My Blackwatch Peony/2444 Franken pattern

A little announcement first, the winner of the Girl Charlee giveaway was Alison, we’ve been in touch and she’s just received her fabric today.

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Now on to my new dress. I love Navy and green, it’s one of my favourite colour combinations. I also love a bit of tartan so it’s no surprise I have a bit of a thing for Blackwatch.

My first foray into making a Blackwatch dress was about three years ago when I made a Colette Peony. I changed the little gathers at the front to two inverted pleats. I loved the skirt, which is a very simple A-line, but the bodice was a different matter. No matter how much I tweaked it I couldn’t get it to fit. The back was weird and there was something funny about the neckline as it just didn’t sit right. I got it to a semi-wearable state but never felt comfortable in it as all it’s flaws kept nagging away at me. I’ve since found it wasn’t just me, a lot of other people have had problems with the Peony indicating it was probably down to bad drafting rather than weird body shape.

Fast forward to Last Christmas when I had my heart set on a red tartan (Stewart?) dress. I didn’t want anything fancy, no full circle skirt or anything too frou frou but something I could dress up yet wear dressed down for day to day (thus extending wearable opportunities).

The Peony skirt fitted the bill but there was no way I was going to tackle that bodice again. I decided to pair the skirt with a different bodice, one I knew fitted properly. Step forward the old faithful Simplicity 2444, a lovely pattern which gets its shaping from the double diagonal waist darts which are mirrored in the pleats of the skirt.

Anyway, long story short the bodice and skirt worked perfectly together and the Red Christmas dress was a resounding success.

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When I got my winter wardrobe out of storage last month I looked again at my wonky Peony. I didn’t want to wear it for another winter so decided to make a new one using my TNT frankenpattern.

It all went together well, I managed to match the checks somewhat successfully. I made a couple of mistakes though as I forgot some of the adjustments I made last time (should really read old blog posts before cutting into fabric!) I remembered to shorten the bodice but I failed to shorten the bust darts so they finish a little bit too close to my apex. I also failed to take a bit out of the back neckline. This only became apparent when I tried the dress on before installing the zipper, it wasn’t a major crisis as I took the extra width out then but it has distorted the check placement which is a bit of a shame.

Just to jazz it up a bit I added a navy exposed lace zip and finished the neckline with Bias Binding. I really wanted to bind the hem too but I also wanted to wear it to this year’s SewBrum, it was 9.00pm the night before and I couldn’t face the extra work so just quickly whizzed the hem up on my machine.

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I had a brilliant day at SewBrum, I was unusually restrained with my purchases only buying four pieces of fabric, two patterns and some buttons. I know this may sound a little unbelievable but I think my stash has reached saturation point! I have so many projects in the queue that I’m completely overwhelmed by the sheer scale of getting them all sewn up. This is probably just a phase though as I’ve bought a piece of Liberty from Ebay this week, no plans for it, I just want to stroke and look at it for a bit!

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Hmm the photos, I threw on the dress before it went in the wash the day after Sewbrum. Looking at the pictures I should have waited until it was washed and ironed before taking them. It’s looking rather crumpled, particularly on the shoulders from carrying bags of fabric all day!

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I’m really happy to finally have a proper fitting Blackwatch dress. I’m currently in the throes of sewing a Cascade Duffle Coat and I’m using Blackwatch as a contrast fabric on the Hood and zipper band. I don’t know if I’ll wear them together, it may be going a step too far, I always think of the Queen when it comes to matching dress and coat!

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2014: a year in sewing (and a bit of knitting)

2014 has been a very productive year for me, I managed to make a grand total of 38 items: 13 dresses, 4 skirts, 3 shirts, 8 tops, 1 jacket, 1 swimsuit, a bag and 7 pairs of knickers (I’m counting the knickers as one!)  I’ve also knitted 4 cardigans, a hat and a pair of arm warmers.

Me made May was a catalyst in being able to see what suits me, what I feel comfortable in and what, in essence, is ‘me’.  You can have a quick look in the mirror before going out the door but there’s nothing like photographic evidence for getting a true picture of how an outfit works (or doesn’t) on you.  There were a few items that went in the Charity shop pile after seeing the pictures but there were also a few pleasant surprises.  My main realisation was that I prefer to wear dresses and this is reflected in the thirteen I’ve made this year.   I think in part this is because they are easy to wear, you can just throw them on without having to figure out what goes with what.  Another reason is that being on the short and curvy side they help to ‘elongated’ me, whereas separates tend to break me up a bit too much.

I know it’s traditional to do a top 5 hits and misses but I struggled to pick these,  so I have decided to do favourites, most worn and things left languishing in the wardrobe.

Favourites

My Swishy Anna Dress

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I really love this dress, it fits perfectly, the fabric is lovely and it’s very ‘me’.

My Flock Simplicity 2444 and the accompanying tartan frankenpattern

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I think the tweaks to this pattern have resulted in not far off the perfect fit.  I also have happy memories linked to them as I wore the grey flocked one for the Sew Brum meet up and the tartan was, of course, my Christmas dress!

My Purple and leafy Chardons

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This has proved to be the perfect flarey skirt pattern for me, I love the inverted pleats, it gives a bit of body without having the bulk around the waistline.

My Bombshell Swimsuit

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I enjoyed making this so much and I’m really glad I went for the bottle green.  I am also rather amazed proud that I not only blogged it but posted photos of me wearing it!

 

Most worn

My Ladyskaters

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These have been like wearing pyjamas, so comfortable yet respectable enough to be seen in public.  I actually prefer the blue one, the purple one is starting to bobble a bit but they are both everyday workhorses.

My Maya dress  

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I’ve worn this loads over a long sleeved tee and leggings, it’s so easy to wear, doesn’t need ironing and it’s got flowers around the bottom!

My Archers

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Perfect for wearing with jeans and have therefore been worn a lot at work.

My Miette Cardigans

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I think the Green Miette is my most worn knitted cardigan, I really love the colour and I’ve managed to combine it with a lot of things in my wardrobe.  Another Miette is on the cards once I’ve finished my owl sweater.

My Trixie Lixie Knickers 

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Without a doubt my most worn by far.  I made seven pairs back in April and have worn them daily since.  They are a really good fit, exceptionally comfortable and they have gingham ruffle elastic!  I really need to make a few more pairs as some are starting to look a little too well worn

Languishing in the wardrobe

My Liberty Cambie

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I’m a little sad that my most expensive dress has ended up being barely worn.  The only reason is the fabric, I really liked the dark green and kinda expected the dress to turn out a darker colour but the reality is a very wishy washy yellow colour.  I still can’t figure out how it happened, it’s like some kind of optical illusion!  It just doesn’t work with my skin tone and it’s probably my biggest disappointment.

My Spotty scout tee

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The one time I didn’t pre-wash the fabric, it shrank, ended up in the bin, lesson learned!

My navy eyelet Laurel

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Great when I’m standing up, rides up far too much when I am sitting down and flashes a bit too much leg for my liking!

My outfit a long outfit

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I do like this but I think I’ve only worn the dress twice.  I was never happy with the fit around the shoulders and it didn’t feel very ‘secure’.  I haven’t really worn the cardigan much either, there’s too much fullness in the sleeves and although the colour is a perfect match for the dress it doesn’t really go with anything else in my wardrobe.  Another disappointment as I had been hanging onto the fabric for a couple of years, I do have another two metres left of it though so not a total loss!

Some thoughts for 2015

  • I really need to consider if something will suit my body type before jumping on each new shiny pattern that get’s released!
  • I think I need to slow down a bit and  concentrate on quality rather than quantity.  I’ve made a considerable amount of garments this year but the one’s I’ve most enjoyed the most have been those I’ve taken the time to achieve a good finish.
  • I’m going to try and rid myself of my list making obsession.  Lists and plans have helped me focus but they’ve also taken out the spontaneity and added a bit of pressure.  This year I want to try and go with the flow and just sew whatever I feel like at the time.
  • I really need to get the stash under control.  I’ve got enough fabric to last next year and beyond.  Now I’m not committing  to a total fabric fast, a year without fabric shopping is a far too depressing prospect!  I just need to have a really good sort out of what I’ve got and ‘maybe’ set up some kind of system so I know what I’ve got and how much yardage without having to rummage and measure every time I want to sew something.
  • I am going to commit to a ‘ready to wear’ fast though.  I don’t think this will be difficult as I’ve only bought a handful of rtw garments this year.  I honestly don’t miss going clothes shopping, being liberated from size labels and shop changing rooms is one of the best things about sewing my own.

So that’s another year of sewing.  It has been a brilliant year, I have met some wonderful people through sewing, both online and in real life.  I’ve loved reading comments, blogs and particularly developing my instagram addiction!  Seeing everyone’s creativity has been inspiring and I feel very fortunate to be part of such a fabulous community.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

A tartan Christmas Frankenpattern

I managed to finish my Christmas dress in time for the start of the celebrations. It’s a frankenpattern: the bodice from Simplicity 2444 and the skirt from the Colette Peony. I made a Blackwatch tartan Peony (unclogged) last year but there were multiple issues with the fit of the bodice. I tried my best to tweak it, and it is wearable, but I haven’t made it since as I couldn’t be bothered to try and sort out the fit. I loved the skirt of the Peony though, just a simple A-line. It is supposed to have two sets of gathering at the waistline but I changed these to inverted pleats for a more streamlined look. The fit of my last 2444 was so good that a marriage with the Peony skirt seemed to be a match made in heaven.

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My initial plan was to use purple and grey tartan but when I held up the red it just screamed Christmas. I had a bit of a headache trying to match the checks, I finally gave in and realised I couldn’t match both horizontal and vertical so decided to just concentrate on the horizontals. It’s not too bad, the front is OK, the back went a bit squiffy but I can live with it.

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from the front…..

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….the insides…..

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….and a back view

I used red satin bias tape to finish the neckline instead of using the facings, which worked well and is a method I plan to use again in the future. I also bias bound the hem using the same red satin (really love bound hems!)

 

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I really enjoyed making this dress, I managed to do most of it on my birthday. I also got the best present ever from my other half: A 1959 Singer 221 Featherweight, it has all eight feet, original instruction book and even the original tube of oil! I sewed some of my dress with it and it stitches like a dream, just like the old Singer I got for my fifteenth birthday.

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So that’s the Christmas dress, I really do love it, suitably festive for the time of year. I really think I may have found a winning combination with this pattern mash-up, there are quite a few sleeve and collar options which come with the 2444 which I might have a play around with. I’ve worn it twice so far; to my work Christmas dinner and to a neighbour’s party and will be wearing it on Christmas day.  I’m all done and organised and all that remains is to just enjoy it!

I really hope you all have a fabulous Christmas!

What will you be wearing for Christmas day?

 

Helen x

Simplicity 2444, the flock flower one

I’ve finally made a small dent in my autumn sewing plan. Things have been so busy recently and my sewing time has seriously suffered, as a result this dress has taken two weeks to sew! The (not so) little one is going up to Secondary School next year so we have been on a continuous round of open evenings, coupled with swimming lessons and Scouts which has seriously eaten into my me time! I’ve been trying to do a bit when I can, but as I use the dining room for my sewing it does mean having to get everything out and set up and then putting it all away again.  It’s difficult to get motivated when it’s getting late and all I want to do is sleep! (I have been getting on with a bit of knitting though (still on the Peggy Sue cardigan!) so I haven’t been totally unproductive!) Anyway things reached a head on Monday when my planned couple of hours sewing got eaten up by extra work. With my dress still hanging half-finished on Doris I vowed that I wasn’t going to do anything on Tuesday until I’d finished it!

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This is the second Simplicity 2444 I have made. The first one was in December last year and was a bit of a panic sew. I needed a dress to wear for our works Christmas dinner. I had some shot cotton in my stash which I had bought on impulse (shiney!) without any plan as to what to make with it. The warp threads are orange and the weft threads blue which results in a shimmery purple effect. As I couldn’t see myself having occasion to wear such a chocolate wrappery fabric very often I thought I would use it to test out the 2444. I cut a size 14 straight out of the packet without any adjustments, I based this on the finished measurements, as always with Simplicity there was a good 3 inches of ease built into the pattern.   I’m not sure using a party dress as a wearable muslin is recommended but I was living dangerously!  The fit wasn’t too bad and it was perfectly wearable (I wore a cardigan over it to try and disguise the hunchback) but there was definitely a few tweaks needed. I didn’t blog it at the time but have taken some pictures now so you can see the issues:

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  • The main problem was that the bodice was too long, if I stood up straight and put my shoulders back the zipper gave me a slight hunchback effect.
  • The waist darts were too long, as they finished at the apex, giving potential for pointy nipple syndrome.
  • There was a bit of gaping on the back neckline.
  • The sleeve caps were too big and I ended up with some tucks, I was in a rush sewing but even if I had been sewing at a more leisurely pace there was no way I could ease that amount of fabric into the armhole!
  • The sleeves were too long, they were supposed to be three quarter length but ended up just short of full length (bracelet length?

My proposed fixes for these problems were to:

  • Shorten the bodice by an inch
  • Shorten the darts by an inch
  • Take an inch out of the upper back
  • Remove half an inch around the sleeve cap
  • Shorten the sleeves by two inches

It was only when I was thinking about my Autumn sewing plan that I decided it was time to revisit the 2444. I bought this grey flocked cotton last year, again without any plan for it, I just thought it would be a good autumn fabric. It’s languished in my stash trunk ever since. As it was a fabric for the cooler seasons I thought it would be an ideal candidate for this project.

I cut a size 14 again but made the above adjustments to the pattern. Although it has been sewn in fits and starts, in real time didn’t take that long. I cut the front skirt on the fold instead of two pieces as directed, I didn’t see the point of having a seam down the front of the skirt, I did however remember to account for the seam allowance so it didn’t affect the pleat placement. It did take me a little while to get the pleats matched up with the waist darts but I got there eventually. The order of construction was quite different to the usual way for dresses, it has you sew the front bodice to the front skirt piece, the back bodice to the back skirt pieces and then stich the side seam in one go before sewing the shoulder seams. I actually found this to be a much better method of construction, it was easier to match everything up a bit at a time rather than wrestle with the whole skirt and bodice. I might actually try this with all my dresses in the future.

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This is what happens when I’m told to do some different poses and move around a bit:

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(Think I proved a point there!)

I was a bit indifferent to this fabric when I started, I think because it was Grey and I prefer a bit more colour, but now it’s finished I am totally in love with this dress! The fit is spot on (or as near as I’m going to get) and I can see this becoming my go to dress pattern. As it’s part of the Simplicity Project Runway series it has a lot of variations, I can see why it has been so popular (lots of lovely ones on Pinterest here ) I’m also thinking of using the bodice as a basic block when frankenpatterning, I have a plan forming to use it with the skirt to the Colette Peony (Another unblogged dress, wearable but with a fair few fit issues in the bodice which I just can’t be bothered to deal with!)

The dress is going to get its first outing on Saturday as I’m going to the Sew Brum meet up which has been organised by the lovely Charlotte at English Girl at Home! I’ve been very good with abstaining from any new fabric purchases recently and instead saved my money so I can have a major blowout in Birmingham. I will try and grab a few photos on the day and hopefully post my lovely new acquisitions next week. I’m very excited, it’s the perfect treat after the hectic couple of weeks I’ve had! If anyone else is going I’ll be easy to spot, I’ll be the one wearing this dress!

Have you got any suggestions for other good TNT patterns?

My Autumn/Winter sewing and knitting plans

My sewing has been in the doldrums recently, I just can’t seem to muster up the enthusiasm to start a new project. I think this is a tricky time of year, in the spring I can’t wait to get started on some Summer dresses but now, well I’m more than a little apprehensive about the dark nights and cold Winter days that lay before me. I decided that while I didn’t feel like doing any actual sewing I should spend my time planning and getting organised. I have put together a list of projects and have not only got the patterns but the fabric and all the notions to go with them. So I have no excuse, if I publish my list here then I’ll just have to get on with it! I really want to try and concentrate on getting the fit right with my makes so have decided to make at least two versions of each pattern, using the first as a wearable muslin before cutting into my more loved fabrics!

I’ve been meaning to try some Deer and Doe patterns for a while, the patterns are drafted with an hourglass figure in mind and so offer the prospect of being a good fit for me. I tried their free Plantain long sleeved tee pattern when it came out at the beginning of the year. I loved it so much I made three which were in constant rotation before I had to change it up for me made May. It’s one of those patterns that looks very simple but seems to be drafted by fairies, it fits perfectly around the shoulders and bust and then gently flares skimming the waist and hips (and in the process hiding any wobbly bits!) I’m planning on making at least two more of these and have this stripey knit and soft duck egg blue jersey as the first contenders.

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I have also realised that I could use another basic skirt pattern in my wardrobe and love the inverted pleats of the Chardon. I’ve had this purple cotton in my stash for a while, meaning to make another Kelly skirt which never happened. I will use this first as a wearable muslin before cutting into this leafy green cotton that I got while on holiday.

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I’ve seen so many Belladones around the blogesphere and have wanted to try it for ages. Although it is a sleeveless dress I’m hoping to be able to wear it layered up with a long sleeved tee, cardigan and wooly tights. I’m going to make it up first in this Navy cotton twill (both fabrics are darker in reality!) I think I will actually muslin the bodice before, a rare occurrence for me! Once I get the fit right I’ll give this Autumn flower fabric a go.

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The Lady Skater was something that I planned to do last year but never got around to. I bought this purple Ponte Roma for it (it’s darker than the picture shows, as are all the other pictures!) but it kept getting bumped down the list and before I knew it Spring was here and it was flowery dress time! I’ve since found this heavy denim blue knit so I’m hoping to have a couple of work horse knit dresses to see me through the colder months.

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I’ve made Simplicity 2444 once before, the fit was nearly spot on but I had a slight hunchback thing going on with the zip. I hadn’t made any adjustments and should really have shortened the bodice to take my short waistedness into account. It’s such a great pattern and I love how the diagonal waist darts mirror the pleats in the skirt. I’ve been putting this off but I think with a couple of tweaks this could become a TNT dress pattern. I bought this grey cotton well over a year ago with no particular plan in mind. The flowers have a velvety nap to them and I think it will lend itself well to an Autumn/Winter dress. I’ve also just recently got this purple tartan (I’m a sucker for tartan!) and in my head I think it might work well with those darts, it could turn out to be a disaster in reality but I’m willing to take the gamble!

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So that is my current plan, I’m going to try and focus and not get distracted by other new patterns but since I’ve drawn up my list Deer and Doe have released the Bruyere shirt! I haven’t got any fabric for this yet but really want to try and squeeze it in somewhere!

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My knitting plans are a little easier and more practical. I will be needing a new hat and really like the look of the Wiksten Jul hat:

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I’ll be needing some arm warmers to go with it and have a couple of options:

The Kumara arm warmers:

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Or possibly these slouchy gauntlets:

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And finally I’m planning to knit Kate Davies’ Owl sweater because it’s cute and will make me happy when I’m wearing it!

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So that’s the plan, I’ve decided to start with the Grey Simplicity as I really want a new dress to wear and hopefully I won’t have to do much to get the fit right!

What projects do you have in the pipeline for the Autumn?