogue or Butterick still have a lot to offer, sometimes you just need a bit of imagination.

Often at first glance the pictures on the front of the pattern pack can seem out dated, the fabric choice hideous and the models are, well, difficult to identify with! This is where the imagination comes in – in a recent project I made for my little girl I decided to dip my toe into the art of pattern hacking with Simplicity pattern 1673!

Pattern hacking – changing a pattern to create a unique item of clothing based on, but deviating from an original ‘base’ pattern.

packet small

Initial impressions

I am not a frilly person and this just has way too much going on. Whilst on their own they might be okay when put altogether the yellow broderie anglais, the flower shaped buttons and the frill are too much for my taste. But looking behind all that what you actually have is an interesting structure for a child’s dress; the loop button closure at the back, the circular yoke and the tucks at the top (hidden by the frill) are all nice features which I think deserve to take the limelight.

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My hack…

First, although the pattern recommends using light weight fabrics I decided to make the dress in a light denim which would show more of the structure of the dress off. The frills in the pattern were added on top of the yoke so I did away with them and added a patch pocket in deck chair striped fabric to the front with a contrasting pocket band and a small gather. I used pink, homemade bias binding on the arm holes with contrasting red stitching to tie in with the pocket, and matched that in with the closure on the back. I decided to make the dress more of a tunic length to be worn with little leggings and did two rows of top stitching around the hem in red thread which took the place of more frills on the base pattern.

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Overall I’m really pleased with the look of the dress and it’s definitely a million miles away from the picture on the pack and I’ve made a bespoke item of clothing. It’s boosted my confidence – I might try and draft my own dress pattern next time!

Project summary

What went well.

  • The overall look of the dress is great, I love the way the tucks at the front look in the heavier fabric
  • I’ve done a bit of pattern drafting from scratch in the past but using a pattern to start of with is a great way to get back into it without all the head scratching and frustration that can come with creating your own pattern
  • I couldn’t use French seams with the denim because it would be too bulky so I used bright red seam tape to finish the insides

Room for improvement?

  • In the end it worked out fine but choosing to use a heavier fabric did cause a few problems. The method of construction for the yoke on this dress was really designed for cotton and getting the circular shape out of denim was a bit tricky…there’s still one or two dodgy bits which I would liked to have done better!
  • I just wahse dit and the band a the top of the pocket ran a little…doh!

Top tip – 

Rather than looking at the photo on the front take a look at the pattern diagram on the back of the pack. From that you will get a better idea of how the pattern is constructed and it will give you more of a ‘blank canvas’ to build up your own design from.

Crazy about Colette

Like the rest of the sewing world,  I’ve become totally hooked on Colette patterns! So imagine my delight when these goodies dropped into my mailbox recently…

Yey! Colette Sewing Handbook and the Beignet pattern! So exciting! I’ve been working my way through the book, which I must say I love everything about, and decided to put to good use the aubergine needlecord I bought from a Norwegian online shop for my first Beignet.  I found plenty of inspiration online – from Kestral, Karen, Tilly and Joanne. Loving all these cord versions! After working out how to use my buttonhole foot (lost my sewing machine instructions in the move to Norway!) I was ready to start…

And here it is! I’m super happy with how it turned out.  Next time I’ll make it the size smaller as it’s definitely a bit roomy, but I don’t mind with this one as it’s a winter skirt. Perfect for sneaking in those extra mince pies 😉

Note to self – must get hair cut!!

1940s Lingerie Sewalong

I’ve been sewing along with Anna of A Few Threads Loose   – and the results are coming along nicely! I started a bit late due to printer problems, but other than that minor technical hitch it’s gone great so far. I would probably never have chosen to make this pattern without the push to follow Anna’s instruction. But I’m glad I did! The pattern is a PDF printable of an original 1940s one by Pauline Patterns in Australia. I chose a purple and grey soft thin cotton with a grey and black polka dot for the band and bias.Here’s a sneaky peek…just got the straps and closure to go then I’ll be on to the bottoms. Yey!

  This was only the second attempt at making my own bias binding, I’ve generally stuck to shop bought stuff since the first attempt a few years ago ended in tears.  But I followed Miss P’s handy tutorial using masking tape and it was totally problem free! Thank you Miss P 🙂

Watch this space for the finished bra…

My First Sewalong!

Exciting news! I’m going to be participating in my first sewalong! The exact pattern is yet to be decided, but it’s going to be vintage lingerie, hosted by my fellow expat Mrs Depew of A Few Threads Loose

I can’t wait to get started.

In other news, last week when I was back in the UK I visited a silk printing workshop and bought some gorgeous fabric. It’s called Beckford Silk and has a workshop where you can see the silk being hand screen printed. We saw 2 screens in a 16 screen set being completed, for this really detailed scarf of flowers and butterflies.  It was amazing!

After the tour of the workshop, we spent a long time choosing some silk to buy. I dived straight into the seconds box and choose a plain russet orange heavy crepe de chine and a lighter weight navy blue with orange polka dots. There are 2 spots missing on one section of the polka dot, but I can easily cut around them and actually as it’s a hand printed item and we even met the guy that had printed it I really don’t mind that it has a little mistake on it! These silks are fantastic quality, and were both under £10 per metre which I thought was great value for the quality and the work that went into them.  As it’s so hard to find nice fabrics here in Norway I love choosing special stuff when I’m back in the UK!

I’m considering this dress from Pattern Runway for the russet, but not sure if I’d really get a lot of wear out of it. 1 – it’s coming into Winter now so not very practical and 2 – it’s a really similar shape to a load of other dresses I already have in my wardrobe. But I love the shape!

As for the polka dots, I’m not sure yet. Maybe they would make nice lingerie for the sew along! I would like to make Dixie DIY’s Portia T-shirt from Miss P’s refashioners series http://portialawrie.blogspot.com/2011/09/refashioners-dixie-part-ii.html and I think that would look cute with the polka dot for the main parts and the plain as the accent colour. Oh the choices!

Le Dress!

So after a few bags, purses and general small things, I recently got into sewing actual items of clothing for myself. This year I had 3 weddings to go to (2 in Worcestershire, 1 in St Tropez daahling!) and was determined to make myself a dress that would work for all 3. As it was, I hadn’t finished in time for the first one…but the last stitches were complete right in time for my trip to the sunny South of France, hurrah!

Since making this dress (completed it in June), I’ve learnt a few more things about sewing so there are a lot of things I’d do differently next time. But as these are all on the inside, it was still amazing to wear something which I made (and really like!). I used a Cynthia Rowley Simplicity pattern, 2406. The instructions were great, but I ran into a problem with the material I chose.  It’s a really sweet Liberty print, with little coral and blue birds lined up in stripes. But it’s a cotton lawn so very thin, and as it’s cream it’s very sheer! The pattern doesn’t call for lining and so I sort of winged it, trying to underline beneath the facings without knowing what I was doing! It was totally fine except for the centre back join which went a bit odd, but oh well – I’ll learn for next time!

Also, next time I would lower the neckline a little bit, as I don’t think it’s that flattering, and also make a much smaller size as I took out literally 2 inches from each side seam and I still think it’s a bit big. The armholes are a bit low too – you can kind of see my bra peeking out. But other than that, I really like the shape, it’s very versatile and forgiving as it’s not fitted, and I hope to make it again.  Next time I’ll choose a thicker material and skip the lining to save myself a headache I think.