Strapless Palazzo Jumpsuit

My May MCBN post goes up on their site today! I love, love, love(!) this month’s project, which was a palazzo jumpsuit I made for my sister.

Why not mosey on over and read all about it here?

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Le Cropped Trench

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The trench coat is one of the first things I think of when I think about classic French style. I have decided I need some me-made trench coats in my life.. largely inspired by my good sewing friend Bianca who made not one but TWO gorgeous ones recently (read all about those here and here).

Continue reading “Le Cropped Trench”

Sorell Trousers

So, a couple of weeks ago I was happily and innocently flicking through my Instagram feed when I saw a really lovely pair of trousers posted by @rocco.sienna. Monika had made them from a gorgeous pink linen-look crepe and the pattern was the Sorell Trousers by Pauline Alice patterns. I think I had downloaded the pdf within about thirty seconds of seeing Monika’s pink trousers – and I knew just what fabric to use.

Before long, I had a great pair of work trousers to show for my efforts!

 

Pattern Review

Fabric: a medium weight wool from Sew Over It. It has a lovely herringbone weave and I had been eyeing it up for weeks, trying to decide whether it was ‘me’ or not and whether it would look good in person. By the time I decided to go for it, they were down to the last 1.5 meters. I ordered it, planning to make a pair of ‘cigarette pant’ trousers, and when it came I was kicking myself for not having ordered it sooner so I could have bought enough for a matching jacket. It is lovely. Lesson learned.

Sizing/Alterations: My measurements came up between a 38 and a 40 for the waist, and between a 36 and a 38 for the hips. Somehow I decided, based on the finished measurements, to make my initial toile a size 36.

As you can see, it was a touch on the tight side:

I decided that I needed to go with a size 38 waist, size 36 hip, and I also decided to grade down to a size 34 for the body of the leg, because although I like the idea of a wide leg trouser, I’m also wary of getting lost in too much fabric if they’re really really wide. Plus I somehow feel that for the office, less is more – and I was definitely thinking of work trousers with this pattern.

I also concluded, from the ‘smiley’ wrinkles at the crotch point that I needed a bit more length to it. I adjusted my pattern pieces with a slash and spread technique, inserting about half an inch to the front. On the back pattern piece I raised the centre back point and seam by about half an inch because it dipped somewhat the toile.

Instructions: The instructions were nice and clear, with the possible exception of the fly front construction. It’s more likely to be because it was my first time sewing one, but I found it quite tricky and got it completely wrong at first. Luckily Pauline Alice have a sew along on their site (gotta love a sew along!) which broke it down into greater detail, with lots of pictures.

Difficulty: On the whole I think trousers are usually a quick and simple project. These ones are slightly more complex because you also have lots of pockets, and the fly front. But these are more time consuming than difficult. If you haven’t sewn welt pockets before, it’s worth taking your time over that part, but the instructions made them nice and simple.

Would I recommend, or sew it again?: I don’t even know why I still have this question on my template as the answer is always yes! This one will be in the next few weeks though, as I can’t wait for a black pair. My sister’s also requested a pair so we’ll see if that gets done soon too!

Spring skirt

Well! Boy, I have been remiss! Has it been THAT long since I posted?! Eek.

It has been a whirlwind few months and I’ve missed posting my makes here! If you’re with me on Instagram though, hopefully you’ll have seen some of what I’ve been up to. I have been practising the art of self-drafting. It’s kind of addictive 🙂

One of my favourite recent makes is this pastel pink pencil skirt – not at all a colour I would usually wear – especially as a skirt – but something about the fabric caught my eye and made me try it. And, of course, I love it. Love it!

It’s fully lined, with the lining attached to the skirt vent but otherwise hanging free at the base. In the picture below I still had a little bit of hand stitching to do at the bottom of the vent, but you get the gist!

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My favourite part was, after much research, and some practice attempts on miniature pieces, drafting the vent and lining and finding that everything came together perfectly first time! The trick is to have separate lining pieces for the left and right of the skirt, so that one piece is lined all the way down the vent edge, and the other piece sort of has a cutaway for the vent, as in the picture below. And be as accurate as possible with your stitching lines! I drew mine on before assembling the skirt:

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You’ll end up with the vent looking something like this from the inside:

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Another nice feature is the zip shield – no more catching my blouses in the zip teeth when zipping up the skirt! This is another feature that’s surprisingly easy to draft and sew, once you’ve done it once.

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Lastly, I threw caution to the wind and put some side slant pockets on this baby. I know, I know – pockets?! On a fitted pencil skirt?! But it’ll ruin the lines of the skirt! Well, whaddya know? Turned out to be just fine. And they’re nice, comfy pockets – win!

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The fabric is a really lovely stretch cotton from Sew Over It. It’s got an embossed pattern you can hopefully see in these pictures, and a really nice weight. With an acetate lining, this skirt feels really luxurious, and has been a big hit at work!

– Michelle –

Black tie gown – Vogue 2251

Happy New Year to you all! Hope the new year brings lots of joy and sewing, sewing friends 🙂

Today I’m finally blogging my last make of 2016, a lace and satin gown I made for my firm’s black tie Christmas party. I’m really pleased with how it turned out and a couple of people on Instagram wanted more details so I thought it might be worth a blog post!

Here’s how it turned out:

Pattern Review

Pattern: Vogue 2251 by Vera Wang (out of print)

Fabric: A sparkly gold lace underlined with a pale silk satin, for the bodice (both from Goldhawk Road) and a mink-coloured satin from Jersey Vogue in north London for the skirt. I used the same satin as the skirt for the neck binding. 

Here’s a better view of the lace (before final pressing of that centre waist seam!):

Sizing/Alterations: I cut a size 12 and tweaked the side seams of the hip by sewing up the lining first and pinning to fit, then transferring to the pattern before cutting the main skirt satin. The bodice was also a 12 but required a bit more taking in down the side.
I also adjusted the skirt to exaggerate the mermaid shape. I brought the side seams in about an inch at the knees and then blended back to the original side seam above and below. You can kind of see the effect in the back view photo above.

The most challenging alteration was the bodice because it’s actually drafted for a knit fabric, unlike the skirt. I guessed at converting a section of ease in the armhole into a dart by cutting and overlapping until it seemed to make a good cup. I was very naughty and didn’t make a toile, but the tissue fit seemed like it would be fine and I was short on time. Next time I will toile and figure out better shaping at the side seam for the bodice as although this wasn’t gaping, it ended up coming up slightly short at the sides for my strapless bra (which I hadn’t thought to try on with it during the tissue fitting) so I was a bit self-conscious of that and fiddled with it a bit all night.

I also decided to raise the skirt up as the waistline seemed slightly low on first fitting, but I think I raised it a bit too much on the finished product – the hem was about an inch too short in front (the back hem is lower) and to me it cuts me off slightly too high across the waistline now. Here’s where it sat originally and in hindsight I prefer that fit:

But really, these ‘snags’ didn’t stop me feeling fantastic in the dress at the party and it was very well received.
I think I also used the original pattern piece for the binding, even though it was meant for knit fabric, because the measurement suggested it would work in a woven too.

Instructions: The instructions were nice and clear, I don’t remember having any issues with them.

Difficulty: The pattern itself isn’t difficult. All my difficulties came from my fabric choice (underlining the lace, which I don’t think I did well enough because I was altering the bodice after the original underlining, and then the fact that it was woven etc).

It did call for a hand-picked zip, which I tried to keep neat and strong. Below is my first pass at it, I then went over the waist seam point again to try to close that gap a little but forgot to take another picture of the improvement, sorry! 

Other thoughts: I tried to use my narrow hem foot for the first time, on the satin. Let’s just say either it’s not suitable for this kind of dress-weight satin or I need a lot more practise first. In the end I overlocked, turned once, and stitched with a straight stitch. I had no time for hand stitching lol.


(I didn’t finish the internal seams because it’s fully lined. And I was short on time. And lazy.)

You fuse the ‘armscye’ of the bodice for extra support, but I realised a little too late that I’d need white fusible interfacing, and I only had black. My lining wasn’t quite able to hide my error here:

Time taken: with more straightforward fabric I think this would have been a really quick sew. As it is, I worked on it over the course of two weeks (because I can only sew for an hour or so at night on weeknights.. and some nights I fell asleep instead lol). I think it could be done in a day, with time to spare.

Would I recommend it, or sew it again?: I was actually really pleased with the outcome and got a lot of compliments at the party, so I will definitely make another version of this at some point, although I’m more likely to use the skirt than do the bodice again. I would love to pair the skirt from this pattern with the top half of this dress I came across on Pinterest [image rights on bottom of the picture].

Schnittchen Coco jacket


Wow, I haven’t done a blog post in forever!! Life has been very hectic of late. I’ve missed this, though, and have been squeezing in little bits of sewing with multiple projects on the go, so it felt sooo good to finally finish one!
Pattern Review

Pattern: Coco Jacket by Scnittchen  

Fabric: a medium weight wool, lined with sandwashed silk, both from Goldhawk Road. I got the last 1.4m of the wool and it hurts my soul that there wasn’t any more! The pictures don’t capture it, but it’s a lovely olive green/black combination weave. The silk was actually intended for an Ogden Cami, but it was on top of the wool in my cupboard and when I saw how nice they looked together, I simply had to use it here.

Sizing/Alterations: I sewed a size 36 and was pleasantly surprised by how well the muslin fit. The only alteration was to take  a couple of small darts out of the back neckline, which is becoming a standard alteration for me.

Instructions: the instructions were clear enough for me, although this is not my first time making a jacket. It’s not my fiftieth either though, so if you’re a confident beginner it would be a nice one to start with as it’s a relatively simple style. There’s also a photo tutorial which helps if you want to check any steps or just use that instead of the instructions.

Oh, and the pattern is based on a 3/8″ seam allowance, smaller than the usual 5/8″. I had made up a muslin and my wool was stable, so I just went with it, and it was actually fine. But I’m planning a version with a loosely woven Linton fabric so will probably cut wider seam allowances on that one!

I decided to try something new and put a bit of contrast flat piping between the lining and the facing of the jacket, and I LOVE the result! I had read a tutorial ages ago on how to do it, and when it popped into my head to use on this project, I thought, why not?! I wasn’t sure about the colour of the contrast bit when I laid it on the fabric and lining, but I think it works well on the finished product.

Difficulty: you can do it!! It’s less effort than a tailored jacket but still a lovely jacket at the end of it!

Would I recommend, or sew it again?: I’ve already started cutting out another and have a black one with long sleeves in mind too! Definitely recommend.

StyleArc Etta in Malhia Kent

I was looking for a panelled skirt pattern the other day, and as soon as I saw the Etta Skirt by Style Arc Patterns, I knew she was just the sort of thing I wanted.

After A recent Paris trip, I’d acquired a little stash of Malhia Kent woven fabrics in awkward/small offcuts, which I’m on a mission to incorporate into my next few projects. For this skirt I used one that’s a silver/metallic mixed with black, teal and grey threads. It’s pretty thick, so I paired it with a fairly thick black boucle wool from Linton Tweeds.


Pattern Review

Fabric: a combination of wools as described above.

Sizing/Alterations: I sewed a size 8. I had reviewed the measurements on the pattern and made a couple of alterations mainly to give me more width in the front waist and less in the back, due to swayback and a persistent post-baby tummy situation. I also lengthened the pattern by 4 inches as I prefer my work skirts to fall below the knee. When I had stitched everything up, I found that the flounce side inserts were too stiff – a combination of the thick wool and the bias bound hem, I think – so I ended up stitching a little tuck/pleat in the middle of each one. The suggested fabrics are much lighter than what I’ve used, but anyway this gave them a nice shape and I’ll have to see how it holds up.

Instructions: StyleArc’s instructions seem pretty minimal, I think they are intended for more experienced sewers, but that said, I managed without any difficulty and I don’t think I had to Google anything. There was one part, in dealing with the hem where the straight section of the skirt meets the flounce insert, where the only reason I knew what they were talking about is that Id done something similar on another pattern, but I think you could have worked it out by trial and error.

Oh, and the pattern is based on a 3/8″ seam allowance, smaller than the usual 5/8″. With my thick and fairly loosely woven wools, I was nervous about this, so when I cut my fabric I eyeballed extra to give myself a 5/8″ seam allowance.

Difficulty: the pattern is rated Medium/Challenging. I think I’d agree, maybe more medium than challenging but I guess it depends on whether you happen to have sewn anything which uses a similar technique to the one they used for the flounce inserts.

Would I recommend, or sew it again?: Yep, I would definitely recommend it. In theory I’d like to sew it again, but it’s quite distinctive so I probably wouldn’t have two of these on the go in my work wardrobe at the same time :). I would do one in a lightweight suiting/drapey fabric for spring/summer though and keep this one for autumn/winter. It’s super cosy so I look forward to wearing it once the weather turns.

Happy sewing!

– Michelle –

Paris fabric shopping (in 6 hours)..

What a day!

A few weeks ago, I saw a good deal on Eurostar tickets for a day trip to Paris for two, and booked it on a whim. For myself and Hubby to have a romantic getaway, you ask?! Don’t be silly! This was my opportunity to visit Malhia Kent and explore Parisian fabric stores – and Hubby hates shopping at the best of times, let alone for fabric. I ended up going with mum, who is starting to get back into sewing having not really done it over the last decade or so.

In preparation for the trip I consulted a few blog posts in which people had reviewed Paris fabric shops:

These were really helpful and by the end of my hasty planning session I had narrowed it down to three places I wanted to visit. Malhia Kent was already on my list; the Montmartre district sounded ideal; and AnnaKa Bazaar also sounded well worth a visit. We would get to Paris mid-morning and leave at dinner time, and my mum is asthmatic, so it would be a fairly easy-going day rather than a mad dash across the city to try to see more. As it happens, we got loads of stuff from the first area, and would have needed suitcases and bigger budgets to go to any more!

So without further ado, I’ll give you a whistle stop tour of where we went and what I got. I’ll try to give you an idea of costings too.

First, a word on transport:

  • We ended up getting taxis more than the metro, because after the first attempt we found that there were lots of flights of stairs at the stations we went to, not many escalators, and for an asthmatic/anyone laden with bags etc, it would have been tough. The cab fares ranged from €7 (which I *think* was a minimum fare for two people? My French is rusty – GCSE French was a loooong time ago) to €11 for the longest journey which was from Malhia Kent back to Montmartre.
  • By contrast, a single Metro journey costs €1.80 or you can get a bundle of ten tickets for €14ish. We got tickets from the Metro entrance at Gare du Nord where there are multilingual touch screen machines. I was impressed that at literally every station we went to, there were information people milling around and ready to help, at various exits. You can get a free tube (sorry, Metro) map or street map from any of these guys.

Ok, back to the fabric shops!:

Montmartre / Metro stop ‘Anvers’

The area at the bottom of a hill in the Montmarte area really seemed to be what I would call a fabric district. I’d love to have something like this in London (let me know if you know of an area!). Sacre Coeur basilica is up the hill if you also want to sightsee. There were loads of shops clustered in the side roads around here. We spent a good couple of hours here before we went anywhere else.

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Tissu Reine:

This was a large store, with a really lovely selection of fabrics including Liberty cottons (roughly €25/m), gorgeous broderie anglaise cottons (also €25/m), tie-dye cottons (€11/m), laces (ranging from €25 to €199/m, on the ones I was drooling over), bridal fabrics, printed and plain silks, faux leathers and more. They had cute mini-mannequins throughout the store on which they’d made various outfits from the fabrics. Here are some of the printed silks I was stroking (€49/m):

In the end, since it was the first store, I got a one meter coupon of a grey tightly woven wool for €2, yes €2, and decided to see what else was out there before buying anything pricey.

Les Coupons de Saint Pierre:

This place had a wide selection of fabrics at a wide range of prices. For example, I got:

A monochrome checked viscose, €15 for a 3m coupon. I’m thinking of a dress and a blouse:

A neutral tweed, €30 for 3m coupon (below).
They also had a few thicker wool/wool Malhia Kent-style wovens, some at €30/3m coupon, some going up to €199/3m coupon. I didn’t get any, as I was waiting for the coupons at Malhia Kent which I’d heard ranged from €10-30 €/m.

Marche St Pierre: (Map and website)
This looked to be the biggest of the stores in this area, it’s a large five storey building! However, I think three of them are devoted to upholstery/home fabrics, curtains etc. They still had a massive range across the other stories, of silks, cottons, gabardines, quilting cottons, velour, faux furs, tulle, suiting, african wax print.. You name it, really! They had fabrics on the rolls / per/meter as well as coupons.

I picked up a silk coupon 90cm remnant for €5. At the time I thought it had cream flowers but I later realised, having opened it up much more outside, that they are cloves of garlic. Only in France, lol.
I also got a border print viscose which is way out of my comfort zone in terms of colours, but was still calling to me as a pretty pink number. Again it was a few euros for one meter:




Frou Frou:

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This was a haberdashery store, packed with lovely trims, buttons, zips, and sewing tools. I had really wanted to visit AnnaKa Bazaar which Katie mentioned on her blog post above – did you SEE her pictures of the trim there?! – but there was loads of choice at Frou Frou and I actually realised I was overwhelmed with choice and hadn’t a clear enough picture in my head of projects I might need buttons/trim for to go mad there. If anyone is planning a trip to AnnaKa Bazaar and wouldn’t mind if I placed a little order through them, please let me know. Some of the trim in Katie’s blog post picture is still haunting me and isn’t on their website 🙂

I got this lovely little black and gold number because I know I want to attempt a chanel-inspired black tweed cardigan jacket at some point. €5.90/m!

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On the map above, Frou Frou is next to Sacres Coupons, near the bottom end of Rue de Livingstone.

“Others”

There are loads of other fabric shops in the area. Lots of them had African wax prints too, ranging from €3-6/m. I was tempted but I’m planning to get relatives to get me some from Ghana next time they’re over there.

At this point, we stopped for lunch at a random restaurant on the main road, and then headed over to..

Malhia Kent

Now, I have a confession to make.. I was actually disappointed here, which is a shame as it was what I was most looking forward to about the trip. On the blogosphere there’s a lot of love for Malhia Kent and her fabrics are undeniably gorgeous.

My disappointment, I think, arose because I didn’t understand that the coupons would be so.. Scrappy. I thought we’d be talking pieces you could use for a whole skirt or top, for example. And looking at the coupons being sold in the Montmarte stores above, I was starting to think that 1m/3m coupons were pretty standard.

Now, I’m not sure whether I’ve come at a bad time of year and all that’s left are random scraps, or whether this is just something that other bloggers failed to mention, but mum and I looked through four tables of coupons, and I’d say the majority weren’t whole enough to make a complete item, even for my size. A lot of them were cut awkwardly, like they’d had swatches cut out and these were the very last bits. I ended up getting about 8 coupons for €30, because the fabrics are still gorgeous, but they are destined to be accent features on garments (I’m thinking borders, yokes, princess seam/skirt panels etc) rather than standalone items. Watch this space.

I still think their fabrics are gorgeous and I’m happy with the ones I got, but I’m disappointed not to be making up a few complete skirts from the coupons.

A couple of my ‘regular’ shaped coupons are 18″ x 18″, and one is 28″ x 36″. You can see a couple of the weirdly shaped ones in the images below.

 

The store also sells wool, some fabrics by the roll (the ones I saw seemed to be very thick coat/blanket weight so not what I was looking for even for my autumn/winter sewing. They also sell jackets (€50-60) and coats (€149-199, if I remember correctly) that have been made up in a few of the fabrics. I wasn’t hugely impressed with the style of the jackets or the choice of fabric, if I’m totally honest, but that’s entirely subjective! They have more rolls of fabric downstairs but by this point I figured they’d probably have the more popular rolls on the main floor so it probably wasn’t worth the effort of carting our bags downstairs and back.

We decided to go back to Montmartre rather than going to AnnaKa Bazaar, which was not far from Mahlia Kent.

Back at Montmartre:

“I forgot to get the name of this shop”

There was another reasonably big shop on the same side of the road as Tissu Reine and Les Coupons, but I didn’t get the name, sorry guys! (I hadn’t thought about doing a blog post, hence the minimal in-store pics and lack of detail!). Here we found some medium-weight linens that I hope will work with two of my MK’s. I got a plain navy and a lightly speckled beige/ivory, both at €25/3m coupons. That’s a lot of linen considering we’re in mid-August and in the UK we’ve already had our annual two weeks of good weather.

Here they are with the MK’s.. hmm, with my ‘morning after’ eyes, I’m not sure now. I may be better off matching them with plain boucle/tweeds. But we shall see.:



By this point, we were tres fatigues and decided to go and have a leisurely dinner (at a random restaurant opposite Gare du Nord – there’s loads of choice) and rest until the train home.

Phew, that was a long post! Well done, if you’ve made it this far. I hope it was helpful – we weren’t in Paris for long and we didn’t cover a large geographical area, but honestly I’d say you could easily find lots of great fabrics and even great bargains all without leaving the Montmarte area. And you don’t even need to know which shops to visit in that area, just take a leisurely stroll through the area. Lots of the shops sell upholstery/curtain fabrics, but you can generally tell that from the outside.

If you’re going any time soon, or know of other places that are good to visit, please comment below, so that mum and I can visit your recommendations when we go back next year!

Michelle