When I did the ironing today, there were so many handmade items in my laundry basket!

So, on each of the past eight Saturdays or so, I told myself: “today I am going to sew a new dress”. I could have known that with work and a Master’s program that was quite an ambitious thing to say… I started a graduate program in English and Education, which is sort of semi-fulltime, with two days of classes and an internship on the third day. I also still work at my current school two days a week. The Dutch educational system is quite complex, with different levels of secondary education and my current teaching degree allows me to teach the lower grades only. When a local college advertised they were going to offer the Master’s program, I jumped at the chance and signed up. So currently, I’m in a class of seven female students learning all about everything from Beowulf to Shakespeare, formative assessment, extensive reading, applied linguistics, phonetics and all other things fun! It sounds like a tea party with only girl students and girl teachers, but it really is a lot of work. Means I’m actually learning stuff, I suppose 🙂

However, this means I have been really busy. While I’m really glad I get to go to class during the day instead of doing a parttime evening course, it has been a lot of work and I hardly ever find myself doing anything that doesn’t involve either work, college or housekeeping. A few weeks ago I also received an unexpected, handmade, gift from my parents. When I saw it and realised how much work they put in it, I felt really guilty that I hadn’t touched my sewing machine in weeks. It’s awesome!

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But, last week I knew half-term/ autumn break was coming up, so I allowed myself some time to get started on a dress and I finished it this morning. Hurray! For this project, I actually knew what I wanted to make beforehand. I’d seen some simple A-line dresses in shops, made from textured or pre-quilted fabrics, usually with an exposed zipper. I really liked the look of them, but the ones I tried on didn’t fit me very well. So when I saw some charcoal coloured pre-quilted fabric at the market I thought I would make myself a dress just like it. I asked my mum if she had an A-line dress pattern. There was one in the latest Ottobre magazine, which I planned to use, but when I received the latest edition of Knipmode magazine I thought the pattern in there would fit me a little better.

Knipmode magazine has recently had a makeover and they now offer all of their patterns in sizes 34-54. (Marianne of Foxgloves and Thimbles recently wrote a review of the restyled magazine over at the Curvy Sewing Collective, if you would like to know more).

WP_20151024_21_35_00_RawSo, to cut to the chase, I chose dress number 12 from Knipmode november 2015. It’s actually a colourblocked dress, which I really like, but it is photographed very poorly I think. I really like the idea of this dress, so I might make it in its full glory if I ever have four colourways of the same fabric, but for now I just used the basic outline. I installed an exposed zipper instead of the lapped zipper and omitted the back kick pleat.

Obviously, I don’t look anything like that in my dress! (Knipmode has received quite some criticism lately, because even though they offer a wider range of sizes, they don’t have any plus-size models in their magazines.)

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I thought this was a great location for the photos, but we had to get back in the car really soon because we were being followed by a horse and cart… We didn’t find another good location so the rest of the photos were taken in the backyard, with a dog photobombing all of them.

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Of course, I couldn’t find a single front picture that was flattering, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that my belly always shows, no matter what I wear, and unless I put my life on hold and go to the gym every day and l never eat anything anymore, it will always be there, and even then, probably…

Did I mention I think this exposed zipper is absolutely amazing?! I love the colour and am quite proud of how I put it in.

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Fitting-wise, this is the best dress I’ve ever made. It looks a bit wide around my shoulders, but the fabric has quite some body, so sometimes it stands up a bit. It was a dream to sew up though. and the facing stays put so well. I love it! And so does Henkie 🙂

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Season of change: a dress for autumn

Time flies! As I am typing this, it’s officially the end of my summer holidays. I’ve had six weeks off (I’m a secondary school teacher) and they’ve flown by so fast! Things will be a little different this coming school year though, because I’m going back to college to get my Master’s Degree in English and Education. I will work two days a week and go to college and do an internship the other three days. It sounds busy, but it means I won’t have a tutor group this year and that will save me a lot of time.

I’m excited to go back to school. It’s the first year the nearby college offers the Master’s program and there’s a total of six students for English (they offer programs for maths and Dutch, too, with about the same number of students) so that will be special! The low number of students is ridiculous of course, but I guess they have to start somehow, right? So, over the next two years it’ll be all about language acquisition, didactics, drama, grammar and literature for me. Speaking of which, I was browsing Etsy last night and I already know what dress to make for graduation!

wuthering heights dress

It is way too expensive, but I love the idea and there must be some way I can print my favourite parts from The Catcher in the Rye on cotton, surely? I can sew the dress myself, maybe even using the pattern I used for the dress I want to show you: Simplicity 1873. When Mary of Idle Fancy started showcasing her lovely versions, I thought it would be a good pattern for me too. It took me a long time to make one though!

I’m conflicted about the result. I’ve had bodice fitting issues with everything I made so far, so I knew I had to make a muslin. I used some linen that I disliked, but it stretched and pulled and was just not suitable, so I dragged my husband to ikea and snapped up about ten meters of ikea Bomull unbleached cotton. I made a size 22 bodice, cutting the back on the fold but with extra width for the zipper. From measuring I knew I needed some extra width for my waist. It wasn’t much, so I figured I could easily just use the size 22 skirt and adjust the pleating a little, so I didn’t make a muslin for that.

Simplicity 1873

I was quite happy with the muslin bodice, but it was hard to tell without the weight of the skirt. I shortened the vertical bust darts a bit and there was quite a bit of neckline gaping so I tried to adjust that too. I thought the muslin fitted quite well in the end, but translated into the real deal I’m not that happy.

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There is neckline gaping at the back and front and I think I should lengthen the bodice a bit because it is just above my waist. I didn’t do an FBA because I needed that extra width for my waist and I started with that, but reckon I should have. I guess the dress fits okay, but I can put it on without having to open the zipper, so it must be too wide. Any ideas on what to do about it?

Simplicity 1873

However, I do really love the fabric and the silhouette of this dress. I think it’s a great dress for autumn and it even allows me to wear this cardigan I bought two years ago, but have never worn! I bought it to wear with a specific top but it didn’t look good, so it’s been in my drawer ever since. I thought it would look good with my dress and when I read the  post about 70s inspired Fall Colours (shouldn’t that be ‘Autumn colours’ or ‘Fall colors’?) on Sewaholic I realised I might even be fashionable! Although my dress might be some twenty years off…

Simplicity 1873

So, apart from the fitting issues, I do like this dress and will wear it, especially with the cardigan I think. That said, I really wanted to take these pictures today, but it was over 30 degrees and I just couldn’t be bothered with shoes!

Construction was nice, part of it was done at my sister’s. She worked on her own sewing project and I laid out three meters of skirt on her living room floor, this skirt is huge! It was my first time lining something, so I took some pictures of the inside too for you to see. I got lazy and stitched-in-the-ditch the bodice lining at the waist though, so that isn’t as neat as it could be, but other than that I’m satisfied. I blind-stitched the skirt hem on my sewing machine and it worked out really well.

Simplicity 1873

Simplicity 1873

Oh yes, that Moneta I mentioned two posts back? Still needs hemming and needs bust darts desperately, it’s a disaster. Wrong fabric maybe (cotton and lycra, but not very flowy), I will try again with some proper knit fabric.

Sleeveless summer

Bonjour mesdames, monsieurs et mademoiselles! I am back from France, where we spent a week in a quaint little cabin in Normandy. We were in Perriers sur Andelle, which is near Rouen. Close enough to the coast so we could do a day trip to Étretat and Honfleur, but far enough away to not have to spend the whole week around tourists. Our dog came with us and especially that day on the coast he became quite a tourist attraction himself. Somewhere in Asia a girl will look through her holiday pictures and fondly remember that moment in which she was poking a dog (trying to pet him?) captured in a photograph.

I took three me made items with me on holiday, which I thought was pretty good, considering I’m quite the sewing newbie still. I took my floral Adelaide, which I coincidentally ended up wearing to a market again (so it’s been dubbed my ‘market dress’ now). The other two items are sleeveless blouses.

I bought a sleeveless blouse on sale a few weeks ago. It was a really thin chiffon type fabric and I was already hesitant about buying it. I shouldn’t have because I had a great big tear in it before the day was out…

I decided to get my 12 euros’ worth though and cut the whole thing apart to draft a pattern from it. This means this post is not going to be very interesting to you at all, so I’ll keep the details short and let you enjoy some holiday pictures at the same time.

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The first version I made of a cotton I still had in my stash (yes I think I should admit my ever growing fabric collection is officially turning into one…) The print, especially the use of dots, reminds me of aboriginal art, but I am sure I am offending people by saying that, so I won’t. I though the print was a little busy and therefore I still had it lying around, but it works for this blouse!

I am looking out the window of Chateau Gaillard, medieval castle ruins on a hill near Les Andelys overlooking the Seine. The castle was built on the orders of Richard the Lionheart and there’s a whole story about how when the village was attacked all the people fled to the castle and then at some point were kicked out again and had to survive a gruesome winter out in the cold. It wasn’t pretty… The castle site was though.

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The next version of the blouse I made from a white cotton lawn with a geometric beehive-like print in metallic turquoise. It’s very subtle, the blouse looks plain white from far off. I tweaked a few things after the first version and am really happy with the finished product.

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My stitch-in-the-ditch presser foot was my friend for all the topstitching and I French-seamed everything.

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These two blouses will get plenty of wear now and they’re really good for autumn too, combined with a cardigan or blazer. Yay!

Where Adelaide meets Liège.

Today a post about the second Seamwork Adelaide dress I made. I actually finished it a few weeks ago and I’ve worn it a couple of times, but I hadn’t gotten around to having the pictures taken. I wore it today when we were out, so I had William take some action snaps.

We went to the market at La Batte in Liège in Belgium (or Luik for the Dutch speaking population). It’s a weekly market stretching along the river Maas and according to a website it’s existed since 1561. We had never been there before and after yesterday’s summer storm (which actually wasn’t that bad in this part of the country) we woke up to a sunny blue sky and figured it would be a perfect day for a stroll.

Obviously everything I do is sewing-related these days, I look for fabric everywhere and when shopping I can’t help but look at the way clothes are constructed (poorly, usually). So when we spotted half a haberdasheries stall I had to take a look at the buttons.

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Unfortunately, half that market stall was all there was, and a few stalls with oilcloth and table cloths. It’s a huge market, but there wasn’t much variety, unless you’re looking to buy a dog… We spotted three shops near the market selling puppies. Abominable…

But, back to my dress. It’s made of a stretchy cotton twill. Because my pink Adelaide was too tight in the bust area, I performed my first ever FBA, but kept the bodice size the same. This version fits fine around my bust, but there’s a bit of gaping in the necklines. It’s hard to compare because this one is so stretchy and the pink one doesn’t have any stretch, but I might have to go down a size for the bodice and do the FBA on that. It is okay though, I can totally wear this dress, sleeveless as well. (Forgot to take my cardigan off for the pictures, sorry.)

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I used snaps for this dress and I had leftover bias tape from the pink dress which was the perfect colour (and I folded it under anyway) so the construction went a lot faster this time! I again omitted the belt loops, I really don’t need them.

And sometimes a girl really has to put the most unflattering picture online to show how perfectly her sunglasses match her dress! (Biggest tompouce ever…)

Not much else to say about this dress, it’s a winner! Have new shoes too. Not so fashionable maybe, a dress and sneakers, but you have to understand, when we go somewhere, we walk a lot. A lot.

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This is typical for Liège. There are some beautifully restored old buildings, beautiful new buildings. Sometimes you find a beautiful front door as the perfect backdrop for your picture, but then someone left their garbage out…

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Next up: a Moneta! (Yes, I like to do things backwards…)

Slowly strolling in the sweet sunshine.

So how about this heatwave hey!

Yesterday was my birthday. Yes, I have to share it with the great United States of America, but add that to being born in 1984 and I think I’ve got a pretty neat date of birth! (Yes, I’m old…)

For my birthday I got a pair of espadrilles soles from Prym. I read about them a few weeks ago and when we walked into a little haberdasheries/ old fashioned toiletries / shoe polish shop in Haarlem last weekend I saw them and just couldn’t resist. They were actually on my birthday wishlist but I hadn’t seen them anywhere before and the haberdasheries stall at the market didn’t have them, so I thought I’d better buy them while I could. This meant on my birthday I received a note from our dog that he was really happy I was going to have new shoes he could play with. Yes, our dog can read and write, and watch telly. Seriously! Well that last thing at least.

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The birthday barbecue that we planned has been postponed till next Saturday due to the heat and the fact that our backyard has no shade whatsoever, so my family wasn’t here, but I had lunch with two colleagues, sat in the pool for most of the afternoon and had friends over in the evening. And there were even fireworks! Those Americans are everywhere…

Anyway, back to my new shoes. It looked so easy, but it was actually quite time consuming. It’s a miracle I can type this, because my fingertips are still numb from all those blanket stitches..

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I already knew I wanted to use the black and grey floral fabric I used on the McCall’s 6696 I made for William’s birthday and I had some black cotton for the lining. I thought about lining the insole too, but couldn’t find anything about how to do that online, so I chose to just follow the steps explained in the tutorial by The Makery. The package comes with the pattern pieces, but has no instructions, so I found the tutorial very helpful. Especially for the blanket stitches, which I’d never used before.

Putting together these espadrilles is actually really straightforward. It just takes some time! Such a great task for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

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Note: two-and-a-half weeks ago I slipped in wet grass and bruised my right foot. I didn’t notice how swollen it still is until I saw these photos.

Note two: photos edited with the Aviary tool on Flickr.com. Pretty instagrammy!

Note three: I finished my floral Adelaide, and started the mental process for a maxi dress. Upcoming!

Trial and error: the fitting project (and more)

Hello folks and welcome to a new working week. Unfortunately I didn’t have the best day at work, but hey, I have another four days to forget all about it. Last time I told you about my two weeks off and my intention to finish two garments during that time. I was playing around with the Knipmode pattern I used for the dress I blogged about in my last post. I thought I needed a narrow shoulder adjustment. People on the Curvy Sewing Collective forum suggested a smaller size for the bodice with an FBA. By that time, I had already traced the pattern and cut and taped an NSA, I decided to use some cheap fabric to whip up a blouse. I learnt a few things:

  1. Doing a narrow shoulder adjustment was the wrong choice.
  2. Cheap plastic fabric is annoying.
  3. When turning this blouse pattern into a blouse (because seriously, the original length is somewhere in between a blouse and a dress) I need to shorten the button placket.
  4. Sewing in sleeves and then taking them out because the fit is all wrong, not bothering to use a seam ripper, but instead cutting them off to use as the binding, does not a pretty armscye finish make.
  5. I can still wear the sleeveless blouse with a cardigan and get a compliment from a colleague about it. Hurrah!

Anyway, this blouse remains unphotographed but I’m having a me-made-May-day as we speak.

So, on to version 3 of the same pattern. I decided to not bother with the FBA, because the blue dress bodice is really quite roomy. I used a white and pink floral fabric that had been lying in my mother-in-law’s cabinet for at least fifteen years, so she decided to give it to me. I washed it and it didn’t fall apart completely, so I figured it was perfect for another trial version that was going to fail, obviously. I figured it was fabric that was nice enough for a wearable muslin, but that I wouldn’t be sad about if I ended up never wearing the blouse. I learnt a few things:

  1. The pattern came with very concise instructions. Therefore I hadn’t understood there was gathering involved in setting in the sleeves. Ahhh, so that’s why they were way too big for number two…
  2. There is something I really don’t understand about this pattern. You see. The front pattern piece comes with a gap, because it has a pleat below the henley placket. The thing is however, that the pleat is smaller than the gap for the placket. The pattern doesn’t have seam allowances included. For number two I added the 1.5 cms, which closed up the gap, but then my collar was too small. For number three I didn’t add the seam allowance, but instead just closed the gap by making a larger pleat and then my collar was too big. It really doesn’t make sense.
  3. Florals of 30 cms diameter in pink do not look good on me at all.
  4. I really should have done that FBA. I will listen to you next time DeniseM and michelleinsea. I promise!

Anyway, this blouse remains unphotographed and unworn, unless it miraculously fits my mum and I will have instantly unlocked the achievement “sewing for others” (blinking stars appear).

The other day I read Tasha’s post on By Gum By Golly on why she isn’t participating in me-made-May and I realised that the person she describes is me. I have sewn about a dozen garments now and there are only a couple I think are good enough to wear. I guess that comes with learning to sew though. Each item you sew will be better than the last (usually) so you end up being really critical of the items you made before that. I am like that anyway. (So in fact I was really proud today when that colleague complimented me on my blouse and I didn’t straightaway start mentioning all its flaws.) I really need to learn more about fit and how to alter patterns so I will end up with wearable clothes instead of “Oh, I guess this was just another project to practise my techniques.”

However, I am not giving up and in fact in the last few weeks I visited two fabric markets and bought some neat stuff! I pre-washed a selection and took some photos while it was drying outside (ohh the wrinkles!).

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Two of them, as you can see, are actually border panels, or gradients, or whatever that is called (I am expanding my vocabulary as it is, please give me a break). I love them so much I will probably not use them for a long time. I need to learn to sew first… I bought much more than this, a laundry basket full to be precise, but I am really happy with these finds in particular.

I will leave you with my first home deco project! Or garden deco really. Cushions for our picknick table. Fabric courtesy of IKEA. Pretty straightforward. Found a tutorial online, made cushions. The third one actually worked out better than the fourth so I just proved my own theory wrong. 

Till next time!

cushions collage

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Something new, something blue.

Two weeks off from work, so I decided I was going to sew at least two new items of clothing. It’s the first day of the second week, and I can show you my first item! This time it’s something I’m quite happy with, so that’s an improvement from the last post.

But before I tell you all about it, I’d like to point out I added this neat little button to the right side of this blog, so it’s now very easy to find and follow me on Bloglovin’! (So please do 🙂 )

So, a few weeks ago I was in H&M – where husband can buy lots of cool shirts and trousers in fancy colours like vintage green and light petrol and I never fit in anything, so end up only buying hair elastics –  when I spotted something in the LOGG section. It was terribly overpriced and I seriously doubted it was going to fit me, but I tried it on, and it has been my new favourite dress ever since. Of course, whenever I see clothes I like now, I automatically think “Can I make this?” and sometimes even “I can make this!”. This tunic from H&M doesn’t look very complicated at all. It doesn’t even have bust darts, but it has some gathering at the shoulders, and a pleat in the middle, so I wouldn’t know how to draw it out exactly, and this one landed somewhere between those two categories…

Instead, I started looking through all my sewing magazines and sewing patterns and found a pattern for a blouse that had quite some similarities, and thus my new sewing project had been found! It’s a pattern from a Dutch sewing patterns magazine I bought back in the summer of 2012. It’s called Knipmode (which literally translates to Cut fashion…) and usually only has a few plus-size patterns per edition. I read this is going to change in autumn though and they will make all their patterns up to size 54 (about 24UK/ 20US). Hurray! That said, the magazines often contain very weird and ugly patterns, but it’s good value for money even if there’s only one pattern you like.

The pattern I chose is this one: blouse 45 from Knipmode 6/2012.

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I decided on the size by comparing the pattern measurements with my H&M tunic and added some extra length, because I hadn’t quite decided yet whether to make a blouse or a dress.

The result: a dress in lightblue linen bought at a fabric market. Sewing with linen is a charm, because even though it creases like crazy, it’s also very ironable, which helps create nice seams and all.

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I finished this dress on Saturday and wore it yesterday for my father-in-law’s birthday. We went for a walk with the dog first, and ended up in the pouring rain, but William managed to take some pictures when it was still drizzle…

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(doggie has a loooong tongue!)

The technicalities:

  • French seamed the side and yoke seams.
  • First ever henley button placket (cue Boys of Summer here).
  • Size is okay, but I have the same issue I had with my black floral McCall’s 6696: when I want to wear something over it, it pulls in the armpit area. In this case it could be due to my forgetting to add seam allowance for the armscyes. (I did, but then was silly enough to think it shouldn’t be there… I was thinking sleeveless I suppose.) You can see what happens really well in this picture. I should really find out what to change so this sits better. It fits fine though, I can move my arms and all that!

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  • I used interfacing for the collar, but I think it was too thick, which causes the sagging you can see here.

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  • I followed the magazine’s description for adding the collar, but definitely should have used the method Andrea of Four Square Walls uses in her collar tutorial. I’ve used that for my shirtdresses, and I think is much easier than how I did it now.

Overall, I’m quite happy with this dress (even with some top stitching glitches) and it gave me a chance to use a collection of sewing feet such as the 1/4″ seam foot and the stitch-in-the-ditch foot for the collar facing.

The pattern calls for a hem with facing, but after reading through a few tutorials for curved hems, I decided to go with the method described on Coletterie. I should have used gathers or a tiny (rolled?) hem though, because this fabric was too thick and left some weird creases on the inside. Oh well.

Pfft. I think I’ve said more than enough now, and I haven’t even mentioned the weird middle pleat measurements (wider than the button placket) or how I harvested the buttons from a jacket I bought at a flea market..Or that my sister and mother-in-law don’t like this dress think this dress is a bit plain and suggested I make something “with flowers”. 

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What do you think?