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Dream Maxi Dress

One of my make nine projects for this year was to recreate a maxi dress I bought from H&M a few years ago (4, maybe 5?!). A lot of dress patterns I like have gathered skirts, and although I love the bodice, the shape of the skirt just does nothing for me. However this maxi dress has box pleats, and I love the shape on me. I feel great in it!

Casual ‘lift selfie’

So obviously I have set myself the task of recreating it! I studied pattern drafting at university so I have a good idea of where to start, although I wish I had paid a little bit more attention back then!

I skipped the initial process of creating a block and used a pattern I have adapted many times now for various garments (Simplicity 8545). I kept the bodice the same and made the following adjustments:

  • Lengthened the sleeve and used this to draft a bishop sleeve, then added a cuff
  • Lengthened the skirt by 12inches and marked pleats instead of gathers.

I am super happy with the results! It’s the exact shape I was aiming for.

Next time I will start with a bodice block and mark everything without seam allowances so I can get the darts and pleats matching perfectly (they are a couple of millimetres out, but I don’t mind!). I might try adding extra pleats to distribute them more evenly. I’m pretty happy with the sleeves so won’t change them too much.

I am extremely pleased with my invisible zip, it had to make an appearance in here.

I really enjoyed this process, and can’t wait to improve on the design next time. It has inspired me to do some more pattern drafting, and I am going to give kids patterns a go as well. I need to figure out what print to go for next… I have no idea where to start!

My make nine projects so far have done exactly what I was aiming for. I am building on my skills and seeing how much I have improved in the last year, and learning new ones too.

Sharlene x

Rumana Coat

I can’t believe I am writing this. I have made a coat! And not just any coat. The By Hand London Rumana Coat.

It was love at first sight with this pattern! It didn’t matter that I had never made a coat before, this was on my list. The details just ooze elegance and class, the shape is beautiful. It was a project that would really push my sewing skills (and patience) to the limit.

I hadn’t planned on making a coat until autumn 2019, but I got the main fabric in a closing down sale for half price (I think in around £10/m for the last 3.2m!). I never would have picked this colour, but I feel like it was meant to be. The lining was a gift from my wonderful husband, who I have to say did an amazing job of picking it (with the help of the wonderful staff at Craftswoman Fabrics). It’s exactly what I was looking for. I had no excuse then to get started.

All in all, this is the longest I have spent making a garment (apart from my wedding dress). I really forced myself to slow down and take my time over all the processes and details. I was fussier than normal with my finishing and had no issues with unpicking any top stitching I wasn’t happy with.

I have a few tips for anyone thinking of making this:

  • Take care when cutting the back lining pieces- check the position of the fabric on the layplans ( I have a terrible habit of ignoring these now) as this will ensure the vent is at the right side.
  • I used wonderclips when attaching the collar and facing. There are a lot of layers going together and they helped to secure everything in place.
  • Take your time and enjoy it! I am pretty sure everyone would give the same advice. I cut the fabric, lining and interfacing on separate evenings, and broke everything else down into separate tasks.
  • Use the sew along! This was a game changer. The instructions with the pattern are good, but if it is your first time making a coat (like me) then you will find the sew along so helpful. This can be found on the By Hand London website.
Getting the vent the right way on the lining.
Wonderclips for attaching the collar

Since making this I have plans in my head for another 2 in this pattern, and have bought 2 more coat patterns. I have started fixing my velvet blazer and am planning at least another 2 blazers! I have always loved a good piece of outerwear but now I can make them… I might not be able to stop!!

Watch this space!

Sharlene x

Sewing for Emily Pt 1

I love sewing for other people, especially my daughter Emily. And I’m pretty sure she loves it when I sew for her (until she can talk and say otherwise it’s what we are going with)!

The first dress I made for her was this Simplicity 8304 in blue and white stripe poly cotton. There were a few construction issues which resulted in the Peter Pan collar, but I am pretty happy with the results.

The next version of this dress is a navy gingham cotton from Paragon Fabrics, Belfast. This is one of my favourite dresses for her- it washes well, dries easily and doesn’t need in ironed! Perfect! I am planning a few more in different colours of this fabric, maybe a few short sleeve or sleeveless versions for the summer.

Next up was this adorable fox print cotton, again from Paragon Fabrics. I have to admit there’s only one button on it so far… I will maybe sort that out this week!

Version 4 is made in this gorgeous navy star print double cotton gauze I picked up at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Dublin last November.

This is the first time I have added the heart patches on the elbows and patch pockets. And I love them! This fabric was perfect as the back was plain so provided the perfect contrast. I got the Pom Pom trim from a local craft store, Craft Your Art Out- there is nothing they don’t have!

I decided last minute to make the bow with left over scraps, definitely a cute addition. Even though it didn’t stay on for too long! I will be making a few more of these to use up a few more scraps.

A little bribery had to be done to get these photos!

After 4 versions I am definitely not done with this pattern. The style is so simple that it allows for a lot of variations, I would like to try adding piping at the waist or maybe some ruffles somewhere? I will definitely make a few summer versions too.

One thing I have learnt from making these is it’s a great stash buster! I usually have enough left over from my own projects that I can make a little dress or top for Emily, perfect! And the addition of the little bow helps use up that little bit more!

Happy sewing,

Sharlene x

Make Nine 2019

While I was writing my Instagram post for this years make nine challenge, I realised I had a lot to say and a blog post would maybe be a better idea. So here I am, writing a blog that will help me keep track of my makes and hopefully let me share some of my wisdom with all of you.

Full disclosure- I will be making a lot more than 9 things this year (hopefully anyway!). But I have used this concept to look at were I can advance my sewing skills. So here we go…

1- The Rumana Coat from By Hand London

The moment I saw this pattern I fell for it! The princess seams, the silhouette, the elegance! This was a make that would test my skills and push me to try some ‘slow sewing’. After a year of quick makes to build my hand made wardrobe I want to focus on something that I could take my time over.

I knew I had to make it, but I didn’t think I would be making it this soon. Unfortunately, one of my local fabric stores closed down and it is sadly missed (they are in limited supply in Northern Ireland). However they had a closing down sale so I was able to snap up some lavender wool coating for a bargain! My husband then picked up some beautiful paisley lining for me on a shopping trip (he’s definitely a keeper!) so I had no excuse not to get started. Progress is coming on nicely, so expect another blog post soon.

2- Ginger Jean by Closet Case Patterns

This is another project to test my skills, and remind myself of a few skills I learnt at university. My final year project looked at a more ethical way to manufacture denim, and involved making a pair of jeans from old worn out jeans. So technically this will be my second pair of jeans, but maybe my first wearable pair! I have a favourite high street pair, I am hoping I will be able to recreate a fit close to these using the high waist view.

3- Twist Dress TPC18 by Trend Pattern Company

I love a lot of patterns from this company, but this is absolutely my favourite. I have a RTW dress that is my go to night out outfit (although those nights are very rare now!) which features a twist like this so I am curious to see how its constructed, and maybe replace a favourite ready to wear piece with a favourite me made piece.

4- Embellished Jacket

When trying to decide what I wanted to achieve from my make nine I remembered how much I love adding beading and embellishment to garments. I find it extremely therapeutic and satisfying. And after a search through pinterest and a new inspiration board, I am going to try a Balmain inspired jacket. I haven’t decided on a pattern yet for this piece, but the aim will be to have it for next Christmas. I will hopefully get this started during the summer so I can work on the embellishment at a slow and relaxing pace.

5- Underwear (probably from Evie La Luve)

This will have another skill checked off my list. There are a lot of beautiful lingerie patterns available, I will more than likely go for Evie la Luve to start with as they provide kits with everything needed to start off. My size is not readily available in most stores, and after 2 babies and a total of 2 years breastfeeding, my size has jumped around so much I wouldn’t even know where to start now! I am looking forward to having something made to measure, and the fabric and style opportunities are endless.

6- Knitting

Source Unknown

I tried knitting before, it wasn’t very successful. So I am being very realistic and setting myself the challenge of knitting a scarf. I will again go for a kit with everything I need included, something simple and chunky.

7- Marigold or Mini Poet Cardigan by Little Golden Nook

I will be honest, if I make one and its successful, I will probably make the other! I have made a few crotchet blankets, and smaller items like hats and slippers. There are so many gorgeous patterns for crotchet jumpers now I would love to be able to extend my skills to garments. If I start off small for my daughter I wont have to invest in too much wool and it will hopefully come together quicker than something for myself. I haven’t been great at following crotchet patterns so far, I tend to make bits up as I go along! So this will be a challenge.

8. Self-drafted Maxi-Dress

Me! In my dress!

This dress… I love it! The shape is perfect for me, it is perfectly fitted on top with a few waist darts and a full skirt which is pleated at the waist. Gathered waists are not my friend as the make my biggest parts look bigger and out of proportion, but this works for me. The sleeves have a little fullness at the cuff but I wouldn’t say they are a bishop sleeve. I am hoping to dust off my pattern drafting skills from uni to re-create this dress. I just received a sample of Swedish tracing paper so might use it to get the fit right. I might have also chosen my fabric… I am waiting for a sample but I think it will be amazing!

9. Mila Dungarees by Tilly and the Buttons

This was the first indie pattern I bought, and I still haven’t made them! But now Emily has a pair of black needlecord dungarees so, you know #twinningiswinning! I have never made a pattern by Tilly so I am looking forward to using the instructions and seeing how they come together. I have most of this cut so they will be in the cue once I have finished my Rumana Coat and a few other bits.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this, it was an good way to ease myself into the world of blogging. I have a new tripod for my phone so will be mastering the art of photography as I go! If you would like to follow along with my sewing journey on a more regular basis pop on over to my Instagram @sosewdressmaking

Sharlene x