Coco: A sewing funk solver

Halle-bloody-lujah. My sewing hiatus has come to an abrupt but extremely welcome end, thanks to the power, nay, the glory, of Coco, the latest pattern by Tilly and the Buttons.

Coco dress pattern

Do you like the crazy fabric? I loves me an animal print I do. This is some kind of bonkers snakeskin effect double knit from Tissu Fabrics at £6.99 a metre. As soon as I saw it I had to have it, bonkers or no.

Coco dress pattern

Coco is fantastic – a dream of a pattern for a sewing slattern like myself, or indeed a newbie looking for something simple but flattering. Psst – although I actually have an overlocker I have yet to read the instruction manual so I did this on my regular sewing machine using a stretch needle and a zigzag stitch.

I cut a size 3 straight from the pattern. Now I NEVER do that – I pretty much always trace off my size. But armed with the knowledge that a knit can be forgiving and that it was a simple front and back bodice with no closures or darts, I took a deep breath and cut straight in. The fit was dang near perfect thank goodness. All I did was take up the hem by an inch or so more than the recommended 2 cms.

In all, this dress took me about three hours from start to finish. That’s including cutting the pattern and the fabric. What a win! The only tricksy bit was sewing through four layers of knit around the funnel neck. My needle bent, then snapped and whizzed past my eye. Intense sewing, dudes.

I can’t recommend this pattern enough if you’re looking for a tasty nutritious sewing snack. I’ll be making more Cocos soon. Cheers Tilly, for pulling me out of this sewing stupor I’ve been rolling around in!

Coco dress pattern

Tilly’s done a big ol’ sewalong on her site for the Coco so if you’ve not made it yet there’s plenty of information and detail to help you along. Oh and there’s a Coco party happening on Friday 21st March. I may even make another one for that!

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Completed project: Simplicity 2444 – the Portlandia

OMG I think I’ve found my most perfect favourite pattern EVER… well until something else catches my eye bien sûr…

Portlandia - Simplicity 2444

Welcome to The Portlandia dress. Why Portlandia? Because it’s got a bird on it!

This pattern was uber easy to put together, but I must quote Roisin here –  ‘once you get over the needlessly baffling instructions’ (have you seen Roisin’s version? Gorgeous!). Basically Pattern Runway split out every bit of the dress and then give you yardage for each section so for maths durrs like me it was impossible to try and work out how much actual bladdy fabric I needed. Cue lots of cantering from sewing room to sewing table, arms filled with fabric, excitement turning to disappointment and a certain amount of mewling (yes I mewl, don’t you?)  when I would realise that successive fabrics which would have been just perfect, weren’t sufficient enough to the task.

Portlandia - Simplicity 2444

I’ve worn this dress all day without the petticoat – not too creased eh?

But not my ‘Put a bird on it!’ fabric, hooray. Three metres was just enough to squeeze a dress out of.

A lot of fabric goes into this skirt, and unfortunately the folded fabric was too narrow for the skirt pattern pieces, so I had to cut two identical lengths of fabric, place them right sides together and cut out the skirt pieces separately.

I used two pieces roughly 125 cms in length for the skirt, facings and sleeves and I was left with about 50 cms left for the bodice so I did that double fold thing, you know, where you have the fabric folding in on either side to the centre. Psst, I actually have a bit of selvedge in my seam allowance on the centre back bodice – it was that tight.

The obligatory cat photo

The obligatory cat photo

Pattern fit and adjustments

Anyway – on to the actual pattern! I cut out a size 12 exactly as was on the pattern after flat-measuring the pattern pieces, adding ease and subtracting seam allowance. It’s almost spot on but there will be some adjustments to make. I’m going to remove an inch or so from the neckline front and probably two inches from the back. This will neaten the shoulders and stop that dreaded bra strap from showing as well as removing any gaping at the back neck. I’m really happy with the waist – it has just enough ease to be comfortable but not so much it looks cinched in when I wear a belt.

New skillz learned

The double darts in the bodice are a first – I love how they pull the bodice in so elegantly. But this is such a simple dress there really are no special skills required to complete it. It would be a great project for a beginner.

I really made an effort to finish the seams nicely on this dress so everything is French seamed with the exception of the armscye seams and the bit of seam allowance under the zipper – I’ll try and work out a good way to do that for the next version but I find sleeves and zippers stressful enough without trying to French seam them! It was a little daunting at first but the effect was so lovely and neat.

The inside with french seams

The inside with french seams

For those who don’t know what a French seam is – it’s basically enclosing the raw edges within your seams. Here’s how to do it.

1.  With wrong side to wrong side (I know, weird innit) sew a 1/4″ seam allowance. Trim the allowance to about 1/8″. Press the seam both sides.

2. Now turn the edges right side to right side (like how you’d normally sew a seam) and sew a 3/8″ seam allowance, thus enclosing that previous seam within your new seam and hiding any nasty raw edges. Press as usual and marvel at your gorgeous 5/8″ neat seams, sans overlocker! Please note if your seams are supposed to be 1/2″ or otherwise you may have to revisit the maths.

This particular pattern is perfect to try the technique with, as rather bizarrely it encourages you to attach front bodice to front skirt and back bodice to back skirt before you sew the side seams.

Will you make this dress again?

There will be many versions of this dress I suspect. I really liked the stand up collar that’s included in the pattern but my next version will probably have a self drafted contrast Peter Pan collar and probably be lined. I’m thinking something in navy blue with a cute design (maybe even polka dots!), a white peter pan collar, piped sleeve cuffs and perhaps a slightly shorter skirt. Another silky evening version might have 3/4 length sleeves and a matching belt. Oooh the possibilities. You could even draft your own skirt – the bodice would look very slinky atop a wiggle skirt. It would also be really interesting as a fine wool knit for winter.

How much did it cost?

Fabric – 3 metres at £3 a metre

Zipper – from stash but let’s say £1.50

Pattern – £6 including delivery.

Thread – from stash but let’s say £2

Interfacing – from stash but let’s say about £1

Total cost: £19.50

How long did it take?

I cut everything out in a couple of hours on Friday night, spent about three hours in total on it on Saturday and another three hours on Sunday so approximately 8 hours.

Anything to add?

Did I mention I love this pattern?

Give us a twirl

Karen, does this qualify for Ugly Amnesty?

You is UGLY

Ewwww

Ooh I was full of such high hopes for this project, but things just didn’t quite turn out to plan. Who knows what caused it – the fabric choice, the lack of lining and therefore body and structure, a few extra pounds around my waist… all I can say is – this is a big fat fail of a dress, and in the interests of public sewing health – I’m sharing it with all of you.

When the fabric first caught my eye I was fresh off my Mad Men challenge and itching to use Simplicity 5961 again. It was just such a pretty little shape and so easy to run up. I decided NOT to add trims and details (like I did with the Mad Men version) because I thought the stripes would be quite enough as it was.

I then made what might be called the fatal decision – not to add a lining. The fabric is floaty, yes, but not overly so. However I think this pattern calls for something sturdier. What flowed beautifully with wool crepe and satin is disastrous with cotton seersucker! It just… wilts on the body! I feel like me and this dress have just done ten rounds in the washing machine!

Don’t even get me started on the zip. It took two machine attempts and one hand-picked zipper to get to this point, and I ain’t doing it again, no sirree. LOOK at it undulating along my spine like that, just look at it! My zipper’s doing the rhumba! And where did the swayback come from?! WTF? I haven’t got the heart to redo this travesty of a mockery of a sham of a zip.

Yikes - what a nasty zipper

Did I do this with my eyes closed? Hilariously – no!

To conclude my friends – this is not a dress that will be worn often, if at all. True, it can be saved with a slip, a cardy and a pair of sturdy Bridget Jones underpants, but only just. I haven’t even hemmed it yet – it’s THIS CLOSE to going in the bin.

Ummm – will this do?

What do you think – should I finish it off? Stitch? Or DITCH!

Mad Men dress challenge: It’s done!

Mad Men 1

It’s done! It’s out there! Here it is!

Um… can you tell I’m super-excited about this dress?

As soon as Julia Bobbin laid down her stylish gauntlet for the Mad Men challenge, I jumped in with both feet. ‘I was so excited I almost peed my pants!’ (Can you guess the film quote?)

After thinking long and hard, I simply had to follow Julia’s lead and take the Joanie challenge. This is the dress I chose:

Joan Holloway - blue

Now I know what you’re gonna say – hmm Joanne the trim is a bit different and it’s not exactly the same shape and I’m pretty sure that’s not wool crepe in the Joanie pic and… LISTEN. It’s an inspirational starting point right? And, um, I forgot to check the original pic when I was putting on the trim and by the time I realised I should have had the ribbon going DOWN instead of ACROSS the dress it was too late and anyway I love my little dress so shush. Let’s not speak of it again. Just like that time with the chihuahua and the lit candle ok? Our little secret.

So, onto more pics.

Mad Men 2

I used Simplicity 5961 for the challenge. What a lovely easy pattern it was to sew! Honestly, once I had the bits all cut out it was a cinch to put them all together. In terms of adjustments I reduced the shoulder width by 3/4″ each side and reduced the bodice width by about 1/4″ to the waist area.I had bought ribbon for the trim but bias binding worked much better on the curves. I liked it so much – I stuck it on the sleeves as well!

Mad Men 7

Hmm where is that naughty Scrappy doo? And has anyone seen Scooby?

The whole thing is underlined with royal blue polyester satin – it really feels like a properly-made dress. My first lined dress – hooray!

Mad Men 6

Channelling Bowie in that pic. TBH this dress kinda reminds me of my school uniform. But this is a GOOD THING because actually I really loved my school and have many fond memories of time there. So this dress is going to be called: The Rathmore in honour of my former alma mater.

How about you? Have you done your Mad Men dress already or are you frantically sewing away to get it finished in time for Julia’s big post? Don’t forget to check out Julia’s blog on 1st April for the big reveal of all the dresses!

Mad Men dress challenge – a wee tiny peek

I know I’ve been very quiet this last week but it’s not for want of sewing to talk about! I’ve been uber-busy on my Mad Men dress (part of Julia Bobbin’s Mad Men challenge). I made massive leaps and strides over the weekend and the first part of the week. I danced on the heads of pins, leapt gazelle-like into the gaping maws of the zipper and skipped my way to the hem-finishing-line… then I got a tummy bug.

So it slowed down a bit. But wanna see a sneaky peek? I just have to hem it now and all is done! Apologies for crappy mobile phone pic but it is a peek after all 🙂

I mustn’t reveal the finished item until Julia says it’s OK. Then I shall pirouette across the interwebs in it. Can’t wait to see all the other Mad Men dresses busily under construction out there – can you?

Completed project: New Look 6000 – The Holloway

It defied a lapped zipper, it balked at a lining, it tried to do a vanishing act before my very eyes! But I defeated it! Ladies and gents… introducing… The Holloway, brought to you in association with New Look 6000 frock fest.

Inspired by Scruffy’s fabulous Pan Am photoshoot I’ve tried and failed to recreate a sixties office in North London, so instead here is Joanie (aka Joann-ie) at home, dusting and whatnot, as ladies in the sixties were wont to do. Thankfully we now live in more enlightened times and take husbands to do much of that for us.

Out with the old and in with the new as Joannie takes down the Christmas tree…

Holloway at the Christmas tree

Who wants a Dark and Stormy? (some odd creasing going on there around the bust – think I just need to pull the dress down a bit there. Plus I see my eager ironing of the bias bound hem has resulted in a visible border around the hem! Ack!)

Who wants a dark and stormy?

I subscribe to the Dean Martin school of drinking: “I’d hate to be a teetotaler. Imagine getting up in the morning and knowing that’s as good as you’re going to feel all day.”

Drink for one

Tidying up the armoire…

Dusting the armoire New Look 6000

And now for the infamous Joanie shot. Will it hold? Will it???!!!!

The Holloway shot

Jeez Louise… just about… hooray!

This year I will be trying to add more thoughts about the patterns I attempt, not just to give more info to anyone who might be thinking of trying it out but also for my own (entirely selfish reasons) use when I revisit.

Pattern review: New Look 6000 (View C with gathered waist)

Difficulty rating for StitchandWitter: 2.5/5

Fabric used: 2m of golden brown tweedy woven wool(?) that frayed VERY easily once cut (yikes) and some spare teal corduroy-covered buttons from making the Betty Blue Beignet, plus a 22 inch all purpose zipper and interfacing. Fabric was a couple of quid a metre from Walthamstow market.

Total cost of dress (not including pattern): Approx £6 (pattern was £12.72 including shipping from US)

Fitting issues: Well I was a little optimistic with my sizing, after all those Christmas feasts. I looked at the finished garment measurements and cut out an 8, which was a smidgeon too small in the waist and butt in my muslin (thank god I did a muslin). I had already cut out the pattern (instead of tracing it as I normally do on to swiss tracing paper – the impatient me was dying to get on with it) so I just sellotaped on a bit more paper around that problem area on the back piece and added about a centimetre to the outer edge. I also scooped out some width across the back with a crazy dart in the pattern piece, removing about 4 centimetres in total which on reflection might have been too much (not to mention probably the wrong way to remove width in that area) but hey ho.

Making issues: The pleated waist and the cutting of the front on the bias was a new thing for me and a little daunting, but it all made sense when you gathered up one side. My lapped zipper totally and utterly failed and just looks like a normal zipper. Must go back to lapped zipper school…

Skills learned: Adding a vent, adding a cuff with a kick, pleating, cutting on the bias. NOT a lapped zipper. Adding bias binding to finish the hem.

Anything to add? I really really wanted to add a lining to this dress but when it came to the crunch I was just a little too scared by the prospect, having not lined a dress before. I’ll revisit once I have more skills under my belt. I also wanted to finish the inside seams better than they currently are, but at the rate the fabric was fraying it was all I could do to add a zigzag stitch before they disappeared! As a result I’m not sure how long this dress will last or whether it will hold up to serious wear or whether I will be able to stand the scratchiness of the inside (so that’s what hair shirts feel like – I see!). But for now, it’s all mine…

Will I make again? Hell yeah – love this style. It’s so flattering and grown up. Better get me some kind of serious job just so I can wear it to work now…

Dusting

The mists and mellow fruitfulness dress

It’s a beautiful autumnal afternoon here in London. This morning we drew the blinds to see a mist wafting through the streets. What a gorgeous time of year. I’m so happy to have finished and named my new dress: The mists and mellow fruitfulness dress! I’m wearing it to a wedding next weekend which is a big deal – I’ve never been so bold as to wear one of my dresses to a big ticket event. Here goes…

The pattern is McCalls 2401 which I made earlier this year in a green polka dot. The fabric is a beautiful 100% vintage silk from Liberty which I picked up at a vintage fair for £15.

McCalls 2401: Mists and mellow fruitfulness

I was determined to make this dress as nice on the inside as it is on the outside, so I turned and stitched the seams where I could (side and sleeve seams) and pinked the rest of them.

Inside view

It was only when I was putting the finishing touches to the dress that I realised I had a beautiful vintage buckle which I bought in Norwich earlier this year. It was so easy running up a little belt. I think it just adds that extra special detail.

Vintage belt buckle

The fabric was very keen to fray, especially round the hem. I originally decided to bind the edges with a soft pink bias binding before hemming normally but once I added it I loved the little shot of soft pink at the bottom and decided to leave it there. Plus I like this length. Bonus!

Can you see the binding?

I have a peachy grey fur stoll to wear with it and I need to get some fancier tights. I’m slightly worried about creasing but I’ll be wearing a slip on the day so hopefully that should reduce wrinkles.

I only wish I knew how to add lining to dresses. This frock is crying out for a lining to really give it some longevity and feel more sturdy. One day…

Forgive those under-eye bags – it was a late one last night!

In other news – yesterday was the best sewing-related news day… ever. I got an honorable mention from Tilly about the blog (hooray!), the postman delivered my Minoru pattern (whoop!) and I won Handmade Jane’s giveaway for the most gorgeous snood, inspired by Karen’s snood-around-the-world and knitted by Jane’s very own mum! Unbelievable. It doesn’t get better than that, does it?

Right, I’m off to have some butternut squash soup. Yum.