Pattern Reviews

Perfect Penny – Sew Over It Penny Dress

I’d wanted to take part in #SewTogetherForSummer but, because of my injury, I’d been unable to get in my sewing room for a while and had pretty much given up hope of participating. Then Sew Over It released the Penny Dress last week and I fell in love with her, so, as I’m a bit more mobile now, I decided to set myself the challenge of completing it before the 21st June deadline. Mad? Probably! Determined? Definitely!

I’d had my eye on the gorgeous Amazon Lily cotton lawn for a while and it’s a perfect match for Penny. I love love LOVE the bold pattern and the colours are fabulous. It’s such a happy fabric and totally shouts SUMMER!

I use Netprinter for PDF patterns these days: it’s so much easier than printing and cutting out out reams of A4s and sticking them together; it only costs 75p per A0 sheet; and they’re super-quick with their turn-around and delivery, so ideal for my challenge.  And, of course, Sew Over It offer brilliant customer service, so I didn’t have to wait long until I’d got everything together and ready to go.

The finished measurement for the bust on a size 10 is 39.5” and I’m 37”, so, aware that shirt dresses are better with a bit of room in the bust area to avoid gaping, I decided to go with that, as the waist’s elasticated so I could adjust it to fit, and it’s a full circle skirt so no need to worry about hip room. I’d seen that others had mentioned about the bodice being a bit short, so I checked the length and then added 5cm to the bottom of the front and back bodice pieces. If (who am I kidding? WHEN!) I make Penny again, I think I’ll add an extra couple of cms to the centre of the front bodice, as the waist rides up a bit there because of my full bust.

The construction of the bodice was straightforward with clear instructions – the shoulder band and ruching make for a lovely detail – and the only part that was a bit of a fiddle was attaching the collar. When it came to the button placket, I felt the ‘correct’ way – left over right as you look at it – of buttoning it just didn’t look right, due to how the pattern finished at the placket edges, so I made a conscious decision to fasten it the ‘wrong’ way. See what I mean…?

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I also decided to add pockets, because, well, POCKETS! Lisa’s done and excellent video tutorial showing just how easy it is to add them into the side seams. Penny’s full circle skirt is one HUGE piece of fabric folded in half. In an ideal world, you’d add seam allowances and cut the fabric as two pieces, but I’d already cut it out on the fold, so I went ahead and cut it in half along the fold line. Then when it came to sewing the side seams I used an 8mm seam allowance instead of the usual 1.5cm to gain back some fabric so that it fitted into the bodice correctly at the waist.

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It’s a fabulous, floaty dress to make for the summer, with plenty of challenges for a beginner, but enough detail for an intermediate sewist.  I love cover buttons for shirt dresses, so matched mine to the pattern on my dress with two yellow ones and one white. The midi length (now 5cm longer overall than it’s designed to be) is perfect, even on my vertically challenged 5’4”, and gives it a real ‘50s look.  I often find flared skirts make me look like a little girl, but this longer length is much more grown up.

Just one last thing… it’s a loooooooong way round that hem and there’s a lot of overlocking (I’ve got an overlocking stitch on my machine which looks more professional than zig-zagging) so make sure you’ve got plenty of thread! I got through two-and-a-half reels in total.

These photos are from my first proper “walking” venture outside since March (my current step-hop method of getting around on my skinny left leg – the result of rupturing my Achilles tendon back in March – needs a lot of work!). They’re taken at Blakeney Quay on the North Norfolk Coast – the perfect place to take my Perfect Penny out in the glorious sunshine!

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Pattern Reviews

Sew Over It Kimono Jacket

I’m back! Well, kind of. It’s now nine weeks since I ruptured my Achilles and, as you’ll see, I’m wearing my big ol’ clodhopper boot. Two weeks until I see the consultant, and I can now mostly fully weight-bear in my boot and I’m *almost* walking without my crutches, so I can finally hobble around my sewing room – hurrah! It’s slow going and I’ll still have a long road to recovery once the boot’s off, but I’ve definitely got my SewMoJo back – YAY!

Anyway, I’ll stop rambling about that and crack on with my review of the Sew Over It Kimono Jacket…

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I bought this beautiful fabric from Sew Over It quite a while ago and it’s since sold out. It’s sooooo pretty, but it’s chiffon, so it has a mind of its own and tends to fray quite a lot too, so although the pattern is really straightforward, I wouldn’t recommend making it from chiffon if you’re a beginner.

The body measurement chart puts me firmly in a size Small (10-12), but having checked the finished measurements I went with the XS (8-10). I measure 37,28,39 and it’s plenty big enough all over. The curve under the arms has more than enough room for a long sleeve tee, but not for anything thicker, which is fine as I’m only planning on wearing vest tops or tees underneath. I went with the shorter length as I felt it would suit my height better. (The longer one would probably look like a dressing gown on me, though there’s a thought for a future project…)

It comes together very quickly; under normal circumstances you could have this whizzed up in an afternoon, but it took me a couple of days, as I have to keep stopping to rest and elevate my leg. The sleeves are super-easy to sew on; there’s no easing, just a straight line either side to attach them, then another from the cuffs down the sides to the hem.

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I decided to use French seams throughout, including on the neckband, as it gives a much neater finish, hiding all that fraying, and it makes the seams stronger. Sewing around the underarms was quite tricky, as it’s quite a tight curve, so I used lots of pins and took it slowly.  I’ve used French seams plenty of times before, but it still seems alien to first sew with the wrong sides together!

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I machine-hemmed the sleeve cuffs and the hem – even though roll hemming chiffon is normally recommended  – as I feel that the row of stitching mirrors the neckband nicely and also adds a bit of weight and stability to the fabric. My hand-sewing isn’t the neatest and I usually only do it where it’s not going to be seen, so the only part I did by hand was slip-stitching the neckband on the inside.

Aaaaand, that’s all there is to it! Once my boot’s off and I can wear jeans again, it’ll work perfectly as a feminine touch to a simple jeans-and-cami outfit, but, for now, here I am wearing it with a denim skirt combo…

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Pattern Reviews · This 'n' That

Tilly and the Buttons Agnes Top Polo Hack

Bonjour! I’m still laid up with my ruptured Achilles, so I can’t sew at the moment, however… here’s one I made earlier!

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It’s the Tilly and the Buttons Agnes top that I made into a polo neck (pre-injury). I’ve made the Agnes a few times before and I think it’s a fabulous pattern, with plenty of options to make each one different. I make it in a size 3 at the sleeves, waist, and hips, and grade it up to a size 4 at the bust.

The construction is really straightforward and the sleeves are very simple to insert, as there’s no easing; you just sew them in flat. As I’ve made it before I didn’t take any ‘work in progress’ pics this time, so, instead, here are some photos of one the first one I made last year, with some fabulous pink stripe jersey from Fabric Godmother, that I named my Bagpuss top…

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Check out that stripe matching; it took a LOT of careful cutting and pinning!

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I also had some fabric left over, so I made another one for my gorgeous niece, AKA Titch!

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Anyway, back to my latest one… when I knew we had a French-themed exhibition coming up at our gallery, I naturally *had* to have a black and white stripe top for the preview day. I chose a lightweight, ribbed jersey fabric from Fabworks.  I decided I wanted it to be a polo neck, so I thought I’d have a go at hacking the faithful Agnes.

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I traced my existing pattern, then compared the width of the shoulders and the height of the neckline on my Agnes pattern with a RTW polo neck and adjusted my pattern accordingly. Here you can see the original lines and how much I added:

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Once I’d cut and joined the front and back pieces, and attached the sleeves as usual, I measured the opening of the neck hole and cut some fabric 15cm high, so it’d be 6cm high once folded in half and stitched on, and 25% shorter than the neck opening in length, as that’s how much I’d usually make a neckband on a stretchy jersey top. I then, stupidly (hindsight’s a wonderful thing!), plunged straight ahead and sewed the ends together, then attached it to the top… but when I tried it on it was far too tight – let’s just say breathing was impaired! So out came my seam ripper and I spent then next hour-and-a-half carefully unpicking all those teeny zigzag stitches… I *hate* unpicking jersey!

What I hadn’t considered was that this was a funnel neck, not a normal neckband, and I’d also forgotten to add the seam allowance back onto the length measurement. Argh! I re-measured, cut out a new piece of fabric at 15% shorter (+3cm seam allowance) and sewed the ends together, then I tried it on before sewing it to the top and hurrah, it fitted perfectly! Breathing was resumed! I quickly made a note on my pattern piece for future reference.

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So that’s pretty much all there is to it. Here’s a photo taken at the exhibition preview. If you’d like to know about the exhibition by Kent artist Graham Clarke, visit (shameless plug alert!) www.gallery-plus.co.uk

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This 'n' That

Please vote!

Hello, lovely readers. I’m writing this post from my sofa while I rest my leg: I’m on crutches for at least 10 weeks, as I ruptured my Achilles tendon playing in a badminton match last Friday – owie! – though on the plus side, my pink cast is rather fabulous!

Anyway, I’m absolutely delighted to have been shortlisted for Dressmaker of the Year Readers Choice Award!

It’s for a shirt I made for my wonderful hubby using gorgeous green Liberty fabric.

It would be brilliant if you’d kindly vote for me. Here’s the link:

https://acevillepublications.typeform.com/to/X60XZT

And if you feel like sharing and encouraging your friends to vote as well, that’d be very much appreciated too.

Hopefully I’ll be able to get myself rigged up with a leg rest in my sewing room soon, as I’ve got lots of plans for new makes, so watch this space.

Thanks SEW (sorry!) much, Daphne xx

Pattern Reviews

Sewaholic Thurlow Trousers Review

I made trousers! And they fit!

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I really struggle with trousers, as I have a small waist and sway back, but rather large ‘athletic’ hips and thighs (a fair description; I’m very sporty. Although not right now, as I partially ruptured my achilles last night at a badminton match!). So finding ready-to-wear trousers that fit is nigh on impossible: when they fit my hips they swamp my waist, but I can’t get ones that’d fit my waist over my thighs!

However, the Sewaholic Thurlow Trousers are designed for a pear shape (they would also fit a less-curvy shape) as they have an adjustment at the centre back, which is the last thing you alter to get your perfect fit.

I shortened them by 10cm at the shorten/lengthen line, and still had quite a bit to turn up at the hem, so they are really long! I’m 5’4″ for reference. After checking the sizing chart, measuring the pattern pieces, and comparing them to my new trouser block (I’d been on a course the week before I attempted these), I made them in a size 6 at the waist and hips (I measure 28″ waist and 39″ hips), however they’re meant to be rather flared, but I feel that style doesn’t suit me, so I made them more straight-legged.

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The construction of the pockets went well, although I realised afterwards that I’d attached the facings the wrong side up on the front ones, but hey-ho, that’s not a major problem as no-one else sees them (well, apart from you reading this blog, but I bet you wouldn’t’ve noticed if I hadn’t told you!) and certainly wasn’t worth getting my seam ripper out for.

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I found most of the written instructions straightforward, but I discovered a fabulous sew-along from Lauren on Lladybird.com which I followed practically to the letter – especially for the welt pockets on the back, which I hadn’t made before.

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I was so engrossed in Lauren’s sew-along (and chuckling away at her quirky turn of phrase) that I completely ignored the written instructions for sewing the fly! Anyway, it turned out perfectly.

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After I’d sewn the fronts to the backs and attached the waist band, the one-before-last stage was adjusting the centre back seam. When you’re sewing the backs together, you have to deliberately leave a good few inches open ready for this step. As you can see from my (sideways-on) photo, I took it in a few times to get THE perfect fit.

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I’d not made belt loops before, but they were easier than I expected, and you machine them on, rather than hand-sew them, so that’s a win in my opinion.

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The fabric I’ve used is a speckled wool mix from Fabworks and the facings are made with left-over fabric that I had from when I made the Sew Over It Pussy Bow Blouse that I’m also wearing here. I can’t wait to make a summery version of the trousers in a cotton fabric. This is definitely a pattern I’ll re-use again and again.

So, here I am showing off my derriere in these fabulous trousers; it’s wonderful being able to wear a belt purely for decoration, rather than to hold them up!

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Pattern Reviews · Uncategorized

Sew Over It Chloe Coat Review – Daphne

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I was SO excited when SOI finally released their Chloe Coat pattern. I saw it this time last year when it was released as a London class, then I’d heard a rumour that it was coming out early this year, so I’d already bought my petrol blue lightweight boiled wool jersey and gorgeous Avoca satin lining from Fabworks, plus the tailoring interfacing and ice wool from SOI. And, after MUCH hunting (why aren’t there any lovely-coloured open-ended zips here in the UK?), I found THE perfect petrol blue open-ended metal zip and had it shipped from the USA (more on that later).

So, first up: pattern measurements. One of my bugbears about Big 4 patterns is that they always end up far too big for me if I go by the body measurements. Thankfully, I usually find Sew Over It measurements much more accurate. According to the Body Measurements chart I need a 12-14 for my 38” bust, a 10 for my 28” waist, and a 10-12 for my 39” hips. I’m rather hourglassy, so always find it necessary to grade between sizes.

My shoulder to shoulder is 15”, so a size 12, which would give me a 41” finished bust -plenty of room – but even the smallest size 8 would be 12” too big at my waist and 6” too big at my hips. I appreciate this coat’s supposed to be a looser, straighter fit, with 4” of ease, but I don’t really want 12” of extra fabric around my waist. So, after chatting with the lovely SewNeedy, who’d already basted and tried on a 12, I decided to go for a 10 at the shoulders, arms, and bust (dropping the top of the bust dart by 3cm as per the full bust instructions, to allow a bit of extra room there), and then grade it to an 8 at the waist and hips. Before cutting it all out, I also measured all of the pattern pieces and deducted the seam allowances to make sure they’d fit me.

The sewing process for the shoulders, with the easing, was clear and straight forward. Once I’d pinned the side seams, I found the 8 was, as predicted, rather swampy on me, so I took them in there by about 1”. I also found the back of the coat to be a bit swampy (I like that word!) around the back of my waist, so I graded it in there by about 0.5”.

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When it came to trimming down the left-hand front and right-hand facing for the zip, I must admit I got a bit confused. I’m a grown woman and know my left from my right, but watching the video and working out which way up the fabrics were and on which side flummoxed me somewhat. I was even more bamboozled with it all and things just didn’t seem right… until I realised that my zip – y’know, THE perfect one I’d bought from The US of A – fastened with the zip pull on the RIGHT! ARGH! If only I’d realised, I would’ve cut the right-hand front and left-hand facing (I think?!) and had it fastening the opposite way. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I had a 30-mile round trip (I live in the sticks) to buy a navy plastic and insert that instead. Not my lovely petrol blue metal one shown on the left. So I compromised there – such is sewing life.

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The sleeve heads were a bit tricky, as they have quite a bit of ease, but thankfully my boiled wool had a bit of stretch, so that helped. I don’t normally hand tack anything (life’s too short!) but in this instance I did as I was told and actually it really helped and the sleeves went in a treat. Phew! The ice wool went in nicely at the sleeve heads and totally makes a difference to the way the shoulders sit. They look much more professional, so if you’re thinking about not bothering with it, then change your mind now!

My satin lining went together really well, even though it’s slippery, and the only slight annoyance was that I had a couple of tiny puckers in the sleeve head, but Lisa said in the video tutorial that that’s okay with her, so it’s okay with me!

Attaching the facing to the lining was straight forward. At that stage, I remembered to sew my Daphne label to the neck facing. I think a label is a nice way to finish things off when you’re making by hand, even as an amateur. (In case you’re wondering, Daphne was my wonderful nannie. She passed away several years ago, so never knew about me taking up sewing, but I know she’d be proud of me. I remember digging through her button box when I was little.) Attaching the facing to the coat at the neck and sides, then under stitching, was also fine after I’d watched that particular tutorial a couple of times.

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I’ve not bagged out a lining before, so this was all completely new and I needed to have my hand held.

When it came to attaching the lining to the sleeve hems, I wasn’t sure which bit to fold back and by how much. The close up in the video was too fleeting for me to catch what was going on and unfortunately Lisa’s hand was in the way, so I couldn’t see what to do. In the end I guessed and simply slotted the lining over the outer fabric and sewed the raw edges with the right sides together. Thankfully, it worked.

I found sewing the coat hem frustrating and lost count how many times I watched that final lesson. I understood about rolling the facing back up slightly so it didn’t hang below the front of the coat. Then Lisa ‘popped her hand inside and pulled it round’, but unfortunately the fabric was in the way, so I couldn’t see what was happening. She then ‘popped it back in’ to check that it was right on where she wanted to sew, but I couldn’t see where she wanted to sew, so couldn’t tell where I needed to sew! In the end, SewNeedy kindly did a video for me, as she’d done something similar before, and, with a few photos going backwards and forwards between us, I finally got it sussed.

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Once I’d sewed the bottom hem, leaving the gaps at either end, I wasn’t sure why the lining was attached lower at the bottom of the facing, but on looking at others’ Chloe Coats I think that’s how it’s supposed to be.

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The final stage was the top stitching and I used my walking foot rather than my zip foot, as I didn’t want any of the fabric layers to move. I also added a popper right at the top to hold the flap nice and flat.

So that’s it, all done, hurrah!

It’s definitely an intermediate pattern for which you need to already have a fair bit of sewing experience. It’s a fantastic coat and I’ll definitely make another, lighter-weight one for the summer. In the meantime, I can’t wait to flash this gorgeous pink lining to everyone!

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