Paying my dues to the pattern blues

Faced with the self-realisation that I am a sewing slattern, brought on by last week’s tussling with a certain Peony we shall not mention, I decided to turn over a new leaf this week and make a bladdy muslin.

It was inevitable really, since I wanted to adapt the pattern anyway. I’m hoping to transform Simplicity 4082…

Simplicity 4082

…into something resembling Trudy’s elegant jacket in Mad Men. Given that I’ve never adapted a pattern before I’m pretty circumspect about the whole thing. But if we don’t try children, how can we ever lean how to f@$! things up as adults, huh?

I started by checking out the back of the pattern to work out which size to cut. According to that I needed to cut out a size 12. But when I looked at the pattern pieces it was obvious even to my untrained eye that these pieces were humungous. Come on Simplicity – at this rate you’d have me in a deflated beach ball. So I chanced my arm and cut out a 6 which looked way better, although even still slightly billowy and boxy.

Simplicity 4082 - before the chop

I wanted to create that nice curved edge that Trudy has on her jacket opening, as well as reduce some of the extra roominess under the arms and around the shoulders. So I got my pencil and my scisssors out – and this is where I’m at for now.

Simplicity 4082 - after the chop

Simplicity 4082 back pleat

I think there’s a lot more still to do if I want to try and copy Trudy’s jacket. Mine is still very roomy, and those shoulders (is that a raglan sleeve?) don’t fit the Trudy brief, nor does the pleat at the back. Or the high neckline. Hmpf! I’m slightly worried about veering too far off-pattern though. What do you think? Should I ‘channel’ Trudy rather than try and copy whole-sale? Does that way madness lie?

Completed project: Colette Peony

Ever since it arrived on the Colette website, I’ve wanted to try the Peony. I instantly fell in love with the simple sweet shape, the boat neck, the 3/4 length sleeves. So I’m happy to say I’ve finished my first (but definitely not my last) attempt. (Excuse bemused expression at husband antics with camera in first photo)

Peony 1

I decided to add piping at the waist, as the pattern notes suggest, and I’m really happy with the result. It makes it seem even more vintage-y for some reason. I’ve not done the belt that came with the piping – I’ve used my bow belt from the Betty Blue Beignet instead as the colours work so well together.

Peony 2

For fabric, I used a vintage bed sheet which I bought from a fair for £4. Yep. This dress cost £4 to make. If you count the pattern and notions then it was still less than £20!

Peony 3

Making it up was a wee bit more complicated than I thought it would be – but to be absolutely honest with you – it was all my own fault. Yet again I failed to make a muslin to check the fit. I picked out a size 2 on the pattern as it most closely fitted my bust and hip measurements (although the waist was a little on the small side for my liking) and cut away with gay abandon. I always justify this to myself by saying it’s a  ‘wearable muslin’ but who am I kidding? I still get surprised/frustrated/feel bad when it inevitably doesn’t fit perfectly. I should just do the groundwork first, make a muslin (even if it’s just the tricky bits like the bodice and waist) and make sure it’s right. But here it is: I am a sewing slattern.

Peony 4

It was only after I put in the zip and tried it on that I realised it was too big. The waist was at least an inch too big, which was really weird since my waist is not, I repeat not, 26 inches. No way. I’d already put my piping in around the waist so I thought I’d try another method of reducing the size without undoing all my work. Sewing purists – you may want to look away now…

Have they gone? Right. I unpicked the zip and cut the seam allowance off both sides at the centre back. I know – that can’t be the right way to do it can it? It must be breaking all sorts of sewing rules and I’ll be going to sewing hell where I just have to sew darts all day for eternity. But I did it and it helped a bit. So what if my side pockets are just a centimetre or two closer to my bottom? That’s fine – I’ll just reach further backwards to put my hands in. It’s exercise. Eliminates bingo wings. Fact.

Ah but it wasn’t enough. The waist still stood out a bit, making me look like a small child wearing her sister’s cast offs a year too early.It was time to unpick and redo the darts. Unpicking the piping was just a tiny a bit soul-destroying. I’m not saying there were tears dropping on Mrs Seam Ripper but there may have been a sniff or two. At this point I should also mention that Karen of Did You Make That stepped in after a plaintive comment from me on this site and gave me some great advice and tips on adjusting a toile and pattern. Plus, just talking to someone else about fitting issues seemed to lift the cloud and make it seem less stressful – cheers Karen!

Once unpicked, I increased the waist darts on the bodice, gathered the skirt a little more and put it all back together again. Amazingly – it seemed to work although there are some issues with the darts and the bust which I need to address. I also still think the neckline is a little too wide for my shape so I will definitely be making use both of Karen’s tutorial and Tilly’s tips next time. There will be a next time! This is such a cute little pattern. It’s really open to little personal touches and embellishments. I highly recommend it. Just be sure to measure up first…

Lovely label from Bridie

Mind your head: Work(s) in progress

Ooh I wish I had some reveal pics to share with you, I really, really do.  But I’m just in the middle of a couple of projects… almost there! I’m installing the invisible zipper on my Colette Peony dress (made from a sixties double bed sheet picked up from a vintage fair for just £4!) and hemming it tonight so fingers crossed there will be a big reveal on the weekend. Here’s a sneaky peek in the meantime…

Peony preview

I’m humming and hawing about whether to do the belt or leave as is. We shall soon see…

I’ve also cut out the pieces from my vintage Liberty silk for McCall’s 2401. I had to hunt around for just the right shade of thread to match the fabric. Another sneaky peek of fabric and notions.  A small tip but a tip nonetheless: I use old shoe boxes to store fabric that’s been cut which I have yet to sew up – it holds everything together in one place.

Mccalls #2 boxed up and ready to sew

Finally, I’m terribly excited to announce I’ve just pre-ordered Tasia of Sewaholic‘s Minoru Jacket pattern! I have to say I really love this coat – it’s so flattering and could be so incredibly funky with the right colour combinations of fabric and lining.

Minoru jacket

It’s labelled as suitable for an intermediate stitcher but I’m hoping the sewing prefects won’t see me at the back of the class with my tongue sticking out the side of my mouth in concentration, trying desperately to keep up.  You can pre-order a copy now and get free shipping until November 10th. This will be my first Sewaholic pattern so I’m really looking forward to making it up. I’m sure Tasia has the same attention to detail as Sarai from Colette patterns, plus she’s planning a sewalong in January – a perfect project to while away dark winter nights and plenty of time to find the perfect fabric and perfect a muslin. This coat is ideal for brisk January walks isn’t it?

When sewing thoughts are not running through my head, driving thoughts are. You might remember I passed my driving test in September, so the husband and I have been looking for a car. Just something cheap and easy to run around London in (i.e. go to Ikea every weekend from now to Chrimbo). We think we’ve found ‘the one’ but it’s not for definite yet. If we do, pictures will be provided. Maybe I should stitch something for it as a sort of welcome-to-your-new-home present, like a gear stick cosy. Ooh a gear stick cosy – what a fabulous idea…. but is it legal?

What’s on your sewing table?